Home LIRR A Monday morning LIRR strike news primer

A Monday morning LIRR strike news primer

by Benjamin Kabak

A short post with some links for your Monday morning leisure. Clearly, this is important if you work on Long Island, employ people who live on Long Island or otherwise commute in from areas of Queens and Brooklyn that are accessible to Long Islanders. Things could get messy next few week.

First up, there’s no new news to report after Friday’s announcement of contingency planning. The MTA and its Long Island unions have not reached an agreement, and the MTA continues to urge people to stay home, telecommute, take vacation or do whatever it takes to avoid traversing Long Island Rail Road routes if trains aren’t running. Obviously, that’s not practical for everyone, but absent the overnight invention of teleportation technology, it’s the best of a bad situation. It may not, however, come to this.

In The Post this weekend, Nicole Gelinas writes on how she is concerned that Andrew Cuomo will give in to the LIRR unions. Although he tried to punt the issue to Congress last week, the Congress declined to do much about it, and the ball is firmly in the MTA’s — and Gov. Cuomo’s — court. If he gives the order to give in, the MTA will oblige.

With contingency plans in place, Gelinas feels the MTA is in a position of strength. “In fact,” she writes, “the MTA should take advantage of any strike to cram down work-rule changes as the price for workers to be allowed back on the job. Cuomo will be tempted to prod the MTA into giving away the store, though — so that he can look like a fearless leader in avoiding a strike.” If he does that, taxpayers will be on the hook for over $730 million, and that is money likely to come out of any future capital plan.

The MTA meanwhile has laid its cards on the table. While attempting to reach a middle ground, the MTA has moved its offers numerous times while the unions haven’t. Now, MTA officials warn that any further concessions could impact fares or the so-called “state of good repair” programs. “When we say we can afford it within the current financial plan, we’re affording it at great sacrifice,” Newsday quoted MTA Chairman and CEO Tom Prendergast as stating. Union officials beg to differ and claim the MTA could afford these raises.

Finally, for more coverage, keep an eye on The LIRR Today. Patrick has all the news and info you need to know building up to a strike as well as plans in the event there is no Long Island Rail Road service one week from today. I’ll continue, as always, to follow this story.

You may also like


Nathanael July 14, 2014 - 1:40 am

The union officials at UTU’s LIRR locals are run by awful, awful, people. They’re refusing to budge on the absolute worst, most egregious work rules, including:

– the MTA proposal to assign overtime to those who got the least work during the regular week, rather than by seniority (a proper solidarity proposal which any decent union should support, but which the UTU opposes)
– the MTA proposal to eliminate the ridiculous and archaic “penalty payments” for working on two different “classes of service” (a diesel train and an electric train) on the same day

The MTA wasn’t even proposing to bring the work rules up to modern standards; the MTA was proposing to bring the work rules a bit closer to 1970s standards. The UTU local leaders at the LIRR have stubbornly refused. They give unions a bad name.

Larry Littlefield July 14, 2014 - 10:35 am

The issue isn’t unions. It is predatory monopoly.

The LIRR unions think they have monopoly power to take more and more while everyone else is forced to accept less and less to pay for it. With much of the cost deferred to the future.

Are they right? The only way to find out is to let the strike go forward, with the hope of it lasting a month or two or more.

In the meantime, Andrew Cuomo might be tempted to give them whatever they want before his re-election, with the cost of paying for it not allocated until after his re-election (and not announced even then). But if he wants to run for President, I doubt he’ll be able to cover it up that long.

BruceNY July 14, 2014 - 7:39 am

And the gall to ask employees to contribute (a whopping 2%) to health insurance coverage, on top of a 17% raise!

Brandon July 14, 2014 - 9:40 am

The MTA may be in a position of strength but its definitely not from that “work from home or take vacation days and meanwhile we will run a few buses to Howard Beach” contingency plan.

Larry Littlefield July 14, 2014 - 9:51 am

Cuomo ought to say that if the strike goes forward, the MTA offer is off the table. And future offers will be based on the idea that LIRR workers don’t deserve more than subway workers, who already get more than most downstate NY workers, as I showed here.


Brooklynite July 14, 2014 - 4:48 pm

(Yes, I also posted this on LIRRtoday but thought I would put it here.)

