Mike Friedman mikedf at
Sun Dec 15 18:24:27 MST 2002

A few minutes ago, New Yorkers heard exactly the wrong answer to the
questions on the minds of all New Yorkers. New Yorkers don't want to know
what to do after the fact; New Yorkers want to know what to do before. How
to avoid a catastrophe. They were given the wrong answers.

It was said that the MTA has negotiated in good faith. I want to point out
that the Transport Workers Union, as early as the Spring of this year,
requested negotiations with the MTA in order to put our issues to bed and
resolve the contract long before the Christmas season. The MTA was
unresponsive to this request and that approach until after the recent round
of elections.

Since the recent round of elections, we have had to contend with
significant major announcements on the part of the MTA, including a major
restructuring, the late issuance of its budget, and an announcement of a
fare increase and, more recently, the demand that Transit Workers accept
zeroes. And all of these have come very late in the game, very late,
considering our union's request to resolve all of these issues at a much
earlier date. We have tried, for many months, to resolve our safety issues,
our issues concerning the mistreatment of transit workers, and issues
concerning fairness -- that we believe transit workers deserve -- without
an adequate resolution. On the question of safety, as you know, we have
suffered four deaths in the recent 18 months, and two deaths within a
recent 48-hour period. Our members are exposed to tremendous hazards as we
go about the difficult task of moving seven million New Yorkers. We receive
second-class medical treatment, compared to municipal workers. We receive
less wages, compared to sister agencies within the MTA such as the Long
Island Railroad and Metro North. We are disciplined at ten to twenty times
the rate of large-scale employers like the MTA, not only in the region, but
across the continental United States. We have come to these negotiations
demanding to resolve and address these issues that we did not make up.
These are real live issues for real live people and dedicated workers who
have kept New York moving. And we deserve a fair and adequate resolution to
these issues.

The MTA put zeroes on the table for all of the hard work transit workers
give to this City. That's unacceptable. And since that offer, we have
failed to see any serious proposal from the MTA. We continue to wait for
such a proposal. We have heard recently as well a demand -- as we have
heard in recent weeks -- a demand that the MTA be more open with its
finances; to open its books. There's a reason for that demand. Not long
ago, the MTA was reporting surpluses. Ridership has been up; revenue has
been up; tax revenues have been stable. As a matter of fact, business has
never been better at the MTA, ever. On the other hand, these requests to
the MTA to be more transparent and to open its books have been met with
silence on the part of the MTA. Any releases that have been issued have
been unsupported. What we have certainly learned is that the Comptrollers,
such as the New York City Comptroller, has indicated that he hasn't seen
the financial documents. We suspect that is also the case for the State
Comptroller. They are the financial watchdogs. They have not seen the
books. And the question as to where this deficit came from, and how it can
be avoided in the future -- to the extent that it truly exists -- still
remains to be answered.

We intend to, despite the limited time left -- we still expect that our
contract will be resolved well before midnight tonight. I believe that the
MTA's responsible for pushing transit workers to the brink. There's still
lots of opportunity to resolve the issues. I want to emphasize that. And
that is, I believe, again, what New Yorkers expected to hear from the press
conference by the Governor and the Mayor earlier. Unfortunately, those
answers were not forthcoming. At the same time, there still is an
opportunity to do this. There are several hours left. We can resolve these
issues and we continue to ask for the Governor and the Mayor to get
involved and assist in resolving this contract.

I will take your questions.

Q: What issues remain sticking points?

A: Pretty much, all of our issues continue to require resolution. There are
remaining safety issues, there are remaining issues concerning the
treatment of our members -- disciplines -- and of course there are money
issues in terms of wages and health benefits coverage and so forth. I will
point out that one of the problem areas for transit workers is the fact
that our retirees have no prescription coverage, and effectively, that is
seen as the loss of the ability to retire on the part of our members.

Q: What will happen at 12:01 if you have not reached an agreement with the
MTA by that time?

A: I am more concerned about what will happen at 7:01 and 8:01. There is
time to resolve this contract still. We all expected that that is what we
would have heard at the recent press conference.

Q: But will you keep talking after midnight if, indeed, no resolution has
been reached? Will you keep talking after midnight, or will you walk out?

A: We will continue to talk until midnight. I have said that our contract
expires at midnight. Our position remains unchanged. The contract expires
at midnight; there's an opportunity to resolve our issues between now and
then, and we want to get back to the table and attempt to do so.

Q: Roger, did I hear you correctly when you said that we still believe we
will be able to resolve this before midnight tonight?

A: Yes. I believe that there is plenty of opportunity to resolve this
contract before midnight tonight. I say this because the issues we have
presented are relatively simple issues, and at the point at which the MTA
has decided that it wants to be helpful in addressing those issues, they
will be resolved very quickly. These are issues that the MTA is completely
empowered to deal with - safety issues, the issues of the treatment of our
members; those are non-money items.

Q: Has there been any progress on wages at all?

A: There has been no serious proposal presented to us.

Q: Are they still insisting on zeroes in the first year?

A: Yes.

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