Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Why July 20th Should Matter to Everyone in Metro NY and Long Island – #LIRRmageddon!

Mark your Calendars for July 20th - if you aren't concerned about this date and you live in Long Island and Metro NY, you should be.  This might be the day when MTA workers for the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) are planning to walk off the job if contract negotiations fail. You heard it here first, I'm going to dub this “LIRRmageddon” (it sounds better when you say it aloud, trust me.) 

Some of us may recall the weeks after hurricane Sandy when the LIRR was off line, and the hours added to the average commute. When the LIRR is shut down, tens of thousands of daily riders will be on the road, further adding to already congested roads. The MTA is asking employers to ease restrictions on working from home, and suggesting people take vacation time during the strike. Regardless, we are all screwed if the strike goes through.

I personally work from NYC at least one day a week, and drive to NJ the rest of the week. Driving to the Manhattan will not be an option, as parking will be at a premium and the traffic in the Midtown Tunnel and other crossings will make the NJ Bridgegate look like the final lap of a Nascar race.

Through public announcements and leaflets handed out to riders, the MTA has outlined a contingency plan which calls for the following: (According to a Newsday article from today)
  • ·         Work from home or take vacation time
  • ·         Organize carpools
  • ·         Ask if employers will provide transportation or reimburse for hotels, or work off-peak hours
  • ·         Share housing with family and friends
  • ·         Park and ride lots will be set up at key points going into Manhattan including stadiums, where commuters can take a bus or a subway into the city
  • ·         Get ready to sit in a lot of traffic. (I added that one in)

Now my personal opinion from a communications professional’s standpoint: For a system that’s rife with corruption, disability fraud and nepotism, the general public has all but lost patience with the workers union, and they are having a hard time gaining public support for their cause. They were offered an 11% salary increase, but demand 17%, well over other state MTA workers. They are also fighting the pension contribution rise to 5.2%-which is surprising considering the pension and disability systems are huge black holes where public funding goes to die. These funds are passed on to the riders as fare increases, which already top $300 for a monthly ticket. As the public continues to see 401K’s collapse and fees increase, the idea of a full pension with minimal contribution is a pipe dream that many see should be reserved only for the cops and firefighters who put their lives on the line on a daily basis. Additionally, the abuse of overtime and an average salary of more than $83K yearly has the patience of many commuters running thin. The facts also show that until now, workers did not pay for healthcare coverage, which costs the average worker thousands of dollars a year. (Facts quoted from NY Post article Dated 6/8/14)

I give this strike about a 60% chance of happening, which is too high of a risk to not make the appropriate preparations now.

The workers can be seen currently engaging in an unchecked communication plan of actively engaging readers in news article comments and picketing; which, without proper messaging will only yield negative perception for them in the long run. But that doesn't matter, as the public gets no say in this matter because this is now a federal issue.