Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA) Blue Ribbon Panel studying safety and maintenance practices at its three railroads yesterday announced 29 recommendations to improve operations and safety.
Created a year ago after a series of safety-related incidents at MTA Metro-North Railroad, Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) and New York City Transit (NYCT), the panel identified Metro-North’s safety culture as an area of particular concern, noting the railroad’s emphasis on on-time performance did not leave employees with enough time to perform necessary track inspections and maintenance work, MTA officials said in a press release.
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.
After over four years of battling with New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority during a difficult and highly publicized contract dispute, SMART Transportation Division members have prevailed on Long Island.
The MTA was seeking net zero wage increases, major pension reform, large health care contributions, work rule give-backs and excessive concessions for new hires, but SMART leaders on Long Island had a much different agenda. They were determined to fight for their membership to obtain well-deserved raises and provide modest compromises to help fund the MTA pension system and the New York State Health Insurance Plan.
Lead negotiator for the MTA unions, Transportation Division GO 505 General Chairperson Anthony Simon, was a man on a mission. Simon worked tirelessly in achieving the political support and history necessary to prepare for the battle of a lifetime for railroaders on Long Island through the use of two separate Presidential Emergency Boards. Achieving two labor-favorable boards was key in this long, down and dirty battle with the MTA. The unions on Long Island were days away from a strike that they were very prepared to implement if needed.
Simon and his committee stood toe to toe with the MTA in a fight that eventually required New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo to engage with Simon in unprecedented, overnight negotiations which, in turn, avoided a devastating strike on the busiest commuter railroad in the nation.
While things became heated and the MTA pulled out all the stops by utilizing the media against union workers, Simon continually pledged to the public through his own media outlets his loyalty and dedication to the riders of the system.
“From day one, we made it clear that labor did not want to inconvenience the public and did everything in its power to avoid a strike,” Simon said.
As frustrated as both union members and members in the community were becoming as the potential strike loomed, Simon and SMART leaders maintained the highest level of professionalism possible.
At the end of the day, a deal was settled that 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 for anyone.
“I have been working under Anthony’s leadership since 2006 and have known him for over 20 years. He is an absolute tenacious leader who works harder than anyone I have ever met in my life,” GO 505 Vice General Chairperson Vinnie Tessitore said.
Simon and the entire SMART membership on Long Island Rail Road thank General President Joe Nigro and Transportation Division President John Previsich, along with their team, for their endless support through this process. The committee on Long Island Rail Road would also thank the entire SMART membership across the nation for their well wishes and support. The outcome of this labor dispute exemplifies what the labor movement is all about.
A tentative deal has been reached to avoid a strike at the nation’s largest commuter railroad, sparing hundreds of thousands of commuters the headache of finding alternate routes to and from the city, Gov. Cuomo announced Thursday.
The agreement, which still must be ratified by union members, settles a four-year contract dispute between the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the eight unions that represent the Long Island Rail Road’s 5,400 workers.
NEW YORK – With a Long Island Rail Road strike potentially set to start Sunday, the unions and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority returned to the bargaining table Wednesday and talked for several hours without reaching a deal.
But both sides were set to work through the night remotely as they went off to hotels, and were set to return to the bargaining table at 9 a.m. Thursday (July 17).
A potential strike by the unions representing Long Island Rail Road workers would be a “terrible failure by both the unions and the MTA,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement Wednesday.
MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast was in Washington on Wednesday to meet with the state’s congressional delegation assessing the chances of Congress intervening and attempting to stop a potential strike. But when the meeting concluded, members of the delegation said congressional delegation was unlikely, according to multiple reports.
ALBANY, N.Y. – As the labor dispute at the Long Island Rail Road heads toward its final innings, some officials are beginning to look to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, whom they see as the Mariano Rivera of political closers.
“His track record on these matters is very good,” said Lee Miringoff, a political science professor and director of the Marist College poll. “He seems to know where his goals are and know where the votes are to get an agreement.”
At least one Long Island Rail Road employee has gotten a good deal from the MTA recently.
With unionized LIRR workers readying for a possible strike next month, the Daily News has learned that the railroad’s former president, Helena Williams, who was fired two months ago, remains on the payroll under an arrangement designed to enhance the value of her pension.
On Saturday June 21, more than 3,000 unionized Long Island Rail Road workers and their supporters rallied for a new contract Saturday, June 21, demonstrating their resolve in achieving the recommendations of Presidential Emergency Board 245.
Union officials from a variety of crafts, as well as local, state and national political figures joined them.
SMART’s coalition partners include the Transportation Communications Union, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, and the National Conference of Firemen & Oilers-Service Employees International Union. All organizations were well represented at the event.
