Home Transit LaborUTU July strike looms as PEB again sides with LIRR union

July strike looms as PEB again sides with LIRR union

by Benjamin Kabak

For the second time since last 2013, a Presidential Emergency Board convened to help mediate the long-simmering labor dispute between the LIRR and UTU Local 645 has sided with the union. In a non-binding decision, the PEB urged the MTA to adopt the UTU call for wage increases of 17 percent over five years, no change in pension obligations and only the promise to negotiate over work rules with no real reforms in sight. As the MTA is unlikely to accept this decision, such a ruling paves the way for the UTU to strike in 60 days.

During the recent negotiations, the MTA had proposed a deal similar in form to that accepted this week by the Transport Workers Union Local 100. The offer included modest increases, both retroactive and in the future, as well as substantial pension reform and wage structures. The PEB did not view this as a comparable or fair offer and has rejected it. Unlike last time, though, when the first PEB stated that “It simply cannot be concluded that the MTA’s current financial position is one in which it is unable to pay for wage adjustments that are otherwise warranted,” the new decision (available here and below) stays away from a discussion of the MTA’s finances.

Still, it is highly unlikely that the MTA will accept the PEB-backed proposal, and the agency said as much tonight while hoping to stop a strike before it begins:

The MTA is disappointed that the Presidential Emergency Board did not accept as the most reasonable offer our proposal for 11 percent raises over six years for the Long Island Rail Road unions, consistent with the agreement overwhelmingly ratified by the Transport Workers Union. Our proposal is a fair and reasonable way to recognize our employees’ hard work and provide them with competitive wages, retroactive pay, quality healthcare and secure pensions. If adopted, the Board recommendation would significantly reduce funds available for the MTA Capital Plan. We still believe a fair, reasonable and affordable agreement can be negotiated at the bargaining table, as it was with the TWU.

In all likelihood, though, the UTU will strike, and the MTA is probably OK with that. Had the PEB sided with the LIRR, the optics of a strike would have been more favorable to the agency. The UTU would have been the side to reject the contract offer, but instead, the MTA will appear as though it is goading on a strike when it eventually rejects this deal. But it’s hard to say that a strike shouldn’t happen; as I discussed last night, a strike could be beneficial in the long run even as it exacts short-term pain.

So now we wait. The UTU and MTA have 60 days to attempt to negotiate something palatable to either side, and the PEB decision is nothing more than advisory. If I were a betting man, though, I’d put money a strike, and that may not be the worst outcome around.

After the jump, read the PEB decision.

PEB 245 Report

You may also like


Brandon May 21, 2014 - 12:41 am

Whatever raises they want, but OPTO and POP need to be on the horizon if not the table.

Eric F May 21, 2014 - 10:55 am

How about they get big raises, which raises then cascade into even bigger pension payouts and absolutely nothing else changes. Because that’s pretty obviously how this ends.

Nathanael May 21, 2014 - 3:50 pm

Just sack them all and hire scabs.

The PEB is pretty clearly corrupt and in the pocket of the LIRR unions, because its decision is completely indefensible garbage.

Nathanael May 21, 2014 - 3:51 pm

The previous PEB claimed that the MTA could just borrow money to make payroll, which shows how indefensible they are.

This one… simply avoids talking about that, or about the indefensible work rules at the LIRR.

Epson45 May 22, 2014 - 1:11 pm

You can’t run OPTO on the commuter railroad under FRA laws.

Eric May 21, 2014 - 3:23 am

It’s ridiculous that unions have a voice in work rules (beyond issues like worker safety). If workers can decide how many workers are employed, then you end up with large numbers of parasites being paid from our tax dollars to do nothing useful. Management should decide how many workers are employed, and unions should exist to make sure those workers are paid a livable salary.

Stephen Smith May 21, 2014 - 4:07 am

Has a PEB ever decided in favor of management?

Nathanael May 21, 2014 - 4:08 pm

I’m not sure; I haven’t looked up records prior to 1990. I think there may have been some in the 1980s or earlier.

JebO May 22, 2014 - 1:13 pm

They need to start hiring transportation economists to sit on these PEB’s instead of “labor experts.” Professional labor mediators, lawyers, etc., seem to be predisposed to siding with labor.

Larry Littlefield May 21, 2014 - 7:07 am

Union leaders typically say strikes are about respect. Well, what does that 90 percent disability fraud culture say about the respect those working for the LIRR have for the suckers and serfs in the rest of the state? Sounds pretty Wall Street like to me.

By the way, management was in on that too.

I hope a strike lasts until East Side Access opens. And no particular promises are made at the end of it. Not until we see how much in ridership and revenues remains.

rdl1972 May 21, 2014 - 7:37 am

The Unions’ final offer, on the other hand, represents a reasonable balance addressing the priorities of both parties. The wage recommendations are a compromise between the wage increases at the MTA (2010-11) and the commuter railroad averages (2012-16). It is noteworthy that the Unions’ assertion that real wage increases for LIRR employees, absent inflation, have not increased at all since 1991, was not challenged by the Carrier.

Wages have been flat since 1991 , MTA did not even contest this point. Sorry my friends the Unions are not the Enemy. Corporate greed is the enemy , the executives eat steak and everyone else is asked to turn Chicken S— into Chicken Salad. Go ahead and call me a Commie , but folks you need to wake and stop Drinking the Koch Coolaid. The oligarchy is here and the middle class should wake up and demand live able wages from the private sector overlords.

Eric F May 21, 2014 - 8:20 am

I think raises should be limited to the wage growth experienced by the people the trains are carrying. I.e., none. No one in the private sector is getting raises, and no one is being blessed with 7 figure level pension kitties just for showing up to work. This is utter madness.

rdl1972 May 21, 2014 - 8:52 am

Eric ,
What you are saying is truly sad. If you’re a worker I feel for you , you are getting screwed . If you are a boss , my guess is you are doing ok. Workers globally are taking it on the chin, while the execs are killing it. Tim Cook got $500 million in stock options when he got promoted to CEO of Apple , really $500 million, does one person really need so much? Union membership was at its highest in the 1950s , coincidentally this was the USA’s time of greatest shared prosperity. Workers in the private sector should unionize and demand their fair share. Executive compensation has run totally amok and there are nothing but crumbs for the middle class. Question the system and you are branded a commie or socialist.

