Martin Luther King essay by Ernest Fazio

Members and friends

He was 26 years old when he began to be noticed as a force to be reckoned with. His ascent to prominence was predicated upon the simple notion of articulating and finding justice as he saw it.

He was courageous, but unlike that remarkable New Yorker, who dove onto a subway track to save the life of physically challenged man, Reverend King’s courage was more difficult to maintain.


No, Martin Luther King did not have a fraction of a second, he had the slow painful realization of protracted courage to deal with. His was the courage you go to bed with at night, and you worry that your actions will have adverse and painful effects on you, your family, and the people who believe in you. It’s the courage that haunts you every day. But day after day, month after month, and year after year Dr. King pursued his goals of justice.


What a wonderful example he created for the rest of us. While most of us never suffered the bigotry, and indignity that Reverend King was fighting, we all are called upon from time to time to stand up for something.


Martin Luther King achieved a great deal without violence on his part, or on the part of those who followed him. In contrast to leaders that use violence in the most cavalier manner, Reverend King put his own well being at risk, but admonished his followers not to pursue the course of violence or revenge. He did so with the full realization that he was always in danger.

Reverend King was a disciple of another man of history, who also achieved his goals by non-violence, Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi was also the example that fed the sharp intellect of Nelson Mandela. 


We celebrate Martin and the other examples given above as a way of remembering this great American on his birthday. The success of these great and brave leaders was not a fluke. These were men of deep spiritual commitment. Their beliefs were the guiding principles that allowed them to forge ahead despite the fact that they were fully aware of their vulnerability.


Not many of us will have the need or the ability to act courageously, but our hope is that faced with a bad situation we will behave in a way that we can be proud of ourselves. I often think that these individuals are the giants among us, but instead of feeling personally diminished by their larger than life courage, I am encouraged. I am encouraged because they were, after all mortals just like us. They were certainly not perfect, but Reverend King and the others were able to reach inside themselves and find something special.


Yes we want to honor Dr. King, but it is not about him anymore, it is about us. May we all be blessed with the courage it takes to lead our lives with the ability to reach into ourselves. May we find something that is as powerful as what Martin found in his being.

Transportation issues – letter from Hank Boerner

The East Enders (operating through the Five Towns transportation organization) are on to the real solutions. Rail and rail-bus technologies offer real solutions for relieving traffic, lowering carbon emissions, providing economic and convenient transportation for residents and workers, addressing some parts of the affordable housing crisis (employees can be moved to now inaccessible areas where housing can be constructed or rehabbed, such as in downtown Riverhead, where the town is attempting to create semi-urban housing).

We cannot and should not rip up the existing rails beyond the key commuting points, either literally (removing the track) or, figuratively, by shriveling or totally abandoning service. (For example, the rails beyond Ronkonkoma to Greenport should be maintained, not neglected, and never allowed to be ripped up.)

Over the long-term, public transportation is an important element in achieving more energy independence and in economic development for Suffolk County (including keeping jobs and business already here). 

Think about the present and future importance of railroad and highway transportation hubs such as —

Port Jefferson

Ronkonkoma (rail, road and air)

Babylon (electric service) – then on to Patchogue – then beyond to Speonk

Riverhead (county seat, sitting at the confluence of the forks)

The pioneers of the Long Island Road – founded 1835! – understood the importance of hub and spoke transportation with rail as the main component.  There were main lines to the above hubs (from Brooklyn through Jamaica and Penn Station through Jamaica out to Riverhead, etc.) and trolley lines and short-service branch lines running all over Long Island.  Before the automobile dramatically changed things, and, in a relatively short period of time. 

Before rail, water transport and stage coach lines linked isolated settlements – Port Washington, Oyster Bay, Port Jefferson, Greenport, etc.  Railroad changed everything and shaped the present day face of Long Island.  

The LIRR for decades was one of the most effective, diverse, economic and customer-focused rail transport systems in the nation.  There is a Brookhaven National Lab because before that there was a Camp Upton (Yaphank) training soldiers for WW I and WW II.  There was an Upton because of LIRR service and available land in Brookhaven Township’s center.  There was a mighty agricultural region from East Meadow to East Marion because the LIRR carried produce to the city center and western markets overnight.  (In 1920, 120,000 carloads of produce was carried east to west!)
If we accept the status quo – if we don’t use what now exists in rail transport infrastructure – future generations can rightfully say:  Shame on them in the early years of the 21st Century.  LIMBA can make things happen!

Many decades ago, at the start of the 20th Century, when the LIRR became a division of the mighty Pennsylvania Railroad, the plans were to extend frequent electric and daily commuting service from the Jamaica, Penn Station and Brooklyn terminals all the way to Port Jeff, Ronkonkoma and Patchogue.

