What’s going on in New York City? Well…

The largest city in the entire United States, New York City, is facing a major transportation crisis in the wake of an illegal strike that has left the city without working public busses and subway systems.

A New York state judge imposed a $1 million-a-day fine against the members of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. State Justice Theodore Jones leveled the fines, citing a New York state law that bars its 33,000 public employees from going on strike.

More than 7 million people in and around New York City were forced to walk, find a cab, or work from home. 7 million! The strike affects Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island. And this is all happening at the height of the holiday shopping season. NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg estimates that the strike could cost the city $400 million a day. He notes that not only has commerce been affected, but many food delivery services have not been able to make their runs. Schools have opened later, hotels were expecting cancellations and airlines are “on edge”.

Cars coming in and out of Manhattan before 11 am have to have at least 4 occupants, or else they are turned back. Some drivers were even picking up random strangers just to meet the quota. At 7:30 am EST, the temperature in the city was 22 degrees, with a wind chill of 10 degrees. Imagine a few million people having to walk in that!

The union board voted overwhelmingly to call the strike after negotiations broke down Monday night. This is the city’s first strike since 1980, when the city had to ordeal an 11-day strike. The 33,000 bus and subway employees on strike will also incur a fine of two day’s pay for every one day one strike. A union spokesman said that “This is a fight over dignity and respect on the job. . . Transit workers are tired of being underappreciated and disrespected.”

New York Governor George Pataki said that “They have broken the trust of the people of New York.” The latest MTA offer includes annual raises of 3%, 3.5%, and 4%. MTA workers earn between $47,000 and $55,000 annually. Originally, MTA had demanded an 8% pay raise per year for their members. The union is against a proposed MTA proposal which raises the age when new employees become eligible for full pensions from 55 to 62. The union says such an increase is unfair.

About 2.4 million people ride the city buses daily, an estimated 740 million ride them each year. New York ranks first among annual bus ridership in North America.

In addition to the million dollar fine, and the 2-days-wage-for-1-day-on-strike fine, those on strike could also face potential jail time.

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