What I don’t really understand is why there are only 350 shuttle buses. It seems like there would be a lot more available:

The NYCDOE has 2306 diesel-powered school buses under contract (1). Some of those are the small buses that can only transport about 15 people, but let’s assume there are 1500 full-size (can fit 50 people) school buses available. (Given the proportion at which I tend to see the big vs small buses on the street, that seems like a reasonable guess). That’s already 1500 buses, from NYC alone. If you add in the buses from Westchester, Nassau, and Suffolk Counties, it looks like those would have about 800 buses that could be used (2).

Then, during the bus bridges after Sandy the MTA publicized that it was using 330 buses (3). Even assuming they increase service on express bus routes in Queens and do not cancel routes elsewhere, that leaves about 300 buses spare.

Companies like Academy, Greyhound, and Coach USA all offer charters and have spares as well. If even 200 buses could be obtained from the NYC area, that would already be significant.

In total, that’s 1500 + 800 = 2300 school buses, 300 transit buses, and 200 coach buses. If school buses can carry 50 people, transit buses around 80 (they are designed for standees), and coaches around 70 (including standees), that gives a total of 115000+24000+14000=153000 people transported, if each bus fills up once.

Of course, buses could have exclusive lanes (superior to even HOV lanes) along the highways so they could avoid the massive traffic jams bound to occur. Assuming even every third bus could make two trips from Long Island to Manhattan in time, that’s 200000 people, or two-thirds of the LIRR’s ridership. That’s 13 times what the MTA promises to be able to transport.

While my estimates are probably overly high, the point stands. Why is there such a small amount of buses?

(1) http://schools.nyc.gov/Offices.....efault.htm
(2) The population of NYC is approximately 8.3 million, and Westchester+Nassau+Suffolk is about 4 million. Assuming the ratio of people to kids (and thus to buses) is more or less equal, that yields ~800 buses. There’s probably even more given that Long Island is less dense than NYC, but let’s take a conservative estimate.
(3) http://www.empirecenter.org/pu.....s-bridges/

Larry Littlefield July 14, 2014 - 9:22 pm

The bus drivers are unionized, and may not want to cross a picket line.

The real alternatives are telecommuting and carpooling.

You’ve got about 115,000 entering Manhattan but LIRR and Amtrak from Queens on an average fall day.


Fewer in summer. Compared with 472,000 entering from Queens via subway, and 767,000 entering from Brooklyn via subway.

With carpooling, you could put 80,000 people in 20,000 cars. With alternate side suspended, you’d have places to put them. That would make the subways crowded, but not that crowded.

Then you have telecommuting, the buses, etc.

lop July 14, 2014 - 5:40 pm

Don’t a lot of those buses get rented out to camps or something in the summer? Are they still under contract with DoE in July and August? How many are actually available in the morning and evening when people want to travel? How many NYCT bus drivers are available, and would they work overtime to help bust a strike? Were all the buses used after Sandy extras, or did they have to cut service elsewhere in the city to get all the buses and drivers?


AM peak ~ 86k at Penn, 10.7k at Atlantic, 3.5k at Jamaica. 300K is both directions over the course of the day.

How much money is Cuomo giving the MTA or allowing them to spend, or are riders willing to give bus companies, in order to bust the union?

If Cuomo and Prendergast have a spine and this goes on for more than a day or two before caving to the union then they can take a lane from the QMT and the LIE leading to it, have cops direct traffic from the tunnel and block parking on a few avenues and bus more people into the city. Maybe that gets another 15k an hour, though that might be optimistic, it could easily be less. The subways from Queens can’t take an extra 100k riders at peak.

Spendmor Wastemor July 14, 2014 - 10:18 pm

AndyBoy will lead the citizens to bear any burden, pay any price
to secure union votes for Andrew Cuomo.

A second generation entitled shadow, he’s becoming the GW Bush of New York state.

Bolwerk July 14, 2014 - 11:40 pm

No, Pataki was the Dubya of New York State. Andrew Cuomo is the Chris Christie of New York State.

