Another painful entry in the lemon-juice-poured-on-our- paper-cut ledger: While private-sector workers struggle just to get by in this brutal economy, the Town of Islip can't even legally take town cars away from employees who use them mostly to get back and forth between home and work.
Worse still, the town workers' union didn't even have to use a contract provision - there is none - to reverse Supervisor Phil Nolan's sensible 2008 decision to take back about 45 cars. An administrative law judge for the state's Public Employment Relations Board has ruled that, despite the lack of contract language, the cars are a "past practice" that the town can't take away without bargaining with the union.
That's outrageous, but nothing new. Other public officials, thwarted by this scam, have tried to overturn it in court. But the courts have not helped. Islip will appeal to the full PERB, but even if the town miraculously won, the underlying problem would remain. Fixing it statewide would take action by the State Legislature to change the basic labor law, to make clear that it's only what's in the contract that counts.
Somehow, Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy was able to cut the county fleet from more than 600 to just over 300, on the theory that some essential workers need cars, but too many use them just to commute. So leaders like Nolan must keep trying to put the brakes on this perk. There's no excuse for letting our public servants take us all for an unwanted ride. hN