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Monday, December 22, 2014

Commuters, let's not let unions bring us to our knees!
(Page 2 of 2)
The average Long Island Rail Road employee makes $84,000, making them the highest-paid commuter railroad workers in the country. This salary doesn’t include pension and benefit packages. That’s not to say they don’t work hard, but something’s got to give.

If the MTA gives in to the exorbitant salary and benefit increases the workers are asking for, riders can expect the cost of their tickets to increase. How else would the cash-strapped agency cover these additional expenses?

This is just another tax on the hard-pressed middle-class Long Islander! More people are going to become so frustrated that they’re going to leave the Island. Someone needs to protect the middle class.

The last time LIRR workers went on strike was 1994. That work action focused on two main issues: higher pay and work rules. The MTA offered a pay increase of about 12.5 percent over four years, but the union wanted 17 percent over 52 months. It took intervention from the White House to end that strike.

As the Post pointed out, the subway strike of 1980 violated the Taylor Law, which forbids strikes by public workers. Under federal railroad laws, however, a strike by LIRR workers would technically be legal.

Those laws need to be updated. The unions are playing chicken in their negotiations with the MTA. They know that a strike would cause chaos on Long Island, and this gives them the upper hand.

With a work stoppage looming, MTA officials have devised a contingency plan, which includes carpool lots, shuttle buses to select subway stations and extra HOV lanes on the Long Island Expressway. But Long Islanders deserve better. Part of me wants to say, enough is enough. Let them strike and see how far they get, but I hope it doesn’t go that far.

Al D’Amato, a former U.S. senator from New York, is the founder of Park Strategies LLC, a public policy and business development firm. Comments about this column? ADAmato@liherald.com.

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