A hostile bargaining session between the MTA and Long Island Rail Road labor leaders broke off in less than two hours early Friday with no deal in place and union officials saying a July 20 strike is more likely than ever.

“Here we go,” Christopher Natale, general chairman of the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, said after leaving the bargaining session, which lasted about 90 minutes. “Unless something happens at the eleventh hour, we’re preparing for a strike.”

Read the complete story at Newsday.

The LIRR unions’ chief negotiator says he wants to make a deal with the MTA that would delay a possible July strike until after Labor Day – sparing Long Island’s summer tourism business and buying more time to negotiate a contract settlement.

Although the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said it has yet to receive a formal proposal, an MTA source who spoke on condition of anonymity said earlier this week the agency would be interested in an agreement to stave off a potential walkout by Long Island Rail Road workers in about seven weeks that could strand 300,000 daily riders.

Read the complete story at Newsday.

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Presidential Emergency Board 245 determined May 20 that “the Unions’ final offer is the most reasonable” in the four-year-old bargaining dispute between the International Association of Sheet, Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers and its allied unions and the Long Island Rail Road.

The PEB report sets in motion a final 60-day cooling off period. If no agreement is reached during that time, SMART and the other unions can strike on July 19 under provisions of the Railway Labor Act.

Under the RLA’s special 9A provisions for disputes involving commuter railroads, if the parties do not reach agreement after a first PEB issues its recommendations, a second PEB is convened to decide which side’s final offer is the most reasonable.

On Dec. 21, 2013, PEB 244 recommended a six-year contract with 17.9 percent in compounded wage increases. The board also recommended that employees begin paying health insurance premiums that reduced the net value of the proposed contract to 2.5 percent per year. The board rejected Long Island Rail Road’s proposal for sweeping pension, work rule, and other concessions.

In its report, the board notes that “the lack of notice and bargaining on substantial issues in the Carrier’s final offer is of significant concern … The Unions’ final offer, on the other hand, represents a reasonable balance addressing the priorities of both parties … It is noteworthy that the Unions’ assertion that real wage increases for LIRR employees, absent inflation, have not increased at all since 1991, was not challenged by the Carrier.”

“A strong union requires strong members,” said SMART General President Joseph Nigro. “The courage and fortitude these members exhibited shows that there is nothing stronger than the solidarity that comes when working families are united. They are proof of that.

“SMART will provide all the resources needed to ensure an agreement worthy of ratification by these members is produced. They have fought for and deserve every advance they make and will make in the future.”

“Our members on LIRR, led by General Chairperson Anthony Simon, are to be commended for their resolve in seeking the fair and equitable agreement to which they are entitled,” said SMART Transportation Division President John Previsich. “From the very beginning, SMART advised all concerned that management’s offer of a substandard contract was unacceptable and that we would not hold back in our efforts to obtain a just agreement.

“Throughout negotiations and mediation, our position was firm and consistent and management refused to listen. Now that our position is validated by both Presidential Emergency Board 244 and again with PEB 245, it is time for this issue to be resolved. We will not rest until our members receive the agreement that they deserve.”

SMART, along with its coalition partners Transportation Communications Union, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, and the National Conference of Firemen & Oilers-Service Employees International Union, submitted the recommendations of the first board to PEB 245 as its final offer.

MTA, which conducted the bargaining for Long Island Rail Road, rejected PEB 244’s recommendations as a basis for settlement. Instead, MTA proposed as its final offer what it claimed was equivalent value to a deal it reached on April 17, 2014, four days before PEB 245 hearings began, with Transport Workers Union Local 100 representing 35,000 New York City Transit Authority workers. The offer was for 11 percent in wage increases over six years, with a 2 percent employee contribution to health insurance, major pension concessions, and a new, reduced-rate progression for new employees.

PEB 245 decisively ruled for the unions. The three-member panel, comprised of renowned arbitrators Joshua Javits, David Vaughn and Elizabeth Wesman, wrote, “The Unions’ final offer … represents a reasonable balance addressing the priorities of both parties.”

