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Congress to LIRR unions, MTA: Don’t count on us

Posted: 7:27 PM, Jul 09, 2014
Updated: 2014-07-09 20:45:54-04

WASHINGTON, D.C. (PIX11) -- Don't count on Congress.

That's the message from Capitol Hill Wednesday night after a day of meetings about LIRR contact negotiations between the MTA Chairman and some elected representatives.

Some members of New York's Congressional delegation have asked the MTA and LIRR union coalition to go back to the negotiating table with counter offers.

Both sides have agreed. They will meet on Thursday in Manhattan.

The elected representatives, led by Representative Charles Rangel (D-Manhattan), say this is a labor and management issue that needs to the resolved in the state.

Representative Peter King (R-New York) says Congressional intervention would be a "roll of the dice."

Representative Steve Israel (D-Long Island) says it's time to bring in the "cots and extra coffee."

LIRR labor coalition leader Anthony Simon said, "Why are we waiting for Congress? We are not looking for Congressional involvement. Let's do it today."

The Federal Railway Labor Act outlines the procedures during LIRR and Metro-North negotiations if both sides believes there is a stalemate.

On July 20 at 12:01 a.m., a cooling off period ends. Workers have voted to support a strike or both sides could continue talking.

In the event of a strike under the federal law, Congress has the authority to order a settlement or eventually order them back to work. The state and union leaders could adopt their own agreement.

Leaders have speculated this current divided Congress would not be quick to take up the issue.

In 1994, a two-day LIRR strike ended when then-Governor Mario Cuomo agreed to the unions terms.

His son, Andrew, was an advisor and he is now New York's Governor.

“I want to thank the New York State Congressional Delegation for making it abundantly clear today that Congress will not act to bring about a labor settlement at the Long Island Rail Road," Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

"With this obstacle removed, it is now clear that the only path to resolution is at the bargaining table between the MTA and the unions, and they should proceed in good faith."

On Monday, Governor Andrew Cuomo said this was not the same as other union contracts he helped negotiate and that the role of Congress was "pivotal."

The MTA has offered 17% raises to current employees over 7 years. A point of disagreement is the MTA's additional provision that the agency says would pay for the increase.

New hires would pay higher pension and health care contributions. The raises for new hires would be spread over a longer amount of time.