SPECIAL SUNDAY EDITION: NY Times Puts LIRR’s Balls in a Vise, Tightens

timesgolf.jpg

If you ride the Long Island Railroad or Metro-North, or in any way pay taxes in America, spend the next 20 minutes reading this because some fat Long Island golf guys are stealing your money.

The NY Times has flat-out blasted the L.I.R.R. in a front-cover, 5,000-word story on the scam railroad workers are pulling to command massive paychecks after they’ve retired.

In short, just about every career LIRR worker claims medical disability when he or she retires, and unless they completely botch the paperwork, they get it. Last year, 94% of career LIRR employees who retired after age 50 got disability benefits; fully 97% qualified in 2004. That’s on top of a retirement package that would be the envy of just about anyone I know.

The Times sicced a crew of eight reporters on this one, and they delivered the goods. It appears arthritis and rheumatism is the malady of choice for retiring LIRR guys. From 2001 to 2007, LIRR had 753 claims for both. By comparison, Metro-North–a railroad of a similar size, with similar staff duties–had 32. 32!

If you don’t ride one of those two railroads, you’re probably wondering what all this has to do with you. Well, those claims are paid out in part by Social Security. In fact, Social Security–your retirement home in Boca, your Schlitz money for the final decade of your life–coughed up $3.6 billion on the railroad’s disability claims that were signed off on by the Railroad Retirement Board.

The Times bloodhounds trace the Railroad Retirement Board, a federal organization created in the ’30s, to a crummy insurance office in Chicago. It’s manned by three presidentially appointed employees.

Aptly named Retirement Board inspector general Martin Dickman offered a classic case of passing the buck in his defense of the Board’s nearly 100% approval rate of disability claims (they are only turned down when an applicant fails to complete the paperwork.)

Dickman…acknowledged in an interview that the retirement board’s rejection rate was “almost nonexistent,” but he added: “If Congress wants to change the statute and raise the threshold, that’s up to Congress. That’s not up to us to do.”

The story also unearths some extremely dubious overtime loopholes that are built into the LIRR contracts. It sets the microscope on one Edward J. Koerber, an engineer who routinely got paid for four days while working one–all legal, thanks to arcane LIRR contracts.

Koerber worked his scam–actually, not even a scam, all legal–to boost his annual nut to $276,456–mighty close to LIRR president Helena Williams’ salary of $287,658. Koerber, a heavy-set fellow with a walrus moustache, would quadruple his pay by operating a train with an electric engine (not part of his job duty, extra day’s pay), moving said train to the service yard (not part of his job duty, another extra day’s pay), and accumulating “penalty payments” for things like skipping lunch. (Judging by the Times photo of Koerber, I don’t think he actually skipped too many lunches.)

koerber.jpg

Edward Koerber, Quarter-Million Dollar Man

Insiders commenting on behalf of LIRR say the railroad is essentially powerless to fight this costly waste, due to the threat of a strike. If the fat-ass engineers and conductors choose to strike, the Metro area is crippled, and the public doesn’t care who’s right or wrong–they just want their 7:07 from Huntington back.

And what do all those able-bodied-yet-disabled retirees do with all their free time? They play golf…for free, no less, thanks to an “Access Pass” for all disabled persons that allows them free activities at state parks.

Metro-North actually comes across as a band of gentlemen, compared to those Long Island scalawags.

“We don’t have full-day penalty payments here,” says Jane Murawski, assistant director of labor relations at Metro-North. “It would never be that the person works their eight-hour shift and then they get another eight hours and another eight hours for other things. That doesn’t happen here.”

Metro-North, formed in 1983 from the old Conrail commuter lines, largely inherited the work rules of its parent, which was mostly a freight railroad. But because the L.I.R.R. has always been primarily a commuter railroad, many existing labor agreements remained after the authority took it over in 1966.

The disparity in pay between the two railroads is considerable. At the L.I.R.R, 107 nonmanagement workers earned more than $150,000 in 2006, compared with only a handful at Metro-North.

“We have the best work rules in the industry nationwide — I would say worldwide,” said Mr. Quinn, the official with the Long Island chapter of the engineers union. “They’ve never been able to negotiate them away from us.”

It is features such as this that make me uneasy to think about the massive layoffs hitting the newspaper industry. Who besides the NY Times has the resources to put into such a story, and who’s even going to think about doing such enterprise reporting five or ten years down the road?

[top image: NY Times. Disabled LIRR guy Joseph Rutigliano playing golf on your dime.]

