Hundreds of thousands of Long Islanders ride the Long Island Rail Road each day to commute to New York City for work, but after the LIRR union met with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority on Monday, the long-threatened strike started to seem imminent.
"At this point, we are completely at an impasse," union leader Anthony Simon told WNYC radio. "We are miles and miles away, and there are no meetings that are scheduled at this point."
The strike is six days away, with 5,400 LIRR workers set to walk if a deal is not reached, which would leave 300,000 commuters left without an efficient way to get to work.
“I’m aggravated,” Mike Frampton, 31, of West Babylon told International Business Times. “People spend so much money on monthly tickets and there is no word on reimbursements for time lost on the July tickets.”
The commuter, a member of the Ornamental Iron Workers union who travels into the city regularly, added: “Both sides need to come down from their high horse and meet somewhere in the middle because they’re screwing hundreds of thousands of people.”
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The strike would even affect New York Police Department officers, according to Craig Michels, 30, who is a member of the NYPD.
“As an emergency worker, it’s not only imperative we get to work, but they may adjust our hours and shifts to deal with the situation,” he said. “During the MTA strike in 2004 we were doing 12-18 hour shifts and, unfortunately, we won’t know what they will have us doing until a strike happens.”
“Until then, I’m just praying it doesn’t happen.”
But if it does, the NYPD officer plans to carpool. “The bus service seems like a good idea, but I’m uncertain of the reliability or availability of it.”
Mike Miller of Patchogue used to use the LIRR frequently and told IBT he was “lucky” he didn’t have to travel into the city for work anymore. “It’s pretty obnoxious that they are trying to hold the public hostage,” the Long Islander added.
Though the strike would seem like time off for the 5,400 LIRR employees, the conductors are apparently upset with the possible walkout too.
LIRR employees were told they are “not allowed to say anything,” but a conductor spoke on the condition of anonymity and told IBT: “No one wants to strike.”
“We don’t get paid if we go on strike," he said, "So it sucks.” Their benefits, however, will apparently remain in effect.
Another LIRR worker said there were claims that three conductors have been assaulted by passengers who feel they are “greedy” to strike for higher pay, but reports of violence have not been confirmed.
“At this point, it is absolutely regrettable to say that we have come to a complete impasse,” Simon told reporters after the meeting. “The MTA has not come with a counteroffer at all and is not moving.”
Simon said it was “absurd” an agreement could not be found, but while the unions and MTA argue over raises, the reality and “absurd” thing is that LIRR workers enjoy better compensation than their riders.
The New York Post wrote that the average LIRR worker makes $87,182 annually. Moreover, a third of the unionized workers make over $100,000. They get free health care and two pensions, but still, they want more.
The MTA has offered LIRR workers a 17-percent raise over seven years but negotiations remain contentious over the workers’ health benefits. The MTA has proposed that new LIRR employees pay more for health care and pension costs.
The strike certainly won’t improve the unions’ popularity among commuters, especially since many can’t afford more fare increases to fund LIRR employees. If the 5,400 workers walk out, train service will end on Sunday at 12:01 a.m.
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