Eric F May 21, 2014 - 9:26 am

The “workers” are the ones the trains are ferrying. They are the ones who pay the salaries and retirement benefits of the government agents running the trains. Your affinity for the “workers” is misdirected away from the actual workers. It’s the workers toiling to age 60 and 70, traveling to work before dawn and returning home after dark, to pay the “retirement” benefits of the 50 year old LIRR retirees playing golf.

What do I care what CEOs make? I don’t pay CEOs. I DO pay the guys who work on LIRR, which now charges near $20 for a round trip ticket from Queens to Manhattan. What do I care what Tim Cook makes? And if you are saying that every LIRR employee should be paid based on what Tim Cook makes…good luck with that.

If your point is that the lever with which to improve wages across the economy is to really bump up the pay of unionized government workers, absolutely nothing in the historical record of the last 20 years supports that as a strategy that works for anyone other than the government workers. Instead, the private sector is beat on, and you guys roll in clover.

Steve May 21, 2014 - 10:05 am

You do pay Tom cook when u by I phones iPads Apple TV Mac books. But nobody seems to complain when they pay 600$ for an iPhone. Realize this you are always paying someone’s salary. If you think the Lirr is to much drive in and see what that cost. I don’t care if your car gets 40mpg tolls parking and the cost to repair all the wear and tear on your car 300k people a day take the train for a reason

Eric F May 21, 2014 - 10:52 am

“You do pay Tom cook when u by I phones iPads Apple TV Mac books.”

I don’t have any of those things, and if I did they would be purchased in a voluntary transaction. I think it’s pretty awful what mediocre left hand pitchers make, but I don’t lie in bed at night, staring at the ceiling, demanding that their salaries be taken from them so that I can feel better about myself. Their pay has nothing to do with mine.

Billy G May 21, 2014 - 4:59 pm

But your purchases to pay LIRR employees ARE voluntary! Every purchase, from your fast food dinner to your mortgage to renewing your car’s registration pays MTA, and by extension, LIRR. So, it’s totally voluntary! Be sure to stop eating, sleeping, and driving within NY Metro if you don’t want to pay the LIRR.

Spendmor Wastemor May 21, 2014 - 11:07 am

Jealousy, cluelessness and whine whine whine.

What Tim Cook did or didn’t get has zero to do with this.
Cook will take that X Bazillion dollars and invest it right back into the economy, where it may create more jobs. He is not a rap star or televangelist and is not going to blow it on 72 houses, a harem, 143 vehicles and their associated overhead.

Now if Cook’s income were salary and a noticable slice of Apple’s income, it would matter. But it’s based only on the increase in value of Apple’s stock, he does not get a check drawn from Apple’s income. Personally I’d say Cook, a manager, happened into a windfall while Jobs, a company founder, was underpaid as you can’t hire anyone to create another Apple. Jobs built, Cook maintains.

Incomes today are far higher than the ’50s. The population is also far higher, but there is no more land. Result: a house that cost $5000 (!) in 1964 in a healthy metro area with limited land (say, Boston) is over a million $. Neither income nor inflation from ’64 is close to 20x. Purchasing power outside real estate and education is far higher now, but rising expectations exceed that.

Many C executives are overpaid, especially the low performers, but their pay is in most cases a small fraction of company payroll. Sports and entertainment figures manage nearly zero jobs other than their own yet make more than 95% of CEOs. Non-profits, where performance is rated by pleasing the sponsor not the customer can have the most disproportionate pay/performance ratio.

Average people have in many ways been left behind, but it is not due to Steve Jobs, Warren Buffet or even an average CEO being overpaid. There are much larger issues at the root here, you are looking at the sparkly bits.

Your narrative is naive, misleading and simplistic.

Bolwerk May 21, 2014 - 12:49 pm

Apple’s excesses actually are quite analogous to the LIRR union’s excesses in some ways: Apple is a patent troll par excellence, using police power to stifle innovation and get its way. It also survives by charging rent above and beyond the value of its shitty products. (Granted, Apple can charge the prices it does because people are foolish enough to accept a shiny inferior product at a higher price.)

Corporations do the opposite of what the LIRR does in another way though. As worker productivity has risen, it generally hasn’t been shared with workers, whose wages have been rather stagnant since the 1980s. Apple, for instance, can use near-slave labor to produce its products at low cost and then sell high, without sharing the proceeds with the people who made the work. Of course, those people are in China, beyond the reach or care of the DOL. Public sector unions, on the other hand, are generally hostile to improving productivity because they see it as a threat to jobs – which, to a small extent, it is.

Eric F May 21, 2014 - 1:29 pm

Tim Cook is a bad example, because his company actually mints money. But there are many example of CEOs of companies that perform in a middling manner who take home boatloads of money. I will probably never understand that. What is has to do with what I make or what an LIRR employee should make is exactly zero. Why would I fool myself into thinking I’m getting back at Warren Buffett by bumping up LIRR pay by another 17%?

nbluth May 21, 2014 - 3:36 pm

Is this 1999? I haven’t heard anyone seriously making the ‘Apple tax’ argument in more than a decade. My $999 Macbook is still chugging along without issue (and with the most problem-free Windows install I’ve ever had) 5 years later, whereas the $2000 Sony Vaio I had prior had overheating issues after one year and died a year after that, with zero acknowledgment of the widespread issue from Sony. Whatever small premium Apple products have over their counterparts anymore is more than worth the added reliability, build-quality, and overall polish (and ease of use) OSX has over Windows. Even as someone who will never, ever own an iPad or iPhone due to my dislike of iOS, to call them ‘shitty’ just shows that you either haven’t used an Apple product in a decade or have some deep-seated dislike of a corporation (or both). Irrational hatred of a company is just as embarrassing as irrational love for a company, as is expecting a company to voluntarily forego defense of their intellectual property. If you have a problem with intellectual property laws, take it up with the government, not Apple (or Google or Samsung or even patent trolls).

