Cuomo Urges MTA to Meet With Unions Today to Avoid Strike

Talks resumed today after New York Governor Andrew Cuomo urged the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and labor groups to meet to avoid a shutdown of the busiest U.S. commuter-rail system.

Long Island Rail Road workers will strike at 12:01 a.m. on July 20 unless they have a new contract. Talks with the MTA, a state agency whose executive director is appointed by Cuomo, broke down July 14, putting the line at risk of its first stoppage since 1994.

“We must do everything we can to prevent Long Islanders from being held hostage by a strike that would damage the regional economy and be highly disruptive for commuters,” Cuomo, a 56-year-old Democrat, said in a statement today.“Both the MTA and the LIRR unions need to put the interests of New Yorkers first by returning to the table today and working continuously to avoid a strike.”

The labor side entered today’s negotiations interested in listening to the MTA’s proposals, said Anthony Simon, the leader of the largest group of LIRR workers.

“We’re going to go in there with an open mind like we always have,” Simon said outside the Times Square offices of law firm Proskauer Rose LLP before meeting with MTA officials. “We’re going to work hard to prevent a strike that would be crippling to all -- all of labor, all of management and to all of the riding public.”

The MTA is “committed to resolving this dispute at the bargaining table,” the agency said in a news release.

About 300,000 riders use the LIRR to travel between Long Island and Manhattan. A strike would cost $50 million per day in lost economic activity, Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said yesterday.

A strike would harm Nassau and Suffolk counties during peak tourism season, when tens of thousands of New Yorkers flock to the Hamptons and other localities along the shoreline, DiNapoli said.

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