GCA-505 Long Island Rail Road General Chairperson Anthony Simon has teamed up with SMART Sheet Metal Business Managers Dante Dano (SM Local 137) and Eric Meslin (SM Local 28) to plan an annual golf outing in Bronx, N.Y. to benefit LaborPress.
LaborPress is one of the largest labor news organizations in the nation. They were founded in August 2009 by LaborPress President Neal Tepel to provide a media outlet for unions and workers. Their articles regularly appear in the New York Daily News and on their website. iHeart radio’s WOR radio station features their daily reports.
LaborPress.org regularly has features on the transportation and building trades industries, which is why our union is happy to help them out with their golf outing. Most notably, LaborPress recently posted spotlight features on Simon, Dano, Meslin and General President Joe Sellers.
According to Simon, GCA-505 and SMART Locals 137 and 28 regularly work together on joint efforts and this event is no different. The keynote speaker for the event is none other than SMART General President Sellers. During his lunchtime speech, Sellers plans to discuss infrastructure issues important to both the transportation and sheet metal sides of the union, as well as the need for more unionized workers in the workforce. Also speaking during the event are representatives from the AFL-CIO and the North America’s Building Trades Union (NABTU). Legislators are expected to attend as well.
“We are honored to have our general president attend this event as the keynote speaker. This event takes place in New York, where many labor leaders throughout the state will join us to hear Joe’s opinions on the labor movement and the infrastructure bills that we are fighting for in Washington,” Simon said. “This event shows that when we all stand together with both transportation and building trades, our voices and actions are stronger than ever.”
The golf outing is being held Sept. 10, at the Pelham Bay Golf Course, 870 Shore Rd., Bronx, NY 10464.
Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) implemented planned service cuts the morning of Monday, March 8, in spite of objections made weeks ago by union leadership and echoed by New York state senators just before the cuts went into effect.
This photo, provided by a LIRR worker to Alternate Vice President/General Chairperson Anthony Simon, shows a crowded Long Island Rail Road car early March 8, the day LIRR implemented service cuts.
Crowded cars and the potential for the early morning commute from places like New Hyde Park or Jamaica Station to become a COVID spreader event with no opportunity for social distancing, as shown by photos provided to SMART-TD Alternate Vice President Anthony Simon by frontline workers, thousands of whom he represents as general chairperson of GCA-505.
“These reductions have now made Long Island Rail Road service unsafe as far as allowing for social distancing is concerned,” Simon said.
In response to LIRR leadership’s implementation of the cuts, which reduced weekday service to the equivalent of what the system offers on the weekend, more than 3,000 unionized workers from SMART, SMART-TD and six other labor unions submitted the following message via email on March 8:
“WE THE UNDERSIGNED; ARE LIRR WORKERS WHO ARE OUTRAGED BY THE DECISION TO REDUCE SERVICE FOR LIRR RIDERS AT A TIME WHEN OPENING THE ECONOMY, CONTINUED DISTANCING, INCENTIVIZING CUSTOMERS TO RETURN AND PRIORITIZING THE USE OF FEDERAL DOLLARS IS CRUCIAL TO A FULL AND SAFE RECOVERY. WE ARE DISGUSTED THAT THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THESE CUTS AND THE INSENSITIVITY TO OUR QUALITY OF LIFE FOR OUR FRONT-LINE CRAFTS HAS DESTROYED OUR MORALE AND TRUST IN THE AGENCY. WE DEMAND YOU LISTEN TO YOUR “HEROES” AND RESTORE SERVICE FOR THE BETTERMENT OF OUR SYSTEM.”
In addition to Simon, SMART-Mechanical Division General Chairperson John McCloskey and TD yardmaster General Chairperson Michael Miele signed the letter addressed to New York Metropolitan Transit Agency Chairman and CEO Patrick Foye and LIRR President Phillip Eng.
“The MTA’s desire to outsource our work, disregard our membership’s quality of life and forget about what we have delivered throughout a global pandemic is inexcusable,” the union leaders stated. “We certainly hope you can get on the right track in winning us back for the good of this great railroad that we have built and have always been proud to serve. Until then, we will continue to work hard for our customers with the understanding that there is a lack of good faith and insufficient appreciation toward our members from leadership.”
Other unions that signed on to the letter included the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen; Transportation Communications Union; International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers; National Conference of Firemen & Oilers, SEIU 32BJ; Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen; and Independent Railway Supervisors Association.
