The MTA’s negotiations with unions representing LIRR workers broke down Tuesday afternoon, 12 days before hundreds of thousands of Long Islanders would be left stranded by a strike.With the walkout looming, MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast penned a letter to US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner asking them to say what role Congress would play if 5,400 workers walk off the job on July 20.
And from Newsday:
LIRR union officials said they were willing to continue talking Tuesday with Metropolitan Transportation Authority negotiators before the National Mediation Board until a deal was made. However, after meeting less than four hours in Manhattan, MTA negotiators said it became clear a settlement could not be reached.
"Nothing is going to happen at the table here clearly, based on what happened today, and that's why we're going to Congress," MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg said after the talks.
You can see the strategy from the MTA and Governor Cuomo here - try and have Congress force an end to any job action by the LIRR unions, thus taking away a key weapon in the LIRR unions arsenal.
So far, Congress doesn't sound like its willing to act:
Before the negotiation, Prendergast began making plans to go to Washington, D.C., to meet with congressional members and "seek clarification on what role Congress intends to play in the event" of a July 20 strike, according to a letter he sent to federal lawmakers.
The letter was addressed to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).
An aide to McConnell said yesterday that he saw the letter but did not know of any request for a meeting from Prendergast. Reid's office had no comment, and House leaders could not be reached for comment.
Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) Tuesday encouraged the MTA to keep talking to the unions, not federal lawmakers.
"These guys should be spending more time at the table than trying to position themselves as far as Congress is concerned," said King, who heard from Prendergast Monday about arranging a meeting.
King, who will host the MTA chairman Wednesday along with Rep. Charles Rangel (D-Manhattan), said he and other members of New York's delegation won't likely tell both sides what they intend to do or give them "an out" from negotiating a settlement.
Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington) agreed that depending on congressional action is the wrong course, "considering that there's no promise that the House Republican Majority will take up the issue at all."
Cuomo tried to wash his hands of the matter earlier in the week, claiming this was a federal matter for Congress to deal with.
Cuomo's simply trying to displace responsibility here so that he doesn't have to own a strike if it happens - especially since a strike would come a few months before Election Day and might leave him with some political damage.
But Congress, at least so far, doesn't sound like they're going to help Sheriff Andy or the MTA out.