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Letters: Sounding off about LIRR strike

The LIRR Jamaica station is very busy in

The LIRR Jamaica station is very busy in the evening hours Tuesday, July 8, 2014. The MTA and the eight unions representing 5,400 LIRR workers remain deadlocked in a four-year-long contract dispute that could climax with a July 20 strike. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

The last time the LIRR went on strike was 1994. Here's how readers felt about it 20 years ago:

I applaud Thomas Prendergast, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority chairman, for not giving into the union demands ["No deal, so MTA eyes DC," News, July 9]. It's about time someone actually attempts to get the Long Island Rail Road labor costs under control.

He offered to allow changes to work rules, which we would consider reasonable, to fund wage increases, but the unions said no! They are used to getting their way because the truth is that unions, and not our elected officials, run Long Island.

The unions want to tell the LIRR what it can afford to pay. The reality is, once again, it's the taxpayer who subsidizes the LIRR. The railroad's costs are much greater than the revenue from the commuting public. So, LIRR employees already earn much more than the railroad can afford to pay.

Now a strike is eminent, which is the unions' right. When they strike, we should fire all who participate and replace them with people who would be thrilled with the high pay and great benefits. If we do this often enough, maybe we can begin to make Long Island an affordable place to live.

Stephen E. Rach, West Sayville

As a proud member of Local 1-2 of the Utility Workers Union of America, who was locked out by corporate greed in July of 2012, I find people very hypocritical when it comes to the contract stalemate regarding the LIRR. The salaries and benefits of the workers are very transparent. Yet, there is no public outcry for the same transparency from management, board members and political appointees. Why is that?

This country was built by people going to work everyday, providing labor, not by suits and ties sitting at desks making huge salaries, with benefits that far surpass any working person's comprehension. Godspeed to lead union negotiator Anthony Simon and the union members of the Long Island Rail Road!

Steven F. Cassidy, Franklin Square

Most people I speak to on Long Island think the LIRR employees are overpaid. The widespread disability scandal didn't help their cause at all.

The MTA has reasonably proposed moderate increases and protections for existing employees, while reducing pay and benefits for future employees. That would eventually lower the costs of running the LIRR. This is a very sensible compromise, but the unions reject it.

Robert Kleinman, Port Washington

Thirty-three doctors, consultants and retirees were recently convicted of defrauding the federal Railroad Retirement Board with flagrantly bogus disability claims. Reportedly, they were on their way to stealing $1 billion from taxpayers when the fraud was stopped.

Now, LIRR employees want to strike? You don't need to be a cynic to realize that the demand for 17 percent raises is at least in part motivated by the fact that LIRR employees realize they will be making much less in retirement than they had planned, now that the fake-disability jackpot has come to an end.

And while it sounds nice in principle to side with unions over bosses, that's just not the situation here. The MTA is fighting for all commuters and taxpayers. The unions are fighting for raises for the workers who are already the highest-paid of their kind in the country.

It's time for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to step up, regardless of whether it's a federal issue, as he claimed. It's a Long Island issue first and foremost. And the LIRR unions are now holding Long Island hostage.

Joshua Bennett, Merrick

I've been working in the private sector for 25 years. Pensions have virtually disappeared, and health care costs have increased dramatically. In the last five years, I haven't received a raise of more than 2 percent. Yet I survive.

The LIRR workers get paid extremely well for blue-collar workers, with a pension to boot. The unions are being greedy, plain and simple. They make more than enough to live comfortably.

It's the commuter who is going to suffer if they get these ridiculous raises. What was the presidential board thinking?

Charles Lomino, Plainview

Our governor could get involved with the MTA and LIRR unions, take the chance of being a hero to both sides, and help come up with a settlement. But no, he has decided to let them strike.

This means the unions will continue to love him. They are organized, so they can get the vote out for him. I hope that the people of Long Island remember him when they cannot get anywhere during a strike. It's time for Long Islanders to vote for someone with a backbone who cares about the people not the unions.

Mitchell Ostrover, Glen Cove