June 17, 2014
By Beth Borzone
The Long Island Labor community is coming together on Saturday, June 21st to rally at the Massapequa Train Station in support of Long Island Railroad employees who have worked without a contract since June 15, 2010. The “LIRR Labor Rally” is being organized by the LIRR labor organizations. The rally will take place at 11:00am.
“We want to show that labor is united,” said Dean DeVita, Secretary-Treasurer, of the National Conference of Firemen & Oilers/Service Employees International Union (NCFO), in an interview on June 9th.
“Our message to the commuters” DeVita continued, “is that we do not want to disturb their service.”
While talks between the LIRR union and the MTA resumed on Friday, Newsday reported that they failed to reach a deal.
If no agreement is reached by July 20, 2014, the unions will be free to strike.
“We have our strike captains prepared,” DeVita said, “We have our signs. We haven’t yet told them what locations to picket, but they are ready.”
While the union members are prepared to strike, DeVita said on June 9th, that it is something they would prefer not to have to:
“We are ready to come in and do an agreement on the (PEB) recommendations.”
“We are not asking for a nickel more than the PEB (Presidential Emergency Board) recommendations…We just want a fair contract…We weren’t happy with the PEB recommendations, but when we went back to the table we didn’t ask for a penny more. We accepted those recommendations as they stood. It’s the other party that didn’t.”
“When that recommendation came out, our people got six months of no wage increases and they are going to have to contribute to health care percentage wise more than any other MTA employee and we agreed to this. We didn’t ask for one penny more than the first PEB board recommended. We are not being greedy here.”
President Obama appointed two Presidential Emergency Boards to investigate the negotiations. The findings of the first one (#244) recommended solid wage increases for LIRR employees retroactive to June 16, 2010 and no changes in work rules or retirement contributions. The second PEB was mandated to choose which proposal was more reasonable, that of the Carrier or the Union. After its investigation, the Board found that the Union proposal was the more reasonable proposal.
According to DeVita, Labor reached out to the MTA to delay the potential strike date until after Labor Day. “The communities out on Long Island have gotten beaten up enough between Sandy and other bad storms in the last few years,” DeVita explained, “The last thing they need now this year is a railroad strike. What would happen to all the people out in the Hamptons and all the shore areas? Any weekend is a huge hit on those economies. We agreed to move it to after Labor Day, but they (MTA) said no, they weren’t interested.”
“We don’t want a strike,” DeVita said, “We accepted the Board’s recommendations. Our hands are tied. We’ve been accommodating from day one. We’ve been trying to work with them on every issue. Every day our members are working to try to accommodate them and they haven’t had a contract.”