LIRR Strike Averted!

A planned shutdown of the nation's largest commuter railroad on Sunday morning appears to have been averted after MTA leaders reached a tentative labor agreement was reached with the eight labor unions after Gov. Andrew Cuomo joined the talks.
July 18, 2014, 1pm PDT | Irvin Dawid
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"The coalition of eight unions, which represent about 5,400 workers, have been in protracted negotiations for some time. Threats of a strike had intensified in recent days, after a breakdown of negotiations on Monday. Both sides blamed the other for the possibility of the strike, which would have begun early Sunday morning," writes Ryan Hutchins, transit reporter for Capital New York. 

Cuomo's involvement, which began only on Wednesday after a four-hour bargaining session yielded no results, appears to have played the decisive role, according to Pete Donohue and John Lauinger of the New York Daily News. 

Negotiations that were kick-started at Cuomo’s direction on Wednesday and went well into the night before resuming Thursday morning finally yielded an agreement in the early afternoon — ending a labor dispute that had been building since 2010.

"Under the terms of the agreement, which must be ratified by union membership and approved by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's (MTA) board, current (Long Island Rail Road) LIRR employees will receive 17-percent raises over the contract’s 6 1/2-year term," adds Hutchins.

Jessica Gould, politics and public finance reporter for WNYC, writes that a significant part of the labor contract is one particular concession made by labor, "paying a portion of their health care for the first time."

"The deal will not lead to increases in rider fares—set to climb at the rate of inflation—and will not affect the ability of the M.T.A. to make needed repairs and upgrades, chairman Tom Prendergast said," Hutchins notes.

The governor's successful intervention, after initially distancing himself from the talks, may play well in his re-election bid this November, suggests WNYC's Karen Rouse.

The outcome was different from 1994, when Cuomo's father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo was in office. The railroad workers did strike, though not for long. But the consequences were memorable. He lost reelection [sic] to a fourth term.

According to its webpage in the MTA website, "(t)he Long Island Rail Road is the busiest commuter railroad in North America, carrying an average of 301,000 customers each weekday on 735 daily trains...(It) is comprised of over 700 miles of track on 11 different branches, stretching from Montauk -- on the eastern tip of Long Island -- to the refurbished Penn Station in the heart of Manhattan, approximately 120 miles away."

[Correspondent note: Hat tip to Adam Snider of Politico Morning Transportation]

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Published on Thursday, July 17, 2014 in Capital New York
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