Below are just some of the news clips surrounding the ongoing negotiations with New Jersey Transit and the rail labor coalition that has been negotiating for a contract for almost five years. Under the Railway Labor Act, the union coalition is free to strike after March 13.
Asbury Park Press
By Mike Davis | 3/8/16
“…When the union workers’ contract expired in July 2011, NJ Transit was reeling from more than $80 million in state aid cuts.
That was the tip of the iceberg: Over the last five years, the agency has lost another $270 million in funding. Its $34 million subsidy in the 2016 fiscal year represented a 90 percent reduction over 10 years.
‘The biggest problem NJ Transit faces is that the elected leaders of New Jersey – a Republican administration and the Democrats who control the Legislature — have seen fit to starve it,’ said David Peter Alan, chairman of transit advocacy group the Lackawanna Coalition. ‘That’s one of the big reasons why management says it has no money,’”…
By Elise Young | 3/7/16
“Less than a week before a strike deadline for the nation’s second-busiest commuter railroad, Governor Chris Christie is heading for vacation with his wife. Christie, the 53-year-old Republican who ended his run for president last month, will be celebrating his 30th wedding anniversary Tuesday, he told reporters in Newark. New Jersey Transit and 11 of its rail unions, meanwhile, were gathering at a hotel in the city to negotiate a labor agreement five years after the most recent one expired…
…’I’m never truly on vacation,’ Christie said Monday after visiting a charter school. ‘I’m away and I’m hoping to have a little bit of time to relax, but as long as I’m carrying a phone with me, I’m governor of New Jersey, as I’ve been saying now for the last year…’”
NJ 101.5 FM
By Dan Alexander | 3/8/16
“NJ Transit came to the table today prepared to resolve this issue and made meaningful movement towards the unions’ position. Regrettably, there was no material movement in the financial offer and absolutely no movement in the area of health benefits by the rail union coalition,” NJ Transit spokeswoman Nancy Snyder said in a statement.
SMART union coalition spokesman Stephen Burkert told NJ Advance Media his side was “still at the table for over an hour after they left, actions speak louder than words. We were prepared to go round the clock.”
Railway Age – the railroad industry trade publication – published two articles from their top writers in recent weeks that have been very supportive of the union’s position, and very critical of NJ Governor Christie’s handlings of the state’s transportation issues overall, including this one.
by Frank Wilner | 2/16/16
“…Now Christie reportedly is pressing a New Jersey Transit (NJT) board of directors that he appoints* to precipitate a strike or management lockout of some 4,200 NJT rail-union members March 13 that would inflict economic mayhem on the region and unpardonable discomfort on some 300,000 daily riders dependent on NJT commuter trains to reach their jobs.
This is the same Christie who recently lectured Florida Sen. Marco Rubio on how the job of governors is to “plow the snow”—and, by extension, improve the daily commute of state residents.
Hizzoner, term-limited as governor and now out of the presidential race, is not necessarily out of politics, and certainly covets a positive legacy. Yet after involvement in two previous high-profile transportation snafus, Christie appears now to be energetically nailing himself to a self-constructed cross of intransigence inlaid with ineptness.
Here’s the deal: NJT, an interstate passenger railroad, is immune from state labor law and subject to the federal Railway Labor Act (RLA), whose core mission—aptly described as a manual of peace rather than war—is to prevent interruptions in rail service. So serious is that objective for interstate commuter railroads that the RLA provides for a series of lengthy cooling-off periods punctuated by the intervention of two White House-appointed, fact-finding Presidential Emergency Boards (PEB)…”
by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief | 3/4/16
“…Said Christie about the potential strike: “Of course I’m concerned about it. I’m hoping that it will come to an amicable resolution, but I can’t guarantee anything right now because I don’t have a resolution at the moment.”
No, Governor, you’re not concerned about it, and no, you don’t have a resolution, because you 1) know less than zero about running a railroad, much less a state (or a country, for that matter), 2) are basically clueless as to what’s going on in your own state, and 3) have no place at the negotiating table unless you possess real listening skills (which you don’t) and are able to fathom the meaning of the word compromise (which, as a bully, you can’t, or won’t)…
…For the record, Railway Age (full disclosure: Editor-in-Chief William C. Vantuono has been an NJ Transit customer for 25 years), in support of NJ Transit’s beleaguered unions as well as its management, which is populated with many excellent, highly respected professionals, calls upon Gov. Christie to remove his soiled hands from the negotiations, allow labor and management to come to an agreement without his narcissistic, power-hungry influence—and leave the Statehouse in Trenton for good, post-haste. And don’t bother taking the train. Your presence is not welcome on board anything with steel wheels that runs on steel rails…”
WBGO – 88.3 FM
By Ang Santos | 3/4/16
“…Sen. Menendez says it’s state officials, not workers, responsible for a potential NJ Transit strike.
‘The Governor specifically, I assume by direction of New Jersey Transit’s administrator has rejected the independent arbitrators.”
Sen. Menendez says those rejections include two separate contracts the workers agreed with. Both contracts didn’t include everything the workers wanted
‘When that happens, workers have really…not a hell of a lot of choice,’ said Menendez. ‘Either they continue without a contract for years and that doesn’t take care of their families, or their only option then, which they are free to do as a result of accepting the offers and the state rejecting it, is to strike. I hope they don’t strike…”
By Chritopher Maag | 3/5/16
“…But in back-to-back decisions, two different presidential boards found in favor of the unions. Those decisions were rooted in the federal Railway Labor Act of 1926, which places a strong emphasis on prior precedents when deciding what’s fair for future contracts. The unions based their demands on the contract won in 2014 by workers for the Long Island Rail Road.
‘The unions have the two emergency board decisions and they have the precedent of Long Island Rail Road on their side, and that’s what makes Christie’s position difficult,’ said Martin E. Robins, a former deputy executive director of NJ Transit who led the agency’s labor negotiations during its last train strike, in 1983. ‘If a strike happens, I can only think of one person getting blamed: Chris Christie’…”
“…’We don’t take striking lightly, you don’t take striking lightly,’ said Joel Parker, [TCU Vice President and] negotiator for the union coalition representing the transit workers. ‘It’s your livelihoods at stake. And there’s only one reason we’re here: The intransigence of NJ Transit.’
After five years of negotiations, the two sides have until March 13 to reach an agreement that could avert a work stoppage. But even as they remain hopeful for a resolution, many transit workers gathered in Tanzman Park Saturday said they’re preparing for a strike.
‘No one on either side of this wants to inconvenience the public,” said veteran locomotive engineer Rodger Richardson. “But we’ve done everything we’re supposed to do. We’ve followed all of the procedures’…”
CBS 2 News (New York local)
“…Commuters feel that they are taking a chance without knowing the details of any contingency plan. They are worried they will be out of money if they purchase a monthly pass.
NJ TRANSIT will only say that monthly pass holders will be made whole. Gov. Christie refused to answer any questions about a potential strike during a news conference Monday, but said during his radio call-in show ‘Ask The Governor’ that it’s up to the union and NJ TRANSIT to work it out.
‘My job at this point is to let my negotiators negotiate. Let them work and try to work the problems out,’ Christie said.
Christie did spend Tuesday campaigning for Donald Trump in Ohio.
‘It really shows to the people of New Jersey that he doesn’t care about their daily plight. He has more concerns about his political fortunes in the future,’ Democratic Assemblyman John Wisniewski, and Transportation chairman, told CBS2…”