Transit union fights binding arbitration

NEW YORK — Transport Workers Union Local 100, which represents this city’s bus and subway workers, has been ordered by a state agency into binding arbitration with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, but the union plans to fight the order.

Local 100 struck in late December after the MTA gave its “last offer,” which included a two-tier pension system. Current workers would continue to pay 2 percent into their pension fund, while new hires would pay 6 percent. The union said this provision would create disunity among the workers.

The strike resulted in a contract proposal that included some new benefits and no two-tier pension system. A union membership vote narrowly rejected the contract, however. Many workers cited a new charge for health care and false claims by Gov. George Pataki that he would be able to veto important provisions of the contract as the reason for their “no” vote.

Upon returning to the bargaining table, the MTA pulled all the provisions of the rejected contract off the table and pushed for binding arbitration.

New York’s Taylor Law bars public employee strikes and calls for binding arbitration if both sides reach an impasse. However, arbitrators are generally biased toward the employers.

Now, the union plans to resubmit the contract to its membership for a re-vote. Charles Jenkins, chair of the local’s Line Equipment Section and a membership outreach organizer, told the World that a meeting was scheduled to decide “when and how.” The decision follows a petition campaign that gathered thousands of signatures for a new vote.

Union leaders believe that the contract will easily pass. They say given the choice between binding arbitration, where workers are known to often lose, or the contract, workers will likely accept the contract.

Both the MTA and the TWU must agree to the proposed contract. The MTA currently says it will not, but the union argues that the MTA will be pressured to do so.