Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Playing Chicken

We are about five days from a threatened LIRR strike. The rail unions have worked without a contract for four years and have had their proposals ruled on favorably twice by a non-binding Presidential Commission. The MTA is holding fast against settling with the unions and a strike seems imminent.

The local Congressional delegation has advised against relying on the U.S. Congress to help straighten things out. The unions are under Congressional jurisdiction, but the present dysfunctional Congress holds little hope for dealing decisively with this crises.

Governor Cuomo, facing re-election, is also holding back on involving himself in the negotiations. Though Cuomo appointed the MTA head, he was quoted today as saying that a LIRR strike would be a mere "inconvenience". Clearly, Cuomo is facing a tough political calculus which is guiding him through this situation, but this is making him seem like a small and ineffectual leader.

For over three hundred thousand daily riders on the LIRR, and thousands of large and small businesses, this so-called "inconvenience" threatens economic Armageddon. Gridlock and endless commutes are what will be faced by commuters if the LIRR stops running. This doesn't even take into account the public safety issues that will be extant when police, fire, and other emergency vehicles are impeded by unending waves of impenetrable traffic.

If this is not just an ill-advised game of chicken, but merely high stakes posturing during contract negotiations that results in a deal with no strike, then Cuomo will be proven the game political animal his reputation says he is.

On the other hand, if this strike does come to pass, it will be curtains for Cuomo. His misreading of the seriousness and absolute need for him to demonstrate leadership in an avoidable situation that will cause such hardship for so many, will make his viability as a candidate for Governor of New York, or any other office he may have his eye on, completely untenable. 

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