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Opinion

Transport Workers Union calls out the MTA

MTA Chairman Pat Foye in August.

MTA Chairman Pat Foye in August. Credit: Todd Maisel

Daily Point

Calling out the MTA

A pop quiz:

You know it’s contract-negotiation season at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority when... 

A. Television ads start running with the screaming tagline, “You think you hate the MTA? Try working for it.”

B. A website emerges encouraging visitors to email MTA chief executive Pat Foye telling him to “start prioritizing your passengers and transit workers.”

C. There are plans for a large transit worker rally — that just happens to be at 5 p.m. on a weekday.

D. All of the above.

The answer — not surprisingly — is D.

While those efforts are coming from the Transport Workers Union, which represents subway and bus workers, there are continuing, very public developments affecting unionized Long Island Rail Road workers, too. The latest: a report from the MTA inspector general that shows four LIRR workers received $146,800 in “questionable travel time payments” in 2018. The problem there, according to the IG, was one of “managerial neglect.”

On that, LIRR union head Anthony Simon agreed. He told The Point on Wednesday that mismanagement was to blame, and that any effort to point fingers at the unions for overtime or travel time issues is “absolutely absurd.” Simon added that if there are issues to resolve on travel time, time sheets or record keeping, management should sit down with the unions and “get corrective measures in place.”

The LIRR union is separate from the TWU, which is the arm producing TV ads that focus on consultant costs and mismanagement, and that highlight assaults on and harassment of transit workers. 

“Only the MTA and Chairman Pat Foye would tolerate such employee abuse and then demand a wage freeze,” a voice says.

The website —  failurefoye.com — is also produced by the TWU. It’s sparse, but features one of the ads, along with some articles describing what the site calls “Foye’s latest failures.”

While an MTA spokesman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, the MTA has previously noted that it has made efforts to improve worker safety by hiring more police officers, and is addressing management issues through its transformation plan and other efforts.

But the back and forth between the authority and the unions is far from over.

The next battleground? Apparently, MTA headquarters in Manhattan, where the TWU is planning a 5 p.m. rally on Oct. 30.

It remains to be seen what that will mean for the afternoon rush that day.

—Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall

Talking Point

A powerful ally

Congressional hopeful Jackie Gordon got a big endorsement Wednesday. The influential group Emily’s List, which backs Democratic female candidates who support abortion rights, gave the Babylon Town councilwoman the nod in her bid to take on Rep. Pete King. 

It was a much earlier endorsement than Emily’s List made in the district last cycle. Liuba Grechen Shirley didn’t get the nod until days before the Democratic primary, “too late for the campaign to include in mail being sent out in the lead-up” to the contest, an Intercept article noted at the time.

Grechen Shirley often found herself tilting against establishment Democrats in her bid. She raised more in her first quarter of fundraising than Gordon has in either of her first two so far, but that wasn’t enough to earn Emily’s List’s early attention. Gordon is more enmeshed in the local party as an elected official. DuWayne Gregory, the presiding officer of the Suffolk County Legislature, who Grechen Shirley beat in that 2018 primary, donated $1,000 from his campaign fund to Gordon earlier this year.

A spokeswoman for Emily’s List explained the early nod, saying there were a lot of challengers in 2018 and endorsements were rolled out over that cycle. Many of those challengers won, so this time the group was able to re-endorse frontline incumbent women in January and start endorsing some challengers earlier. 

Gordon campaign manager Christian Duffy wrote in an email, “We have been working closely with EMILY's List and I feel they chose to endorse now because they see that Jackie is a strong candidate who has what it takes to win this seat.”

Grechen Shirley declined to comment about the Emily’s List endorsement and did not respond when asked whether she has decided about jumping into the race herself. 

In the neighboring 3rd Congressional District, where Democratic challenger Melanie D’Arrigo has made reproductive rights a key part of her primary against Rep. Tom Suozzi, the Emily’s List spokeswoman says the group isn’t planning on getting involved, because she said the group doesn’t get involved in primaries against pro-choice Democratic incumbents. 

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Pencil Point

Time bomb

For more cartoons, visit www.newsday.com/opinion

Final Point

AOC feelin’ the bern

Sen. Bernie Sanders’ long-planned Queens rally took on a whole new level of interest when his “special guest” was revealed Tuesday night: local progressive phenom Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. 

The freshman congresswoman is expected to endorse her former boss (she worked as an organizer for Sanders in the 2016 campaign) and use her star power to bring his 2020 campaign, which is being undermined by the popularity of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a burst of lefty energy. 

One measure of whether that will pan out will inevitably be the size of the crowd that comes out to see the duo in NYC. 

Big outdoor NYC events have long been a staple for presidential politicians. See the 1944 motorcade tour in which President Franklin D. Roosevelt even drove a car onto Ebbets Field. 

In more recent years, the city has been a must-stop for the kinds of Democratic candidates who can pull big crowds. 

How many people are actually in those crowds? The NYPD and Parks Department don’t tend to wade into the fight by releasing definitive numbers, probably because they weren’t born yesterday. So campaigns give their own estimates and journalists do the best they can. 

That can mean some questionable figures. Take Sanders’ Washington Square event in April 2016, when his campaign said 27,000 people attended. It was a huge event, but was the attendance really the same first digits as the average donation ($27) he mentioned in speech after speech? 

Warren took over that same space in September and said she’d drawn more than 20,000 supporters, though parks said anticipated attendance was 8,000 to 10,000. 

That Manhattan spot is popular for big events. Barack Obama spoke there in 2007, with crowd estimates ranging from 15,000 to 25,000. 

Last cycle, Donald Trump rallied across the borough border in Bethpage, safely out of deep-blue NYC, with a crowd Newsday estimated between 9,000 and 10,000. 

That hasn’t stopped Trump from weighing in on city crowd sizes. 

"Certainly, if I went to Manhattan, if I went there — No. 1, she didn’t have 20,000 people and No. 2, I think anybody would get a good crowd there," Trump said to reporters in September concerning Warren’s speech.

Surely,  he’ll be keeping an even keener eye on the Saturday rally in the borough where he was born and raised. 

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

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