Thanksgiving message 2020

Thanksgiving is very different this year. I have lost two friends that I know about and that is distressing, but we should not forget that even this year has its up-side.Our people are anticipating an end of a scourge that has been as concerning as anything I can remember in my lifetime. This pandemic has made me more aware of how much we miss our families, associates, and friends when we cannot interact with them as freely as we used to.

The concerted effort to create an effective vaccine has produced several workable alternative vaccines. The fact that we have several manufacturers probably means that a ready supply will be available sooner than we originally expected. We are thankful to the science that is making this happen.

We are thankful to the thousands of medical people who risk their own lives every day, and that army of unsung heroes that bring food to market, drive our buses, and trains, the police and firefighters who must always be there for the rest of us.

There are also other things we should be happy about. We just elected a president where 153 million people voted. That amount of participation never happened before. We should rejoice that so many of our citizens thought that making our voices heard was important and we are thankful to them all, regardless of how they voted.

I started by saying that Thanksgiving is different this year. It is, but it is not bleak. I think we are a little like the soldier returning from the war. We want to get busy making things better. We are glad to be able to envision a new day.
Happy Thanksgiving

From all of us at LIMBA

Meeting Recap – Patrick Guidice


On October 9, Patrick Guidice, the business manager for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 1049, was the guest speaker at LIMBA (Long Island Metro Business Action). He discussed how organized labor makes a positive impact on Long Island’s economy.

IBEW Local 1049, which was formed in 1937, currently has 49,000 members. The union represents gas line mechanics, electric transmission workers, call center operators and customer service representatives for local utilities such as National Grid, PSEG and, most recently, Altice USA. In addition, the union is very involved in the community, supporting organizations such as United Way of Long Island and the March of Dimes. Local 1049 also works with veterans’ groups which provide assistance to veterans living with PTSD and other disabilities.

Mr. Guidice said younger people should look into joining a union because these jobs provide livable wages that make it more affordable for them to live on Long Island. Union benefits also include generous health and retirement plans. “That’s the best stimulus for our economy,” he said. “It’s all about the economy and getting people to invest in the local economy. By investing more, it helps everyone. It’s a cycle and we are proud to be a part of that cycle.” He also noted that some have taken these jobs later in life: one lineman used to be a lawyer and another worker was a trader on Wall Street.

He visits local high school and college students at career fairs in an effort to get them interested in the trades. Two public colleges — SUNY-Oneonta and SUNY-Cortland — offer line worker courses as part of their curricula. To work as a line worker or other union job, applicants must have a high school diploma or equivalent, a permit for a commercial driver’s license and no criminal record.

Both Local 1049 and Local 25 offer apprenticeships for young people to train them for certain positions. It is for three-and-a-half years and, once they complete the program, they will have the opportunity to work in the field. They will learn how to climb poles and how to work on an elevated position from 40 feet above the ground. The starting salary for a line worker is $28 an hour; every six months, they receive a step increase in pay. There is also overtime available. Mr. Guidice said that workers can expect to make six-figure salaries within three-and-a-half years.

However, “it’s not easy work and it’s not for everyone,” Mr. Guidice said. “Climbing up 40 feet is not a natural act.”

Those who are interested in being an apprentice must undergo an interview, similar to a job interview. They must look presentable, they have to answer questions whether they are a good fit for the program and they have to be prepared, which means learning what the prospective employer does. They also need to know which vocation they will enter into. “You can do anything you want to in life,” Mr. Guidice said. “You just need to aim for your goal.”

Mr. Guidice was asked about the diminishing numbers of unions and the low number of women and minorities in union membership. In response, he said, “We are omitted to ensure that we have the best-trained people, and we are adaptable to every emerging technology.” He also emphasized that his union has encouraged women to take on more nontraditional roles in the union, such as line and utility workers, and has seen more minorities join its ranks.

With the 2020 election season nearing the end next month, Mr. Guidice emphasized that they openly support candidates who, in turn, support organized labor, regardless of their political affiliation. He

thanked the Long Island Federation of Labor for its work in holding elected officials accountable.

