Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signaled Monday that he would stay out of the ongoing contract dispute between the MTA and the unions representing 5,400 LIRR workers, even with a crippling strike looming in less than two weeks.
Long Island Rail Road union officials and state lawmakers have urged Cuomo to intervene and help bring a settlement to the four-year-long contract fight, as he did in May with the Transport Workers UnionLocal 100 representing 34,000 transit workers.
But, taking questions from reporters Monday, Cuomo said Congress was better suited to address the stalemate.
"Normally, if this was a normal contract -- the TWU contract, I got involved, I sat down with the parties, etc. . . . This is different," Cuomo said. "This is federal law, and if the union goes on strike, it goes to the Congress, and the Congress basically resolves the strike. . . . Unless we hear differently from the Congress, in many ways, they're going to make a determination."
Reps. Peter King (R-Seaford) and Steve Israel (D-Dix Hills) have said there's no guarantee that a Republican-controlled House of Representatives will intervene to help resolve a labor dispute in a Democratic state. But union officials have said they expect if workers went on strike on July 20, Congress would intervene and give them the contract they have demanded, which was recommended by two separate White House-appointed mediation boards.
Still, head union negotiator Anthony Simon said Monday he would welcome Cuomo's involvement.
"If the governor calls me, I'll be in his office in 10 seconds, anywhere he wants me to go," Simon said.
Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials did not immediately respond.
The protracted labor fight has reached an impasse, with the MTA wanting workers to accept a seven-year pact with 17 percent raises and concessions involving future employees' wages and benefits. The unions want the MTA to accept the recommendations of the two Presidential Emergency Boards, which called for 17 percent raises over six years, and no concessions for future workers.
The National Mediation Board has scheduled a meeting Tuesday between the MTA and union representatives in Times Square.