Speakers called upon New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to intervene in the workers’ months-long dispute with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which oversees the LIRR. The SMART Transportation Division members and others unionized employees have been working under an contract since June 2010. SMART members and the other unions can strike on July 19 under provisions of the Railway Labor Act, but have asked MTA to extend a 60-day cooling off period into September.
“The governor needs to step up, tell the MTA to wake up and extend this cooling off period, so we don’t have a crushing blow to the economy of eastern Long Island,” said SMART Transportation Division GO 505 General Chairperson Anthony Simon.
Organizers were expecting about 2,000 people to attend the rally, but noted that they had exhausted their supply of rally T-shirts hours before the rally began.
“We had awesome turnout,” Simon said. “The sign-in sheet stopped at 2,300 and people just kept coming, more than 3,000.”
SMART Transportation Division President John Previsich said he was amazed by the turnout. “It was great to see so many union members and others supporting our membership on the LIRR. From the beginning of this long and arduous process, we have informed the MTA that we will not settle for anything less than the fair agreement that our members deserve.
“We have made our intentions very clear – we will not agree to the substandard contract that they are trying to force on us and the members of our coalition. This show of solidarity will send a message to MTA and the governor that our members and the union coalition are standing firm in our resolve to not settle for less than the fair and respectful contract to which our members are entitled.”
Besides SMART General President Joe Nigro and Secretary-Treasurer Joe Sellers, the rally was attended by Transportation Communications Union President Robert Scardelletti and Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen President Dan Pickett.
“If Gov. Cuomo doesn’t intervene, union members will be waiting for him in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada,” Nigro said. “We will only stand with politicians who stand with working families.”
Also attending and offering their support were U.S. Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Dist. 1), State Sens. John J. Flanagan (R-Dist. 2) and Carl L. Marcellino (R-Dist. 5), Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Town of Babylon Supervisor Richard Schaffer.
Addressing the rally attendees, Bishop said, “They’re not looking for a giveaway, they’re not looking for a handout, they just want to let the collective bargaining process work. The unions have made it very clear that they would accept the results of (PEB 245’s) rulings. The MTA refuses to accept those. We’ve got to move forward here.”
“Suffolk County is here to stand with you,” Bellone said.
Bishop also presented a letter to MTA Chairman Thomas F. Prendergast from a bipartisan group of congresspersons whose constituents would be affected by a work stoppage. It was signed U.S. Reps. Peter King (R-Dist. 2), Steve Israel (D-Dist. 3), Carolyn McCarthy (D-Dist. 4), Gregory W. Meeks (D-Dist. 5), Grace Meng (D-Dist. 6), Hakeem Jeffries (D-Dist. 8), Jerrold Nadler (D-Dist. 10), Carolyn Maloney (D-Dist. 12), Joseph Crowley (D-Dist. 14) and Bishop.
It read in part: “As members of Congress representing districts that would be unduly impacted by any disruption of Long Island Railroad (LIRR) service, we are writing to express our concern regarding the ongoing labor dispute between the MTA and LIRR employee labor unions. We encourage the MTA to accept a proposal from the involved employee labor unions to extend the current “cooling off” period for an additional 60 days.”
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 MTA’s decision to publicize its newest contract offer to LIRR workers — who are threatening a strike next month — has union leaders considering whether to ditch a new round of negotiations set for Friday.
Anthony Simon, a spokesman for a coalition of Long Island Rail Road unions, which can legally strike as early as July 20, faulted the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for releasing to the media details of its proposal before the planned talks.
The International Association of Sheet, Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers and its allied unions on the Long Island Rail Road invite members of organized labor and their family, friends and supporters to a “LIRR Labor Rally” on Saturday, June 21, at 11 a.m. at the Massapequa Train Station.
SMART Transportation Division GO 505 General Chairperson Anthony Simon said the purpose of the rally is to demonstrate the resolve of affected LIRR employees in achieving the recommendations of Presidential Emergency Board 245.
In a ruling delivered May 20, PEB 245 found decisively in favor of the unions in their ongoing dispute with New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority over wages, work rules and pension reforms.
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.”
The PEB report set in motion a final 60-day cooling off period. If no agreement is reached during that time, SMART and the other unions are legally allowed to strike July 19 under provisions of the Railway Labor Act.
However, Simon told New York’s Newsday May 27 that SMART would be willing to extend by 60 days, or until mid-September, any strike on the railroad.
“Our members care about Long Island and its economy,” said Simon, adding that a strike could harm summer tourism-based businesses. “All we would need is the MTA to mutually agree on the extension.”
SMART’s coalition partners include the Transportation Communications Union, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, and the National Conference of Firemen & Oilers-Service Employees International Union.