In rejecting MTA’s final offer, the board found that there were no consistencies with any comparisons made by the MTA, and the lack of detail to any comparables did not prove that their final offer was reasonable. As PEB 244 noted, state employee agreements have virtually never constituted valid comparators or patterns for commuter railroads. The labor markets, skills, history, and operations are completely different.

SMART Transportation Division Alternate Vice President and General Chairperson Anthony Simon, spokesman for the SMART, TCU, IAM and NCFO-SEIU coalition, called upon MTA “to accept reality and sign the PEB-recommended contract immediately.”

“Our members and all the hard working men and women on the Long Island Rail Road have waited long enough. We sincerely hope MTA will not stick to its twice-rejected position. We are fully prepared to strike on July 19 if MTA continues to stonewall the process,” Simon said.

To read the complete report of PEB 245, click here.

Presidential Emergency Board 245 determined May 20 that “the Unions’ final offer is the most reasonable” in the four-year-old bargaining dispute between the International Association of Sheet, Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers and its allied unions and the Long Island Rail Road.
The PEB report sets in motion a final 60-day cooling off period. If no agreement is reached during that time, SMART and the other unions can strike on July 19 under provisions of the Railway Labor Act.
Under the RLA’s special 9A provisions for disputes involving commuter railroads, if the parties do not reach agreement after a first PEB issues its recommendations, a second PEB is convened to decide which side’s final offer is the most reasonable.
On Dec. 21, 2013, PEB 244 recommended a six-year contract with 17.9 percent in compounded wage increases. The board also recommended that employees begin paying health insurance premiums that reduced the net value of the proposed contract to 2.5 percent per year. The board rejected Long Island Rail Road’s proposal for sweeping pension, work rule, and other concessions.
In its report, the board notes that “the lack of notice and bargaining on substantial issues in the Carrier’s final offer is of significant concern … The Unions’ final offer, on the other hand, represents a reasonable balance addressing the priorities of both parties … It is noteworthy that the Unions’ assertion that real wage increases for LIRR employees, absent inflation, have not increased at all since 1991, was not challenged by the Carrier.”
“A strong union requires strong members,” said SMART General President Joseph Nigro. “The courage and fortitude these members exhibited shows that there is nothing stronger than the solidarity that comes when working families are united. They are proof of that.
“SMART will provide all the resources needed to ensure an agreement worthy of ratification by these members is produced. They have fought for and deserve every advance they make and will make in the future.”
“Our members on LIRR, led by General Chairperson Anthony Simon, are to be commended for their resolve in seeking the fair and equitable agreement to which they are entitled,” said SMART Transportation Division President John Previsich. “From the very beginning, SMART advised all concerned that management’s offer of a substandard contract was unacceptable and that we would not hold back in our efforts to obtain a just agreement.
“Throughout negotiations and mediation, our position was firm and consistent and management refused to listen. Now that our position is validated by both Presidential Emergency Board 244 and again with PEB 245, it is time for this issue to be resolved. We will not rest until our members receive the agreement that they deserve.”
SMART, along with its coalition partners Transportation Communications Union, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, and the National Conference of Firemen & Oilers-Service Employees International Union, submitted the recommendations of the first board to PEB 245 as its final offer.
MTA, which conducted the bargaining for Long Island Rail Road, rejected PEB 244’s recommendations as a basis for settlement. Instead, MTA proposed as its final offer what it claimed was equivalent value to a deal it reached on April 17, 2014, four days before PEB 245 hearings began, with Transport Workers Union Local 100 representing 35,000 New York City Transit Authority workers. The offer was for 11 percent in wage increases over six years, with a 2 percent employee contribution to health insurance, major pension concessions, and a new, reduced-rate progression for new employees.
PEB 245 decisively ruled for the unions. The three-member panel, comprised of renowned arbitrators Joshua Javits, David Vaughn and Elizabeth Wesman, wrote, “The Unions’ final offer … represents a reasonable balance addressing the priorities of both parties.”
In rejecting MTA’s final offer, the board found that there were no consistencies with any comparisons made by the MTA, and the lack of detail to any comparables did not prove that their final offer was reasonable. As PEB 244 noted, state employee agreements have virtually never constituted valid comparators or patterns for commuter railroads. The labor markets, skills, history, and operations are completely different.
SMART Transportation Division Alternate Vice President and General Chairperson Anthony Simon, spokesman for the SMART, TCU, IAM and NCFO-SEIU coalition, called upon MTA “to accept reality and sign the PEB-recommended contract immediately.”
“Our members and all the hard working men and women on the Long Island Rail Road have waited long enough. We sincerely hope MTA will not stick to its twice-rejected position. We are fully prepared to strike on July 19 if MTA continues to stonewall the process,” Simon said.
To read the complete report of PEB 245, click here.

