July 25, 2015
by Steve Levy
Published in Long Island Business News
Hearing that Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) workers saw a whopping 27% increase in their salaries (including back pay) was no surprise. It was laid out quite clearly by numerous commentators, including yours truly in a March 2014 LIBN article entitled: “Now is the time to get LIRR concessions.” The problem was that no one in power seemed to care.
The fault lies not with the workers, but with the politicians who tripped over themselves to show how supportive they were of the unions who contributed so generously to their campaign coffers.
What was amazing about the union victory was that it came after investigators uncovered that there was a cottage industry providing disability pensions to 97% of all retired Long Island Rail Road employees. You would think that elected officials would have been itching to tightened the MTA’s archaic work rules and practices.
This is the same MTA where:
* $20 million was spent for the construction of a lounge and $7 million for a doghouse.
*Rail Road employees receive double pay if they simply work on both a diesel and electric train that shift.
*Overtime is obtained for changing your clothes or washing your hands,.
*Employee costs at the MTA was 58% of its budget compared to 35% for a typical private transportation company.
*Over 7,500 MTA employees made over $100,000 in 2010. Last year 131 made over $200,000.
It was well known that this new contract would result in one of four workers earning six figures.
After all this, wouldn’t you think that our elected leaders would be fighting for the taxpayers in this particular round of negotiations. The silence was deafening. Oh they commented alright, but it was almost always a demand that both sides get together and work out a deal to avoid a strike.
So fearful was the governor of having a strike on the eve of his election, that he actually pressured MTA management to cave. That they did.
The union sought a six year 17% increase and wound up getting a 17% (actually 18.4% due to compounding) increase over six and a half years, with NO WORK RULE REFORMS!
Where were the elected officials, the so called protectors of the taxpayers and the consumers, to expose the fact that this deal was going to blow a huge hole in the MTA budget that eventually will be made up by yet another sizable fare increase.
The union got what it wanted, Cuomo avoided the strike and got re-elected, and MTA management, which to it’s credit fought the good fight (albeit alone), is still there collecting their salaries. The only losers are the thousands of commuters who have to be wondering why they continue to stick around this cost prohibitive state led by pandering politicians.