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January 21, 2014-Albany- Governor Cuomo delivers his 2014 Executive Budget address,
Gov. Andrew Cuomo
Union workers on the Long Island Railroad could strike as soon as July 19, with their contract having lapsed in 2010 and negotiations stalled. But the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, hoping to force the workers to take a bad deal, have so far not accepted an offer to extend a cooling-off period by 60 days, to avoid a strike during Long Island's summer tourism season.
LIRR labor-management negotiations, which began in 2010, reached an impasse last year. LIRR demanded its unions accept a pattern established by New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo in non-rail public employee bargaining. Cuomo had exacted from state employee unions a concessionary five-year contract with an initial three-year wage freeze and just a 4% total wage increase over the final two years.

Simon, the unions’ chief negotiator—who bristled that his members had not received pay raises exceeding inflation since 1991, and who was determined to maintain LIRR hourly wages as high or higher than any other commuter railroad in the nation—recognized that while Cuomo’s cudgel over state employee unions was a threat of massive furloughs, the MTA couldn’t operate a commuter railroad by sacking large numbers of workers. Furloughing operating, maintenance, or certain clerical crews would immediately cause the quantity, quality, and safety of commuter rail to deteriorate rapidly.

Basically, Cuomo feels that because he forced other unions to take a bad deal, he can do the same with the LIRR workers. But the LIRR workers are playing by different rules, literally: different labor laws apply to them as railroad workers than to state workers. Not one but two Presidential Emergency Boards, appointed to make settlement recommendations, have sided with the unions over management. The offers the unions and management brought to the second PEB were telling:
... the lack of notice and bargaining on substantial issues in the Carrier’s final offer is of significant concern [...] The Unions’ final offer, on the other hand, represents a reasonable balance addressing the priorities of both parties. The wage recommendations are a compromise between the wage increases at the MTA (2010-11) and the commuter railroad averages (2012-16). It is noteworthy that the Unions' assertion that real wage increases for LIRR employees, absent inflation, have not increased at all since 1991, was not challenged by the Carrier.
Workers are rallying on Saturday to urge Cuomo and the MTA to agree to the extended cooling-off period. The question may boil down to how confident Andrew Cuomo is that he can portray 6,000 LIRR workers as the bad guys despite the two Presidential Emergency Board recommendations in their favor, or whether he'd like to be seen swooping in at the last minute to take the credit for averting a strike through the summer.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Wed Jun 18, 2014 at 11:55 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  LIRR workers will get no sympathy from the public (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Shifty18

    because of this scandal:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/...

    •  Hopefully the public (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Justus

      is wise enough and rational enough to understand that you don't punish an entire workforce due to a few bad apples.

      This isn't the south.  We aren't anti-union here, so I'd like to think people won't be so reactionary.

      I will say that the NYC press - especially the tabloids - will likely be hitting that scandal on all cylinders though, because they hate labor.  I've never seen a positive article about labor in rags like the Daily News or the Post - ever.

      "There was no such thing as a "wealthy" hunter-gatherer. It is the creation of human society that has allowed the wealthy to become wealthy. As such, they have an obligation to pay a bit more to sustain that society than the not-so-wealthy." - Me

      by Darth Stateworker on Wed Jun 18, 2014 at 07:51:12 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  This wasn't a few (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        AlexDrew

        It was a massive scandal aided and abetted by management and the unions.

        MOST employees saw no benefit at all. But the public doesn't know that, because as you said, the press isn't good at describing the magnitude of problems. Particularly when it has an ax to grind.

        •  Meh (0+ / 0-)
          It was a massive scandal aided and abetted by management and the unions.
          I'm not sure that description is really accurate.  That's more like how the Post would describe it while trying to malign the workers if they strike, however.

          It surely was a scandal, however, it wasn't "massive", and the unions and management were in no way involved.  You cannot ascribe the actions of a few bad actors to management or the unions as a whole.

          "There was no such thing as a "wealthy" hunter-gatherer. It is the creation of human society that has allowed the wealthy to become wealthy. As such, they have an obligation to pay a bit more to sustain that society than the not-so-wealthy." - Me

          by Darth Stateworker on Wed Jun 18, 2014 at 08:33:31 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  A billion dollars is a lot of money (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            AlexDrew

            even by New York standards. That is a billion dollars that could have gone to better transit service.

            •  A billion dollars (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              NancyWH

              is also a made-up figure for the "cost" of the "scandal."

              Let's deal with facts and not tabloid reports, shall we?