A White House-appointed mediation panel Tuesday rejected an MTA proposal for a Long Island Rail Road union contract for the second time, calling labor leaders’ offer of a 17 percent, six-year pact a “reasonable” solution.

In its nonbinding recommendation issued last evening, the three-member Presidential Emergency Board 245 called the LIRR unions’ proposal for the contract and, for the first time, employee health benefit contributions “a reasonable balance addressing the priorities of both parties.”

Read the complete story at Newsday.

Long Island Rail Road unions left the meeting of Presidential Emergency Board 245 more united than ever in their quest for a fair contract.
The unions submitted a proposed contract that followed the recommendations of the PEB 244, which called for modest net annual increases of 2.5 percent.
The New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority submitted an offer they claim was patterned after the tentative deal reached last week with TWU Local 100, but in reality, it fell far short, the union coalition reports.
The coalition is comprised of SMART Transportation Division General Committee of Adjustment GO 505, the National Conference of Firemen & Oilers SEIU 32BJ, the Transportation Communications Union and the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers.
“It is truly unfortunate that at this late stage, MTA would submit an offer that they know will guarantee a strike if it is selected,” said SMART General Chairperson Anthony Simon. “Their proposal would reduce real wages and effectively eliminate the pension plan for new hires. It is absolutely unacceptable.”
“The MTA is not telling the truth when it characterizes the unions’ position. We have never said that if we don’t get everything we want, there will be a strike. What we are saying loud and clear is that the MTA’s lowball offer, far below the real value of Transport Workers Union Local 100’s deal, will definitely provoke a strike if it was submitted to our membership for ratification.”
The MTA offer, though purportedly following the contours of Local 100’s agreement, actually omitted most of the value of that deal.
“If the MTA offer to us was submitted to the Local 100 membership, it would go down in flames,” Simon said.
The union coalition presented expert testimony showing that the agency could afford the unions’ proposal without raising fares. In fact, MTA Chairman Tom Prendergast testified that MTA was funding the Local 100 deal out of the same LIRR fund that the unions testified were available to the first board, but which MTA said they couldn’t use. It also tapped a fund for LIRR workers’ pensions.
The MTA proposal to PEB 245 omitted almost all of the benefit gains achieved by Local 100. In their place, MTA offered less than 75 percent of their actual value, according to Local 100 officials. MTA offered no evidence to support its valuations of their proposal.
On pensions, MTA proposed that LIRR workers pay more than 9 percent of their salary, where Local 100 members would pay on average 3.5 percent for a pension payment of substantially less value. New hire salaries would be slashed far beyond the modest changes in the tentative Local 100 deal.
“We are shocked that MTA would come before the PEB with a proposal so far below the fair recommendations of the first Presidential Emergency Board, as well as what they agreed to with Local 100 and the MTA police. Their proposal fails the test of reasonableness, and cannot be the basis of a voluntary settlement,” Simon said.

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Simon

Long Island Rail Road unions left the meeting of Presidential Emergency Board 245 more united than ever in their quest for a fair contract.

The unions submitted a proposed contract that followed the recommendations of the PEB 244, which called for modest net annual increases of 2.5 percent.

The New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority submitted an offer they claim was patterned after the tentative deal reached last week with TWU Local 100, but in reality, it fell far short, the union coalition reports.

The coalition is comprised of SMART Transportation Division General Committee of Adjustment GO 505, the National Conference of Firemen & Oilers SEIU 32BJ, the Transportation Communications Union and the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers.

