Twelve members of the U.S. House of Representatives have co-signed a letter to the chairman of New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority urging the MTA to reach a settlement with union employees of the Long Island Rail Road and avert a possible strike by those employees this spring.
The letter to MTA Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer Thomas F. Prendergast asks the MTA to “reconsider its decision to entirely reject the recommendations from Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) 244 or call for a second Presidential Emergency Board in order to avoid a work stoppage.”
The U.S. representatives from both sides of the political aisle representing constituents who may be affected by a work stoppage on the LIRR said “the recommendations issued by PEB 244 may not have included everything that either side had hoped; however, we believe that it could serve as a model for the types of concessions that can be made to move an agreement forward.”
On Jan. 15, the MTA announced that it was rejecting a proposed series of wage increases for unionized employees on LIRR totaling 18.4 percent over six years (2.9 percent per year) and that employees begin contributing to health insurance premium costs. The board’s wage recommendations are retroactive to the first year of the contract dispute, which has been ongoing for more than three years.
The board rejected MTA’s demand that workers accept three years of net zero wage increases, followed by two, two-percent increases over five years and rejected MTA’s demand for major concessions in pensions, including a permanent five-percent employee contribution.
In its recommendations issued Dec. 22, the PEB said the wage increases were comparable to recent commuter settlements in large cities like Chicago and Boston.
“If no consensus can be reached using the findings from PEB 244, we respectfully request the MTA call for another Presidential Emergency Board as a means to bring all parties closer together to an agreement to avoid a work stoppage,” the representatives’ letter said.
“In particular, we urge the MTA to reconsider its insistence on a wage freeze or concessions to fully pay for wage increases. According to findings from PEB 244, …it simply cannot be concluded that the MTA’s current financial position is one in which it is unable to pay for wage adjustments.”
Rep. Steve Israel (D-Dist. 3) said in a statement that the PEB “has already found that a contract can be negotiated without increasing fares.”
The letter to the MTA was signed by Reps. Israel, Peter King (R-Dist. 2), Timothy Bishop (D-Dist. 1), Carolyn McCarthy (D-Dist. 4), Gregory Meeks (D-Dist. 5), Grace Meng (D-Dist. 6), Hakeem Jeffries (D-Dist. 8), Yvette Clarke (D-Dist. 9), Jerrold Nadler (D-Dist. 10), Michael Grimm (R-Dist. 11), Carolyn Maloney (D-Dist. 12) and Joseph Crowley (D-Dist. 14).
“Due to the MTA’s unwillingness to accept the recommendations of PEB 244, and without their request for a second board, our labor coalition is prepared to strike as early as March 21. While we have said time and time again that this is not what labor wants for the riders at the MTA, it will be the sole result of the MTA’s unwillingness to take the next step,” said GO 505 General Chairperson Anthony Simon.
The MTA still has not announced whether it will seek a second presidential emergency board.
To read the full letter from the U.S. representatives, click here.