November 4, 2013
By Steven Wishnia
With “100 hours to go” before the polls close, more than 600 people from more than 20 different unions packed Brooklyn’s Borough Hall plaza Nov. 1 for a rally supporting Bill de Blasio for mayor. The Democratic candidate praised the unity of labor, then argued that it was “not divisive… to acknowledge the greatest income disparity since the Great Depression” and to “put out on the table in plain view the struggles of working people.”
After 20 years of Michael Bloomberg and Rudolph Giuliani, de Blasio told the crowd, it’s time to have a mayor who realizes that “it’s in our interest to protect public-sector labor” and that “the best public policy would be more men and women in labor unions.” If elected, he said, he’ll continue to go to rallies supporting security guards and car-wash workers trying to organize.
Union members and leaders at the rally also sounded that theme. “I’m looking for someone who will stem the tide of attacks on teachers and labor,” said Betty Gottfried, a retired adult-education teacher wearing the royal blue of the United Federation of Teachers.
“For the last 20 years, the hardworking men and women of the city haven’t been represented,” said Israel Miranda of District Council 37’s Local 2507, which represents the Fire Department’s emergency medical technicians and paramedics. It’s time to “see that the working families of New York City don’t get the short end of the stick,” said John Samuelsen, head of Transport Workers Union Local 100.
De Blasio “understands the support team that’s needed to keep teachers in the classroom,” said Glen Blacks, executive vice president of DC 37’s Local 372, which represents school-crossing guards, parent coordinators, and drug counselors. The 25,000-member union, which has lost 2,600 members to layoffs in the last three year, will be making phone calls, handing out flyers, and “standing on corners, knocking on doors” to campaign for de Blasio, he added.
Health-care workers SEIU Local 1199, the first large union to endorse de Blasio in the Democratic primary, will be working to turn out its more than 100,000 members who are registered Democrats, said president George Gresham.
“Do not be complacent,” SEIU Local 32BJ president Hector Figueroa urged the crowd. “Even though de Blasio has a huge lead,” he told LaborPress before the rally, “it’s about reminding New Yorkers why we need him as mayor and for the city to move in a different direction.”