To the relief of millions of commuters, the city's transit workers' union ended its 2 1/2-day strike, and bus and subway employees began returning to work.
"This was a big test for this city, and I think it passed with flying colors," Mayor Bloomberg said. "It wasn't easy, and certainly serious economic harm was inflicted, but we did what we had to do to keep the city running and running safely."
Buses are expected to get rolling by about 10 p.m. tonight and taxis should begin using meters at midnight. Subway trains will hit the rails overnight, transit officals said, adding that tomorrow morning's rush hour should be fairly normal.
The union has already posted on its website, under the headline "STRIKE OVER: REPORT TO WORK", instructions for workers to report to work immediately if their scheduled shift has already started, or to report per usual if they're working a later shift.
"We thank our riders for their patience and forebearance," said Transport Workers Union president Roger Toussaint.
Bloomberg, who had been incensed by what he termed the "thuggish" behavior of striking, was more restrained at an afternoon news conference.
Though he reiterated that the untion was wrong to strike, he said "this time they acted responsibly, and for that I am appreciative. When asked about what might have led to the end of the walkout, the mayor said: "Cooler heads prevailed."
He credited the union for calling off the strike, but said they were wrong to go on strike in the first place. He noted that the strike had been costly for the city with an estimated $10 million in police overtime and $12 million less in tax revenues.
"People who are struggling to make ends meet are really hurt by this work stoppage," the mayor said.
Bloomberg took pains to differentiate between union leaders and the rank-and-file members. "I described the behavior of the union leadership, which hurt this city," he said.
He encouraged angry commuters to be civil as they prepare to face members of the TWU for the first time since the strike upset travel within the city.
"If you want to say something to the employees as you go by, what about 'Glad you're back, I missed you,'" he said.
The Transport Workers Union Local 100's executive board gave the final okay for the back-to-work order around 2:30 p.m., ending the crippling strike that had stranded New Yorkers and hit businesses at the height of the holiday season.
Thirty-six members of the 43-member executive board voted to end the strike, five voted against and two abstained, said Eladio Diaz, a member.
"This was a disgrace," said TWU vice president John Mooney. "No detils were provided to the executive board. [Toussaint] wants us to discuss the details after Christmas."
Toussaint earlier had agreed to send striking transit workers back to work while talks with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority resumed, an arbitrator said.
"Both parties have a genuine desire to resolve their differences," said Richard Curreri, head of a three-member
state mediation panel. "They have agreed to resume negotiations while the TWU takes steps to return its membership."
Curreri, who spoke at a news conference at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, said talks held separately with each side since the strike began on Tuesday had been "fruitful," but an agreement on a new contract for bus and subway employees "remains out of reach at this time."
Sun sets on transit strike
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