Depending on what happens over the next few days, later this week the City of New York faces the very real possibility of a transit strike. I want to talk to you for a minute about why this could happen, what the city is doing about it, and what New Yorkers should do if a strike should occur.
Last week I said that both sides-both the union and the Metropolitan Transit Authority-weren't taking the necessary steps to avert a strike. The union was asking for unreasonable increases that would result in very severe fare and toll increases for all New Yorkers.
For its part, the MTA did put a legitimate and reasonable offer on the table. And now, it's sitting down with the union and negotiating to reach a solution. Both sides should negotiate around the clock.
Labor negotiations are hard work. They take concerted, rigorous, tireless efforts. And they require many, many attempts to reach agreement on a whole host of complicated issues. Both the union and the MTA should use every possibility and every option in order to avert a strike, including mediation and assistance from the outside, if that's needed to reach a resolution. They should consider putting negotiations over a longer period of time and removing the threat of a strike from any option that's being considered.
The consequences of a strike would be very, very bad for the MTA, but they'd be particularly bad for the union, and obviously for the people of the City of New York. Just to give you one example, 600,000 New York schoolchildren rely on our subways and buses to get to school. Those children would have their education seriously interrupted. And their failure to be able to go to school could result in the loss of state aid to education. There are at least 70,000 vulnerable New Yorkers who receive health care aid from the HRA in addition to many elderly New Yorkers who receive assistance. All of that would be put in jeopardy and certainly be made much more difficult.
Response time in the City of New York is critical. It's critical for saving the lives of people who have heart attacks or other health ailments or are the victims of a crime. If the police or the fire trucks or the ambulances in New York City are delayed as a result of the strike, then that very delay is occasioned by the illegal strike that the transit union is talking about.
It's illegal for public employees to strike against the government. It's illegal for public employees to strike against the public that pays their salary, and to put the health and the safety of the public in jeopardy. Under the Taylor Law, the penalties for such a strike are severe. Among those penalties, union members cannot be paid if they should go out on strike. And they can, and I'm sure they will be fined, at least twice their salary for every day that they engage in such an illegal strike against the public.
In addition to that, all of the expenses and all of the damages that the City incurs will have to be paid by the union, and the union will lose its right to set off dues in order to collect the dues from its members.
We don't want that to happen. That's why I urge the MTA to sit down with the union and negotiate, and to work rigorously to hammer out a deal. This is Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
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