A day before federal mediators will sit down to try to resolve a longstanding dispute between Long Island Rail Road workers and the MTA, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that if a strike does occur, he's powerless to do anything about it.
"It's actually Congress that can end a strike and impose a settlement one way or the other," Cuomo said on Monday. "So right now it seems that Congress is pivotal to what happens here, and from what I read in the newspapers it's going to depend on what Congress intends to do and what they say they're going to do."
The LIRR is governed by the Railway Labor Act, not the state's Taylor Law, which essentially forbids public workers to strike. The MTA and the LIRR workers coalition have been going through the federal mediation process governed by the labor act — but so far there's no deal. More talks are scheduled for Tuesday.
"Congress can order them to go back, Congress can order a settlement, Congress can order mediation, Congress can order arbitration, Congress can do almost whatever they want, because they are in control of the resolution of the strike," Cuomo added. That may provide cold comfort for the 300,000 commuters who ride the railroad each day, especially given that Congress has yet to resolve the funding stream for the Highway Trust Fund, which the White House says will run out of money by Aug. 1.
That might have been in the forefront of the governor's mind, because he closed his remarks with this:
"The possibility of a strike causes so much anxiety I don't even like to think about it. There is no good alternative to the LIRR on Long Island. The commute would be horrendous, however we do it. And they talk about contingency plans — we'll have buses, we'll have carpools — and you can do all of the above; it is still a miserable situation. So I have said to both parties: I truly hope it doesn't get to that point. If it does get to that point, I hope Congress acts immediately to resolve it, and resolves it in a prudent way. But that they resolve it."
The earliest LIRR workers can strike is July 20.