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Probing the MTA, LIRR culture

LIRR station in Jamaica on Aug. 25, 2020.

LIRR station in Jamaica on Aug. 25, 2020. Five people were recently charged in an alleged $1 million overtime and fraud scheme at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

I find it extremely irresponsible for Newsday’s editorial board to publish what I believe to be inaccurate statements of a named labor leader whom they have never spoken to ["MTA must curb abuse, change culture," Editorial, Dec. 7]. I, nor our organization, defended any workers who have been proven to commit fraud. I have stated that these few individuals should be allowed the opportunity to defend the allegations and are innocent until proven otherwise. Additionally, labor never "fought clocks"; we stressed the need for management to implement their use properly to not compromise productivity. As a labor leader, it is my job to protect my members and remind inexperienced and non-operational managers of their roles and responsibilities. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority inspector general has already exposed the lack of management and proper oversight in authorizing overtime. Where are the discipline records, suspensions or demotion records for those managers? The managers who apparently authorize overtime do so from their living room couches during a pandemic, while our members are out there making the MTA look good delivering projects and service. In my view, Long Island Rail Road employees have become disrespected heroes and deserve better.

Anthony Simon,

Babylon

Editor’s note: The writer is general chairman of the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART).

It appears we are onto the next Long Island Rail Road employee scandal ["5 charged in $1M MTA overtime fraud scheme," News, Dec. 4]. Didn’t we just get past the 11 LIRR workers charged with massive disability fraud? Let’s first admit that the vast majority of LIRR employees are hardworking, honest people. Nonetheless, time and again, we read about abuses attributed to the inherent lack of accountability and oversight of union-protected workforces. It boggles my mind how LIRR management could let anyone come close to the abuse mentioned in this article. It doesn’t take a math major to look at a time sheet or overtime submission, then question someone averaging 10 hours of overtime every day. I won’t even get into the union provision dictating those most senior, by years of service, getting first right of refusal. Union chairman Anthony Simon correctly points out that these employees are innocent until proven guilty, but given the math behind these allegations maybe he should have worded his comment to include that "if guilty, we, along with management, will do our part as a proud union to identify these types of abuses and weed out corrupt individuals in our ranks." Just a suggestion.

Edward Lynn,

Babylon

Are we to believe that the U.S. Attorney’s office, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority inspector general, Queens district attorney, and a hired independent consultant all looked into the rampant overtime fraud at the Long Island Rail Road and came up with only five stunning abuses? I suspect the fraud is systemic and part of the LIRR culture, and these five are the tip of a big iceberg. It is reminiscent of the 2011 massive disability scandal in which only fewer than three dozen people were eventually convicted of fraud charges. A few people get charged to placate the public and the abuses continue and, apparently, get worse. The MTA is in financial trouble. Before it looks to the public, it should bail itself out by putting a stop to the criminality in their organization.

Cynthia Paterno,

Huntington

As general chairman of close to 1,000 Long Island Rail Road electricians, I am obliged to address the editorial "MTA must curb abuse, change culture." Not everyone is guilty. How is it possible that the riding public is not outraged at the consistent failure of the LIRR to manage its workforce properly? How is it possible that year after year, new stories of waste, fraud and nonexistent accountability come and go without real change? How is it possible that even as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority faces its greatest financial challenge, it is business as usual? I, for one, am tired of being painted with the same brush as those employees who commit these acts. My membership is tired of being grouped with those who commit these acts. Not all unions oppose change, defend the indefensible, or believe it is their job to stall progress and efficiencies for the sake of a head count. However, not all unions have an opportunity to be part of the solution, nor are they treated as partners with a vested interest in helping the MTA recover. Only the largest, or loudest unions receive recognition. Apparently, I am not loud enough. I hope the riding public is.

Ricardo Sanchez,

Patchogue

Editor’s note: The writer is general chairman of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 589.

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