Bill drafted by LI delegation would have forced striking LIRR workers back to work

An LIRR conductor checks out his train while An LIRR conductor checks out his train while stopped at Jamaica station July 8, 2014. Photo Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

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Congress would have voted as early as Monday on a resolution to extend the negotiation period between Long Island Rail Road unions and the MTA if LIRR workers went on strike Sunday, sources said Friday.

Long Island's delegation drafted a bill earlier this week that, if approved, would have extended the federally regulated cooling-off period in the labor dispute by 30 to 90 days -- and forced striking employees back to work, the sources said.

Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) and a source close to the House talks said the bill would have been put up for a vote on Monday or Tuesday, but the delegation didn't inform officials with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority or the unions.

With a strike deadline looming, the representatives instead pressed each side to resolve their differences at the bargaining table.

The Long Island House members said previously that the MTA and the unions should not expect the House to intervene.

"I would say it was a precautionary measure," said King, who spoke with fellow Republicans about the bill and believes it would have been passed. "It would have been ready to go."

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On Thursday, the MTA and union leaders representing 5,400 LIRR workers, assisted by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, reached an agreement to end the four-year labor dispute, averting a crippling transit strike.

The contract, which calls for 17 percent raises for workers, first-time health care contributions, and some givebacks involving the wage and benefit structure of future employees, still needs to be approved by union members and the MTA board.

An MTA spokesman Friday declined to comment.

Lead union negotiator Anthony Simon, who said he hadn't been previously aware of the potential House action, noted that the unions had long supported an extension of the strike deadline to spare Long Island's summer tourism economy.

"I'm glad we got a deal, and I'm glad that Congress was willing to step in if need be to stop a strike," Simon said.

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