A very costly, three-day bus and subway strike in New York City has ended.
The executive board of the Transport Workers Union voted 36 to five to send union members back to work. It will take several hours for the subways and busses to be running normally again, but New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg says he expects the city's public transportation system to be fully operational by the start of Friday's commute.
Union leaders and officials with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) still have not reached a contract agreement. The MTA's contract with its public transit employees expired last Friday. The main source of disagreement between the two sides has been pension benefits.
The MTA wants to increase the contribution made by all new employees from two to six percent.
Earlier this week, a judge imposed a $1 million-a-day fine on the Transport Workers Union, because it is illegal in the State of New York for public employees to go on strike on. New York governor George Pataki told reporters those will still stand. "The penalties and fines under the Taylor Law exist. They are automatic. They cannot be waived. They're not going to be waived. And I just think it's unfortunate that the rank and file TWU members who work so hard every day are suffering these penalties because their leadership ordered them out on an illegal strike," he said.
Negotiators for both sides of the dispute are meeting now at a hotel in New York. Because of a media blackout, however, details about those talks are not available.
More than seven million commuters had to find alternate ways to travel on Tuesday, when transit workers walked off the job during New York's busiest shopping season. Official numbers are not in yet, but holiday sales were down by as much as 70 percent in some parts of the city.
A WNBC/Marist poll showed that 55 percent of New Yorkers opposed the union's decision to go on strike, while 38 percent said they supported the decision.
This is the first time in 25 years that the biggest public transportation system in the country has suffered a strike. The last time New York transit workers walked off the job was 1980. That action lasted eleven days.