Nathanael May 21, 2014 - 4:07 pm

Most of the problems with our patent laws — the patent garbage — was created by the Federal Circuit, under the influence of patent lawyers who wanted more work for themselves. It violates Supreme Court precedent to patent software, but the Federal Circuit kept forcing the Patent Office to issue illegal software patents.

So what do you mean, “take it up with the government”? The problem is corrupt judges who are controlled by the patent-lawyer lobby. How do you suggest we fix this?

Bolwerk May 21, 2014 - 4:32 pm

Irrational is having to diarrhea a poorly formed opinion in response to a strawman. I don’t care enough about Mac OS or Windows to use either unless I have to, which is sadly not rare in either case, but debating which is better is a little like arguing over whose anal expulsions smell better (hint: it’s always yours).

I was talking about corporate behavior, not subjective stuff like user experience. But, since you mentioned it, Apple does make its products hard to fix without paying for a “Genius” Bar neckbeard when they break. Many an innocent end user is suckered by the myths about superior quality that you are spreading, and then falls into that trap. Granted, I don’t know if Macs break more, but I wouldn’t place money on them breaking less.

And, yes, let’s take it all up with the government. Let’s have a more rational patent/copyright regimes, and a saner labor regime. Oh, the government doesn’t care.

Nyland8 May 24, 2014 - 9:33 am

I’d place money on them braking less. I gave up on my G4 Powerbook after 7 years, and my MacBook Pro is going on five, both without so much as a burp. I contrast that with a friends IBM – now Lanovo? – which was deluxe, specified to the 9’s, custom ordered and made … and was toast after just over 18 months. The iMac on my desk is almost 6 with no sign of trouble – mechanical or otherwise.

As far as computers go, I think Apple has earned their reputation. Yes, they were expensive – but they pulled yeoman duty and I got what I paid for.

I got my first “smart” phone – an iPhone – because the company pays for it. I’d have stayed with my old indestructible, waterproof, shockproof flip-phone (it is still my alarm clock) but they insisted on badgering me with e-mail while on the road. I don’t think the phone will be as reliable or robust as my computers, but time will tell.

However, this is not a comment on anti-trust violations, off-shoring, asian slave labor or, heaven help us, executive compensation. Many people make hundreds-of-millions of dollar$, but nobody “earns” it. Obscene wealth is a by-product of a system that doesn’t have a level playing field, and very few things can level a playing field as much as organized labor.

Bolwerk May 24, 2014 - 10:37 am

Eh, failure is always a variant thing; a certain percentage of units will die off in a certain amount of time, even discounting spills and user stupidity. Apple’s warranty policies certainly suggest they don’t have particularly high expectations either. I can share plenty of personal anecdotes about Apple hardware not lasting particularly long, and other manufacturers lasting years (my Toshiba Satellite from 2001 booted last year, albeit with a battery that basically doesn’t charge). What bothers me is they seem to actually be profiteering off failure, after charging more for a supposedly better product, not that they have failures. Apple is a racket.

The consumer device stuff unsurprisingly just isn’t designed to last that long. iPhones may be frivolously expensive, but at least they seem to cop to the short lifespans in that case. But hell, that market is changing so fast, an older smart phone isn’t even particularly useful after its lifespan is over.

Alon Levy May 24, 2014 - 8:54 pm

A year ago, my Lenovo Thinkpad’s motherboard fried. It was 4.

Give me that over vendor-locked compatible-with-nothing iCrap any day.

rdl1972 May 21, 2014 - 1:24 pm

You can disagree with me all you want . I know you hate all us Union Employees and view as vicious bloodsucking vampires . My main point is the little guy is getting screwed by both parties and respectfully I don’t feel it’s the unions that are so responsible for all of societies ills. Union membership is about as low as can be and still the middle class is taking the hit . In the 60’s and 70’s private sector companies took better care of average clock puncher. Why is excutive pay some sacred cow ? I make this point because the ridership wouldn’t care a hill of beans about civil service workers if they were doing well too. We’re a target because the US economy stinks and now we’re on everyone’s radar.

Larry Littlefield May 21, 2014 - 1:58 pm

“I know you hate all us Union Employees and view as vicious bloodsucking vampires.”

You know nothing. The issue isn’t unions. It is monopoly and coercion. Private sector unions cannot coerce other workers to pay more for less, unless they have monopoly power.

“Why is excutive pay some sacred cow?”

Because top executives control the corporate boards and the federal government the way the public employee unions control state and local government. At least in the U.S. You want to know what I really think, read this.


Bolwerk May 21, 2014 - 1:58 pm

Unions cheerfully allied with Reagan and other authoritarians, often throwing other unions under the bus, even as neoliberals were shipping labor offshore. Most of the actual working class is now functionally excluded from unions, either because they live in anti-union states or because they are excluded from work entirely.

Now the lack of empathy they showed for the rest of the working class is coming back to bite them. There isn’t a stable working class to defend you.

mcraven2020 May 21, 2014 - 3:24 pm

Nobody hates you, so stop your whining. What so many people resent is that we in the private sector have to make our own way, based on our own abilities, while railroad employees just expect more money without changing any of the featherbedding work rules. An engineer should get a second day’s pay for driving both an electric and a diesel train on the same day? Really!!!??? And what about the disability scam, which a large majority of recently-retired LIRR employees participated in? No union leader (nor any politicians either, for that matter) have condemned this. Not all union employees are bad, by any means. But the LIRR unions have a great pay/benefits package already, and except for perhaps in a snowstorm, none of them have to work all that hard. And that’s the fact, Jack!

Nathanael May 21, 2014 - 4:05 pm

And in a snowstorm, they get extra pay for the weather, last I checked. Oy.

Nathanael May 21, 2014 - 3:53 pm

I’m a big supporter of unions in general.

Not, however, the corrupt LIRR unions. They’re *awful*. They’ve been preventing the railroad from operating properly. (And yes, management has been colluding with them. Just as well Helena Williams was shown the door.)

