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Letters: The worth of unions at the LIRR

Newsday's reporting on the potential Long Island Rail Road strike is so one-sided ["Far apart as strike nears," News, July 15]! Your stories don't include all of the facts, just information to incite the public.

When you mention what the city bus and subway workers recently received in raises, 8 percent over five years, you conveniently leave out the fact that in 2009, arbitrator John E. Zuccotti awarded them close to 11 percent raises over three years. LIRR employees have been working without a contract for four years, which equals no raises!

Also in a recent editorial, Newsday talked about how much more LIRR employees get because of two generous pensions ["Strike a deal, avoid a strike," July 13]. Newsday leaves out the fact that railroad employees pay twice the rate of Social Security deductions. We pay a Tier II tax that people under Social Security don't pay.

That means that if I work 25 years, I will have paid $75,000 more in railroad retirement system taxes than someone under Social Security.

Newsday makes union workers out to be so bad. Thanks to American unions, the workday is eight hours long, with a lunch break. Before union advocacy, we worked 12-hour days. Some other things you can thank unions for: paid vacations, family medical leave, sick leave, Social Security, minimum wage, overtime pay, laws ending sweatshops . . . I could go on.

Frank Gifford, Wantagh

Editor's note: The writer works for the LIRR.

Why not fire all the Long Island Rail Road workers who strike and replace them with under- or unemployed people?

Unions once played a vital role in ensuring safe and reasonable working conditions for thousands of Americans. However, today they have many unreasonable demands, one of which seems to be no employee contribution to medical insurance. Get real.

Joe Cavallo, Deer Park

I rode the Long Island Rail Road to my job in Manhattan for nearly 30 years. During the 11-day strike in 1987, my colleagues and I carpooled to Howard Beach, where we caught the (now discontinued) "train to the plane" subway to the World Trade Center. One day we got caught in a blizzard on the way home, and it took me nine hours to drive from Howard Beach to Islip.

While I sympathize with the workers who have not had a contract for more than four years, it is not right that they hold commuters hostage. They obviously care more about themselves than the people they serve.

The LIRR management should take a cue from Ronald Reagan, who fired more than 11,000 striking air traffic controllers in 1981 and banned them from returning to the job. There are a lot of unemployed Long Islanders who would be more than happy to have the jobs and benefits that the railroad workers have.

Roderick Andersson, Islip Terrace

Bicycling injuries from ragged roads

The poor condition of our roads has far more serious consequences than the vehicle damage and passenger discomfort mentioned in a recent letter ["Rough roads need urgent repair," July 7].

As a member of two Long Island bicycle clubs, I have witnessed and been informed of several accidents over the past few weeks that were a result of the horrible road conditions. Contrary to common belief, road hazards, not cars, are the cause of most cycling injuries.

In the past two weeks alone, eight of our fellow riders have suffered severe road rash and broken shoulders, ribs, arms and pelvises. These were the result of potholes obscured by poor lighting , or sand and potholes that were unavoidable in the bicycle lanes on heavily traveled roads.

Filling the holes is a temporary and insufficient fix for the majority; they need to be properly resurfaced.

Salvator Levy, Huntington

Caithness II is already outdated

Never has it been said better, regarding the cost of electricity, than by Assemb. Steve Englebright at a July 10 hearing ["Tax break plan faulted," News, July 11]. Speaking about the proposed Caithness II generating plant at a Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency meeting, Englebright said, "The proposal before you, if approved, would advance the construction of what appears likely to be the last large fossil-fuel dinosaur built in New York State."

He said the cost to PSEG Long Island for natural gas and electric transmission lines would run more than $1 billion. The estimated number of permanent jobs created is six to eight. No industrial development agency anywhere should agree to grant $59 million in state and county sales tax breaks for so few permanent jobs!

Peter Quinn, West Islip

Single-payer care looks appealing

Columnist Lane Filler writes of his opposition to universal health insurance, but perhaps he is not aware of the Canadian people's appreciation of their single-payer medical insurance coverage ["Free to be . . . Not you, just me," Opinion, July 9].

In fact, in an informal poll, the late Tommy Douglas, a former premier of Saskatchewan, was voted the "greatest Canadian" because he was the first to introduce free public health insurance in his province.

Chet Gerstenbluth, Plainview


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