SMART Transportation Division Alternate Vice President and General Chairperson Anthony Simon and eight New York state senators took the CEO and chairman of the New York Metropolitan Transit Agency to task for planned service reductions for the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR).
The carrier plans to reduce weekday service to the equivalent of a weekend schedule beginning March 8, a move described by state Sen. James Gaughran and seven colleagues as operating LIRR as a “skeleton service.”
“We urge you to reconsider this decision and withhold implementation of the planned service reduction,” the senators wrote in their letter, dated March 3. “These ridership cuts will negatively impact countless essential workers, like the workers of the MTA, who rely on public transportation to earn a living, support their families, and contribute to our economy.”
In his letter dated Feb. 24, Simon communicated to MTA Chairman and CEO Patrick Foye that this course of action also did not seem to be a sound strategy as a potential spring economic awakening for New York City appears to be approaching.
Alternate Vice President and GCA-505 General Chairperson Anthony Simon appears Sept. 30 at a rally in New York City.
“While the MTA should be incentivizing customers back to the system, why would we choose now to reduce service further?” wrote GC Simon of GCA-505, which represents SMART-TD members employed by LIRR. “It makes no sense that riders should now have to return to a system with limited service opportunities and potential concerns for safe distancing capabilities when vaccine availability is improving and both federal and state leaders are attempting to stimulate the economy.”
The service reductions were supposed to last only until particular projects were completed by LIRR but could now be extended past the May 23 date that LIRR had given, according to Simon.
“Our members have weathered the effects of this pandemic as the heroes you’ve gratefully declared them to be time and time again. They have delivered to the riding public through some of the most difficult times in the history of our railroad,” Simon wrote. “Now is the time for them to continue delivering by leaving the adjusted weekday schedule as is and not seek a limited savings opportunity by creating a disincentive for our customers to come back.”
What is SMART-TD on Long Island, N.Y., doing during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Sheet Metal Local 137 manufactured signs thanking TD members who continue to work on Long Island Rail Road through this pandemic. “Thanks to Dante Dano and Pete Scaglione,” said General Chairperson Anthony Simon. “They have been so supportive to the TD LIRR, I cannot express enough how we are all in this together.”
“Thank you to GC John McCloskey for his help and support in getting signs and with locations. The partnership is just unbelievable and appreciated,” Simon said. The reaction from the membership after the signs went up has been overwhelming
New York City and its bordering suburbs and counties have been among the hardest-hit in the nation by the coronavirus due to its density and the demands of the city’s economic engine driven by the financial and business districts.
Like most transportation systems, the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) has been deemed an essential service for health care workers, emergency responders, police officers, firefighters, city and state essential workers and countless other professions.
A Long Island Rail Road conductor works during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Here are some of the ways union leadership on Long Island and SMART members continue to deliver.
While required to continue working, tremendous safety efforts have been achieved through the issuance of proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), manpower manipulations to allow for social distancing, constant disinfecting efforts to protect work locations, paid administrative sick leave to accommodate the hundreds of positive tested members and associated quarantines, and so many additional safety precautions to protect workers.
Members have been working around the clock cleaning and sanitizing over 1,000 train cars on an aggressive schedule, and our maintenance of equipment workers are continuing to inspect and repair our equipment to all of the standards outlined by federal authorities.
Engineering forces in the track and building and bridge ranks are continuing to build and maintain the system during this health crisis. Huge projects such as the over $11 billion East Side Access project to allow service to New York City’s Grand Central Station in addition to three other major city terminals continue. The mainline third track expansion continues along the central corridor of Long Island to add to the over 700 miles of track and 124 stations.
Front-line train crews are continuing to provide a modified essential service plan requiring flexibility, dedication and sacrifice working in vulnerable conditions. They are providing safe service and collecting whatever fares possible as safely as they can during the pandemic.
Union officials are providing administrative support to the varying work locations hit hardest by the virus to ensure crew dispatching, payroll and PPE issuance are all expedited appropriately.
After more than 60 COVID-19-related deaths at the MTA, the governing agency of the LIRR, SMART leadership has negotiated an additional $500,000 death benefit package to include health benefits for the beneficiary of any COVID-19 related deaths within our membership.
Union leadership has worked closely with agency heads and management to provide whatever benefits possible during this extremely troubling time, such as priority COVID testing, relaxed and paid sick leave rules, relaxed time keeping and travel arrangements, etc.
