Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 20, 2014

New York Suburban Commuters Face Prospect of Crippling Rail Strike

122289783 239x335 New York Suburban Commuters Face Prospect of Crippling Rail Strike

Riders board an LIRR train in Bethpage, N.Y., in 2011 (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

There have been no railroad strikes in the United States since 1994, but that may change as early as next month. Commuters in the New York City suburbs face the prospect of a crippling Long Island Railroad strike as the Metropolitan Transit Authority and the unions representing railroad workers continue their standoff over a new contract.

On an average weekday, more than 285,000 commuters use the LIRR to get to and from their jobs in New York City. The railroad has an annual ridership of nearly 82 million.

LIRR workers went on a three-day strike in 1994, following work five strikes since 1960. The longest LIRR strike – lasting 50 days — was in 1973.

Under the Railway Labor Act, President Barack Obama appointed an emergency board in March to try to resolve the dispute. Under the law, neither party can take action such as strike earlier than July 20.

The Long Island newspaper Newsday reported Thursday that the board agreed with “the unions’ proposal for a six-year contract with 17 percent raises. The MTA wants a slimmer contract, with 11 percent raises and union givebacks.” The LIRR union members have worked four years without a contract.

Republican Peter T. King, Democrat Steve Israel, and other House members from Long Island and New York City sent a letter to MTA urging the agency to agree with the unions’ offer to push back a possible strike date to September.

The LIRR is in the middle of a five-year $2.3 billion capital program, with more than a quarter of that money coming from federal funds.

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