Mediators Helps End TWU Strike; but Arbitration or Mediation Could Follow

Article excerpt

New York City's subways began running again three days before last Christmas after state mediators became involved in the labor negotiations between the Metropolitan Transit Authority and the striking Transit Workers Union, Local 100.

Highly contentious rhetoric on both sides raised the temperature of the negotiations and contributed to the conditions that led union workers to strike in violation of a court order. The court held that a strike would violate New York's Taylor Law, which forbids certain state employees from striking.

The union's negotiators walked out of the negotiations without responding to the MTA's offer, claiming the MTA provoked the walkout by putting union pension rights on the table. The union membership authorized the first transit strike in over 25 years on the recommendation of Local 100 President Roger Toussaint. On Monday, Dec. 19, 2005, bus drivers working for two private bus lines that the MTA would shortly acquire took to the picket lines. On Tuesday morning, at 3 a.m., the entire union walked off the job. For three days, New Yorkers either car-pooled, biked, or walked to work. Many others waited out the strike at home. Both Governor George Pataki and Mayor Michael Bloomberg took a hard line against the strike, insisting that the strikers return to work.

The city took the union to court where Justice Theodore T. Jones Jr., of the State Supreme Court in Brooklyn, rejected the union's claim that the strike was provoked by the MTA and declared the union strike in violation of the court's order. The court imposed a $1 million-a-day fine on the union and ordered striking workers to forfeit two days' pay for each day on strike.

Believing negotiations were at an impasse, the MTA invoked the Taylor Law and asked the Public Employment Relations Board to convene a mediation panel. Richard A. Currieri, PERB's director of conciliation, and two other mediators appointed by PERB, Martin Scheinman and Alan Viani, helped motivate the parties to agree to resume negotiations.

On Dec. 22, 2005, at a press conference announcing the end of the strike and a resumption of negotiations, Currieri read the following statement:

Pursuant to the Taylor Law processes, mediation has commenced. Over the last 48 hours, we've met separately with both the TWU and the MTA. While these discussions have been fruitful, an agreement remains out of the party's reach at this time.

It's clear to us, however, that both parties have a genuine desire to resolve their differences. In the best interest of the public ... we have suggested, and they have agreed to resume negotiations while the TWU takes steps toward returning its membership to work.

We will continue to assist the parties in their effort to reach a negotiated settlement and have committed to being immediately available for intensive sessions as needed. However, for these negotiations to be swift and successful, we believe that an immediate media blackout is essential to provide an environment that's conducive to swift negotiated settlement.

To facilitate these continued negotiations, we have asked and the parties have agreed to, a self-imposed media blackout for the duration of these discussions. …