Meeting Recap – Martin Cantor Sep 25 2020

On September 25, economist Dr. Martin Cantor spoke to members of LIMBA (Long Island Metro Business Action) about the future of Long Island’s economy. He said that the COVID-19 pandemic has ravaged the nation’s economy, especially on Long Island, where downtowns were “decimated” by the closures of small businesses in these areas.
With 70% of the nation’s economy being consumer-driven, Dr. Cantor said, fewer people were shopping out of “fear” of the pandemic. When people don’t spend money, retail establishments suffer. Even online sales cannot save them.
Dr. Cantor also noted that a lot of the businesses that closed down did not have enough cash reserves to cover their losses. As a rule of thumb, he recommends to his business clients that they keep at least six months of cash reserves.
According to Dr. Cantor, 152,000 jobs were lost on Long Island due to the pandemic. Most of those jobs were in the restaurant industry. With the fall season coming and limited indoor dining, he said, many restaurants are closing their doors. Another 50,000 jobs were lost in the tourism, hotel and small retail industries, which, Dr. Cantor said, will not be returning to Long Island.
“There are a lot of businesses I see that pay 100% of the rent, 100% of the utilities, yet they are only operating at 25-50%,” Dr. Cantor said.
Airlines have been impacted as well, with 40,000-60,000 jobs lost, said Dr. Cantor. These losses also affect the surrounding communities. Each job loss in that industry equals 1.5 jobs lost in the local economy.
The pandemic has also impacted county governments. Dr. Cantor said that the Nassau and Suffolk County governments have combined deficits of over $1.5 billion. He credited the Nassau Interim Finance Authority (NIFA) for overseeing Nassau’s finances and ensuring that spending would be kept in check. If it weren’t for the COVID-19 pandemic, “Nassau would’ve had a balanced budget,” he said. Suffolk, however, has “made no concerted effort” to rein in spending. County government expenditures should only be used for public health and public safety and not for redundant services provided by the state.
Dr. Cantor talked about plans by elected officials to raise taxes on the top 1% to plug the budget holes, but he said that wouldn’t work because millionaires “can’t pay for everything.” He also opposes “congestion pricing,” which imposes surcharges on fares for taxis and ride-shares for driving into certain parts of New York City. He said that “people can’t afford it.”
New York State leads all other states in the number of residents moving to other parts of the country, according to Dr. Cantor. Most of those who leave the state are the upwardly mobile, including the wealthy and the upper-middle class. Last year, 50,000 Long Islanders left the state. The exodus could be attributed to rising home prices and the lack of houses on the market. Some of these homes that aren’t being sold are occupied by seniors who wouldn’t be able to afford a new house f they were to sell their current one.
With more people working remotely, Dr. Cantor foresees a decline in commercial real estate and construction because of less demand for office space. He also noted that New York City residents are able to work out of their second homes on the East End without having to check into the office.
Dr. Cantor said it would take between six and 12 months for the economy to return to normal. Further, it would take the “bold leadership” of elected officials to lead their localities through the economic morass; doing do would allow these municipalities to be economically sustainable with federal funding by 2021.

Labor Day Essay Sep 2020

Labor Day 2020- Ernie Fazio

As I was typing these words I looked down at my hands pecking away at the keyboard it occurred to me, that these hands are capable of creating wealth. The skills of these hands and the brains of all who work are the source of all of our wealth. The portent of that realization is profound.

It begs major questions about the way that society values our work.
But these days the person on the scaffold , the person operating the drill press, the scribe who is writing the book, the grocery store clerk, and the hospital employee is undervalued and that is a threat to a democratic society. Anyone who works a 40 hour week and has a steady employment should be able to afford a place to live, feed his family, educate his children and take a vacation.

Under the administration of Franklin Roosevelt laws were put on the books to protect the workers. FDR saw the effects of runaway power of the corporations. Then as now, the financial power was in the hands of too few. He was also convinced that the concentration of financial wealth was responsible for “The Great Depression” The theory being that when there is a financial contraction there is no distributed pool of wealth in the hands of the ordinary citizen to keep the economy going.

