Thousands turn out for LIRR labor rally
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.”
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New York State residents can contact Gov. Andrew Cuomo here to ask him to do what’s right for Long Islanders.