New York bus and subway workers want the right to strike, and are seeking legislative support for the idea as they prepare to negotiate a new contract with the MTA.
The Transportation Workers Union, whose Local 100 represents subway workers, bus drivers and other MTA employees, announced Thursday that support a bill introduced at your request by State Senator Jessica Ramos to amend a law that makes it illegal for MTA employees and other public sector workers to strike.
The union’s current contract with the MTA expires in mid-May.
After the 2005 citywide transit strike, the Transportation Workers Union was fined $2.5 million, and union leader Roger Toussaint served several days in jail, under the state’s Taylor Law, which limits the right of public workers to strike in exchange for a contract. protections during negotiations.
MTA employees working on the Long Island Rail Road and Metro North are governed by the federal Railroad Labor Law, which allows strikes after all bargaining attempts have failed.
“LIRR workers and Metro North workers have the right to strike,” said John Samuelsen, president of TWU International. “We do the same job. We are all MTA employees.”
“There is an equity issue here: Transit workers in downtown New York City are overwhelmingly workers of color,” Samuelsen added.
Ramos’ bill would put subway and bus workers on much the same footing as suburban rail workers, with required mediation for any contract disputes and the option of binding arbitration.
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If either party rejects arbitration, and subsequent intervention by the governor fails to reach an agreement, any worker strike would not be considered illegal under Ramos’s proposal.
“The workers came to me and asked for a better tool. When the workers come to me, I listen to them,” Ramos told the Daily News on Thursday.
The legislation would affect workers beyond the five boroughs, providing legal strike options for people employed by the state’s various regional transit authorities.
“This is a democracy,” said Richard Davis, president of Local 100. “Working men and women should have the right to keep their jobs so they can earn good wages and support their families to the best of their ability.”
Union leaders told The News that the legislation has been in the works since before the pandemic in response to the 2018 US Supreme Court ruling in Janus v. AFSCME, which determined that non-union workers did not have to pay dues at union shops. The ruling was widely seen as a blow to organized labor.
The 2005 transit strike, the city’s most recent, brought New York to a standstill for two and a half days before the Christmas break.
“In the absence of the legal right to strike, there have been strikes,” Samuelsen said. “If we had the right to strike, the bosses would be forced to negotiate in good faith.”