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NYC Transit on strike

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

MTA transit employees have gone on strike

Calling it a "fight for dignity on the job, a concept foreign to the MTA," Transport Workers Union Local 100 (TWU) President Roger Toussaint officially declared that its union members are now on strike, extending the job action, and bringing the subways and buses of New York City to a halt.

MTA President Peter Kalikow and Toussaint took part in last night's negotiations, where the final offer to the TWU was made. The MTA offered a three-year contract with a 3 percent, 4 percent, and 3.5 percent pay-raise schedule and a retirement age that would stay at 55, but new employees would have to pay more in contributions to the pension and health care plan.

Picketers at the 207th Street Yard / Kingsbridge Bus Depot. Photo by Sander Koyfman.

Toussaint had said earlier today to striking Jamaica and Triboro bus operators that he could not accept the MTA's offer because it did not address disciplinary actions that the MTA could levy against their employees. Jamaica and Triboro busses began striking 00:01 (05:01) Monday morning. Both bus lines are privately owned and operated, but their employees are TWU members and will become part of the MTA's bus service in 2006.

The TWU had asked the MTA to give its last, best offer by 21:00 Monday (02:00 Tuesday UTC) so that executives would be able to evaluate the terms in time to avert the Tuesday morning strike deadline. But when Toussaint and Kalikow parted last night at 23:00, any hope of preventing the incredible turned into awaiting the inevitable strike declaration.

The station on 45th Street chained off.

At his 03:02 press conference, Toussaint pointed the finger squarely on the MTA.

"With a US$1B surplus, the contract between the MTA and TWU Local 100 should have been a no-brainier. Sadly that has not been the case. From the beginning, the MTA approached these negotiations in bad faith, demanding arbitration before even trying to resolve the contract. Hours before contract expiration, the MTA got rid of its US$1B surplus -- a surplus which we believe continues to be understated by some US$100M. The MTA knew that reducing health and pension standards at the authority would be unacceptable to our union. They knew there was no good economic reason for their hard line on this issue - not with a US$1B surplus."

Then, the words that no one in New York City (except maybe public school students whose classes were delayed by two hours) wanted to hear passed from Toussaint's lips: "The Local 100 Executive Board has voted overwhelmingly to extend strike action to all MTA properties effective immediately."

The strike was "on."

Mayor Bloomberg lashed out at the TWU with his harshest language yet on the strike. "For their own selfish reasons, the TWU has decided that their demands are more important than the law, the City and the people they serve. This is not only an affront to the concept of public service; it is a cowardly attempt by Roger Toussaint and the TWU to bring the City to its knees to create leverage for their own bargaining position." His Honor concluded, "We cannot give the TWU the satisfaction of causing the havoc they desperately seek to create."

Mayor Bloomberg estimated the cost of the strike at US$400 million per day.

This morning the Mayor crossed the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan, alongside his fellow commuters-turned-pedestrians. But the bitter wind coming from the East River only doubled the frigid mood of the already freezing New Yorkers: TWU members were picketing on the Brooklyn entrance to the bridge.

Contingency Plans

The MTA

 
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority

The strike contingency page on the MTA website mirrored Kalikow's statement to the press: "The TWU announced it would conduct an illegal strike on MTA NYCT buses & subways throughout all five boroughs as well as on most MTA Bus Company routes. This is in addition to a strike action called at 12:01 Monday, December 19, 2005 by the TWU against two private bus lines in Queens: Triboro Coach & Jamaica Buses."

In his press conference Kalikow said "The TWU's action today is illegal and irresponsible. This blatant violation of the Taylor Law... it is a slap in the face to all MTA customers and all New Yorkers."

Although contingency plans had been in ready since Friday, some aspects have not materialized. 1010 WINS has reported that LIRR service for the Shea Stadium park-n-ride will not be in service until 09:00 because the equipment needed to run on the strike contingency schedule has not been put in place.

The LIRR will be making additional stops in Queens on the Main Line, as well as operating shuttle trains between Jamaica and Penn Sta. and in Brooklyn between Jamaica and Flatbush Ave.. Riders going to or coming from Flushing, which is normally served by the 7 train, can take the LIRR to Flushing/Main St. on the Port Washington branch.

 
An NYPD officer keeps order at an entrance to Penn Station

All riders are advised that several entrances to Penn Station have been designated for ticketed passengers only and are specific to the passenger's servicing branch. Non-ticketed passengers should enter Penn Sat. through the 7th Avenue entrance.

The MTA assures its customers that all contingency service will be in place no later than the Wednesday morning rush, and that any holders of 7-day, 30-day, and Unlimited MetroCards will have their expiration dates extended for as many days as the strike lasts.

The City

 
New York City Hall

At 05:00 NYPD put roadblocks into action along 96th St., south of which only high-occupancy vehicles carrying at least four passengers ("HOV-4") may enter. John Montone reported that even commercial vehicles are subject to the HOV-4, including taxis. This lead to some early-hour contingency "confusion and kvetching". Taxis are allowed to pick up multiple fares.

The city has reserved the following streets for emergency vehicles only, weekdays from 05:00 to 20:00 :

  • 5th Ave. and Madison Ave. between East 23rd St. and East 96th St.,
  • 26th, 29th, 49th, and 50th streets from river to river, and
  • Church St. and Trinity Pl. south of Barclay St.

A detailed list of restrictions, closures, and lane reversals can be found on the NYC.gov website.

The Port Authority

The PATH is reported to be operating normally, which is shuttling riders from 34th Street/Herald Sq. to the Wold Trade Center, and all stations in-between.

AirTrain is also in operation, which serves Jamaica Sta. and JFK airport. An unconfirmed report from one commuter suggested that taxis from the airport are still honoring the airport's "Anywhere in New York" flat fare.

The TLC

The Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) has set up a system of flat fare zones and maximum prices for taxis, livery, and vans. Livery cab drivers announced that they would operate service along striking bus routes in order to fill in the service gap, and cabbies are allowed to pick up multiple fares for the duration of the strike. NY1 has reported instances of price gouging, leaving New Yorkers in the difficult position of deciding whether to sacrifice $50 or schlepp in the bitter cold.

Sources

Sites