A plea to Reagan in transit strike

Governors of three states affected by New York commuter railroad strikes are joining in a new and strong appeal for presidential intervention. They want an end to the five-week walkout against Metro-North and want to avert a threatened second strike against New Jersey Transit.

The two carriers serve 160,000 commuters daily to and from New York City, Monitor labor correspondent Ed Townsend reports. Govs. Mario Cuomo of New York, William A. O'Neill of Connecticut, and Thomas Keane of New Jersey want the Reagan administration to intervene, with congressional support, to impose a settlement in the Metro-North dispute or to relinquish the federal government's authority over such commuter railroads as Metro-North and N.J. Transit. That way states could use public-employee strike laws to end the walkout.

So far, the federal government has resisted the first approach and denied three appeals for intervention. The second approach is problematical because the striking United Transportation Union has complied with antistrike provisions of the federal Railway Labor Act. That act calls for an independent investigation of workers' demands and a 60-day cooling off period before a strike is called. That period is long over, the strike is legal, and efforts to settle it are at an impasse. The threat of a New Jersey Transit strike is coming from a small, hard-line union faction that wants gains beyond the contract signed March 31 with a major union group.

Faced with this, a Connecticut citizens' committee is urging the states to take a third tack: barring Amtrak's use of the Metro-North tracks. This may be illegal, but could force a court review of the whole situation.

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