Billy G May 21, 2014 - 5:01 pm

Government employees in general should not expect to have “protection” from a union. It’s a huge money machine. Any entity that claims a monopoly of force should not be connected to a money machine.

Alon Levy May 21, 2014 - 8:37 pm

The people riding the LIRR have seen real wage growth.

Larry Littlefield May 22, 2014 - 8:09 am

Don’t be so sure. That certainly isn’t true of the median, and post-2008 I doubt it’s true of the mean.

Bolwerk May 22, 2014 - 10:48 am

Well, one way for that to happen is to have poorer riders be driven away. I don’t know one way or another, but it doesn’t seem implausible.

Patrick O'Hara May 22, 2014 - 2:23 pm

The LIRR very much caters to Manhattan commuters, and they tend to stifle non-Manhattan commuters (i.e. intra-island, intra-city) by providing awful service to those markets, so while the job climate in the entire area has changed one way, it’s possible that the people who work in Manhattan office towers might be seeing that change differently.

Alon Levy May 24, 2014 - 8:55 pm

The median LIRR rider is not the median American. If I remember correctly, the median LIRR rider has low six-figure income, which for households is 80th percentile and for individuals is higher than that.

Bolwerk May 21, 2014 - 9:56 am

Wages are a sideshow. The problems with the LIRR are overstaffing and retarded work rules.

rdl1972 May 21, 2014 - 10:27 am

Bolwerk ,
One important thing to remember the BLE and their co-mingle rule are not part of this negotiation . They technically are not going on strike as they are not part of the coalition. The coalition cannot sign off on rule changes for a union that is not even at the bargaining table.

Eric F May 21, 2014 - 10:53 am

I know that the concept of a wealth tax is becoming very popular on the left. I sure hope any such tax applies to the value of LIRR pension benefits. You guys have more wealth embedded in pensions guaranteed by the taxpayer than quite literally 99% of the country. I’d love to see you guys pay your fair share.

Larry Littlefield May 21, 2014 - 12:40 pm

“I sure hope any such tax applies to the value of LIRR pension benefits.”

Hah! Those pension benefits are exempt from state and local income taxes in New York. A working couple with $50,000 in work income pays far more in state and local income taxes than a retired public employee couple with $100,000 in pension income.

I stopped doing these comparisons each year because I figured anyone who would listen to me already knew this.


Moreover, every year a bill is introduced in Albany to exclude public employee pension income from consideration in determining if a senior is eligible for enhanced STAR property tax breaks. It will eventually pass at 3 am. At that point, that retired couple with $100,000 in pension income would pay far less in property taxes too, because (excluding that income) they are “poor.”

When I point this out, public employee union types get indignant. “What’s the difference between that and Wall Street lobbying for its tax breaks and deals?” No difference at all.

Nathanael May 21, 2014 - 4:30 pm

“One important thing to remember the BLE and their co-mingle rule are not part of this negotiation . They technically are not going on strike as they are not part of the coalition.”

Have I mentioned that the fragmentation of railroad unions into separate crafts has been one of the biggest problems for railroad management for a very, very long time? It makes it impossible to make reasonable work allocations when the workers are carved up along 150-year-old craft lines which don’t reflect modern practices.

The railroad unions are *genuinely* obsolete, hewing to pre-CIO “craft union” rules rather than CIO-and-beyond “industrial union” rules.

Spendmor Wastemor May 21, 2014 - 11:20 am

Yes, you point out greater part of the iceberg below the water.

Yet wages determine how large the iceberg can grow. $150K for driving a train provides the base to inflate other costs. That level of pay leads to a juicy pension, which makes the temptation to game the disability/retirement system even greater, and gives them $$$ for lawyers/bribes to hold onto it. Go get an MD in family practice (takes ~10 years), spend $300K to get a $150K job and try to find your 23 and out retirement plan.

I’m happy to see operating staff being paid well enough to live a stable life, own a home and so on. Railroads work on dependability and that’s worth paying for. Up to a point.

Spending far more to fill a mid-skilled job than the customers who pay for the whole circus can hope to earn is not fairness, it’s theft.

Bolwerk May 21, 2014 - 1:12 pm

The theft part is the rent seeking. I don’t really see a big deal with the excessively high wages. I may not agree with them, but we already have the power to tell them to fuck off about all that stuff. The fact is, our political class won’t do it.

Blaming the workers is just barking up the wrong tree.

Alon Levy May 21, 2014 - 8:49 pm

The average LIRR/Metro-North driver salary is $100-110k, not $150k.

Eric May 22, 2014 - 5:55 am

That’s a hell of a lot of money. It puts them in the top 10-15% of US taxpayers. It’s several times what you make as a talented mathematician with a doctorate. How much does the average US bus driver make per year? $30k? Why the hell should a train driver be paid so much more?

Epson45 May 22, 2014 - 1:21 pm

Wrong, its ENGINEERS not train driver. LIRR engineers salary is not $100K plus. More like $75,000+. Its the overtime that they make a lot of money.

They have to go through a lot of training in order to operate the railroad and it is not easy.

Really, the comments here are freaken joke.

Nathanael May 22, 2014 - 7:30 pm

They get the training for free. Actually, they get PAID to get trained.

What other industry do you get that deal in? None, these days.

Now, I think free training should be included in all industries, but think about it. Logically, the starting salaries at railroads should be any lower than at other jobs, because at other jobs employees have to PAY OUT OF THEIR OWN POCKET to train for the job.

SteveM May 23, 2014 - 11:30 am

I bet you flank out of engineer training. You think it is a easy job? Good luck applied to Train Operator, Bus Driver, Engineer, Pilot, etc.

Alon Levy May 24, 2014 - 9:11 pm

The base pay is $36 an hour, but the average actual compensation is $103,000 a year.

Alon Levy May 24, 2014 - 9:09 pm

Not sure about private-sector bus drivers, but NYCT bus drivers averaged $66,500 a year in 2010. LIRR train drivers (“engineers” in American Railroader) average a lot more, but that work is presumably more skilled – trains need to run on a precise schedule, there are many signals to keep track of, etc.

