I've been (not) working on the railroad

I wanted to share an amazing article from the NYT - apparently as many of 97% of retirees from the Long Island Railroad line become disabled, often the day after they choose early retirement! Thankfully, their disabilities include generous benefits, but do not apparently impair their ability to play golf.

I have some patients who are disabled, and sometimes am asked to provide documentation to that effect, but it is very hard to look at this article without feeling more cynical.

See, this is why when I bought B&O Railroad I changed policy so that we just go ahead and execute our retirees. Sure, this means current employees keep working far longer than they would normally resulting in higher average salaries, but after they are “retired” we get to pocket everything they paid into their pension, so we really come out ahead.

Railroads live in their own regulatory world at the Federal level. This is one example I didn’t know about - - apparently this federal railroad retirement agency, created in the early 1900’s, is like a separate social security just for RR employees. I’m willing to cut LIRR a little slack, since the focus of the article is out of their control. True, legacy employees of LIRR do have insane overtime / vacation / sick leave policies, but not entirely out of line with what many public agencies used to provide. New employees don’t get that.

My experience with railroads was with the Federal Surface Transportation Board, another shadow agency just for RR’s. Their laws date back to the 1800’s. RR’s can swoop in and generally do what they want regardless of local or state laws. We run waste managment facilities, and were blindsided by RR’s setting up waste transfer stations in their yards with none of the State permitting required of the industry. When you don’t have to get permits or meet local environmental standards, things are much cheaper.

I think that the original intent of this type of special treatment was perhaps valid, but it’s definitely an obsolete artifact now. But RR’s are a very powerful lobby, and have only gained strength in the past several years.

The best part of this isn’t how screwed up Railroads are in the country but rather how much of an outlier the LIRR is in that screw-up-ed-ness.

But it’s Long Island. A lot of whacky stuff happens on Long Island.