The Wagner Act was the major legislation that gave legitimacy to the labor movement and it included the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) It became a powerful tool to right some of the inequities that existed in 1929. That legislation gave rise to the robust economy that emerged for many years after its passage.

Unfortunately, ever since then, and especially since the 1980’s administration after administration has weakened the power of labor. This administration installed an anti-labor lobbyist as Secretary of Labor. As labor grew weaker, income inequality grew more pronounced. The result of having weak labor put us in a situation now that was similar to 1929. Union membership today is lower than it has been in the last 50 years, and the people are poorer.

When the Covid 19 pandemic paralyzed the economy it took no time at all to trash it because the population had so little reserves to fall back on. When a large portion of the citizens have no savings it does not take much to cause economic calamity

The lesson we should have learned is that without the power to negotiate we cannot look forward to equity in the distribution of wealth. Unions provide that avenue. We cannot, and should not rely on government to distribute the benefits of a capitalist society. A minimum wage law is useful, but it is not the answer.

What is the Wagner Act?
The Wagner Act, also known as the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, prohibits employers in the private sector from engaging in unfair labor practices and gives employees the right to establish labor unions, conduct strikes and negotiate benefits, working conditions and compensation. 

Meeting Recap – Sol Wachtler Sep 4 2020

On September 4, former New York State Chief Justice Sol Wachtler was the guest speaker at LIMBA (Long Island Metro Business Action). Mr. Wachtler shared his views on the current judicial system and the political landscape that he believes has compromised the judicial system.

During the Korean War, Mr. Wachtler was stationed as a military officer in Georgia. At that time, all branches of the armed forces were integrated. His first case involved a Black soldier who was arrested for disorderly conduct, destruction of property and resisting arrest. He received a phone call from the local police department asking if they should hold him; Mr. Wachtler said that the MPs will pick him up and return him to the base. (Soldiers who are arrested by local law enforcement are then turned over to the military to stand trial.)

While living in the rural South, Mr. Wachtler said, he witnessed “bigotry beyond comprehension.” He saw how Blacks were not allowed in restaurants and made to use separate facilities from white people. When he spoke to the police officer, Mr. Wachtler said, he used a racial epithet in reference to the soldier. He also said he experienced prejudice firsthand; as a child, he would be beaten up in school because he was Jewish. The evangelical churches in the area also exhibited an animosity towards Catholics.

In talking about how government functions, Mr. Wachtler said he is glad to see a system of checks and balances in place — that is, no branch of government can have power over the other. When he was appointed chief state justice by then-Governor Mario Cuomo, he said the governor could not influence him to make certain decisions. When President Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court, once they joined the Court, the president could not force them on rule on a case in a certain way. 

When he ran for Nassau County Executive in 1967, Mr. Wachtler’s campaign hired a pollster to determine what his message should be. This was the time of the “Long Hot Summer,” when race riots broke out throughout the country. The pollster urged Mr. Wachtler to run on a law-and-order platform (similar to what President Trump is doing during his reelection campaign), saying the nation is very divided. He told the pollster that he didn’t want to mention anything about the riots, but rather focus on coming up with solutions to fix the county’s problems.

One of the attendees asked why there are so many unqualified state judges sitting on the bench. Mr. Wachtler said that, in New York State, the judges are elected, not appointed, which he calls “a travesty.” He added that people vote for these judges without knowing who they are or what they stand for. Further, the candidates are appointed by the political parties. Mr. Wachtler said that only “the best and brightest minds” should be worthy of judgeship.

Meeting Recap – Huntington Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci Aug 21 2020

On August 21, Huntington Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci was the guest speaker at LIMBA (Long Island Metro Business Action). The main topics included the town’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and the proposed settlement with the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA).

Mr. Lupinacci said Huntington Station was a “hotspot” at the time of the pandemic and so he had to make sure the town continued to provide essential services. He was in constant communication with Huntington Hospital for guidance and kept in touch with county officials and the village mayors within the town.

Town Hall closed down after a couple of employees tested positive for the virus. After a few months, after consulting with medical officials, it reopened, but Mr. Lupinacci emphasized it was a slow reopening.