              "There was no such thing as a "wealthy" hunter-gatherer. It is the creation of human society that has allowed the wealthy to become wealthy. As such, they have an obligation to pay a bit more to sustain that society than the not-so-wealthy." - Me

              by Darth Stateworker on Thu Jun 19, 2014 at 10:23:44 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Tell the media (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                AlexDrew

                The fact is that the unions look very bad as the result if this scandal and have done almost zero damage control.

                •  The unions will look bad regardless. (4+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Notreadytobenice, Justus, NancyWH, rexxnyc

                  They can do any amount of damage control they want.  They will still get skewered in the press anyway over the retirement scandal, even there is nothing to link the union itself to the scandal.

                  Those that are naive enough to believe the unions had a hand in this (even though they didn't) will believe it no matter what the union does or how much they spend on PR.  Those that don't believe it aren't going to be swayed by the likes of the Post and the Daily Snooze anyway.

                  Essentially, it's a waste of money for the union to try to do damage control on this.  The damage control they need to worry about is publicizing the reasoning for the strike if they do indeed go on strike to reflect that they have been more than reasonable in negotiations, and it's the other side of the table that has been unyielding and obstinate.

                  "There was no such thing as a "wealthy" hunter-gatherer. It is the creation of human society that has allowed the wealthy to become wealthy. As such, they have an obligation to pay a bit more to sustain that society than the not-so-wealthy." - Me

                  by Darth Stateworker on Thu Jun 19, 2014 at 06:07:37 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Let's connect some dots here, too. (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    NancyWH

                    NO wage increases, allowing for inflation, since 1991? And then sometime around 1998, some retired workers started to figure out a way to scam the disability system?

                    In a climate where workers can't get legitimate compensation for their work, is it surprising that they find alternate ways to make up the difference?

                    If you feel you're being deliberately cheated, honesty begins to look like something less than a realistic choice, especially in a region where living costs are pretty high. And never more so when you see the kind of people who are getting ahead, while you aren't.

                    And let's not forget all the pension plans, savings, and investments in homes that got wiped out in 2008 by the financial sector - who got rescued but their victims didn't.

                    "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

                    by xaxnar on Thu Jun 19, 2014 at 08:05:58 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                  •  Would like to know Laura Clawson's thoughts... (0+ / 0-)

                    My union President and Executive Board would have known. It's called plausible deniability. The 8/23/08 NYT article footnoted in the wiki said an extra $36K/year.

                    Would like to know Laura Clawson's thoughts as I'm a fan.

  •  Their best option (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    xaxnar, Justus

    is to strike.

    Cuomo is not a friend of labor - at all.  As they've done everything they can do to avoid a strike - and have done so as publicly as possible - they've covered their asses on the PR front as much as they can.  

    Sure, Cuomo will try to paint the union members as the ones being obstinate, and the press in the state - especially the tabloids in the city - will likely do the same because the tabloids have no love for organized labor - but if the union can successfully get the full story out there, they might just find most people will support them.

    Obviously, the rabidly anti-union types will try to use this as another anecdotal story about how "bad" unions are, but I'd like to think most people in New York aren't stupid to fall for that nonsense and can make rational decisions about things when they know all the facts.

    What I will find interesting is that if the union does strike, I expect the anti-labor operatives in the state will be screaming to amend state law and to get these workers covered under the Taylor law - a law they routinely scream that they want to repeal because they claim it gives public sector workers too much power.

    If these folks actually do strike, they're about to see what power actually is.

    "There was no such thing as a "wealthy" hunter-gatherer. It is the creation of human society that has allowed the wealthy to become wealthy. As such, they have an obligation to pay a bit more to sustain that society than the not-so-wealthy." - Me

    by Darth Stateworker on Wed Jun 18, 2014 at 07:47:59 PM PDT

    •  Ask for MORE than what they..... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Darth Stateworker, NancyWH

      .....have been asking for AND strike.

      We Glory in war, in the shedding of human blood. What fools we are.

      by delver rootnose on Thu Jun 19, 2014 at 07:41:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Within reason. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        NancyWH

        One thing labor has to keep in mind is that the public is no longer used to seeing disruptive, hardcore strikes, so if the demands to go back to work are too much, they can quickly alienate the public.

        As the union has had mediators side with them multiple times, they should stick with what the mediators thought was fair.  Yes, this means they likely won't get exactly that, but I don't think the public perception will be in their favor if they ask for more.  I realize that bargaining is give and take, and that you need to ask for more than you really want in order to get what you actually do really want.  Unfortunately, too many in the public no longer understand that.

        So they'd need to be conscious of that.

