MTA Chief Travels to D.C. as LIRR Strike Deadline Looms

Members of New York’s congressional delegation urged the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and its labor unions to avoid a strike this month that would shut down the biggest U.S. commuter-rail system.

MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast met today in Washington with Charles Rangel, a Democrat, Republican Peter King and other New York House of Representatives members regarding the agency’s labor dispute with Long Island Rail Road workers, who may stop work as soon as July 20. Such a move would affect about 300,000 daily riders.

“At this point in time, Congress is not an option,” Rangel said at a news briefing after the meeting. “Avoiding a strike and negotiation is the only thing that’s on our table, and we are in unison.”

The gatherings came one day after negotiations with the railroad’s unions stalled, with no new date for talk set. Two days ago, Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat from New York City running for re-election, suggested that Congress was better positioned than he to intervene.

Union representatives plan to negotiate with the MTA, Anthony Simon, leader of a group of LIRR workers, wrote in an e-mail.

“The unions wanted a solution before the MTA chairman went to D.C.,” Simon wrote in the e-mail. “We will be at the table tomorrow, as we have said we would always be. The solution is in New York and not D.C.”

The MTA last month proposed a 17 percent wage increase over seven years -- up from an earlier 11 percent boost over six years. The plan includes current workers paying 2 percent of their salary toward health insurance, up from zero. New employees would allocate 4 percent to their health insurance.

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