(For the record, the rate of pay for people with a doctorate who manage to stay in academia, at least in the CUNY system, is about $66,000 for assistant professors, $86,000 for associate professors, and $108,000 for full professors, as of 2013.)

Larry Littlefield May 21, 2014 - 12:33 pm

“Wages have been flat since 1991.”

You mean inflation-adjusted wages, of course.

How have the wages of the average serf taxpayer paying the bills fared in that time?

And how have pension costs changed in that time.

“Go ahead and call me a Commie.”

I wouldn’t give you that much credit. A Commie would look at those pension costs and that disability scandal and say it’s time to give the less well off a break.

“The oligarchy is here and the middle class should wake up and demand live able wages from the private sector overlords.”

And decent services at the highest state and local tax burden in the U.S. from the public sector overlords.

Bolwerk May 21, 2014 - 12:58 pm

The less well off are probably basically excluded from using LIRR at this point.

Larry Littlefield May 21, 2014 - 2:41 pm

Therein lies an issue.

We are used to a post-WWII world where the better off lived further away and the less well off lived closer-in, but will that still be the case in another 50 years given recent trends?

Today the LIRR capos may find themselves ferrying Wall Street jerks while the TWU moves around the serfs, and this may condition their attitudes toward their customers. But I wouldn’t count on the former being true in the future.

Nathanael May 21, 2014 - 3:59 pm

This is already changing. The Wall Street jerks are moving to penthouses in Manhattan (to be closer to the good restaurants and clubs, natch — oh, and probably also to get better access to whores, if I’m gonna be cynical). Long Island’s north shore is still attractive for “second country house”, but it competes with Connecticut for that.

At the moment, the 99% can often still afford Harlem or the outer boroughs, or New Jersey, but they’re slowly being pushed into Nassau. Nassau now has a higher poverty rate than NYC.

Larry Littlefield May 21, 2014 - 6:06 pm

“Nassau now has a higher poverty rate than NYC.”

Um, that isn’t true yet.

What is true is that Long Island is losing out to New Jersey, Connecticut, and the lower Hudson Valley (not to mention Manhattan and Brooklyn) as the preferred place of residents for those with higher wage jobs (or at least higher skill jobs) in Manhattan.

And the Long Island Railroad is a reason why.

Nathanael May 22, 2014 - 6:56 pm

I was looking at a dataset with off-by-one columns, sorry. 🙁

John-2 May 21, 2014 - 11:17 am

This does present the interesting potential situation of Andrew Cuomo vs. the UTU and the PEB going into the 2014 gubernatorial election season. Odds are he’s not going to have a strong Republican opponent, but Cuomo’s still trying to position himself as a ‘second choice’ candidate in 2016, if Hillary opts against running for president. So it will be interesting to see how the governor sees his own personal long-term interests being best served — going through a possible LIRR strike by opposing the PEB’s decision, or agreeing to the five-year, 17 percent hike, knowing even if LIRR riders get mad at the fare increases that will require the MTA board to approve, it’s not going to keep him from winning another four-year term in Albany.

Larry Littlefield May 21, 2014 - 12:48 pm

Once they get past a primary, the objection that Democrats have to get past is that they are beholden to special interests in the Political/Union class. The way Republicans (and many Democrats) are beholden to special interests in the Executive/Financial class.

The serfs have been so abused by both in recent years that conflict with either or both is a political winner in any election in which the serfs pay attention and show up.

Nathanael May 21, 2014 - 4:02 pm

LIRR riders are inevitably upper-middle-class at least (the poor can’t afford to ride LIRR any more), and the upper-middle-class and rich in Long Island vote overwhelmingly Republican (annoyingly). They don’t matter to Andrew Cuomo’s election calculations at all.

Eric F May 21, 2014 - 4:32 pm

Does Long Island even have a single Republican in the House of Representatives? The place is mixed, at most. Most Long Islanders I know pull the lever for the Ds quite regularly.

Bolwerk May 21, 2014 - 4:40 pm

Peter King.

He’s one of the most ironic members of the Republikan caucus, in fact. He heads (or at least used to) the the anti-terrorism committee. Further back in his career, he actually was literally supporting terrorists (the IRA).

Perhaps LI has more historical than ideological ties to the GOP. I guess waves of LI settlers over the decades tended to vote GOP because they hated the corrupt NYC Dems. Regardless, even today, LI is probably where the party is strongest in this state.

Billy G May 21, 2014 - 5:02 pm

Peter King hates Freedom. He proves it by every word that leaves his disgusting mouth.

Nathanael May 22, 2014 - 7:05 pm

Look at the NY State Senate. 🙁

Now, the NY State Senate is gerrymandered for the benefit of Republicans. But without too much effort, they managed to make every single Nassau and Suffolk seat Republican. Districts #1-9 all Republican, all Long Island.

In the rest of the state the gerrymandering isn’t able to do that; Democrats are still winning despite extreme gerrymandering efforts.

In the Assembly, gerrymandered for the Democrats, the Republicans still do pretty damn well in Long Island. There’s clearly a small number Democratic-voting cities tucked in there.

Patrick O'Hara May 22, 2014 - 2:26 pm

It’s not that the poor can’t afford to ride the LIRR anymore, the LIRR doesn’t really make much of an effort to bring the poor where they want to go (i.e. lack of intra-island/intra-city options).

Rob May 21, 2014 - 2:30 pm

Hey, whaddya expect? The peb is government, and the lirr is government, so how could you ask/expect them to be efficient [re work rules]? One hand washes the other…

Informal May 21, 2014 - 3:05 pm

>>If I were a betting man, though, I’d put money a strike, and that may not be the worst outcome around.

I’m trying to think of what might be worse than a strike…

-self immolating engineers on the platform for track 17?
-MTA offering a 100% annual raise per year for the next 5 years?
-intentional accidents?
-turning off the AC in july, and cranking up the heat?

Nathanael May 21, 2014 - 4:03 pm

MTA suspending NYC Subway operations / maintenance because all the money went to pay for featherbedded LIRR operations?

