Anthony Simon, left, the lead union negotiator, about to sign the tentative agreement between the unions and the MTA. Gov. Andrew Cuomo held a news conference Thursday afternoon with Simon and MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast, right, who signed before Simon.
"My reaction, and I think I share this with most of my fellow commuters, is of relief... I think it is unfortunate that due to federal law ... there is no provision similar to the Taylor law, which would curtail their ability to strike in the first place. If I recall correctly, when there was a subway strike a few years back, their union president was jailed briefly because of this. If they are not under this law, it would seem prudent to investigate that since, in my opinion, an LIRR strike would have had tremendously negative results for the region. Leaving that aside, if the reports are true, I am glad that the MTA and the union were able to reconcile and that the commuters, many of whom are themselves middle class and are just trying to feed their families, were not left high and dry."
Rabbi Yehiel Kalish, a Far Rockaway resident who used the Inwood station, said, "I am happy for the employees, who hopefully received what they were looking for and grateful for the governor's direct involvement on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of citizens who ride the railroad every day."
Nassau Herald Editor Jeff Bessen contributed to this story.
Governor Cuomo's news release on Thursday, July 17 (VERBATIM):
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Chairman and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast, and United Transportation Union President Anthony Simon, representing a coalition of eight Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) labor unions, today announced an agreement to settle a four-year-old contract dispute between the MTA and the unions. The agreement provides the 17 percent wage increase recommended by the Presidential Emergency Board, and includes the first-ever healthcare contributions from the 5,400 workers that make up the eight unions while protecting commuters and the MTA’s long-term financial stability.
“The Long Island Rail Road is a critical artery in connecting the downstate region, and the men and women who keep it running play a vital role in the lives of our commuters and in the communities that the LIRR serves," Cuomo said. "Resolving this contract dispute is the right thing to do, and the agreement we have reached today is fair to all parties. It recognizes the many contributions of the LIRR’s hardworking employees, while also maintaining the fiscal integrity of the MTA. I thank everyone involved in these negotiations, especially UTU Chairman Anthony Simon and MTA Chairman Tom Prendergast, whose collective dedication to the needs of LIRR commuters made this agreement possible.
“The agreement we reached today with the assistance of Governor Cuomo is just what he advocated – a fair and reasonable contract that will enable the nation’s busiest commuter railroad to continue to serve the people of Long Island,” MTA Chairman Thomas F. Prendergast said. “Both sides have compromised to reach an agreement that gives our employees the raises they deserve while also providing for the MTA’s long-term financial stability. I want to express my thanks to all the LIRR employees who continued to provide safe and reliable service through these discussions, and to our customers who can now be assured of uninterrupted service.”
“Today’s agreement provides a fair and equitable contract for our existing and future employees and we couldn’t have gotten it done without the Governor’s help,” United Transportation Union President Anthony Simon said. “Our workers move hundreds of thousands of commuters a day and their services are integral to the New York economy. On behalf of 5,400 hardworking union members involved in these negotiations, I thank the governor for his efforts, and the MTA for coming to a compromise.”
Under the terms of the agreement, based on the recommendations of the Presidential Emergency Board, existing LIRR employees will receive 17 percent raises over a term of 6-1/2 years. To ensure the long-term affordability of these wage increases, all employees will for the first time contribute to their health insurance costs, and new employees will have different wage progressions and pension plan contributions.
The contract will have no impact on MTA fares and will be accommodated within revisions to the MTA financial plan.
The tentative agreement is subject to approval by the eight Long Island Rail Road unions’ executive boards and ratification by their membership, and subsequent approval by the MTA Board.