Union leadership is lobbying for additional federal funding needed to recoup billions of dollars of revenue lost during this crippling time.
General Chairperson Anthony Simon has worked closely with General Chairperson John McCloskey on the mechanical side in achieving protections and benefits for all SMART workers.
Long Island Rail Road workers pose for a picture after cleaning a car during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Those are some of the collective efforts of GCA-505 in Babylon, N.Y., which represents SMART-TD’s workers on LIRR in a region hit hard by the coronavirus with tens of thousands of deaths reported there.
But the GCA’s leaders insist it’s just what they do, and what members expect from them.
“During catastrophic times is when leaders need to step up, lead and not hide,” said Vice General Chairperson Vinnie Tessitore. “Under General Chairperson Anthony Simon’s leadership, and through a dedicated team of union officials, we are out front making tough decisions and demands to secure and protect our workforce.”
Simon, also a SMART-TD alternate vice president, said it has taken a total team effort and cooperation from all to continue to endure the challenges of the coronavirus.
“I could not be prouder of our elected union officials and our membership for their hard work and sacrifices during this pandemic,” Simon said. “I am out in the field every day with our railroad family as they continue to work through this crisis, and my foot will remain on the gas to achieve what they have earned for their heroic efforts.”
Long Island Rail Road workers tend to the track during the coronavirus pandemic.
SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy Ferguson said that those efforts are shining through by protecting both employee and public alike and minimizing disruption.
“It’s a relief to finally receive some good news! On a normal day and in normal times, SMART-TD’s members and leadership in the New York City/New Jersey area have demands placed on them that often can exceed those of other metropolitan areas just because of the size of the agencies we serve and the population, but as always, our SMART-TD membership and our officers on the LIRR never cease to amaze me.” Ferguson said. “They are the toughest and most resilient Brotherhood that, I, too, am so very proud to have the opportunity to work with and represent as President of the Transportation Division. SMART-TD on the LIRR is leading the way on every front and thankfully giving the membership a solid footing to defend themselves from this disaster.
“Anthony Simon and Vinnie Tessitore have stepped up to make sure LIRR keeps trains clean and running for public and the workers alike so that what is considered ‘essential’ stays running. They’re an example of what solidarity can do — for all of labor to see. I do want everyone to know we’re with you in this, and we will all be there together to the end.”
Richard Brzozinski, 78, is remembered as a compassionate man and model employee of the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) in a recent story by Newsday.
“A veteran Long Island Rail Road conductor on the Babylon line, Brzozinski made a habit of learning the names of all of his regular passengers and their spouses. He’d arrive to work every morning in a freshly pressed uniform. And Brzozinski would always ensure that a seat was saved for his elderly passengers,” Robert Brodsky of Newsday wrote.
The story further gives accounts of praise from passengers who wrote to MTA about Brzozinski and recounts two separate incidences where Brzozinski was called upon to save passengers’ lives with the use of CPR.
SMART-TD Alternate Vice President Anthony Simon is quoted, saying, “Richie was always a professional and always demanded perfection from his co-workers. He wore his uniform impeccably and made sure his crew members did the same. He prioritized the safety and service to our customers, led by example, and received the respect of everyone he overlapped because of those principles.”
Brother Brzozinski began his membership with UTU Local 645 (Babylon, N.Y.) in August 1961, following in his dad’s footsteps as a conductor for the LIRR. He worked for a time with his father John and younger brother Jack (retired LIRR engineer). He retired with 38 years of service in 1999.
Brzozinski died in his home Nov. 19, 2019, after a three-year battle with heart disease. He is survived by his wife Mary; two sons; brother Jack; sisters Joanne, Linda and Sharon; and two grandchildren Jack and Jenna.
We are pleased to announce that SMART TD members on New Jersey Transit have ratified a new collective bargaining agreement.
Steve Burkert, SMART TD general chairperson; and Doyle Turner, SMART TD vice president; led the fight for a fair and equitable agreement while withstanding the unreasonable demands of NJT. After two Presidential Emergency Boards and numerous negotiating sessions, the SMART TD negotiating team reached an agreement that was overwhelmingly ratified by our members on NJT.
