NY: Possible Penn Station shutdown

From Newsday.com <- Click for full story

Amtrak officials and union negotiators for its employees expect to return to the bargaining table next week, but Long Island Rail Road President Helena Williams said she still has to prepare for the worst: a strike that would mean a total shutdown of Penn Station on Jan. 30 and hobble the commutes of an estimated 85,000 rush-hour riders.

Late yesterday, Joel Parker, vice president of the Transportation Communication Union and a chief negotiator for Amtrak's employees, said talks with Amtrak management are scheduled to resume Wednesday.

Amtrak, in a statement, said that "both sides are committed to resolving their issues without a strike."

Amtrak owns the tracks at Penn Station, and a strike would effectively shut down the massive transit hub.

That won't happen before 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 30 because the two sides are in a 30-day cooling-off period mandated by federal law. Next week's negotiations would be their first since last month, Amtrak spokesman Cliff Black said. Amtrak workers have been without a contract since 2000. If no agreement is reached in the next few weeks, Black said Congress could intervene and impose a settlement or force both sides into binding arbitration. Reps. Peter King (R-Seaford) and Carolyn McCarthy (D-Mineola) and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) agreed a strike would be disastrous but didn't seem intent on intervening just yet.

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