Image: Roger Toussaint
Richard Drew  /  AP
Transport Workers Union President Roger Toussaint said Friday that New York's transit workers narrowly rejected their proposed three-year contract.
updated 1/20/2006 4:43:15 PM ET 2006-01-20T21:43:15

The city’s 33,000 union transit workers narrowly rejected their proposed contract Friday, one month to the day after starting a crippling three-day strike that stranded 7 million bus and subway riders.

The workers, by a seven-vote margin out of more than 22,000 votes cast, rejected union President Roger Toussaint’s call for ratification and followed the lead of a dissident group urging rejection.

The voting ended at noon Friday, and Toussaint announced the unexpected result a few hours later.

Toussaint blamed “downright lies” by opponents of the proposed three-year contract and said the union’s leadership was ready to “go back to the drawing board” with negotiators as soon as possible. He left without taking questions about the possibility of another strike.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which oversees the city’s mass transit system, had no immediate comment.

Strike lasted three days
The three-day strike that started Dec. 20, right in the middle of the holiday shopping season, shut down the nation’s largest mass transit system for the first time since 1980 and left New Yorkers and tourists scrambling to find ways to get around the city.

State law forbids strikes by public employees, though, and the walkout put the union and its members at financial risk.

Transport Workers Union Local 100 was fined $3 million, and striking workers were fined two days pay for each day on strike, though a Brooklyn judge has yet to determine exactly how much of those fines the union and its employees will pay. Toussaint could also face jail time for the walkout. A hearing scheduled Friday was postponed.

The rejected contract would have provided workers with raises of 3 percent in the first year, then 4 percent and 3.5 percent in the following two years. But it would have required them for the first time to contribute 1.5 percent of their salaries toward health care premiums.

The MTA agreed to pull a proposal that would have raised the retirement age for new hires from 55 or required new employees to contribute more to their pensions.

The deal was worked out in a late-night session with mediators after talks had broken down three hours after a midnight deadline.

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