1980 New York City transit strike

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The 1980 New York City transit strike in New York City (often referred to as the Subway strike) was the first work stoppage at the New York City Transit Authority (a subsidiary of the New York MTA) since 1966. 34,000 members of Transport Workers Union Local 100 walked off their jobs on April 1, 1980, in a strike with the goal of increasing the wage for contracted workers. All subway and bus lines in The Five Boroughs were brought to a complete standstill for ten days, during which the city lost an approximated $2 million a day in taxes and another $1 million a day in overtime expenses for city employees. Companies in the private sector lost approximately $100 million per day, and job absenteeism was estimated to be between 15 and 20 percent. The strike was resolved on April 11, with the TWU winning a 9% raise in the first year and 8% in the second year, along with a cost-of-living adjustment.


The transit workers contract was up for renewal in April 1980. Negotiations began on February 4, with the Union initially demanding a 21-month contract with a 30% wage increase; they justified the hike by claiming that the cost of living had gone up 53% since the last contract negotiation, and their contract did not account for changes in the cost of living. The negotiations were extremely confrontational. The MTA responded on March 31 with a proposal of a 34-month contract with a 3% wage increase each year. Negotiations failed early the next morning.


In response, the city implemented drastic plans to curb urban traffic. Most significant was a mandatory carpool restriction, in which cars were not allowed to enter Manhattan during rush hour without at least three passengers.

The population of Manhattan is said to have increased by 500,000 people during the strike, primarily corporate employees staying in hotel rooms. Bicycle commuters are estimated to have increased by 200,000 people.

Though originally uninvolved with the strike, Mayor Ed Koch became a very popular and visible figure to the commuting public. He was widely seen crossing the Brooklyn Bridge with the masses of people commuting on foot, famously asking people "How'm I doing?"[1] He also famously suggested that commuters stop to have a martini after work to let rush hour congestion clear.


After the strike, subway fares were increased from 50 cents to 60 cents in order to offset the heavy losses suffered by the MTA during the strike.

The Taylor Law, passed after the 1966 strike, specifically forbids any public union from going on strike. The 1980 workers were fined heavily for their strike and the union lost dues check-off rights for four months, and did not strike again until the 2005 New York City transit strike.

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