After over four years of battling with New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority during a difficult and highly publicized contract dispute, SMART Transportation Division members have prevailed on Long Island.
The MTA was seeking net zero wage increases, major pension reform, large health care contributions, work rule give-backs and excessive concessions for new hires, but SMART leaders on Long Island had a much different agenda. They were determined to fight for their membership to obtain well-deserved raises and provide modest compromises to help fund the MTA pension system and the New York State Health Insurance Plan.
Lead negotiator for the MTA unions, Transportation Division GO 505 General Chairperson Anthony Simon, was a man on a mission. Simon worked tirelessly in achieving the political support and history necessary to prepare for the battle of a lifetime for railroaders on Long Island through the use of two separate Presidential Emergency Boards. Achieving two labor-favorable boards was key in this long, down and dirty battle with the MTA. The unions on Long Island were days away from a strike that they were very prepared to implement if needed.
Simon and his committee stood toe to toe with the MTA in a fight that eventually required New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo to engage with Simon in unprecedented, overnight negotiations which, in turn, avoided a devastating strike on the busiest commuter railroad in the nation.
While things became heated and the MTA pulled out all the stops by utilizing the media against union workers, Simon continually pledged to the public through his own media outlets his loyalty and dedication to the riders of the system.
“From day one, we made it clear that labor did not want to inconvenience the public and did everything in its power to avoid a strike,” Simon said.
As frustrated as both union members and members in the community were becoming as the potential strike loomed, Simon and SMART leaders maintained the highest level of professionalism possible.
At the end of the day, a deal was settled that provided in excess of 18 percent of compounded wage increases over six-and-a-half years. Certification pay was achieved in the amount of $10 per day worked as a conductor and a modest two percent health and welfare contribution was accepted, based on a straight week’s pay. Minor adjustments were made for new hires that extended their requirement to pay four percent toward their pension for five additional years and their current wage progression was extended by just two years. Not a single work rule was compromised for anyone.
“I have been working under Anthony’s leadership since 2006 and have known him for over 20 years. He is an absolute tenacious leader who works harder than anyone I have ever met in my life,” GO 505 Vice General Chairperson Vinnie Tessitore said.
Simon and the entire SMART membership on Long Island Rail Road thank General President Joe Nigro and Transportation Division President John Previsich, along with their team, for their endless support through this process. The committee on Long Island Rail Road would also thank the entire SMART membership across the nation for their well wishes and support. The outcome of this labor dispute exemplifies what the labor movement is all about.
U.S. Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Dist. 1), right, on stage with General Chairperson Anthony Simon, holds up a copy of a letter signed by 10 U.S. representatives representing districts that would be unduly impacted by any disruption of Long Island Rail Road service. Bishop attended a rally for LIRR’s unionized employees June 21.