TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Sun Sets on Transit Strike

Sun Sets on Transit Strike

New York Newsday Staff Writers (
Thu, 22 Dec 2005 21:56:50 -0600


To the relief of millions of commuters, the city's transit workers'
union ended its 2 1/2-day strike, and bus and subway employees began
returning to work.

"This was a big test for this city, and I think it passed with flying
colors," Mayor Bloomberg said. "It wasn't easy, and certainly serious
economic harm was inflicted, but we did what we had to do to keep the
city running and running safely."

"It can't be turned on and off with a flip of a switch," Bloomberg
said of the mass transit system. "The city will be back to normal as
of midnight," with regard to dismantling the contingency plan.

Buses are expected to get rolling by about 10 p.m. tonight and taxis
should begin using meters at midnight. Subway trains will hit the
rails overnight, transit officals said, adding that tomorrow morning's
rush hour should be fairly normal.

The union has already posted on its website, under the headline
"STRIKE OVER: REPORT TO WORK", instructions for workers to report to
work immediately if their scheduled shift has already started, or to
report per usual if they're working a later shift.

"We thank our riders for their patience and forebearance," said
Transport Workers Union president Roger Toussaint.

Bloomberg, who had been incensed by what he termed the "thuggish"
behavior of striking, was more restrained at an afternoon news

Though he reiterated that the untion was wrong to strike, he said
"this time they acted responsibly, and for that I am
appreciative. When asked about what might have led to the end of the
walkout, the mayor said: "Cooler heads prevailed."

He credited the union for calling off the strike, but said they were
wrong to go on strike in the first place. He noted that the strike had
been costly for the city with an estimated $10 million in police
overtime and $12 million less in tax revenues.

"People who are struggling to make ends meet are really hurt by this
work stoppage," the mayor said.

Bloomberg took pains to differentiate between union leaders and the
rank-and-file members. "I described the behavior of the union
leadership, which hurt this city," he said.

He encouraged angry commuters to be civil as they prepare to face
members of the TWU for the first time since the strike upset travel
within the city.

"If you want to say something to the employees as you go by, what
about 'Glad you're back, I missed you,'" he said.

The Transport Workers Union Local 100's executive board gave the final
okay for the back-to-work order around 2:30 p.m., ending the crippling
strike that had stranded New Yorkers and hit businesses at the height
of the holiday season.

Thirty-six members of the 43-member executive board voted to end the
strike, five voted against and two abstained, said Eladio Diaz, a

"This was a disgrace," said TWU vice president John Mooney. "No detils
were provided to the executive board. [Toussaint] wants us to discuss the
details after Christmas."

Toussaint earlier had agreed to send striking transit workers back to
work while talks with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority
resumed, an arbitrator said.

"Both parties have a genuine desire to resolve their differences,"
said Richard Curreri, head of a three-member state mediation
panel. "They have agreed to resume negotiations while the TWU takes
steps to return its membership."

Curreri, who spoke at a news conference at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, said
talks held separately with each side since the strike began on Tuesday
had been "fruitful," but an agreement on a new contract for bus and
subway employees "remains out of reach at this time."

Although they didn't formally negotiate, union and MTA representatives
met face-to-face this morning for a discussion before Toussaint
recommended ending the strike, a source close to the situation
said. That set the stage for productive talks to resume once the union
agreed to go back to work.

Meanwhile, union attorney Arthur Schwartz told state Supreme Court
Justice Theodore Jones of Brooklyn that he had been advised by
mediator Richard Curreri to seek an adjournment until 4 p.m. of a
hearing originally scheduled for 11 a.m. Later in the day, the judge
postponed a hearing on whether to impose more fines until January 20.

Yesterday, Jones had ordered Toussaint, secretary treasurer Ed Watt
and recording secretary Darlyne Lawson of TWU Local 100 to come to
court and answer a criminal contempt charge for violating a court
order he issued last week -- raising the possibility that he would
consider ordering jail time for the union leaders.

New York City's corporation counsel Michael Cardozo and James Henly
from state attorney general's office consented to the adjournment.

Jones responded that "our overwhelming concern is a return to work by
the members of the union."

He said that it was his hope that by 4 p.m., when the hearing resumes,
the situation would have advanced to a point "which would make a lot
of the questions that are before this court moot."

Despite the postponement, Schwartz brought to court a copy of the
union's opposition to Cardozo's motion filed yesterday asking the
judge to issue another order directing union members to return to

"No New York court has ever recognized claims of the sort asserted by
the city here," it read.

"The city's request for injunctive relief, like the underlying
lawsuit, has no basis in the law, runs in fact contrary to the law and
should not be entertained by the court."

Earlier in the day, union members picketing outside the courthouse in
Columbus Park said they hadn't heard much more than what media members
told them.

Joe Gifford, 52, said he was hopeful that the resolution would end the
strike and send workers back to their duties. "Our families are also
suffering," said the station agent. "They're also walking over the

"We're from the neighborhoods that are suffering the most," he said.

Jeffrey Chapman, who works 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the supply and
logistics department at Livingston Plaza, said it was probably too
late for him to go back to work today, but he would go back tomorrow
if told to.

"We support our union leaders," said the Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn
resident. "If they say that we should go back to work and will
continue to negotiate, then that's what we'll do. We have faith in him
[Toussaint]. That's why we went out on strike."

The reaction from commuters to news of the possible end of the strike
was swift, and for the most part predictable.

"It makes me happy," said Ansuya Patel, owner of a newshop next to the
entrance to the LIRR station in Forest Hills, reflecting the views of
others. The long line in front of the station the last few days had
cut off customer access to the store, she said, with her husband
saying business has been "very bad, down 90%".

Nathan Orzeo, 47, waiting on the Forest Hills LIRR platform to go into
his job in the Diamond District, said while it was a good thing the
strike may be ending, he understood the union's motivation in
striking -- "everyone wants to make more money."

But this being New York, there were some contrarians. Marcos DeSillas,
who grew up in Spain under a dictatorship, said he hoped the strike
would "continue a few days more -- to break the unions."

DeSillas said the additional inconvenience to commuters would be worth
it in his opinion, to "put an end to the nonsense" once and for all.

Daniel Wraga, 22, who is originally from Poland was spotted coming off
a LIRR train in Penn Station wearing rollerblades.

He said he liked the strike, because he likes "something different,
like the blackout." He's been rollerblading from Penn Station to the
West Village, and enjoying it so much he said he may keep
rollerblading even after the strike was over.

In his announcement, Curreri said the MTA had not pulled its pension
offer -- one of the main sticking points in the contract talks -- off
the table, but said the agency was willing to consider other savings
in health costs.

The MTA and the union have agreed to a self-imposed media blackout for
the duration of the talks, Curreri said.

"We have suggested and they have agreed to resume negotiations while
the TWU takes steps to returning to work," Curreri said.

No formal negotiations had been set immediately, he said. "But we
anticipate they will be scheduled in short order."

Newsday staff writer Michael Rothfeld contributed to this report.

Copyright 2005 Newsday Inc.

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