Hawkins Ready to Join Workers on Strike Picket Line
Howie Hawkins, the Teamster who is running for NY Governor for the Green Party, said he was ready to join the picket line if the MTA fails to agree to a new contract with the various worker unions at the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR). The contract is set to expire on July 20.
In supporting the wage and benefit proposals advanced by the unions, Hawkins noted that their proposals were accepted by two emergency federal boards convened by President Obama under the Railroad Labor Act to review the impasse. The boards found that the pay raises sought were a reasonable compromise between the MTA's proposals and average wages on consumer rail lines. The Boards found that employees’ salaries, adjusted for inflation, have not increased since 1991.
"This is just part of Cuomo's long running attack on the pay and benefits of workers. His tax cuts for the rich, banks and hedge funds, combined with his raids on MTA funding, puts the MTA into the position where they try to squeeze both workers and commuters," said Hawkins.
"Fortunately, LIRR is governed by the Federal Railroad Administration, not the state's Taylor Law for other public employees. So the workers can strike for their rights without draconian fines, which gives them more leverage. We also need to reform the MTA board to include riders and transit workers, not just representatives of the financial elite who make money in the bond markets at the expense of the MTA," added Hawkins.
Hawkins pointed out that if the state restored its former levels of funding for the MTA, the MTA would not have a fiscal crisis. "By underfunding the MTA, the Governor is forcing the MTA to borrow on the bond market, making it just another ATM for Wall Street banks," he said. "If the state restored the commuter tax the Democrats killed in 1999 in trying to win a lower Hudson Valley special state Senate election, the city could restore its former levels of MTA funding. The increased revenues could be used to meet the reasonable demands of the LIRR workers, to lower fares, and improve service."
MTA's latest proposal would give workers a 17 percent raise over seven years, up from a previous offer of an 11 percent hike over six years. The unions are pushing for a 17 percent increase over six years.
The MTA offer also seeks concessions that include requiring current employees to contribute 2 percent of regular pay toward health care costs. Currently, LIRR workers don’t contribute toward their health insurance.
Hawkins said that adoption of a single-payer, Medicare-for-all program would eliminate the health care issue from labor disputes.