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2002-12-17

Tentative Agreement Averts Transit Strike By Workers From Nation’s Largest Public Transportation System

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A tentative agreement last night averted a transit strike by workers from the country’s largest public transportation system.

Transport Workers Union Local 100 president Roger Toussaint announced the deal last night, accompanied by New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials.

In the end, the Transport Workers Union Local assented to one of the manager’s main objectives: a wage freeze in the first year. To soften the blow, M.T.A. will give each of the city’s 35,000 workers a $1,000 bonus in the first year, and 3-percent pay raises in each of the second and third years. That will save the M.T.A. tens of millions of dollars, because the bonus will not become part of the worker’s base pay in future years. The union had originally asked for 8% raises in each year.

The union also assented to measures designed to improve worker productivity. The MTA pulled back from a request that workers increase their payments into the pension fund, and the agency also agreed to increase its funding of health benefits by an amount the union estimates is over $400 million.

In addition, the union won an overhaul of a disciplinary system that workers called overly punitive and tyrannical, and a relaxation of some of the MTA’s stringent sick-leave rules.

Tension reached a peak on Friday when a State Supreme Court justice issued an injunction invoking the state’s Taylor Law. That law bars strikes and calls for two days’ pay for every day a worker was on strike. The judge also ordered union leaders not to incite their members to strike, but denied the authority’s motion to prohibit union leaders from even discussing a strike.

Worse, the city brought a lawsuit seeking $1 million in fines against the union on the first day of a strike, doubling each day thereafter. The suit also sought $25,000 from each worker, doubling each day, and $5 million to compensate the city for the expenses it said it had incurred on emergency preparations for the strike.

Shortly before the settlement was announced late yesterday thousands of transit workers marched across the Brooklyn Bridge and joined a coalition of teachers, municipal employees and other supporters in a rally at City Hall. They chanted, "Make the Crooks Open their Books", voicing skepticism about the $2.7 billion dollar deficit the MTA claims it faces over the next two years. The MTA will end the current year with a surplus.

Tape:

  • Roger Toussaint, President, Transit Workers Union Local 100 and Peter Kalikow, Chairmain, Metropolitan Transit Authority.

Guests:

  • Marc Albritton, Track Equipment Maintainer at the New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority’s Coney Island Overhaul Facility. He is also the Shop Steward for about 700 brothers and sisters of Transport Workers Union Local 100.
  • Robert Snyder, historian and the author of ??Transit Talk: New York’s Bus & Subway Workers Tell Their Stories. He is also the director of the Journalism and Media Studies Program at Rutgers.

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