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Editorial 7/22/2014
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Sigh of Relief
presented by Peter Kohler

Commuters can board Long Island Rail Road trains this week with a spring in their step and a sigh of relief.

Last week, there were handshakes all around, as Governor Cuomo, MTA chairman Tom Prendergast, and Anthony Simon, the union coalition leader, announced they had reached a deal averting a strike.

Cuomo had deftly intervened to bring the parties together. “We wanted to make sure that the MTA didn’t need to raise fares and had the funds necessary to manage the system long term, and I believe that we did that,” he said.

We agree. Terms of the tentative agreement provide wage increases of 17 percent over six and a half years. To help pay for raises, new workers will contribute more to pension and health care, and wait longer for top pay.

To his credit, Simon signaled a new attitude among workers, saying they also cared about achieving financial stability for the railroad.

It’s a welcome change.

Last year, federal courts convicted dozens of former LIRR workers for criminally claiming disability pensions, tainting the workforce with a culture of corruption. This culture is made worse by outdated work rules that many LIRR workers abuse to pad paychecks and pensions, an issue not addressed in these negotiations. It still needs to be.

Last week, Governor Cuomo’s MTA reinvention commission met in New York to chart long-term strategies, but, ironically, failed to address the critical issue of labor relations.

Hopefully, this new agreement promises less adversarial labor relations in the future, based on recognizing that the financial stability of the railroad matters to everyone.

Eric Hughes
Holbrook, NY
I absolutely love how you can’t help but continue to slander the union workers of the LIRR. Your media coverage over the whole matter has been, to say the least, one-sided. We are not criminals! We are hard working Long Islanders who, like everyone else, are just trying to provide for our families. Those work rules that you claim are used to pad our pensions are there to protect our workers from unfair abuse from the company. Those work rules prevent the company from running us into the grave. Read your Rail Road history. This isn’t stuff from the eighteen hundreds, this is recent history.

Jeffrey Bloom
Hicksville, NY
I agree that it is good this has been resolved, but not the end result. There is nobody getting these kinds of raises and benefits in his type of economy. The union once again held the commuters, local businesses and MTA hostage with the threat of a strike. The MTA needs to have a valid contingency plan in the future. Bring in train workers from other states and train local people who need jobs and would be happy to have one. During this four-year period without a contract, they were still working and still getting paid. This is the definition of simple extortion and greed.
Agreement settles a four-year-old contract dispute between the MTA and the unions
Created at the recommendation of Gov. Cuomo, will consider changes in customer expectations, commuting trends and extreme weather patterns as they affect MTA Capital Plans
Jul 8, 2014
Bargaining talks between the MTA and unions representing LIRR workers resume this week. And bargaining is what both sides need to do. With a strike deadline looming for Sunday, July 20th, there is no time to waste…
Aug 23. 2013
Federal prosecutors finally nailed participants in a massive fraud involving hundreds of LIRR retirees, including many who paid for advice on faking job related disabilities–only later to be photographed by investigators, vigorously shoveling snow or playing golf. One of the golfers is former railroad union president Joseph Rutigliano, who was one of three found guilty this month of engineering the fraud…