GOTHAM GAZETTE: SEARCHLIGHT 2002: Transit Strike JUMP TO YOUR DISTRICT
 
 

NYC Transit Talks Continue While Judge Hears Arguments On Banning Strike

By AMY WESTFELDT
Associated Press Writer

December 13, 2002, 4:06 PM EST

NEW YORK -- As round-the-clock contract talks began Friday to avert a transit strike that would strand 7 million daily riders, the state asked a judge for an order that would subject workers to jail time for walking off the job.

State Supreme Court Judge Jules Spodek did not immediately rule, but he made clear that he wouldn't stand by with the city's 34,000 bus and subway workers poised to strike.

"A strike vote is not (free) speech anymore. It's action," Spodek said after the state asked him to block Transport Workers Union Local 100 from striking Monday.

Spodek said he expected to issue an injunction as early as Friday night, despite union lawyer Arthur Schwartz's insistence that a court order was premature because the union had not actually called a strike.

Union membership voted last week to authorize its leaders to call a strike if talks faltered. Their contract is due to expire at 12:01 a.m. Monday.

As negotiations between the union and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority resumed Friday, union and transit leaders said they were far apart on wages, pension payments and the MTA's disciplinary policies.

Preparing for a potential strike, Mayor Michael Bloomberg bought a $500 mountain bike Friday and declared: "Nobody's going to shut down New York." Bloomberg, who travels by subway to work, promised to bike to City Hall in the event of a strike.

The Transport Workers Union placed television commercials emphasizing members' concerns over safety and wages. Two subway workers were killed on duty last month, and the union claims the MTA has not properly ensured worker safety.

Public employee strikes are illegal under the state's Taylor Law, which would fine employees two days' pay for every day they are on strike. A court order banning the strike would also subject the workers to contempt citations and jail time.

The union is seeking 6 percent annual raises over three years, while the MTA is offering no raise the first year and possible raises the following two years tied to productivity increases.

The MTA is facing a billion-dollar deficit this year and is contemplating a 50-cent increase from the current $1.50 fare.

The city's last strike, which lasted 11 days, was in 1980, when the buses and subways carried less than half the number of commuters it does today.

Copyright © 2002, The Associated Press