Babylon, New York-Long Island Railroad workers and their president took exception to yesterday's New York Post Op-Ed written by the Manhattan Institute's Nicole Gelinas who said that LIRR workers are millionaires because they get pension benefi ts for life. LIRR workers had a good laugh when they read Ms. Gelinas' piece.
We wanted to get LIRR union members' reaction to the Op-Ed, "Millionaires on strike? The unfair demands of LIRR unions," so we travelled to Babylon to interview their president, Anthony Simon. Mr. Simon is the chairperson of District 1 for the transportation division of the Sheet, Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Union. When asked for his reaction to Ms. Gelinas' editorial hit job, Mr. Simon said he was angry. "This woman lives in New York City, has no idea of what's going on Long Island. She's not paying the taxes our members our paying, the highest in the country. To say that we're millionaires is absurd," said Simon.
In an Op-Ed on June 11, the author listed four bullet points to make her case that LIRR union members are indeed millionaires such as Jordan Belfort, the infamous New York stockbroker who was recently depicted by Leonardo DiCaprio in Martin Scorsese's "The Wolf of Wall Street."
One of those bullet points' notes that 28 percent of LIRR workers made above $100,000 in 2013, and that salary doesn't include pension-benefi ts-for-life, which, according to Ms. Gelinas, makes the average LIRR retiree effectively a millionaire. In response, Mr. Simon said again that's absurd. "Half of LIRR employees after they retire can't stay in Nassau or Suffolk counties because they can't afford the taxes. The bottom line is we are not millionaires. We are working people. The millionaires are on Ms. Gelinas' end," Simon said.
While the NY Post Op-Ed bemoans the average LIRR worker's salary of $84,000, Mr. Simon agreed that without a decent salary who is going to be able to buy the necessities and some of the better things in life. "That is exactly what our thinking was when we asked to extend the cooling-off period [with the MTA to reach new labor contracts]. Who supports the Long Island economy more than labor? We buy in every one of these local businesses. So you don't want to pay us to put the money back into the economy?"
The almost 6,000 LIRR union members are planning to hold a major rally on Saturday, June 21 at the Massapequa train station to put a little pressure on the MTA to accept the union's offer of a 17 percent wage increase over six years, which a federal mediator recently ruled as reasonable.
Reprinted from Labor Press, June 12, 2014 by Marc Bussanich