Strike! (but not yet)


The vote is in (as of August 31), and it is overwhelmingly favorable to a strike: the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) union voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike (of 494 eligible members, 399 returned ballots; 397 of these voted for strike authorization, and two ballots were ruled void, as reported by Trains magazine on Sept. 1), but there is not a strike in the immediate future. After a $50,000 payment to the agency resulting from the 2022 sick-out, the union surely will not walk out early, and there is what NJ Transit’s Kevin Corbett has called a “long negotiation process” ahead. NJ Transit’s lawsuit, alleging a planned strike for Labor Day, was dismissed; the union called it frivolous. The agency points out that 14 of the 15 unions have signed contracts; the engineers counter that they are second-worst-paid engineers in a high-cost area and want parity or close to it, not simply the same “pattern settlement” to which others have agreed. Mediation has been in progress for 3 years; when it finally ends, if there is not an agreement, there is an additional 30-day “cooling-off period”.

The Lackawanna Coalition does not take a position: nobody ever wants a strike, but neither do we want workers underpaid, with the consequent high turnover—and we are also very aware of the end of the COVID-19 relief funds coming in Fiscal Year 2026. We have heard rumors of both fare increases (up to 35%) and service cuts, and nobody wants either of those, either—especially those who depend on public transit for all of their independent mobility (yes, there are taxis and taxilike ride-hailing companies, and the kindness of friends, but with increasing congestion and pollution, we need more [preferably electric] transit, not less).

In sum, we hope that both sides look at the situation realistically and compassionately and come to a workable agreement without the need for a strike, particularly a protracted one. We have not had such a strike since 1983; that strike lasted 34 days. Let’s do all we can to avoid a repeat!

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