The Great Depression killed that off these plans (after 1930) and after WW II, the great Pennsy began to lose ground to airlines, trucks, cars and buses.  The peak year for intercity rail traffic was 1946.  There was no money for investing in Long Island infrastructure.  Even without money before state takeover, the LIRR continued to build traffic and today remains at a peak – almost a quarter-million rides a day!  (New York State has invested more than $6 billion in various ways in the LIRR.)

Having a two-car rail jitney running frequently is a great idea.  This was done by LIRR for a long time in the 1960s, with Budd cars in pairs running between Babylon and Patchogue and sometimes beyond, as an economic way to provide frequent service.  In the 1970s the federal government gave the LIRR significant funding for “hybrid” power cars that would run on either diesel or electric, so the train running past the end of electric service (such as at Babylon) could continue on using diesel.  We could use more federal monies to pioneer similar technologies and breakthrough services on the East End of LI.

We need to get automobiles off the road and more people using public rail service. All over LI there were key trolley lines running from local neighborhoods to the rail lines – tracks can be seen north-south in Patchogue and Bay Shore today.  There was a key line from Roslyn to Mineola.  And much trackage was later torn up would be great to have today –

The Mineola station linked to the Valley Stream station and south shore lines via West Hempstead.

There was a high speed bypass line that Route 111 in Brookhaven roughly follows today in Suffolk (LIE Exit 70), taking the Montauk (rail) Line up from the Hamptons to the Main Line east of Yaphank and onto the west via Ronkonkoma.  

A line ran from Port Jefferson through Sound Beach etc. to Wading River.  (Think of having that line today running from Port Jeff to Shoreham and a boat link to New England); and beyond to the Riverhead East End Transportation Hub.  Another branch line from Bridgehampton up to Sag Harbor.  There were many like this; economics forced some abandonment, and the motor car spelled doom for some lines.

Before we lose much more LIRR trackage, LIMBA could begin to put pressure on state legislators, members of congress, leaders of townships and the county, MTA etc. to (1) preserve what we have (2) use rights-of-way to build new capacity (3) explore new technologies that could make LI a leader in transport technologies (we have all the other ingredients in the base of industries here); (4) address the issues of affordable housing and job creation through transport access.

The message to public policy makers is: let’s not lose what we have; let’s build up what resources are still in place; let’s make public transportation a solution to traffic jams and a real element of economic development for Suffolk County and especially the eastern portions of the county

Good work, LIMBA.  You are on “the right track” for the future!

Hank Boerner

July 4th Essay — Ernie Fazio

“When I saw the statue of Liberty tears ran down my face,” recalls Eva Zeisel, “because I knew I was home.” 


Eva Zeisel is a world famous pottery artist commissioned by the Soviet Union to create that states official pottery and dinnerware in the early part of the 20th century. Later for reasons that were never fully explained to her, (the official charge was ‘plotting to assassinate Stalin) she was jailed for 16 months by her previous benefactors. She was just as inexplicably released, and she immigrated to Germany at a time when Hitler was consolidating his power. Zeisel, a Jew, saw the danger, and quickly got out of Germany. After briefly living in England, she immigrated to the United States.


So there she was entering America, a country she never before set foot in, and in her mind she had come home. This notion of being comfortable in this country for even the newest émigrés is not at all unique. My own mother’s recollection of entering New York Harbor revealed that magical, almost instant, bond these émigrés feel for their new country. 


We may ponder this affinity for the new country that was known to our ancestors. Those of us who were born here can only imagine the experience of abandoning a homeland that has let them down. People left their villages, family, friends and all that was familiar to them. In many cases, perhaps most cases, the new country, America, was hostile. As hostile as it may have been, they knew they had a better chance here than where they had come from.


It’s about freedom. It was about freedom then, and it still is today. Safety, and security, are extremely important conditions, but the great elixir is freedom. If we trade our sacred freedoms for a promise of safety from the state, it is indeed a sorry trade. In the final analyses the state can never guarantee our safety, but state after state has been successful in robbing their populations of this precious concept of personal freedoms. Remove freedom, and all else you make available to the people is but a trinket


In keeping with the spirit of a patriotic 4th of July, here is a verse my mother repeated often;

            Be there a man with soul so dead?

            Who never to himself hath said

            This is my home, my native land

            My country


I can assure you, she meant America

Memorial Day essay – Ernie Fazio

Members and friends

We celebrate Memorial Day and thank the many thousands of men and women that have given so much for the preservation of this great nation.


There is a magic of America, and it is worth fighting for. America is not a great country because it produces more goods and services than other countries. America is not great because of its great resources and wealth. America is not great because it has the largest, best equipped, and best trained military in the world. America is great because we cherish ideas that set us free.


 The idea that we can have the right to speak our minds without fear of the state. The idea that we can worship as we please or not at all, and allow everyone else to do the same. The idea that the press can write about the failings of the society and particularly the government, without fear of being closed down, or worse, being jailed. These are important concepts, beliefs and rights, without which we are just another set of national boundaries.


