Lawmakers look to derail looming LIRR strike

A looming Long Island Rail Road strike could disrupt travel for hundreds of thousands of commuters next month, but congressional leaders are stepping in to try to prevent it.

As News 12 has reported, the MTA is demanding that LIRR unions agree to a three-year freeze on total labor costs. The unions argue that they haven't seen a pay increase in four years. If the sides can't negotiate a contract before the March 21 deadline, union leaders say they will be forced to strike.

Anthony Simon, head of the union that represents 75 percent of LIRR workers, says the blame would lay squarely on the MTA. "Anything that happens from this point on is in the MTA's hands," he says. "We don't want to strike. If they pushed us to that point, the strike will be on them."

Lawmakers are trying to put pressure on both sides to reach a fair agreement. "The fact is, something has to give," says Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford). "There's enough brain power at that table that they can find a way to make the pieces work."

As News 12 has reported, a mediator recently called for raises of 2.83 percent over six years for LIRR workers. The unions say they would accept the deal, but the MTA says it won't consider wage hikes unless employees contribute 12-14 percent to their health care costs, plus accept changes to their pensions.

The last time there was a strike was back in 1994, when service was derailed for two days.

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