        "There was no such thing as a "wealthy" hunter-gatherer. It is the creation of human society that has allowed the wealthy to become wealthy. As such, they have an obligation to pay a bit more to sustain that society than the not-so-wealthy." - Me

        by Darth Stateworker on Thu Jun 19, 2014 at 10:39:36 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Why?... (0+ / 0-)

          What does it really matter if the public hates the union.  Any strike, or even a threat of strike, will be used as an opportunity to gin up hate against them.  If they are going to be tarred with it they may as well be guilty of it.

          We Glory in war, in the shedding of human blood. What fools we are.

          by delver rootnose on Fri Jun 20, 2014 at 12:09:42 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Why should they worry (0+ / 0-)

            about public perception?

            See the recent BART strike in SFO to see how things play out when transit workers strike and lose the support of the public.

            Public perception is extremely important.  If you lose it, you get screwed in negotiations and then anti-unionists attempt to use the anger of the people to create an opportunity to screw you legislatively.

            Read some of the BART threads here.  Even people you'd think would know better like many of the DK users commenting on those diaries were calling for BART scalps.

            Public perception for public employee unions matters.  Considerably.

            "There was no such thing as a "wealthy" hunter-gatherer. It is the creation of human society that has allowed the wealthy to become wealthy. As such, they have an obligation to pay a bit more to sustain that society than the not-so-wealthy." - Me

            by Darth Stateworker on Fri Jun 20, 2014 at 10:23:14 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Only if they let it matter... (0+ / 0-)

              ....the only reason it influences things is they care about it.  If they didn't give a shit, then negotiations would go better and the legislators will screw them anyway since they don't listen to public poling when makeing rightwing policy as shown in many TV show segments about how politicians don't listen to the average person but only the rich and the rich really don't depend on public transport.

              If you are going to be branded with a crime live up to it.

              We Glory in war, in the shedding of human blood. What fools we are.

              by delver rootnose on Fri Jun 20, 2014 at 12:04:42 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Given how weak (0+ / 0-)

                the labor movement is in this nation, and how vociferously the right has been calling for public sector unions heads - yes, it matters.

                Again - see many of the labor threads here - even liberals, who should know better start bitching about public sector labor.

                "Living up to the crime" only makes things worse in the long run, not better.  Especially when it comes to a transit strike.

                "There was no such thing as a "wealthy" hunter-gatherer. It is the creation of human society that has allowed the wealthy to become wealthy. As such, they have an obligation to pay a bit more to sustain that society than the not-so-wealthy." - Me

                by Darth Stateworker on Sun Jun 22, 2014 at 05:22:37 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

  •  OK, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Darth Stateworker

    I don't rely on LIRR, so I can say this.  STRIKE!

    "Basically, Cuomo feels that because he forced other unions to take a bad deal, he can do the same with the LIRR workers. But the LIRR workers are playing by different rules, literally: different labor laws apply to them as railroad workers than to state workers."

    I am one of those state workers. This person needs to be stopped!  

    "The light which puts out our sight is darkness to us." Thoreau

    by NancyWH on Fri Jun 20, 2014 at 04:33:38 AM PDT

  •  Where's the Working Families Party on this? n/t (0+ / 0-)
    •  They're currently busy doing damage control and... (0+ / 0-)

      They're currently busy doing damage control and trying to tell everyone that no, Cuomo hasn't been walking back his promises...

      Even though he's completely walked them back at this point in no uncertain terms.

      Dan Cantor and the rest of the clowns running thr party should be booted, because this Cuomo debacle - which anyone with half a brain saw coming - has killed their credibility, and with it, any power or influence they had over NY politics. Which is funny, because the whole point of endorsing Cuomo was supposedly to maintain their credibility and influence.

  •  Some background (0+ / 0-)
    LIRR workers make, on average, more than workers at any other MTA division — 17.6 percent more a year than subway and bus workers.
    LIRR workers (not including management) made up 21 percent of the MTA’s top-paid employees — impressive, since they’re only 9 percent of the MTA workforce.
    LIRR folk made up 36 percent of MTA workers who at least doubled their base pay thanks to overtime.
    And 28 percent of LIRR workers — more than any other MTA division — made above $100,000 in 2013. That doesn’t include pension-benefits-for-life — benefits that a regular commuter would have to save $1.2 million in a retirement pot to guarantee
    .
    http://nypost.com/...
    Another Long Island Rail Road disability fraudster was let off with no prison time at his sentencing Friday, but a prosecutor hinted that the investigation may not be over.
    Former LIRR engineer Karl Brittel, 63, of Atlantic City, was put on probation and given 6 months of home confinement, but no incarceration, for claiming more than $300,000 in phony disability benefits and committing perjury before a federal grand jury
    .http://www.newsday.com/...
    To understand what it’s like to work on the railroad — the Long Island Rail Road — a good place to start is the Sunken Meadow golf course, a rolling stretch of state-owned land on Long Island Sound.

