LIRR union considering work stoppage over worker's drug suspension

Kristin Thorne Image
Friday, March 18, 2022
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Kristin Thorne has the details after the union for the Long Island Rail Road's electrical workers is threatening a potential work stoppage over the suspension of one of its members

LONG ISLAND (WABC) -- The union for the Long Island Rail Road's electrical workers is threatening a potential work stoppage over the suspension of one of its members.

In December, the MTA suspended 58-year-old Ronald Dolginko, of North Babylon, without pay for six months after officials said he failed a back-to-work drug test in December.

Dolginko had been out on leave since August following open-heart surgery.

The MTA said a lab detected marijuana in Dolginko's urine, and he was immediately suspended.

Dolginko said he does not do drugs.

"I almost dropped the phone," Dolginko told Eyewitness News reporter Kristin Thorne. "I was like, what?"

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Dolginko went to LabCorp about a week later and gave a urine sample. He showed proof to Eyewitness News that the results of that test came back negative for marijuana.

Dolginko has worked the midnight shift in an LIRR maintenance yard for the past 25 years and said he has a clean record.

"I thought the heart surgery was bad enough, but this is far more worse," Dolginko said. "Bills are piling up slowly, but surely."

Ricardo Sanchez, the chairman of IBEW Local 589, said the MTA had no authority to have Dolginko drug tested given Dolginko's job within the LIRR.

"Mr. Dolginko could have came in high cocaine and driven a railroad vehicle and he would get the same penalty as he's getting now," Sanchez said.

He also said it is a violation of the union's contract with the MTA, which the MTA disputed.

"There was no violation of any collective bargaining agreement in the way this case was handled," the agency said.

Sanchez said he's tried to have conversations with the MTA about reinstating Dolginko.

"I've spoken to everybody and I mean everybody," Sanchez said. "I've gotten to the point where I can't wait anymore because every day I wait is another day Mr. Dolginko is out of service."

Sanchez said he is considering every option "up to and including" a work stoppage of the union's approximately 1,000 LIRR electrical workers.

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The last time the union walked off the job was in 2001.

"We don't take this lightly," he said. "We don't shoot from the hip. We're pretty certain our position."

The MTA called the threat reckless.

"Any discussion of an illegal work stoppage is irresponsible, inflammatory and a disservice to Long Islanders who rely on the LIRR to get to jobs, doctors and wherever else they need to go," the agency said. "Should such a reckless walkout occur in violation of the law, the MTA would take the strongest measures possible to end the disruption and minimize any impact on riders."

Last year, a court found that the MTA did not violate the union's agreement by forcing a different Local 589 worker who had been out on leave to go to the MTA's medical department upon his return to work.

Dolginko could go to an MTA trial or have a hearing, but Sanchez said Dolginko would most certainly lose and would be fired.

He also would remain suspended without pay for the entire time it would take for a trial or a hearing to be completed.

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