NYC transport workers to stand in solidarity with commuter rail workers if they strike

The leader of the union representing 38,000 New York bus and subway workers said that his union will support workers at the Long Island Railroad (LIRR) if they go on strike in March.

“The outcome of the LIRR’s unions’ dispute will have a direct impact on our own contract with (New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority),” wrote John Samuelson, president of the Transport Workers Union Local 100, in a letter to Local 100 members. . . That is why “TWU 100 will support any strike action taken by the LIRR unions against the MTA in every way possible. This will not only include the establishment and manning of picket lines, but every other lawful means possible at our disposal.”

Samuelson did not specify what actions Local 100 members would take, but Newsday reports that such actions might include refusing to work overtime or to work on days off.

Refusing to work extra hours will make it difficult for MTA to implement its strike contingency plans, which include using buses to shuttle passengers affected by an LIRR strike.

MTA operates both the New York City bus and subway system and the LIRR, which ferries commuters from the suburbs on Long Island to the city.

Local 100’s solidarity announcement was a big boost for the LIRR unions, which have worked without a new contract since 2010.

A coalition of LIRR union representing two-thirds of the 5,600 union workers at LIRR announced recently that unless the MTA accepts the findings of a Presidential Emergency Board (PEB), the unions will strike on March 21.

LIRR is governed by the Railway Labor Act, which requires unions and employers to mediate disputes when an agreement cannot be reached. If mediation results in an impasse, the President has the authority to empanel a PEB to make recommendations for resolving the dispute.

Once a PEB makes its recommendations, both sides can accept or reject the recommendations.

In December PEB 244 appointed by President Obama conducted hearings and reviewed documents submitted by both sides in the dispute. After careful study, PEB 244 recommended that the workers receive a 2.9 percent pay raise a year for six years. The raise would be retroactive to 2010 when the old contract expired.

The PEB also recommended that workers pay higher health care costs. The higher health care costs would mean a 2.5 percent a year net pay increase. PEB also recommended against higher worker pension contributions sought by MTA.

The union coalition, which includes the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Union (SMART)/UTU, the National Conference of  Firemen and Oilers SEIU 32BJ, and the Transportation Communications Union, accepted the PEB recommendations. MTA did not.

MTA clings to its demand that there be no raises for the first year of the contract and has said that including the first year in a retroactive pay raise would require a fare increase.

PEB after studying the financial documents submitted by MTA found that MTA had the financial resources to pay the retroactive raise, including a raise in the first year of the contract, without raising fares.

Anthony Simon, who leads the LIRR union coalition, said that the PEB finding came before the MTA announced that it had received an $80 million real estate windfall.

It (is) the same old story,” said Simon. “Money for everything else except worker raises.”

During the last three years, LIRR workers have received no raises. MTA officials said that they too have shared in the workers’ sacrifice by foregoing raises.

But Simon, said that this so-called shared sacrifice was a sham exposed by the PEB.

“PEB 244 determined that there were in fact raises given to management,” said Simon in his MTA board testimony. . . “The PEB . . . saw right through these claims and exposed the real truth.”

Samuelson told TWU Local 100 that he would appoint a committee to develop an action plan for maximizing Local 100’s support for a fair contract for LIRR workers.

“In some way or another, you will all be called upon to participate,” said Samuelson in his letter to members. “I know I can expect your best efforts at protecting our families and our livelihoods by supporting our fellow MTA workers at the LIRR.

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