July 9, 2014
By Beth Borzone
Long Island, NY – At 5:54a.m. on Tuesday, Dean DeVita tweeted out to his followers, “Meeting with MTA today hoping to avoid a strike NCFO is ready to work thru the nite for settlement,” but the discussions into the wee hours never manifested. By early afternoon, they were done, and DeVita sent out another, more somber tweet: “Talks broke down really never started no future meetings set looks like a strike.”
DeVita, Secretary-Treasurer, of the National Conference of Firemen & Oilers/Service Employees International Union (NCFO), was a member of the negotiating team for the LIRR railroad workers that met with representatives of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the National Mediation Board (NMB) on Tuesday, July 8th.
The talks failed to reach a resolution. While unions were still in the boardroom talking with the NMB and MTA, MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast issued a press release and letter stating that he was going to Washington D.C. to ask Congress whether they intend to intervene in the ongoing labor dispute at the MTA Long Island Rail Road (LIRR).
In his letter addressed to Majority Leader Harry Reid, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Speaker John Boehner, and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Prendergast charged “union’s leadership has taken the position that the MTA must meet its demands or it will strike, a threat they feel comfortable making because they assume Congress will stop their strike after a few days.”
The unions say that they went to the table with the intent to negotiate and it is the MTA that is stonewalling the negotiations. In fact, Prendergast never even showed up to the table at all.
Anthony Simon, General Chairman, Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation General Committee of Adjustment 505, and key spokesperson for the Unions recounted what transpired:
“The Unions went into our meeting with the NMB and the MTA yesterday with the hopes that the MTA was serious and ready to discuss our counter from their last proposal. The MTA had no intentions of doing anything but stalling and finally after hours of conversation from MTA with no substance, I said to the MTA, ‘Are you prepared to make a proposal on the counter we made to your last?’ They said absolutely not that their last proposal was it.
We were fuming to say the least, because we then found out that while we were still up in the board room with MTA and NMB discussing the contract, the MTA was setting us up by sending their press spokesman down to tell them talks broke off and the Chairman is going to DC to talk to Congress. They never intended on having a real negotiating session. The letter to Congress was out already. Tom Prendergast never showed up to the meeting and the MTA spokesman was talking to media.
The MTA has been lying from day one and playing games with people lives.”
DeVita, exasperated that Prendergast would rather run to Washington D.C. than sit at the bargaining table, said, “Tom Prendergast needs to meet with Labor. The commuters need Tom at the table. Why run to Congress to fix a problem that could be fixed by the parties? If Congress did not care about aid after Hurricane Sandy for NY, why would they care about a LIRR strike?"
Simon called on support from the wider labor community, “The Labor movement needs to stand together in this fight because this is not just the LIRR labor Unions’ fight. This is a fight for labor all across our great country.”