John-2 July 15, 2014 - 8:13 am

I thought it was interesting last week when the unions went to Washington and basically got a “You’re on your own guys” response from the downtstate reps in the House as far as Congress stepping in on the MTA strike. Since the reaction wasn’t just from reps like Peter King, but also from Charlie Rangel, you have to wonder if Cuomo already had been in contact with them about keeping Washington out of the talks for now.

If that’s the case, he might actually think playing a little hardball with the union is good politics at the moment, either for 2014 or looking ahead to 2016, if Hillary doesn’t run (dealing with bus and subway strikes didn’t hurt Koch or Bloomberg over short-term periods inside the city, because the public’s anger was pointed at the unions, not the MTA in both cases. A long-term LIRR strike might be a different story, especially since there’s no buffer between the governor and the MTA board, as the mayors have, since Koch and Bloomberg had Hugh Carey and George Pataki above them to share any flack).

johndmuller July 15, 2014 - 7:10 pm

Clearly this is a hot potato issue for the pols. For the public, it is really only of passing interest to anyone off Long Island (including Brooklyn and Queens). The media are the ones who seem to be the most excited. Aside from working the long years without a contract, the Union has done little to endear itself to the public – the rejected proposal seems quite generous on the surface at least. It is I think similar to the one just signed with Transit, which I believe was deemed by pundits to be more generous than necessary. People like to bash the MTA on principle it seems, but they don’t like higher fares and anyone who reads about the LIRR salaries or especially about the work rules would not be very sympathetic toward the union.

I don’t know how Cuomo is reading these tea leaves, but if I were him trying to stay out of the hot seat, I would have waited longer before playing the Washington card, as now the buck has bounced back to him already. From that, I can surmise that either he and his staff are really bad political tacticians or that he all the time wanted to be the one holding the buck at the moment of truth.

This certainly would be an opportunity for him to develop a stiff backbone while in the national spotlight. He could trot out the work rules to make the union look bad and have a Reagan moment of some kind and score all sorts of points upstate and with moderates and Republicans elsewhere. Only the Long Island Commuters and the Bkln/Queens folk caught in the crossfire would feel the pinch and at least some of them would like it anyway.

After thinking out this Reagan scenario, it seems that Cuomo the Jellyfish telling the MTA to roll over for the union and give away the store is the politically stupid and untenable position. Whether intentionally or not, the stage is set for the union to take gas and they should be falling all over each other to sign whatever is on the table and get out of this story before it is too late.

Does anyone wonder what will happen with the Metro North contract?

Larry Littlefield July 16, 2014 - 7:47 am

The MTA has already rolled over, but the unions want to drive in a spike.

The MTA has already agreed to something I never would. To make up for the injustices committed by current and past LIRR workers and managers, they want to stick it to future employees — the “screw the newbie, flee to Florida” deal the unions usually love (though to their credit, the TWU did not accept).

I’d be looking to take things back from the “workers” who went out on disability and caused the LIRR to replace its cars decades earlier than should have been required because of sleeping on the job rather than doing maintenance — but cutting retiree health care. Not for future workers, but for disability retirees for whom a significant on the job injury cannot be found to be documented. And cut retiree health insurance for those who got to retire at age 50.

And I’d insist that the worst work rules be removed. They’d all be out on the MTA website by now for all to see. Including installing fare control, and removing most conductors.

Aside from having to actually work, there would be no differential treatment for new hires.

If they went out on strike, I’d insist that LIRR compensation be equalized with NYCT subway compensation.

The sense of entitlement is such that already getting more than anyone else, and getting offered more than anyone else, they want to strike anyway. Perhaps they are mad the a federal prosecutor has gone against their “right” to disability pensions without being disabled, and want revenge.

Asher July 16, 2014 - 1:19 am

Any bets on how many LIRR employees will retire on disability from the back strain caused by carrying picket signs?

Jim July 17, 2014 - 6:16 am

So guess what? For shift workers coming in from Queens for the night shift there is Fast Track on the E,F,M trains. I sure hope they postpone the Fast Track because that would make a bad commute worse.

chard March 25, 2015 - 5:52 am

Maybe they should do something first for all their stinky bathroom in the train…it’s so disgusting…..talking about a third world country bathroom…lol….there is no difference at all!…shame on you MTA/LIRR workers!


Leave a Comment