February 9, 2016
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – What’s going to happen to New York City’s iconic horse carriages now that a deal to end the de Blasio administration’s crusade to squash their industry has fallen through? The head of the union fighting on behalf of contending pedicab drivers says, “be prepared.”
“I think we all need to be prepared,” TWU Local 100 President John Samuelsen told LaborPress. “The powers that be heard a lot of voices loud and clear that the deal was not a good deal for workers. But I think the real estate developers who contributed to [Mayor] de Blasio's campaign will try to think of another angle.”
Critics of the mayor’s attempts to ban New York City’s horse carriage industry insist that calls to pull horses from city streets had less to do with animal rights, than it did helping developers get their hands on the stables where those nags are housed.
Teamsters Local 553, the union representing horse carriage drivers, had hoped the tentative agreement reached with the de Blasio administration — moving the existing stables to an area inside Central Park and cutting the number of horse carriages operating in the city — would end the mayor’s push to stamp out the industry entirely.
But support for the fledgling deal was never solid, and had factions on all sides of the issues who were ultimately unwilling to support it.
The hooves hit the road, so to speak, when TWU Local 100 blasted the deal, which would have also relegated Central Park pedicab drivers to an area north of 85th Street.
“This thing began to fall apart under pressure that came with our introduction into the equation,” Samuelsen,” said. “We successfully did what we set out to do — which was to give the pedicab drivers a voice.”
A source close to Local 553 said that the union representing horse carriage drivers pulled up on the deal because members ultimately did not want to support a plan that included a significant loss of horse carriages well before new stables could even be built. The same source says that members were aware of the potential risks involved in helping to kill the agreement with the city.
We no pact in place, it remains unclear if a new compromise will be sought, or if the de Blasio administration will once again seek to secure an outright ban on the horse carriage industry.
“It’s really up to the mayor,” the source close to the Teamsters said.
Mayor de Blasio was far definitive following the collapse of the tentative agreement with the Teamsters last month, when he complained that the union “didn’t keep to their agreement,” while also vowing to “find a way forward.”
In the meantime, TWU Local 100 says it is ready for whatever pushback real estate developers might muster. The union is continuing its efforts to organize the pedicab industry. If successful, the organizing victory will mirror a similar win achieved last year when the Local 100 secured a first-of-its-kind contract for New York City Bike Share workers.
“We’re going to be ready for whatever they come with,” Samuelsen said.