SMART TD President John Previsich said: “I want to commend General Chairperson Steve Burkert, SMART TD Vice President Doyle Turner, Alternate Vice President Anthony Simon and all of the members of the negotiating team for their efforts in bringing this round of negotiations to a satisfactory conclusion. The negotiating team, led by GC Burkert, was instrumental in carrying the wishes of our NJT members to the negotiating table and it is through their efforts that we were able to reach an agreement that was ratified by an overwhelming majority vote. It’s been a long battle for the New Jersey Transit members and now they will receive the wages and benefits to which they are entitled. This is a tremendous victory for NJT SMART TD members, and for our union brothers and sisters across the country.”
General Chairperson Burkert said: “It’s been a long, drawn-out process and I’m thrilled for my members and their families that we were successful in reaching an agreement that provides for financial stability going forward, especially during this very tough political time. I want to express my appreciation to the entire membership for their solidarity and support through this very difficult round of negotiations.”
The members of Long Island Rail Road General Committee of Adjustment GO 505 have ratified a new agreement with LIRR management by a 97 percent margin, General Chairperson Anthony Simon reports.
It is the largest margin of approval for a contract in the general committee’s history.
Simon also said the approval rate for the eight-union coalition withstood together in bargaining with the LIRR was 95 percent.
Simon thanked SMART General President Joseph Nigro, General Secretary-Treasurer Joe Sellers and Transportation Division President John Previsich for their financial and material support and counsel.
“This shows with the support of our International and our membership, there is nothing we can not accomplish. I thank President Nigro for giving me the opportunity to speak at the first SMART Convention and for recognizing our delegates and our members on LIRR,” Simon said.
“This truly shows the unity in our merged unions and what we can achieve standing shoulder to shoulder in solidarity.
“A special ‘thank you’ goes to my entire committee for there tireless work in such a huge fight. My committee is the best committee I could ever ask for and I am very fortunate to have this team.
“To our members, I asked you to stand with me and trust me and said I would fight to the end to get them a contract they deserve and earned, and our members stepped up, and I thank them from the bottom of my heart.
“I will never stop fighting for the most professional and hard working members.”
The vote concluded more than four years of battling with New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority during a difficult and highly publicized contract dispute.
The MTA had been seeking net zero wage increases, major pension reform, large health care contributions, work rule give-backs and excessive concessions for new hires.
The settlement provided in excess of 18 percent of compounded wage increases over six-and-a-half years. Certification pay was achieved in the amount of $10 per day worked as a conductor and a modest two percent health and welfare contribution was accepted, based on a straight week’s pay. Minor adjustments were made for new hires that extended their requirement to pay four percent toward their pension for five additional years and their current wage progression was extended by just two years. Not a single work rule was compromised.
International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers Long Island Rail Road General Chairperson Anthony Simon has issued the following statement on the deteriorating labor situation at the commuter railroad:
“I regret to report that negotiations have collapsed with New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority and all eight unions are now proceeding with strike plans for July 20.
“MTA rejected the counter offer we presented last Thursday (July 10). It presented no counter proposal. It continues to insist that the unions agree to a contract worth less than the value of the compromise recommendations of two Presidential Emergency Boards 244 and 245.
“MTA has clearly decided that provoking a strike is the course of action it intends to pursue. No further negotiations are scheduled.
“The strike will begin at 12:01 a.m. this Sunday (July 20). Riders should be aware that service will begin winding down well before then, perhaps as early as Wednesday (July 16), as the railroad needs to secure its equipment.
“The strike will be limited to Long Island Rail Road. It will not affect Amtrak, New Jersey Transit, Metro-North Railroad or PATH rail operations. Joint entrances will not be picketed.
Make no mistake about it. The timing of this strike, with its devastating impact on Long Island’s summer season, is MTA’s decision. The unions repeated our offer to agree to the requests of the New York Congressional delegation, area residents and businesses to delay the strike until September. MTA would not agree.
“The onus of this deadlock is solely on MTA. Two boards of renowned and experienced arbitrators have recommended a fair compromise settlement. We are willing to accept the recommendations. MTA is not. MTA admitted to us that they know that historically, the PEB recommendations are the basis for settlement. They told us they understand that the only way they can break this historical precedent is to take a strike. That is the course that they have chosen.”
Anthony Simon, SMART LIRR GO 505 General Chairperson and Union Coalition spokesperson
A hostile bargaining session between the MTA and Long Island Rail Road labor leaders broke off in less than two hours early Friday with no deal in place and union officials saying a July 20 strike is more likely than ever.
