Long Island Rail Road Members
Letter to Long Island Rail Road Members
Regarding Negotiations from
BRS President Dan Pickett and
BRS Vice President/LIRRBC Spokesperson Dennis Boston
January 14, 2014
To: All Members Employed by Long Island Rail Road
Dear Sir and Brother:
Many of you may have heard of the Long Island Rail Road Bargaining Coalition (LIRRBC) from your Union officers. The LIRRBC was the original bargaining coalition formed in this round to negotiate with the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR or carrier). Our coalition is made up of the following unions: the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen (BRS), the International Association of Machinist (IAM), the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), and the International Rail Supervisors’ Association (IRSA). The union officers that had the vision to create the coalition were Chris Natale, BRS; John Lacey, IAM; Ricardo Sanchez, IBEW; and Jimmy Snider, IRSA. The LIRRBC then elected BRS Vice President Dennis Boston to be the spokesperson. What is remarkable is that these unions had foreseen this battle in 2010, long before it began.
From the beginning, the carrier made it clear that it had no authority to come to terms directly with the unions on its property. The unions saw shortly after the first meeting with the carrier that we were being targeted by the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA), who then took over the direct negotiations with our coalition.
The LIRRBC contacted the National Mediation Board (NMB) to request that a mediator be assigned to our case; therefore, John Livingood was assigned as our mediator. As you may know, with its proposal to the coalition, the carrier dug itself into a position of zero percent wage increases for the first three years and two percent wage increases for the last two years. The outrageous changes to your agreements are too long to put in this letter, but we are confident you would never have ratified an agreement that had such extreme modifications as extending vesting requirements for the pre- and post-1988 current pension members, making you choose between taking a disability pension or taking a Railroad Retirement disability pension. As you know, the current process on the LIRR allows you to do both, as it should. The rest of its long list went on and on with similar unreasonable demands. We made it clear to the LIRR/MTA we will NEVER give into its extreme position; more importantly you, the members, would never have ratified the carrier’s proposal.
In 2013, the LIRRBC requested a release from mediation, or, as it is more specifically known, a“Proffer for Arbitration.” This would allow us to enter into a Presidential Emergency Board (PEB).
Once again, the LIRRBC were the first unions on the LIRR to lead the way and be released from mediation and receive the approval of the NMB to begin the process of having a Presidential Emergency Board appointed. The NMB agreed with us, and it appointed a PEB. Each PEB is given an identifying number, and our PEB number is 244 (PEB-244).
There were additional unions, who are not in our coalition, who decided to also request a release from mediation. They were also given the identifying number as us, PEB-244. This is the standard practice when multiple unions request to be released from the same carrier, they will all use the same PEB to present their case.
We agreed to meet with the other unions and our attorney, Carmen Parcelli, in Washington, DC. During that meeting, the LIRRBC and the other unions agreed to work together using the same attorney with the goal of presenting a proposal that was agreeable to both of our groups. The three member PEB panel, consisting of Chairman Ira Jaffe, Member Roberta Golick, and Member Arnold Zack, was appointed by President Obama, who, subsequently, summoned the parties together in this case to New York City on December 2–7, 2013.
The LIRRBC, and the other LIRR unions, presented its case to the PEB; subsequently, the LIRR/MTA also presented its case. At the conclusion of the PEB proceedings, the Board brought all parties together to determine if there was any common ground that could be agreed upon; which could lead to a voluntary agreement. Unfortunately, the carrier was unwilling to move from its original position; and, without compromise, the unions could not accept that same bad deal, which included zero percent general wage increases for the first three years of the contract, in addition to other extreme changes to the agreements.
In the absence of a voluntary agreement, the PEB wrote a report with its recommendations. Under these circumstances, the parties typically negotiate terms of an agreement based on the PEB’s report that would then go to the members for ratification. Thus far, the carrier has refused to meet with the LIRRBC unions in an attempt to hammer out terms on a new agreement based on the PEB report.
On January 15, 2014, as part of the PEB process, the LIRRBC will meet with the NMB members to update them on our position regarding the PEB report. We will tell the NMB that although the report of PEB-244 is not everything we wanted, we do believe it is fair, reasonable, and a balanced report that could be used to come to terms of an agreement for the LIRRBC. Additionally, there is testimony from MTA Chairman Pendergrass to PEB-244 that he would be willing to accept the PEB’s report or findings. However, the carrier’s team is now saying that he may have misspoken.
While we have not yet reached the time limits, if the carrier continues to just say “no” to the LIRRBC and to the PEB-244 recommendations, we could find ourselves in a second PEB. After that, if the carrier continues to obstruct the process outlined in the Railway Labor Act, we could be forced to strike because of the unwillingness of the carrier to negotiate based on the PEB recommendations. We want to make it clear that the LIRRBC and the other unions in our coalitions have done everything we can do up to this point. We have repeatedly attempted to have the carrier come to the table and bargain based on the report before us. The Governor of New York could tell the LIRR and the MTA to come to the bargaining table and negotiate based on PEB-244’s report, which would avert a possible strike that would disrupt service for hundreds of thousands of commuters for no good reason.
We want to ensure that you, the member, is up-to-date on how the negotiations are proceeding. We are continuing to fight, on a daily basis, for what is best for our membership.
W. Dan Pickett, President
Dennis Boston, Vice President/LIRRBC Spokesman