After members of New York's congressional delegation said they would not step in, officials and unions have reportedly resumed discussions as a major transportation strike looms.
On Thursday, new Metropolitan Transportation Authority President Thomas Prendergast went back into talks with Long Island Rail Road unions, who reportedly delivered another counter proposal on their demands.
The return to the discussion table came a day after five New York representatives said Congress would not intervene and instead pleaded that both sides negotiate before a strike ensues.
“For anyone to be looking for a silver bullet from Congress, they would be making a big mistake,” Rep. Peter King said, according to CBS. “This is ultimately a state responsibility to resolve within the state and we’re not going to do anything to interfere with the negotiating process whatsoever.”
As of this week, the MTA has claimed that it has agreed to all terms put forth by LIRR unions, including a 17 percent wage increase over the course of seven years.
“We’ve moved substantially from day one,” said Prendergast, adding the "parties are close," according to CBS. “We’ve had four different moves, the union hasn’t.”
However, union leaders have been critical of the MTA's negotiations and maintain that their terms are unacceptable. Unions asked for their raises to span six years and allow for first-time employee healthcare contributions and no changes to pensions and work rules, Newsday reported. The MTA has asked for a seven-year period for raises while asking that future workers make "health care contributions twice the amount of current workers, doubling how long it takes to reach top pay, and having them permanently contribute toward pensions,"the report says. Current workers contribute for 10 years.
Unions were also critical of the MTA's decision to approach Congress to referee the bout.
“Why are we waiting for Congress," LIRR labor coalition leader Anthony Simon said, according to WPIX. "We are not looking for Congressional involvement. Let’s do it today.”
While the two powers continue to grapple, Long Island commuters and leaders are increasingly anxious about the potential for a strike.
Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano said there would be "disastrous problems" if a strike ensued, according to The New York Times.
“The unions’ false belief that Congress would step in to mandate a settlement was a major impediment to any real progress,” said Gov. Andrew Cuomo, according to the report. “With this obstacle removed, it is now clear that the only path to resolution is at the bargaining table.”
The strike would disrupt the commutes of around 300,000 daily riders as well as summer weekenders heading out east.
The MTA has released a set of guidelines for travelers in case of a strike that included working from home, staying with friends or family close to New York City, carpooling, asking for time off or flexible hours from employers, and using other mass transit options.
The strike could go into effect as early as July 20.