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Edward Koerber, LIRR, LIRR Scandal, Martin Dickman, Railroad Retirement Board. Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to SPECIAL SUNDAY EDITION: NY Times Puts LIRR’s Balls in a Vise, Tightens

  1. Jon Parissi says:

    LIRR employees pay huge amnts of cash into RR RETIREMENT SYSTEM. yOUR PRESIDENT IS BAILING OUT EVERY BROKE COUNTRY AND BUISNESS THAT IS IN TROUBLE IN THE WORLD. hE IS WRITING CHECKS FOR BILLIONS TO AFRICA FOR AIDS RESEARCH. ( DID YOU EVER GETTO VOTE ON THAT?) tAXPAYERS ARE PAYING IT. AT LEAST THE MONEY THE lirr GUYS ARE GETTING IS SPENT IN THE usa AND BY THE WAY IT IS FEDERALLY TAXED. LIKE ANY ONE OF YOU WOULDNT TAKE AN EXTRA DAYS PAY FOR A CONTRACT NEGOTIATION VIOLATION. oH NO THANKS BOSS i’LL JUST TAKE THE 1 DAYS PAY SO i CAN BE A NICE GUY. SOUNDS LIKE SOUR GRAPES TO ME. JEALOUSY IS A STRONG EMOTION.

  2. Harvey says:

    I guess you make less than Mr. Koerber did. Instead of knocking his work rules, why not get a better job, or put in a resume?

    Most LIRR employees make in the six figures just as do most cops and garbage men here on Long Island.

    Why not start your own railroad and pay people $10/hour? Then see who runs the trains on Christmas Eve.

    Sour grapes.

  3. coops2001 says:

    Sour grapes as paid by the tax payers and train riders, most of whom can’t retire at 50 at $250K per with free golf. It’s fraud, plain and simple.

  4. Pingback: LIRR-DISABILITY SCANDAL: FBI Raids Retirement Board’s L.I. Office » trainjotting.com

  5. Pingback: Bobby the Conductor: When Riders Attack » trainjotting.com

  6. Jeff Rosenburg says:

    Like it or not, as the RRB IG said, “It’s the law.” Applying for what is yours is not fraud, plain and simple.

    Maybe you should try to get job there.

  7. CathyAnne says:

    All who are complaining are just jealous that THEY don’t have those work rules, or the pay the LIRR workers do.

    What pisses me off is that these people that wear the suits and push papers and pencils all day long are making the most money and doing the least work. They aren’t out in the elements, making sure your precious son or daughter, husband or wife gets home safely and on time. It’s the WORKERS that do. And if they’re willing to work 7 days a week, holidays and whenever they’re needed, then they should get paid extra for it.

    Does Helena Williams’ position require her to go out and be on the tracks in 100+ degree days in the summer, or shovel 6+ inches of snow in the winter at 10 different stations, or hear a horn blare from right underneath you 21 times within an hour, or have to deal with the spoiled, nasty commuters that her company carts around 7 days a week? Does she leave her husband and kids on Thanksgiving or Christmas because she has to work? No to all of it. Management gets to leave early on Christmas eve and has off the day after Thanksgiving, along with all major holidays-all paid as full 8 hour days. (Most managers don’t even deal with the public).
    Some of those workers that make “all that money” are working those holidays. So why shouldn’t they get more?

    The “fat-ass” conductors and engineers are trained for an extensive period of time to earn they pay that they get. Not everyone can hold those positions. If they could, wouldn’t you be here?

  8. William Hays says:

    Hurry! The MTA / LIRR are running a contest to name two retired 150-hp GE locomotives, being donated to a museum. See their web-site. I think the contest closes 30 April. You, too, could win a free trip to Ronkonkoma! I suggest “Joseph Rutigliano” and “Edward Koerber” adorn the flanks of these now-useless locomotives. Joe and Ed are the only LIRR employees to have their pictures in the NYT since the “Wreck-of-the-Week” days in the ’50s, due to the Railroad Retirement Board scandal. Way to go, Humps! P. S.: don’t sue me! Go to the NYT! They have lots of MONEY!

  9. Margaret Markey, Minnesota says:

    Another stellar example of inequity and injustices in our country: who has decided that railroad workers’ work on this line are worth 5 times more than my work as a nurse taking care of elderly persons in long term care, your mothers , fathers, aunties. Don’t tell me about working in 100 degree heat: how about sitting with someone as they die, or toileting someone who has lost control of bowel and bladder, or feeding someone every meal of the day since they are unable to feed himself. Is that work less so much less important….I would guess when one of those overpaid, over indulged workers sits drooling, and defecating and unable to help himself, his family might value my work just a little more.
    Unions….they are ruining our country.

  10. Labor relations should always be good to ensure the success of a company.;,`

  11. Aw, this was an incredibly nice post. Taking the time and actual effort to produce
    a top notch article… but what can I say… I hesitate a whole
    lot and never seem to get nearly anything done.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s