View Full Version : NYC Officials Try to Block Transit Strike

12-14-2005, 11:11 AM
NYC Officials Try to Block Transit Strike
Associated Press (http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/T/TRANSIT_TALKS?SITE=ENCCOM&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT)

The city is putting more legal pressure on subway and bus workers preparing to strike and bring the nation's largest public transit system to a halt.

City officials were expected back in court Wednesday, this time to argue a lawsuit against the Transport Workers Union in Brooklyn seeking damages for expenses already incurred in preparation for a strike. The suit also seeks lost revenues and overtime and fines of $25,000 that would double each day for those who walk out on the job.

"The way to resolve this is not on the picket line but at the bargaining table," city Corporation Counsel Michael Cardozo said.

Arthur Schwartz, attorney for Local 100, called the lawsuit "total hogwash."

Subway and bus workers voted over the weekend to give the union's board the power to call a strike at 12:01 a.m. Friday when the current contract runs out. Sticking points in negotiations include wages, health benefits and pensions.

A judge Tuesday granted a preliminary injunction prohibiting the workers from striking if they fail to reach a new contract. State law bans public employee strikes and workers who walk out risk losing two days' pay for every day of work they miss - or could even be jailed.

Though negotiations continue, the city put together contingency plans for a strike. The last time New York transit workers walked off the job was in April of 1980, forcing New Yorkers to ride bikes, walk and even use boats, private helicopters and roller skates to get around the city for 11 days.

This time, the city plans to try and manage gridlock by only permitting cars carrying four people into the busiest parts of Manhattan. Metro-North and the Long Island Rail Road - the MTA's suburban railroads - would offer local shuttles in the Bronx and Queens. Yellow cabs could pick up more than one fare at a time.

Representatives from the MTA and union are negotiating at a Manhattan hotel, where several hundred transit workers held a late-afternoon rally Tuesday.

The Rev. Al Sharpton said before the rally that a possible strike "will clearly be a tremendous burden" on city residents but the MTA, not the workers, should be blamed in the dispute.

Sharpton cited the agency's $1 billion budget surplus, saying "they have the wherewithal to do the right thing."

In its latest offer, the MTA has proposed 6 percent raises over 27 months. The union is demanding 8 percent raises, a total of 24 percent over three years. President Roger Toussaint has said the other aspects of the MTA's offer "insult" the workers.

The state comptroller's office has estimated that the strike could cost the city more than $200 million per day in lost economic activity and productivity.