Don’t laugh. That’s the sort of ludicrous thing which could actually happen given current politics.

JMB May 21, 2014 - 7:56 pm

This comment thread….holy shit. Aside from a couple regulars who I agree with on most every other topic, the rest sound like vicious dogs. I’m a (albeit youngish) public sector employee who (by no choice mind you) is part of some union. We haven’t had any contract for a few years now and management loves to rape us without so much as a reach-around.

We newbs (and I’ve been part of the system for almost a decade) do NOT reap the outlandish salaries/bennies that is being pushed here. In fact, we cover not 1, but 2 jobs daily due to attrition and work out of title. Bring it up to HR? Management? Union? Pfft. Wtf is the point. There is a thing called blacklisting. In fact, in my younger days(I used to sport a rag….not really) I went to battle about this. I was told by an old-timer prick that I would “win this battle, but lose the war”. This shitbag was the epitome of the problems with the system…and it all resides in the old system.

We plod on, at a lower salary than our private counterparts while supporting the lazy fucking boomers who are yes, reaping the rewards this thread talks about. But trust me folks, this is not the case anymore. Pensions are gone…replaced with some form of 401k. Our bennies we pay into nonstop and we cover 2 positions with nary a peep from the union that gets their tithe every 2 weeks. We carry on because we are still young and maybe even naive, but chose a public sector job so that we could help our City. Yes you cynical fucks, some public employees do care about their city they call home (could be a generational thing, but wtf do I know).

Ranting, I know, but please don’t piss in the face of all public “union” employees. We are getting hosed terribly. Someone up above (before this thread devolved into the merits of Apple’s OS and products lol) spoke about CEO’s. Yes, this is where the problem lies, at least with City-level management. The underlings have 2x more education than those in charge of us. Straddled with debt, we the underlings sit 8 to a cube while management stares at their monitor all day (oooh, flying marquee!) in their private offices trying to wrap their brains around the audacity of Obama’s latest faux paus (all love harping over the NY Post). 6-figure salary to boot. I just….ok, I’m done.

In summary, commentariat please understand there is a huge generational shift underfoot. One that is trying to change things for the better. But as Bolwerk said above, blaming all the workers is barking up the wrong tree.

Alon Levy May 21, 2014 - 8:52 pm

Without responding to the rest of your comment: please do not compare getting lower salaries than you think you deserve with being raped.

JMB May 21, 2014 - 10:48 pm

You’re so right Alon. I forgot that taking out $100k mortgage in the form of of education to earn baseline $35k is deserving for a job that only a generation ago required a HS diploma. Do go on with how you understand the plight of the Millennials.

You’re right, its not rape. We wore that short skirt, we were asking for it 😉

Larry Littlefield May 22, 2014 - 8:13 am

Hey JMB, read this.


And this.


Sure you are asking for it, by not paying attention. And it is fiscal rape.

Larry Littlefield May 22, 2014 - 8:14 am

Moreover, it isn’t just the millenials. Generation Greed was followed by Generation Apathy.

JMB May 22, 2014 - 9:08 am

The earliest of Millenials could not vote in the 2000 elections.We were born roughly 1982-1996 (some even push it to 2001 as the clear delineation). I think your term Gen Apathy belongs to the micro-generation wedged between the behemoth Boomers and now us Millennials. They were the ones who embraced apathy because they were the first to taste the short end of the stick and collectively say “fuck it”. They are known as Generation X.

Larry Littlefield May 22, 2014 - 9:59 am

I’d put the back end of the Baby Boom in Generation Apathy as well. You hope the next generation will be better, but it prefers to get its news here:


Bolwerk May 22, 2014 - 12:10 pm

Prefers? That is quite literally better than Fox or CNN.

Larry Littlefield May 22, 2014 - 1:01 pm

At least it has no pretentions, unlike those sources, the Post and MSNBC.

And the few who click on the “News” feed might find out something that is actually true!

Bolwerk May 22, 2014 - 3:11 pm

Well, I guess you’d call it an amalgamation site. It tries to maximize content without much regard for its quality.

HuffPost is like that too. Bad as it is, and it’s bad in a very low-brow tabloid trash way, it seems to literally provide more broad-spectrum coverage of the wider world than, say, The New York Times. It even throws in some occasional good coverage and analysis of its own.

Alon Levy May 24, 2014 - 9:24 pm

I’m 25. Yes, I understand. The uncertainty just takes a different form for me. Huge difference between that and being raped. Sorry.

Larry Littlefield May 22, 2014 - 8:11 am

Do you work for the LIRR? Let’s just say things are different there, with regard to equity with the serfs.

“In summary, commentariat please understand there is a huge generational shift underfoot. One that is trying to change things for the better. ”

I don’t see having Generation Greed make off with the loot and having the unions cut deals to screw their future members to make up for it as making things better. Quite the opposite.

JMB May 22, 2014 - 9:16 am

No, I don’t work for them. I wasn’t really defending their entrenched problems either, but rather pointing out the term “public union employees” is a huge net to cast and think what happens there is universal. In fact, its quite rare for anyone in my collective demographic to break into such an organization and we are fully aware that we, the future members (who are now of age) have been screwed and mortgaged off.

I sort of, in my own weird way was trying to give hope that there is change coming. You see it already with gay rights and with MJ legalization. Just wait until the rest of our numbers break the threshold and join in.

Larry Littlefield May 22, 2014 - 10:05 am

What you hear here is a reaction to the LIRR, unions and management. You won’t see the same hostility to all unions the same way among well informed people.

They again, all the unions are guilty of the “screw the newbie, flee to Florida” cycle on public employee pensions. Not that it is any different than what’s happened to Social Security.

DC37, Civil Service and Technical Guild? If an election gets too contested, expect the ballots to suddenly disappear. Meanwhile, educate yourself about your benefits history here:

The overall scam:


55 years of data on the teacher pension plans in NY and NJ.


You’ll need to read those to understand the post on your own pension situation, and that of New York City Transit.


Finally, police and fire.


LIRR pensions? Who knows? They don’t report nothing to nobody that I can find.

