A Long Island Railroad strike is looking like an increasingly real possibility, but there may still be hope for a last minute negotiation after Governor Andrew Cuomo urged both sides to return to the table.
"The Long Island Rail Road is a critical transportation system for Long Island and New York City," Cuomo said in a statement. "We must do everything we can to prevent Long Islanders from being held hostage by a strike that would damage the regional economy and be highly disruptive for commuters. Both the MTA and the LIRR unions need to put the interests of New Yorkers first by returning to the table today and working continuously to avoid a strike."
This statement comes after the latest negotiation meetings failed, with the MTA rejecting the union's counteroffer. But the governor's involvement seems to have motivated one last chat between MTA officials and the LIRR union heads.
"The MTA remains committed to resolving this dispute at the bargaining table," the MTA said in a statement issued this morning. "As Governor Cuomo said, a strike would disrupt families and business across the New York metropolitan region, and the only way to prevent a strike is for both sides to negotiate a fair and reasonable settlement at the bargaining table. We have asked the LIRR unions to resume negotiations immediately."
According to CBS New York, United Transportation Union President Anthony Simon has agreed to participate in another meeting, and the LIRR union heads are open to further negotiations.
“Today, we will wait for the call to come back to the table,” Simon told 1010 WINS' Juliet Papa. “We will be back at the table, we never wanted to leave the table and we will be back at the table.”
This turnaround comes shortly after the MTA released their latest print and radio ads slamming the LIRR unions and their demands, asking "When is enough enough?"
The ad, which calls the unionized LIRR workers "the best paid in the nation," states that on average employees make $87,000 a year, 56 percent more than the average Long Islander. The ad also appeals to riders' pockets by saying, "the MTA has offered to up their pay 17 percent, limit their healthcare contributions to 2 percent and continue their already generous pensions," without raising fares.
LIRR employees have threatened to walk off the job at 12:01 a.m. on Sunday, July 20th, if demands are not met. Earlier this week, Simon said, "Riders should be aware that the winding down of service will begin well before then, perhaps as early as Wednesday, as the railroad needs to secure its equipment." Shit, that's today!
But don't worry, you can always utilize a seaplane or helicopter to get to work. Other more affordable contingency plans include buses, ferries, and park and ride lots.