If she would have been able to retire as planned, after 20 years, Vignali’s annual pension would have been some $16,000, which is about $1,400 each month. Because she was laid-off after 19 years, her pension was cut down by about $500 each month.
“This was my dream to get my pension and Social Security,” says Vignali.
There is never an opportune time to lose one’s job. For younger workers, however, it is plausible to find another job. Longtime Nassau workers did have the option of accepting a retirement incentive, which paid $1,000 for each year of service.
If Vignali took the incentive, she would have got about $19,000 up front, but she would receive 6,000 less per year in pension for the rest of her life. She had 10 days to make her decision. Ultimately, with her 20-year mark in sight, she could not give up what she felt she earned.
What was earned, and what was deserved, is extremely important to Vignali, who has a pronounced sense of equity.
In her forties, Vignali was heavy; she has the pictures to prove it.
“Oh it’s terrible, but here I was 40 years old,” she says, while staring at one such photo. “I love to eat; that’s my thing—I love to eat, and I love to cook.”
A quarter of a century older, Vignali is 138 pounds lighter than the younger woman gazing out from the photograph. Mistakenly asked how she was able to lose 137 pounds, she quickly corrected: “138 pounds.” While others may have just rounded up to 140 pounds, to her, the exact number is a mark of honor.
Vignali is not looking for any more credit than she has earned, but she is also not looking to be short changed—not by a pound, not by a year.
As of February, Vignali lived in Westbury. Her one-bedroom rented apartment on the second floor of a house was small yet spacious. Bottles of perfume were arranged neatly on a glass table beside the bed, and pictures of her children and grandchildren sat atop the furniture like trophies earned for living respectably.
But because she lost her job a year too soon, Vignali has since moved into her son’s house in Bethpage.
“It’s heartbreaking,” says Chris Fasulo, the younger of Vignali’s two sons. “It’s insane, you put in all that time and effort and work, and you think you’re going to get something, and it’s just ripped out right from under you. And at Christmas time too; it’s the worst.”
Vignali painstakingly recounts what occurred on Dec. 29, the day she was fired: County workers were called to a field-house on Charles Lindberg Boulevard in Uniondale. Two police officers guarded the doors. In the presence of John Imhof, the commissioner of social services, the dismissed workers from the Department of Social Services were asked to turn in their badges and leave the building, she says.
“I got all confused; I didn’t know where my pocketbook was; I was disoriented,” recalls Vignali. “People had to help me. I didn’t know where I was.”
Crying, Vignali says she asked Commissioner Imhof how he could do this after she had worked for 19 years. Imhof appeared to be fighting back tears of his own, she says, ultimately replying: “We can’t help it.”
Multiple requests for comment for this story left with Imhof’s secretary went unanswered as of press time.
While the layoff could not have come at a worse time for Vignali, just a year before she planned to retire, hers is but one story from the hundreds also cut loose—throughout both counties.
Vincent Leogrande, 42, a resident of Miller Place—where he was born and raised—was one of the 88 Suffolk employees displaced in the recent layoffs.
Leogrande worked 18 years as a Land Management Specialist in the Planning Department. His job consisted of both creating and updating maps, as well as computer programming and data entry. He was planning on staying with the county until he was ready to retire, but instead was laid-off in February.
“Both the legislature and the county executive don’t know how to manage money,” blasts Leogrande. “I’d been there 18 years. I did my job, and I get screwed because of mismanagement.”
Leogrande has been searching for a new job since being laid-off by Suffolk. He said has been able to find some work that pays on commission, but is still in search of a salary based job.