“Here we go,” Christopher Natale, general chairman of the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, said after leaving the bargaining session, which lasted about 90 minutes. “Unless something happens at the eleventh hour, we’re preparing for a strike.”
The LIRR unions’ chief negotiator says he wants to make a deal with the MTA that would delay a possible July strike until after Labor Day – sparing Long Island’s summer tourism business and buying more time to negotiate a contract settlement.
Although the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said it has yet to receive a formal proposal, an MTA source who spoke on condition of anonymity said earlier this week the agency would be interested in an agreement to stave off a potential walkout by Long Island Rail Road workers in about seven weeks that could strand 300,000 daily riders.
Presidential Emergency Board 245 determined May 20 that “the Unions’ final offer is the most reasonable” in the four-year-old bargaining dispute between the International Association of Sheet, Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers and its allied unions and the Long Island Rail Road.
The PEB report sets in motion a final 60-day cooling off period. If no agreement is reached during that time, SMART and the other unions can strike on July 19 under provisions of the Railway Labor Act.
Under the RLA’s special 9A provisions for disputes involving commuter railroads, if the parties do not reach agreement after a first PEB issues its recommendations, a second PEB is convened to decide which side’s final offer is the most reasonable.
On Dec. 21, 2013, PEB 244 recommended a six-year contract with 17.9 percent in compounded wage increases. The board also recommended that employees begin paying health insurance premiums that reduced the net value of the proposed contract to 2.5 percent per year. The board rejected Long Island Rail Road’s proposal for sweeping pension, work rule, and other concessions.
In its report, the board notes that “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 … 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.”
“A strong union requires strong members,” said SMART General President Joseph Nigro. “The courage and fortitude these members exhibited shows that there is nothing stronger than the solidarity that comes when working families are united. They are proof of that.
“SMART will provide all the resources needed to ensure an agreement worthy of ratification by these members is produced. They have fought for and deserve every advance they make and will make in the future.”
“Our members on LIRR, led by General Chairperson Anthony Simon, are to be commended for their resolve in seeking the fair and equitable agreement to which they are entitled,” said SMART Transportation Division President John Previsich. “From the very beginning, SMART advised all concerned that management’s offer of a substandard contract was unacceptable and that we would not hold back in our efforts to obtain a just agreement.
“Throughout negotiations and mediation, our position was firm and consistent and management refused to listen. Now that our position is validated by both Presidential Emergency Board 244 and again with PEB 245, it is time for this issue to be resolved. We will not rest until our members receive the agreement that they deserve.”
SMART, along with its coalition partners Transportation Communications Union, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, and the National Conference of Firemen & Oilers-Service Employees International Union, submitted the recommendations of the first board to PEB 245 as its final offer.
MTA, which conducted the bargaining for Long Island Rail Road, rejected PEB 244’s recommendations as a basis for settlement. Instead, MTA proposed as its final offer what it claimed was equivalent value to a deal it reached on April 17, 2014, four days before PEB 245 hearings began, with Transport Workers Union Local 100 representing 35,000 New York City Transit Authority workers. The offer was for 11 percent in wage increases over six years, with a 2 percent employee contribution to health insurance, major pension concessions, and a new, reduced-rate progression for new employees.
PEB 245 decisively ruled for the unions. The three-member panel, comprised of renowned arbitrators Joshua Javits, David Vaughn and Elizabeth Wesman, wrote, “The Unions’ final offer … represents a reasonable balance addressing the priorities of both parties.”
In rejecting MTA’s final offer, the board found that there were no consistencies with any comparisons made by the MTA, and the lack of detail to any comparables did not prove that their final offer was reasonable. As PEB 244 noted, state employee agreements have virtually never constituted valid comparators or patterns for commuter railroads. The labor markets, skills, history, and operations are completely different.
SMART Transportation Division Alternate Vice President and General Chairperson Anthony Simon, spokesman for the SMART, TCU, IAM and NCFO-SEIU coalition, called upon MTA “to accept reality and sign the PEB-recommended contract immediately.”
“Our members and all the hard working men and women on the Long Island Rail Road have waited long enough. We sincerely hope MTA will not stick to its twice-rejected position. We are fully prepared to strike on July 19 if MTA continues to stonewall the process,” Simon said.
To read the complete report of PEB 245, click here.