Bolwerk May 22, 2014 - 3:15 pm

It sounds to me like JMB’s union already did screw the newbie.

The intractable local ones seem like the LIRR unions, the TWU, the police, and the teachers. But it’s the LIRR and the police who tend to unquestionably get most of what they want, no matter how much it hurts everyone else.

Nathanael May 22, 2014 - 7:17 pm

Police should be prohibited from unionizing…. unless they agree to be permanently unarmed.

Anyone who is issued a *gun for work* does not get to negotiate their work rules. Sorry. There’s too much of a power imbalance — in favor of the gun-toting thugs.

Police have been involved in spectacular abuses Worse, the police “union” generally attacks decent, honorable folks like Serpico and Schoolcraft while protecting the criminal thugs in blue.

I think it is nothing short of obscene that police have a “union”. It should be completely prohibited.

Nathanael May 22, 2014 - 7:18 pm

(For those who don’t know, Serpico and Schoolcraft were NYPD officers, who — 30 years apart — blew the whistle on horrible abuses within the NYPD)

Larry Littlefield May 22, 2014 - 7:54 pm

Thanks for reminding me that things may not be good, but they sure have been worse!

Bolwerk May 22, 2014 - 9:07 pm

I don’t see the problem with them unionizing for the purposes of negotiating pay. But even negotiating work rules for a police union gives them an incredible conflict of interest.

Typically there are no consequences for them when they fuck up, and they get away with spectacular abortions of justice and violations of human rights.

Nathanael May 22, 2014 - 7:14 pm

“I sort of, in my own weird way was trying to give hope that there is change coming. You see it already with gay rights and with MJ legalization. Just wait until the rest of our numbers break the threshold and join in.”

God, I hope so. Thanks for the voice of hope; I appreciate it.

I’m in what is often called “Gen X” (the definition of that has shifted repeatedly).

I’m actually right at the tail end of the “baby bust” (that is much better defined), and right at the inflection point: older than me, Reagan-style “steal and scam” Republicans were getting more popular; starting with my age and younger, those lying scoundrels were getting less popular.

So I’ve been watching terrible, greed-driven, destructive policy for most of my life, and knowing that people younger than me were angry and frustrated by it, but people even a few years older than me were less and less likely to care. My political heroes are generally from before I was born, or from other countries (Gorbachev!!!), or people who dramatically lost elections (Walter Mondale!).

I’m getting really impatient for us to pass the demographic hump and get the slash-and-burn types out of power.

The LIRR featherbedding business steams me, partly because it’s got this whole bizarre “We’re from Long Island — we’re better than those plebes who work on the subway — and better than those Metro-North guys too” vibe to it.

SteveM May 23, 2014 - 11:31 am

Then move to Canada.

Larry Littlefield May 23, 2014 - 12:08 pm

I’ve always thought highly of Canada and Canadians.

But then I heard about Rob Ford. Perhaps it isn’t utopia (temperature excluded) after all.

Bolwerk May 24, 2014 - 11:38 am

It’s not a utopia, and never was. It was probably always to the right of the USA on civil liberties. It just happens to have a less obnoxious foreign policy and always managed a better healthcare system.

Culturally there are probably more differences within each country than there meaningfully are between them.

Alon Levy May 24, 2014 - 9:16 pm

Eh. Civil liberties… it depends on what you mean. The privacy situation is in principle better here, although since Harper brown-noses the NSA, it de facto isn’t. Medical privacy is far better than in the US, though. There’s less police violence, especially in the cities, and none of America’s mass incarceration.

On the other hand, the free speech laws here are a lot weaker. Libel laws are extremely retrograde – truth isn’t even absolute defense if the plaintiff can prove that the defendant spoke with malicious intent – although since the US is flexing its muscles on libel shopping, there are voices calling for reforming the system along US lines. Elsewhere, Harper could gag climate scientists, and is now making a move to strip indigenous environmental justice protesters of their citizenship.

Bolwerk May 25, 2014 - 2:02 pm

I respect that medical privacy is important, but that’s a little distant from a core civil liberty concern. American judicial protections and procedures are considerably more robust. Finding ways to get into someone’s home without a warrant is not exactly hard for a Canadian police unit. Canada has no First, Fourth, or Fifth Amendments. Meanwhile, many fundamental rights laid out are explicitly allowed to be overridden by legislatures under the notwithstanding clause.

Yeah, maybe their police aren’t as bad, but they might actually be more violent to political targets.

Harper didn’t really do much damage to Canadian civil libertarian concerns because there just wasn’t much to do. He did seem to do plenty of damage in other areas.

Alon Levy May 25, 2014 - 9:22 pm

Canada has a constitution with a bill of rights, FYI.

Also, I don’t think you understand just how much Harper is e.g. influencing the election process.

Bolwerk May 26, 2014 - 10:11 am

Canada has the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Read up on the “Notwithstanding Clause,” which carves out exceptions to what should be some of the meatier rights and freedoms.

What is there to not understand about Harper? I’m not surprised by anything he does, just as I’m not especially surprised by a lot of things that perpetually surprise milquetoast “liberals.”

Alon Levy May 26, 2014 - 7:31 pm

What is there not to understand? Um, for one, the way he’s interfering with Elections Canada in order to reduce turnout in the next election, where he’s down in the polls.

The notwithstanding clause is there to satisfy Quebecois nationalists about provincial rights; the federal Parliament has never used it (Harper uses other tools to subvert democracy), and the Anglophone provinces weren’t particularly successful in using it.

Ironically, in Quebec the influence of French law ensures that there’s actually more freedom of speech when it comes to libel lawsuits.

Bolwerk May 27, 2014 - 12:16 am

Was I supposed to write a diatribe about all the evil things Harper does? I am aware of his election antics, including the Elections Canada scandal, but if this is what you’re getting at: I don’t know if I consider that a civil libertarian issue so much as a, well, democratic/electoral one? Or, fuck it, it’s just naked corruption. (I presume the stuff like the gerrymandering is quasi-legitimate, as it is here.)

