MTA Asks Obama for New Presidential Emergency Board

Strike date pushed back to July 19
March 5, 2014 Updated: March 6, 2014

In an effort to reach an agreement with Long Island Railroad labor unions over the four-year contract stalemate, The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has asked President Barack Obama to appoint a new Presidential Emergency Board (PEB). This pushes the earliest date the unions can strike back to July 19, rather than the approaching March 20 date set after MTA rejected recommendations from the first PEB.

The board, a team of three mediators, will be responsible for reviewing disagreements between the labor unions who represent 5,800 Long Island Rail Road workers and the MTA.

The MTA rejected recommendations of the first board which suggested wage raises of 17 percent over the next six years, and new health care contributions by employees, Newsday reported. 

Union leaders said they had accepted the terms even though the raises were lower than they had asked for. Union representative Joel Parker said the MTA had refused to continue negotiations unless the PEB recommendations were ignored, and last month the unions had voted to strike.

The MTA said the first board did not consider the burden that the raises would have on its budget. MTA CEO Tom Prendergast had said in Albany the raises would result in 12 percent fare hikes by the end of the year, or cutting $6 billion from its capital plan.

MTA has been asking for a series of concessions to be able to pay for the raises, and the unions have repeatedly pushed back on those terms.

Anthony Simon, the leader of a coalition of LIRR union workers, said the MTA doesn’t want to consider the mediation board’s offer. “All of labor is fed up with the MTA’s games,” Simon said according to Newsday.