The MTA and the LIRR unions go back to the bargaining table on Wednesday, hopefully with the intent of finding a compromise before July 20.

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It's a good sign that both sides accepted the National Mediation Board's invitation, but labor and management shouldn't view Washington as the backstop to their dispute. LIRR workers can strike because they come under the jurisdiction of the federal Railway Labor Act and not the state's Taylor Law, which prohibits such a job action.

Under federal law, Congress can order the unions back to work or impose a settlement. This dysfunctional Congress, however, is unlikely to be the MTA's guardian angel, nor will it fulfill the unions' dream of imposing the 17 percent raise recommended by the Presidential Emergency Board. Resolve it through negotiations.