    During the workweek, it is not uncommon to find retired L.I.R.R. employees, sometimes dozens of them, golfing there. A few even walk the course. Yet this is not your typical retiree outing.

    These golfers are considered disabled. At an age when most people still work, they get a pension and tens of thousands of dollars in annual disability payments — a sum roughly equal to the base salary of their old jobs. Even the golf is free, courtesy of New York State taxpayers.

    With incentives like these, occupational disabilities at the L.I.R.R. have become a full-blown epidemic.

    Virtually every career employee — as many as 97 percent in one recent year — applies for and gets disability payments soon after retirement, a computer analysis of federal records by The New York Times has found. Since 2000, those records show, about a quarter of a billion dollars in federal disability money has gone to former L.I.R.R. employees, including about 2,000 who retired during that time.

    http://www.nytimes.com/...
    A national coalition of railroad labor unions has written to members of the New York Congressional delegation, defending the rail industry’s occupational disability program as “the single most important protection” rail employees have against the hazards of working in a dangerous industry.
    http://www.nytimes.com/...
    New York State’s parks officials have determined that there is no legal justification for hundreds of retired Long Island Rail Road workers on disability to be playing golf free in state-owned parks with passes intended for severely disabled people.
    http://www.nytimes.com/...
    At least five federal and state agencies are investigating the legitimacy of disabilities at the L.I.R.R., where in recent years more than 90 percent of career employees have retired early and claimed disability payments from the federal Railroad Retirement Board. But many of the railroad’s workers also secure disability policies from private insurers that routinely exclude applicants with pre-existing conditions.

    Nearly a quarter of the 6,800 current L.I.R.R. workers have bought private insurance through payroll deductions, and in the last five years, more than 300 employees and retirees have filed claims on policies from Aflac and other insurers, according to L.I.R.R. and Aflac officials. On top of payouts for salary loss, some of the private policies also pay car loans and credit-card balances and waive life insurance

    http://www.nytimes.com/...
  •  Sure sign of nothing to add— (0+ / 0-)

    complaining about the source, instead of addressing the facts.

    1) Are the figures in the Post incorrect? If so, then correct them.

    2) Is Newsday mistaken about the (widely reported) golf-playing "disabled" LIRR retirees? If so, cite your rebuttal source.

    Or, if haven't got any actual, you know, factual response, perhaps you should sit on your hands.

    For the rest of us New Yorkers who have been roundly and thoroughly bilked by the LIRR workforce to the tune of many tens of millions of dollars over a couple of decades, we're not so eager to fall in behind,  "Simon, the unions’ chief negotiator—who bristled that his members had not received pay raises exceeding inflation since 1991, and who was determined to maintain LIRR hourly wages as high or higher than any other commuter railroad in the nation." http://www.railwayage.com/...=

    •  Neither the Post nor Newsday (0+ / 0-)

      tell the full story.

      However, as anti-labor as you've been in the past, surely, you don't give a shit about that.

      But one thing any real liberal in New York knows is that the Post, Newsday, and the Daily News are most certainly not where you go for honest coverage about labor issues.

      PS - Next time, try actually replying to my post instead of being a bitch that hopes you can sneak one by without a response by simply starting a new thread.

      "There was no such thing as a "wealthy" hunter-gatherer. It is the creation of human society that has allowed the wealthy to become wealthy. As such, they have an obligation to pay a bit more to sustain that society than the not-so-wealthy." - Me

      by Darth Stateworker on Sun Jun 22, 2014 at 05:28:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  i live on lirr (0+ / 0-)

    Took the lirr for many years and my husband is in his 27th year of riding it into NYC.  Most people will not support the workers simply because it is a HUGE inconvenience for the riders. I live in a lower middle class area and it costs almost $300 a month for the LIRR and the subways to get to work. That cost will probably go up if the MTA claims the union costs are too high - true or not. The disability fraud has gotten a lot of press and if it was widespread or not many people are pissed about it and it makes all union train workers look bad. The service is good but when they screw up its a disaster and that happens a lot in the winter. So when you are paying so much you expect better. Whatever occurs the union conductor is always the face of the LIRR not the management.

    Bad politicians are sent to Washington by good people who don't vote.

    by Renie57 on Fri Jun 20, 2014 at 03:07:01 PM PDT

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