Negotiations between the MTA and the transit workers union continue to trudge on as today marks the two week mark before the current contract expires on December 15. The main issue seems to be what the role of conductors and token booth clerks will be as trains modernize and the token booths close. There's some interesting dissesion within the Transit Workers Union itself, with one faction rallying for 10% wage increases every year for three years, which TWU president Roger Touissant says is too much (that's the wage the TWU tried to get in 2002 but failed); Touissant says that 10% faction head Martin Goodman actually scheduled vacation for himself after December 15, which means that if the transit workers strike, Goodman wouldn't have to face fines from the Taylor Law.

The Daily News reports that the union actually rejected a "secret" proposal from the MTA which "would have both sides submitting to binding arbitration if a pact isn't sealed in time" - kind of a contigency plan since it doesn't seem like either side wants to budge. The TWU rejected the idea of an arbitrator, saying they will not turn to an outside to decide their fate. And the union is still angry that the MTA has been spending the $1 billion surplus for this year on things aside from the employees.

It sounds like Mayor Bloomberg better get Gracie Mansion ready for the MTA and TWU to have some crazy all night negotiations. A CUNY labor historian, Joshua Freeman, tells Newsday, "The public should be prepared that, unlike in most unions, TWU threats are not empty threats. There are a lot of voices inside the union, both in power and in opposition, that are pushing for a very militant stand."

Photograph of conductor's compartment from Joe Schumacher