Thousands of NJ Transit train commuters headed home Friday afternoon, uncertain how they will get to work Monday if rail workers go on strike over the weekend.
"I'm praying and I'm trusting God that something comes through by tomorrow, or Sunday afternoon, so at least we can get to work on Monday," Dawn Pollydore, an East Orange resident who works in a nursing home in Manhattan, told WNYC . "It's going to be hard for a lot of us."
Teams of negotiators for NJ Transit and a coalition of 11 rail worker unions holed up in a conference room at a hotel in Newark all day, emerging only for food and caffeine. The rail workers had voted to authorize a strike as soon as 12:01 a.m. Sunday morning, if no deal was reached by then.
Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) has said federal mediators may step in Saturday. Federal mediation, however, would not be binding. Only Congress can force a resolution, and Menendez said that was unlikely, given how divided the House of Representatives is.
NJ Transit has drawn up a contingency plan to bring riders into the city by buses, but admits they wouldn't even be able to accommodate half of the number of commuters trains transport each day. Some suburbs have chartered their own buses.
Some commuters on Friday were only beginning to figure out their back-up plan.
"I'm new to the town I live in," said Julie Muzones of Hackettstown. "I probably have to drive somewhere, park the car, and take the transportation here somehow."
Earlier in the day, the lead negotiator for NJ Transit said a resolution was imminent.
"This is the day," Gary Dellaverson declared upon entering the Newark Hilton, where the talks are taking place. "This is the day it should happen. This is when there should be a settlement."
But by late Friday afternoon, neither he nor any representative for the union had made any further public comments.
— with additional reporting by Rebecca Ibarra
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