Transit Union Strikes a Deal

By 37 to four Tuesday night, leaders of the union that staged a three-day strike against the New York City transit system last week agreed to accept a new contract from the MTA. The workers got the same wage increases included in the MTA's "final offer" before last week's transit strike, but without having to give an inch on pensions. A proposal by the MTA to raise the retirement age from 55 to 62 had caused union chief Roger Toussaint to call the strike.

Newsday has a nice early roundup of the new contract terms, which include a first-ever employee contribution, of 1.5 percent of their wages, for health insurance. The union members will now vote on the proposed contract by mail. Even before the terms were announced, some had questioned whether the strike had been worth it. Newsday quotes a few who saw little difference from the offer on the table before the strike:

To the east, at East 92nd Street and York Avenue in Manhattan, a bus operator on break expressed doubt the strike was worth it. He wondered how much the health care contribution would cut into the pay hike.

Across the street, another driver on break, Robert Fuhrmann, was quick to say, "I don't think we should have went on strike at all." Fuhrmann, with 16 years on the job, said the new agreement is "a little bit" better than the one offered just before the strike. "You're getting a bigger percentage on your pay increase but you're going to contribute on your health insurance," he said.

Also at issue is whether Transport Workers Union members will see any lessening in the rate of disciplinary actions against workers by management, another early union demand. As Kristen Lombardi and Jarrett Murphy report in the Voice this week, MTA management slapped on some 16,000 disciplinary actions in 2005--one for every two members. They write:

George Perlstein, a TWU executive board member who works as a car inspector at the 207th Street yard in Manhattan, was cited several years ago. He was preparing a train for a run when he noticed a problem with the air conditioner, tried to fix it, and received a 600-volt jolt of electricity. Suffering from minor burns, he took seven days of sick leave.

"To add insult to injury," Perlstein relays, he returned to the job only to find that he'd been written up for "not working safely."


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