“It is truly unfortunate that at this late stage, MTA would submit an offer that they know will guarantee a strike if it is selected,” said SMART General Chairperson Anthony Simon. “Their proposal would reduce real wages and effectively eliminate the pension plan for new hires. It is absolutely unacceptable.”

“The MTA is not telling the truth when it characterizes the unions’ position. We have never said that if we don’t get everything we want, there will be a strike. What we are saying loud and clear is that the MTA’s lowball offer, far below the real value of Transport Workers Union Local 100’s deal, will definitely provoke a strike if it was submitted to our membership for ratification.”

The MTA offer, though purportedly following the contours of Local 100’s agreement, actually omitted most of the value of that deal.

“If the MTA offer to us was submitted to the Local 100 membership, it would go down in flames,” Simon said.

The union coalition presented expert testimony showing that the agency could afford the unions’ proposal without raising fares. In fact, MTA Chairman Tom Prendergast testified that MTA was funding the Local 100 deal out of the same LIRR fund that the unions testified were available to the first board, but which MTA said they couldn’t use. It also tapped a fund for LIRR workers’ pensions.

The MTA proposal to PEB 245 omitted almost all of the benefit gains achieved by Local 100. In their place, MTA offered less than 75 percent of their actual value, according to Local 100 officials. MTA offered no evidence to support its valuations of their proposal.

On pensions, MTA proposed that LIRR workers pay more than 9 percent of their salary, where Local 100 members would pay on average 3.5 percent for a pension payment of substantially less value. New hire salaries would be slashed far beyond the modest changes in the tentative Local 100 deal.

“We are shocked that MTA would come before the PEB with a proposal so far below the fair recommendations of the first Presidential Emergency Board, as well as what they agreed to with Local 100 and the MTA police. Their proposal fails the test of reasonableness, and cannot be the basis of a voluntary settlement,” Simon said.

The MTA wants Long Island Rail Road workers to give up a piece of their LIRR pensions if they are also collecting federal occupational disability benefits – a plan that union leaders say would unfairly punish the legitimately injured.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials say the proposal – among the concessions sought in the agency’s contract impasse with railroad unions – aims to curb widespread abuse of a U.S. Railroad Retirement Board occupational disability program by LIRR retirees.

Read the complete story at Newsday.

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Kerley

Robert D. Kerley, the senior vice president of the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal Air, Rail and Transportation Workers, has retired, effective Feb. 28. The vice president vacancy in the Transportation Division will be filled by the elevation of Alternate Vice President Jeremy Ferguson by action of the Transportation Division’s board of directors.
Kerley is a member of Local 303 at Springfield, Mo. He began his railroad career as a brakeman for the former St. Louis San Francisco in 1971. He was promoted to conductor in 1973, fireman in 1977 and locomotive engineer in 1978. He served the members of his local as fireman’s local chairperson in 1977, 1979 and 1983. He was elected full-time associate general chairperson on BNSF Railway (GO 001) in 1983 and re-elected to the post until 1999, when he was elected general chairperson.
While continuing to serve as general chairperson, Kerley was elected alternate vice president-West, by delegates at the United Transportation Union’s convention in 2003, and served as secretary of the UTU District No. 1 General Chairperson’s Association for two terms. Since 2004, he has served on the UTU National Negotiating Committee. He also is a member of the UTU Wage and Rules Panel, which works to address ongoing collective bargaining issues at the national level. He was elected full vice president in 2007 and re-elected to that position in 2011. He also has served on the UTU Board of Directors since 2008 and was a member of the SMART General Executive Council.
Reflecting on his career with UTU and SMART, Kerley said “I have thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of both my railroad and union careers and truly appreciate the many opportunities this organization has given me to provide for my loved ones and to serve the membership. I will certainly miss the many friends and colleagues I leave behind, and I wish you all the best in your continued efforts on behalf of working people.”
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Ferguson