Mr. Lupinacci talked about the precipitous drop in coronavirus cases in the state and on Long Island. However, he said, people should be ready for a second wave of the virus and urged everyone to continue wearing a mask.

He acknowledged that the virus impacted the government’s revenue collection efforts. Because construction projects were put on hold, there was a drop in revenue from building permits. The town also suspended paid parking to boost the local economy, but the town never received any money from the parking meters. The biggest hit, he said, was the sales tax collections. To make up the shortfall, he is implementing a hiring freeze within the town.

Two months ago, in an effort to revitalize the town’s economy, Mr. Lupinacci formed a Small Business Task Force. He worked with local Chambers of Commerce to help restaurants plan for outdoor dining. Indoor dining is also allowed, he said, but only at 50% capacity.

Another effect from the coronavirus was food insecurity. Mr. Lupinacci noted how people have lost their jobs and are unable to buy groceries. He has worked with local nonprofits, churches and religious institutions to get grant money to help those in need. Seniors receive five frozen meals a week. In addition, HART, the town’s bus system, assists in delivering meals to those financially affected by the virus.

Mr. Lupinacci addressed the controversy with LIPA. According to the supervisor, LIPA sued the town claiming the property where the utility’s Northport power plant is located was overassessed. As part of the lawsuit, LIPA sought a 90% reduction of its property taxes. He said a public forum was held on the proposed settlement and another one will take place on September 3.

He also discussed some of the latest developments in Huntington. This include an 80-unit apartment building north of the LIRR station in Huntington Station which, he said, is in the final stages. There is also work on a sewage line south of the train station that runs along the Route 110 corridor and ends at Bergen Point in Babylon Town. Mr. Lupinacci added that he is working to attract local businesses on Route 110, where there is available office space.

During Tropical Storm Isaias, Mr. Lupinacci said, more than 1,200 trees came down and, of the 80,000 residents and businesses who were PSEG customers, half of them lost power. For those people, it took them seven to nine days to get their electricity back. He urged residents and businesses to contact the Public Service Commission and their local state Senator if they had a bad experience with PSEG in getting their power back. If a tree falls on their property, they should call the town, and the town will reach out to the proper agency.

Meeting Recap – LIRR President Phillip Eng, June 5, 2020

On June 5, LIMBA (Long Island Metro Business Action) hosted a virtual meeting with Phillip Eng, president of the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR). This was the first time LIMBA has hosted a meeting remotely.

As president of the LIRR, Mr. Eng said, his top priorities are service, reliability and safety, which are part of the LIRR’s Forward initiative. The East Side Access, Main Line Expansion, Double Track and ADA accessibility programs, are currently being performed on schedule. The agency is also continuing to work on the platforms on the west side of the Mineola station, repairing elevators at the Floral Park station and making upgrades along the Carle Place, Merillon Avenue, Garden City and New Hyde Park stations.

Mr. Eng said the employees took a proactive approach during the slowdown by working on safety improvements. They recently installed concrete ties to replace the older wooden ties. Because they are made of concrete, he said, they are sturdier, more reliable and provide a smoother ride. In addition, LIRR personnel inspected the rails for breakage; any rails that were broken or about to break were immediately replaced. The LIRR exceeds federal inspection guidelines, inspecting the rails two to four times a year; federal requirements call for inspections only once a year.

After reaching record ridership at the beginning of the year, Mr. Eng said, the number of riders dropped off significantly as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Since March 27, the LIRR has run an “essential service plan” with only 3% of ridership taking the trains. He pointed out that those riders are “heroes” — healthcare workers, food delivery workers, utility workers and transit workers.

In an effort to protect workers and riders, Mr. Eng has encouraged them to practice social distancing and, if that is not possible, to wear protective face coverings when on the trains, waiting on the platforms or taking the stairs to and from the station. He has said that LIRR employees are working hard to keep riders safe by spraying down the cars with an EPA-approved disinfectant. In addition, all LIRR employees undergo a temperature scan to make sure they do not have the virus.

The good news is that, during the pandemic, on-time performance was at 98%, according to Mr. Eng. As of now, ridership has increased to 10%. Mr. Eng said that, once New York City starts to reopen under the state’s Phase 1 on Monday, there will be more riders taking the train.

