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SMART Union Locals Authorize March LIRR Strike Should MTA Not Accept Fair Contract

LIRR workers repair tracks after a collision.

LIRR Workers repair tracks after a collision.

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With 6,000 of their fellow Long Island Railroad (LIRR) laborers without a contract for over three years, two of the locals that make up the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Union (SMART) have voted to strike in March.  The vote was unanimous, 500-0.  

The Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) and SMART are currently in a mandatory 60-day “cooling off” period after their proposals for a new contract were rejected. While MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg has called the vote “a routine procedural step in the absence of a new agreement,” many SMART members are ready to strike due to what they see as a lack of respect for the negotiating process.  SMART General Chairman Anthony Simon told the New York Daily News, “The membership spoke loud and clear tonight … and said we will not sit back and be disrespected.  I have never been prouder to be their leader.”

The MTA is likely to request a second Presidential Emergency Board, a move that would delay the strike until July.  The first Presidential Emergency Board recommended in December that the MTA provide SMART with wage increases and that the workers make contributions to health plans.  That recommendation was rejected by the MTA:

The emergency board, made up of neutral mediators, delivered its recommendations in December after hearing labor and management experts testify about MTA finances and various additional factors. The board concluded the MTA could afford to pay the raises it proposed — amounting to about 2.85% a year for six years — without raising fares in 2015 higher than the 4% jump already planned. It also said workers should start contributing 2% of their base pay for health care.

But the MTA is pushing for a three-year wage freeze for all of its workers unless pay increases are offset by cost savings related to productivity. The mediators didn’t endorse the work-rule changes the MTA sought to balance out potential rises for LIRR workers.

The rejection of this proposal is at the heart of the strike, according to the union’s website:

“With the guidance and support of our SMART International Union, along with the teamwork and solidarity of our brothers and sisters from the sheet metal side of SMART, the Transportation Communications Union and the National Conference of Firemen & Oilers, 70 percent of the represented workforce on LIRR is prepared to deliver on the actions allowable by the process of self-help, as per the Railway Labor Act,” said GO 505 General Chairperson Anthony Simon.

“In addition, we have the support of Transport Workers Union Local 100, which demonstrates an overwhelming sign of solidarity from labor to MTA.”

“Due to the MTA’s unwillingness to accept the recommendations of PEB 244, and without their request for a second board, our labor coalition is prepared to strike as early as March 21. While we have said time and time again that this is not what labor wants for the riders at the MTA, it will be the sole result of the MTA’s unwillingness to take the next step.”

The LIRR serves 300,000 commuter daily.  The last LIRR strike was in 1994 and lasted two days.  In 1987, an 11-day strike occurred.


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