NJ Transit insiders say there is a 75 to 85 percent likelihood that a coalition of 17 rail unions, which have been working without a contract for five years, will call a “soft strike” over the weekend of March 12.
The strike could likely last through the Monday morning commute on March 14, when workers say they expect to be ordered back to work by the Obama administration. The last strike in March 1983 lasted for 34 days.
“They’ll soften the blow … Let the media know, let commuters know, let everyone get home on Friday night,” one NJ Transit insider said.
NJ Transit and the rail unions met Wednesday as a March strike deadline approaches. NJ Transit spokeswoman Nancy Snyder said those negotiation were substantive. She declined to answer a question about when the next negation session would be held.
“I’d be shocked if an agreement came out of it,” said one NJ Transit rail worker.
While bus employees have settled a contract with NJ Transit, union drivers may be faced with whether to honor picket lines expected to go up at major bus terminals including Newark, Trenton, Hoboken, Secaucus, the Port Authority Bus terminal and in Philadelphia, employees said.
“I was told by my union guy that bus (union) members may not cross picket lines,” a worker said. “I can’t see a bus operator crossing a picket line and going against one of his fellow union members.”
NJ Transit and several rail unions are currently in the last 60 day “cooling off” period after a second Presidential Emergency Board delivered a Jan. 11 report. That federal labor panel sided with the unions after hearing arguments from both sides. An earlier panel also supported the union’s proposal.