MTA Forces Union to File for Impasse
*** Oct. 27 – Up-date ***
On October 8, 2020, we met with the MTA and the PERB mediator to discuss our OA/TA/MTA Bus 28-month contract impasse. Knowing the MTA’s bargaining position is not going to change, without the Federal relief they are lobbying for, our goal was to get the MTA and mediator to agree that the parties will not be able to come to a negotiated settlement. After much persistence on our part, the mediator finally agreed that the parties are indeed at an impasse and that she would not further delay the process from moving forward.
Subsequently, we filed two separate (OA/TA and MTA Bus) petitions to Director of Conciliations asking the PERB Board to refer our impasses to Interest Arbitration. We had asked the MTA to agree to consolidate the MTA Bus impasse with the OA/TA impasse, but they refused to include the MTA impasse with the OA/TA impasses. Therefore, we will try to proceed with both of these impasses at the same time. The next step is for the PERB Board to approve our arbitration petition. Once that is done the parties will select an impartial arbitrator and schedule hearing dates.
Our pre-pandemic bargaining position was that we were going to combine the current 28-month (2018 – 2020) contract with the then recently settled Local 100 four-year agreement. But in early March with the pandemic just taking root in NYC and not knowing the potential financial impact it might have on the MTA budget, we abandoned the 76-month strategy and focused on the 28-month contract. However, in May labor relations notified us that due to the financial calamity the MTA was facing, they were “reevaluating” their bargaining position with all the unions who were currently without a contract agreement in place.
Since that time, I have sent numerous correspondences to the MTA Chairman and appeared before the MTA Board in both June and July. We have been trying to convince them that the two pattern raises in our 28-month contract have already been budgeted and accounted for in the 2018 and 2019 MTA budgets. In both those fiscal years, the MTA ended up with year-end cash surpluses that were carried over to the following budget years. These raises predate the pandemic and the financial calamity it has caused on the 2020 and 2021 MTA budgets.
This is the same position the MTA took in 2011 in the aftermath of the “2008 Great Recession.” At that time, the MTA argued that due to the financial impact caused by the Great Recession they didn’t have the ability to pay the wage increases set by Local 100 and shouldn’t be bound by pattern bargaining. This triggered three very long and costly interest arbitration proceedings, which in the end resulted in the MTA losing each and every arbitration decision. In all the decisions, the arbitrators upheld the longstanding and fundamental doctrine of pattern bargaining and rejected the MTA’s arguments on their ability to pay the raises set by Local 100. As the late great arbitrator George Nicolau opined in the ATU 726 award, “…it’s the ability to pay, not the desire to pay.”
Therefore, even though the MTA may not have the desire to use the funding mechanisms available to them to pay these wage increases in the 2018 – 2020 contracts, we believe there is no question that the MTA does have the ability to pay for the raises.
At this time, the MTA is still refusing to bargain with us in good faith, leaving us no other choice but to again file for impasse for the OA/TA Queens and MTA Bus contracts. We will update the website as additional information becomes available.