Ferguson, a member of Local 313 in Grand Rapids, Mich., was born in 1970. He started railroading in 1994 as a conductor on CSX at Grand Rapids. He was promoted to engineer in 1995.
Ferguson was elected local legislative representative in 1995, local chairperson in 1996, and secretary of his general committee, CSX GO 049 in Jacksonville, Fla., in 2007. He was elected second vice general chairperson in 2008 and first vice general chairperson in 2011. He has also served as special representative and organizer for the UTU International starting in 1997.
He is the father of two children and resides in Jacksonville, Fla.
To fill the vacancy created by Ferguson’s elevation, the board of directors has appointed Long Island Rail Road GO 505 General Chairperson Anthony Simon to the office of alternate vice president.
Simon was born June 11, 1963, and raised in the Richmond Hill neighborhood of Queens, New York.
As GO 505 general chairperson, he represents the crafts of conductor, track worker, building and bridge worker, special service attendant, track supervisor, car repairman and car appearance personnel on New York’s Long Island Rail Road. He also serves as the chairperson of the Transportation Division’s Association of General Chairpersons District 1.
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Simon

Simon hired on with LIRR in 1990 as a station cleaner and was promoted to assistant conductor in 1993. He was certified as a conductor in 1997 and began his career as a union leader soon after.
He first served as a local committee of adjustment secretary and was elevated to the office of local secretary & treasurer in 2000. In 2006, he ran unopposed for the position of general chairperson of the largest union on the LIRR. Simon also served on the Constitution Merger Committee of SMART.
Simon served on the Passenger Hour of Service working group with the Federal Railroad Administration’s Safety Advisory Committee. He organized and implemented a Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund to benefit railroad families in need following the storm and hosts an annual golf fundraiser in support of families on Long Island affected by autism.
He and his wife, Ann, reside in Bethpage, N.Y., with their children, Nicole and Anthony Jr.

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Simon

Following the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Jan. 15 announcement that it is rejecting a proposed series of wage increases for unionized employees on the Long Island Rail Road, SMART Transportation Division General Committee of Adjustment GO 505 has signaled that its members are prepared to strike as early as March 21.

The wage increases and other recommendations were the findings of Presidential Emergency Board 244, which was appointed by President Barack Obama to settle a long-running dispute between LIRR management and its unionized employees.

“With the guidance and support of our SMART International Union, along with the teamwork and solidarity of our brothers and sisters from the sheet metal side of SMART, the Transportation Communications Union and the National Conference of Firemen & Oilers, 70 percent of the represented workforce on LIRR is prepared to deliver on the actions allowable by the process of self-help, as per the Railway Labor Act,” said GO 505 General Chairperson Anthony Simon.

“In addition, we have the support of Transport Workers Union Local 100, which demonstrates an overwhelming sign of solidarity from labor to MTA.”

“Due to the MTA’s unwillingness to accept the recommendations of PEB 244, and without their request for a second board, our labor coalition is prepared to strike as early as March 21. While we have said time and time again that this is not what labor wants for the riders at the MTA, it will be the sole result of the MTA’s unwillingness to take the next step.”

The three board members recommended that the LIRR pay wage increases totaling 18.4 percent over six years (2.9 percent per year) and that employees begin contributing to health insurance premium costs. After factoring in the recommended employee health insurance contributions, the board’s recommendations will produce net wage increases of 2.5 percent per year.

The board’s wage recommendations are retroactive to the first year of the contract dispute, which has been ongoing for more than three years. The board rejected MTA’s demand that workers accept three years of net zero wage increases, followed by two, two-percent increases over five years.

The board also rejected MTA’s demand for major concessions in pensions, including a permanent five-percent employee contribution.

In its recommendations issued Dec. 22, the PEB said the wage increases were comparable to recent commuter settlements in large cities like Chicago and Boston.

Simon said that since its Jan. 15 announcement, the MTA has refused to say if it would seek a second PEB and has declined to meet with him or leaders of any of the other affected unions in the bargaining group.

“Strong leadership requires strong action. Now is the time our SMART membership, and the membership of our supporting unions, realize that we are ready to deliver. Ready for March 21 … or with MTA action, ready for the next step.”

“We need the full support of our members and their full trust in their leadership. The-long standing battle cry for labor has never been more true, ‘progress through unity.’”

To view the complete PEB report, click here.