Mr. Eng has been LIRR’s president since April 2018. He first joined the Metropolitan Transit Authority in 2017 as chief operating officer. In his role, he spearheaded initiatives focused on modernizing transportation systems through innovative technologies. These include the development of new fare payment applications and testing new signaling systems. Mr. Eng also served as the acting president for New York City Transit, leading the early efforts of the Subway Action Plan.

Download the presentation PDF here.

From the USMA Alumni Glee Club

The link below is to the Vietnam Medley, a musical compilation performed by the West Point Alumni Glee Club at the Johnny Vet: Freedom Isn’t Free concert first performed in November 2017 and again last November in conjunction with Rick Ridge High School.  The sound track is from the November 2017 performance and the visuals were used to accompany the live performance.  The Glee Club is sharing this with all West Point Graduates in honor of Vietnam Veterans Day, Sunday, March 29th.  We hope your classmates enjoy this tribute to our Vietnam Veterans.

Professional Ethics- Briefly Noted

Al Vitters, PhD

Not too many years ago, a prominent business leader in New York City noted that “educating and training people on the subject of ethics was not worth the effort because it couldn’t be done”. Indeed, in business and other professional schools across the country in the 20th Century it would have been hard to find a core course in ethics or the topic even addressed in academic curriculum. More recently, ethics and corporate social responsibility have become “hot topics” in academia and in professional training and education. But evidence abounds of ethical “melt-downs” and misconduct in all types of organizations- banks (Royal Bank of Scotland), corporations (ENRON), government (George Washington bridge scandal), public school systems (changing student test scores)…This brief essay will address ethics, what causes people to act unethically, and what should be done to prevent it.

Briefly defined, ethics relates to principles, standards, and values that guide honorable behavior. It is being able to distinguish “right from wrong” and then doing the right thing. Scholars have viewed ethics from many perspectives. Absolute ethics calls for people to adhere to strict codes or commandments. Situational ethics notes that one should consider the influence of external factors in determining “right from wrong”. In his “stages of moral development”, Robert Kohlberg offers even more insight into the nature of moral and ethical decision-making. He has written elegantly about the moral stages that individual’s progress through from infancy to adulthood.

What causes people to act unethically in group settings? It is a complex, multi-faceted issue, but some of the usual culprits are: greed, dishonesty, lack of time or resources, conflicting guidance, ambition, excessive “bottom-line” emphasis, and the organizational paradigm of “producing more with less” (no matter what the collateral damage). In my experience, some of the worst ethical lapses have occurred when great pressure is put on young supervisors who are often overworked and under resourced to just “make it happen” and get results.

What can organizations do about this? Fortunately, there are many programs and strategies that can be pursued. Among these are the following: personal example of senior leaders (never underestimate this), developing an internal code of ethics, training supervisors and employees in topics related to fraud, waste, and abuse, rewarding people who report ethical lapses, instituting negative consequences for potential “bad actors”, unannounced audits, and involving fiduciaries more in oversight. Many of these steps only require emphasis, and can be instituted without great cost to the organization. Failing to proactively act, however, or hoping that issues will just go away or might never surface can be very costly. It can also greatly damage the organizations hard earned reputation.

One of the most effective strategies to use in promoting an ethical culture can be TRAINING.
Workshops can be designed to give senior leaders the opportunity to address ethics. Short cases can be developed using scenarios and examples from the business and then allowing time for group analysis and discussion. The value is in learning from different perspectives and exploring diverse views. In this manner, organizations can proactively diffuse potential issues before they occur.

Organizations are run by people, and people are capable of lapses in moral judgment and acting out of unethical self-interest. It behooves all organizations in the 21st Century to attend to the issue of ethics through policy, example, and training, just as they would other “bottom-line” challenges. Research suggests that ethical awareness and sensitivity can indeed be taught. Moral courage may then be called for to do the right thing and pursue the harder right over the easier wrong.

his essay was submitted by Al Vitters, PhD. He is a LIMBA member, Colonel (US Army-ret) and a Professor at St. Joseph’s College. He teaches “Ethics & Social Responsibility” in management courses.