Transit Strike Ends as Both Sides Set Up Framework for Further Bargaining

News   Transit Strike Ends as Both Sides Set Up Framework for Further Bargaining New York City subways and buses— which have not been in operation since Tuesday morning, when the transit workers' union called a strike—will be up and running by late Dec. 22 or early Dec. 23.

A mediator in the strike stated midday Thursday that the union had agreed to send members back to work.

Transit Workers Union Local 100 President Roger Toussaint recommend that the union's executive board approve the motion at a meeting at 1 PM Thursday. That motion was passed.

It will take 10-18 hours to get the system to be fully operational. Mayor Mike Bloomberg said at a press conference at 3:30 Dec. 22 that buses would be rolling by Thursday night, and most subways would be running by Friday morning.

Contract talks will continue until an agreement is reached between the union and the Metropolitan Transit Authority. The main sticking point has been, and remains, pension demands put forth by the MTA which the union deems burdensome and unacceptable. Under a transit authority proposal, new employees would contribute 6 percent of their salaries to their pension funds, instead of the current 2 percent, CNN reported. The union has called for the pension issue to be taken off the table. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority did withdraw a proposal to increase the retirement age from 55 to 62.

Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Governor George Pataki have been strong in their condemnation of the union since the walkout began. Bloomberg, calling the leadership "thuggish" and "selfish," said the city suffered an estimated $400 million is lost income on the first day of the strike alone. Pataki, for his part, demanded the workers return to their jobs before any further negotiations took place. He would seem to have gotten his way if the transit system resumes operation in the next 24 hours. The city will lose another $300 million in revenues Thursday, bringing the total loss for the strike to $1 billion, CNN said, citing Jeff Simmons, spokesman for city Comptroller William C. Thompson Jr.

During the strike, Broadway shows have gone on as usual. Alan Cohen, Director of Communications of the League of American Theatres and Producers, told Playbill.com Dec. 21 that attendance for shows on Dec. 20 — the first day of the strike — "was pretty good overall with relatively low returns. There was good walk-up traffic, and there were no cast or crew problems. Shows took good care of their people, accommodating them with car and shuttle bus service."

"Most of the shows," Cohen continued, "reported pretty brisk business. There was only a two to three percent 'no-show' rate, which is only up about one percent for a Tuesday night."

Cohen did say that the call volume for those interested in exchanging tickets for a different date has increased Dec. 21. He also encouraged those looking to see usually sold-out shows to try to do so during the strike.