Yes, you’re right, Canada’s “Bill of Rights” is so weak that it never took much to work around it. But having a reset button for constitutional rights built into your constitution doesn’t sound like the work of people who care a lot about constitutional rights.

But…Peace, Order, and Good Government!

Bolwerk May 25, 2014 - 2:09 pm

This point may be more of interest to Larry than Alon, but an acquaintance of mine in Ontario mentioned American populist small-R republican rhetoric is dangerous in Canadian politics. Canada still operates on the principle of parliamentary supremacy, more like the UK than USA. Most of the edifice of what is good about Canada is precedent, not hard fast laws and rules in a written constitution.

Needless to say, people like Harper and Ford aren’t afraid to shit on precedent or disregard restraint. They basically are what would happen if someone like Tom DeLay or Tom Coburn got a combination of executive and legislative power without any constitutional restraint. That’s why Harper was able to set Canada back so many decades in such a short time.

Nathanael May 25, 2014 - 4:17 pm

Steve: it’s a lot harder to get into Canada than you might think. They don’t want me. Also, Steven Harper.

Alon Levy May 25, 2014 - 9:24 pm

If you have a degree and a job offer, it’s pretty easy, actually. It’s not the US here.

Bolwerk May 26, 2014 - 10:29 am

For almost everyone else (the vast majority of people), it’s probably not easy without a marriage.

Oh well, this idea American “progressives” have that other places are so much more “progressive” is only somewhat true. Canada probably does have saner immigration/nationality laws (though not by much)* than the USA, but the norm in North America is probably still better than the norm in the European Union,† where each postage stamp-sized state has onerous requirements for getting into its whites-only-please club.

Where is Europe more progressive? Well, transportation policy….

* I wouldn’t say the border patrol is less buffoonish. BTW, they use customs agents to skirt the need for a warrant when searching homes.

† I lose my shitizenship in the EU if I naturalize somewhere else, though I hear getting special permission has become easier.

Alon Levy May 26, 2014 - 7:36 pm

No “probably”: Canada does have saner immigration laws than the US. Vancouver’s becoming a tech hub purely because it’s easier to get work visas here than in the US.

Canada makes it harder to immigrate if you’re not a professional, sure. But the US makes it impossible.

European countries tend to make it easier to get in than the US under either professional or family reunification migration, but harder to naturalize. Right now slightly less than half the EU by population has something approaching birthright citizenship, and in all cases it means that second-generation immigrants have the right to obtain citizenship if they remain the country through their childhood and teenage years, rather than that they’re citizens by birth.

Bolwerk May 27, 2014 - 1:23 am

What’s this obsession with professionals? Other than the independently wealthy, mostly a subset of professionals anyway, professionals are by nature the group that is least going to have trouble moving across borders.

And that standard for “approaching birthright citizenship” seems absurdly arbitrary and unfair to young people, who have no choice about where they are born or where their parents drag them. The EU is behind some of the more retrograde parts of South America on that one.

(“Family reunification migration” = welcome back after being separated by a long ago war?)

Alon Levy May 27, 2014 - 3:51 am

Family reunification = one of your parents (or another close family member) got a work visa or refugee status and worked their way up to citizenship and now sponsors you and your siblings to come in. In the US and Europe, that’s the biggest category of immigration.

Professionals can move across borders relatively easily precisely because developed countries like Canada and the EU make it easy. Japan, for example, does not make it easy for anyone. The US is somewhere between Japan and Canada.

Unskilled migrants have the hardest time, but the US doesn’t even have a category for them. In Canada, it’s possible to get a work visa with a job offer, as long as the company convinces the government that there aren’t Canadian citizens who want the job. In the US, it’s much harder.

JMB May 23, 2014 - 7:04 pm

Just saw your post. Gen X is like our big brothers/sisters. I know you guys gave up when you saw what was happening back in the 90’s, but its not too late. Think about how much this country changes depending on demographics. The Boomers have been so impacting for so long that it seems that they are America. But like all that came before, their time is limited. Its up to us to fix this as they fixed the problems they inherited. At the very least, we already understand what we won’t be getting despite playing by the rules which makes us very, very pissed. Occupy was a poorly-organized omen, but an omen nonetheless.

Nathanael May 25, 2014 - 4:19 pm

Well, solidarity — some of us who grew up in the 80s will be there with you when you take over.

John Doe May 22, 2014 - 10:36 am

Its 2014. Where is the techonology to replace motormen with robots?? been waiting for this since The Jetsons! think of all the money we could save and robots don’t complaint either! on a sidenote, why do we still employ token booth clerks??? 99% of the time they are on the phone or reading the paper. These people wouldnt survive a day in the private sector, lazy bums!

Epson45 May 22, 2014 - 1:15 pm

Good for you, getting rid of jobs that doesn’t need customer service.

Nathanael May 22, 2014 - 7:19 pm

Automated trains (no train driver) are operated on Docklands Light Railway (London), and SkyTrain (Vancouver). It’s quite straightforward technology.

Epson45 May 23, 2014 - 11:56 am

In your dreams. We are talking about MTA. Not going anywhere is the their new slogan.

Dewey May 22, 2014 - 11:41 am

There are thousands of NYC transit workers who are Unrepresented (no union). Just a note that there has not been a wage increase to these workers in over 6 years.

Nathanael May 22, 2014 - 7:20 pm

They’re the ones who need a union… why isn’t the TWU allowing them in?

TWU is supposed to be an “industrial union”, which is supposed to mean that they admit as members everyone who works at NYC Transit.

Epson45 May 23, 2014 - 11:57 am

TWU 106 supervisors have not have a real contract in 5 to 6 years. HA.

rdl1972 May 22, 2014 - 7:17 pm


And you guys think we’re incompetent ?

Alon Levy May 24, 2014 - 9:27 pm

It’s a funny egg on the face story, but I’d take those trainsets over, say, the overweight M8s, or the Berlin S-Bahn sets with the faulty brakes. Some platforms in France are built to a narrower loading gauge than the current national gauge, and were already slated for rebuilding; the order just means they’ll have to be rebuilt faster than scheduled.


Leave a Comment