Forty years ago I had an extended stay in a hospital in New York. I used the time to read among, other things “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” Germany was a developed democracy prior to the Nazis. The rights and liberties of that country were usurped incrementally. After a time it became dangerous to be critical of the government. Any critisism of the policies of government were considered a sign of disloyalty. In the early days of Hitler’s governing, when people complained, they were told to “eat your sausages”. In other words, not long ago you were starving, now you can eat, so shut-up. Most of the population seemed to be in agreement. Eventually their equivalent of Congress was dismissed. The control of Germany was now completely in the hands of the Nazis, and we know how well that turned out.


There are people today who are saying to our critics the equivalent of “eat your sausages.” and some of them are my friends, but they are wrong. I have always taken the attitude that the situation we find ourselves in from time to time needs adjustment, but because we have a free press and free speech, we will be alerted before it is too late to react.


Now we are seeing full frontal assault on the press. The press, who we love to condemn, has always been the institution that comes up with the debate. Not always the truth, but without the free press, we will never get the truth. The Attorney General wants to prosecute the press for disclosing the secret prison systems we have created in foreign countries. He wants to prosecute the leaker(s) who told of the illegal domestic spying. It is interesting to note that he is not interested in prosecuting the illegal actions of the government, but only the people who told the story. This is dangerous in my opinion, and we must come to the aid of the free press.


Are we in danger of losing our cherished liberties? I don’t think so. We will discard this group of incompetent leaders and, sadly, we will see more chicanery in the future. The nation will survive because we eventually right the wrongs. The incarceration of Japanese Americans during WWII, the attempt to “pack” the Supreme Court under FDR, the excesses of Richard Nixon, all did much harm, and these events were embarrassments for this great county, but we survived. We have had scandals and power grabs many times during our interesting and inspiring history. We will again right the boat, but it takes our interest and input.


The trick is, keeping your eye on the ball. Pay attention, shed light on what is going on, and the roaches will crawl back into the woodwork.

Ernie Fazio

Labor Day Essay – Ernie Fazio

This piece is merely one man’s opinion and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the LIMBA Board, EMF

I had the honor and privilege of serving as an official in a labor union when I was 24 years old. It was a low level position to be sure, but it gave me the opportunity to see how a real labor union operates. I was impressed with the knowledge and professionalism of the others, particularly the president of the union.


The labor movement defined the new expectations of wages and working conditions in America. It has been argued that the labor movement created the vast middle class that most of us in America brag about. I agree with that opinion. Some will say that industry itself created the middle class because as management sought out innovation to improve productivity, they created the means to pay higher wages. There is some truth in that, but we know that business does not increase wages just because they are making money. The equal truth is that wages go up when there is negotiating strength in the work force. Management has an ever increasing need for productivity, and part of that should ultimately benefit the labor force.


The symbiosis between a good union and good management is much more peaceful than some would have us believe. In other words unions are neither the enemy nor the friend of business. It is more like a component of the process. As one union president put it, “We must be mindful of the needs of viability and profitability of the company while we balance our own needs.”


Today we are several generations removed from the dark days of labor when labor leaders were jailed, or fired upon by goon squads, because they violated the property rights of industry. The argument was then that the labor force had no right to organize and disrupt the operations of business. Of course any employee could withhold his service and leave the job, and as the conventional wisdom stated, when employers lost enough workers they may increase wages to keep employees. And that theoretically is how labor could advance. It didn’t happen. Wages only advanced when the unions could organize a broad strike.


In places like Mexico, we are still relying on business to enhance labor advancement, but Mexico is not at all sympathetic to labor unions. As a result the people are as poor as ever and in some people’s opinion, worse off than they were before NAFTA, when we out-sourced vast amounts of manufacturing jobs to that country.


A working middle class is absolutely essential to a functioning democracy. And organized labor is the key to maintaining a working middle class. As long as the working population is at or near   poverty, they do not have the means to participate in democracy. They do not have the time, energy, or the money it takes to be part of the discussion. For those of us that think of ourselves as middle class, I tell you we are threatened. As our numbers grow smaller our power is also smaller. The remaining powerful interests are business and government. When the middle class is sufficiently diminished then the result is fascism. Fascism has been defined as when business runs the government. In case you haven’t been looking, that transition is taking place in America.


The symbiosis of business, Government and labor is not inherently evil. These forces are constantly in need of being balanced. When labor was too strong, there were aberrations that were not considered good for the country. The same is true of business and government. America’s growth and prosperity relies on each of these entities being roughly in parity, when it comes to wielding power. This process is, or should be, always fluid. The struggle for justice and fairness is never ending, and in the end we all are richer for the process. If any of the forces become overly dominant, then democracy itself is threatened.  

Having respect for all contributors that help make this democracy succeed is important, but today I want to tip my hat to all the good people in the labor movement and those people whose hands we shake that are calloused and hardened by their honest work.

God Bless America’s working people