June 13, 2013
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – For years now, the city’s municipal unions have been banging their heads against the wall trying and failing to wrestle new contracts out of Mayor Michael Bloomberg – but as the billionaire executive enters his final lap around City Hall, they are vowing not to let him get away with blaming working men and women for sapping the city’s resources and potentially hurling it into financial chaos. (Watch Video)
“This city is far from being bankrupt,” Municipal Labor Committee Chair Harry Nespoli told LaborPress on Wednesday. “The last four years [the mayor] has been crying deficit. And in the last four years, he’s been showing a two-and-a-half billion-dollar surplus. So, you mean to tell me that in four years, he couldn’t settle even one of 100 contracts? No. He does not want to settle the contracts.”
Nespoli was part of a huge show of union solidarity on Jun 12, that filled the streets around City Hall Park with fed up rank-and-file municipal employees tired of working for years without a contract.
Michael J. Palladino, president of the Detectives’ Endowment Association, said that Mayor Bloomberg has a pattern of projecting “doomsday deficits” while actually being flush with cash.
“In this city, in the last 11 years, we’ve had $40 billion in surpluses,” Palladino said. “My question is, where is that money going?”
Dr. Cathy Guerriero, a college educator who is also running to become the next New York City public advocate, said that it is time organized labor pushed back against “the propaganda and lies that somehow the municipal unions and the unions of New York City broke the back of the municipality.”
“We didn’t,” Dr. Guerriero said. “We built it. We have a billionaire mayor who ran a city in way that you could not run a company, which is, he forgot to pay his staff.”
Many, including Robert J. Croghan, head of the Organization of Staff Analysts, are tired of both a Bloomberg narrative that consistently scapegoats city workers whose only guilt is trying to make ends meet, and the “spiteful” way the existing mayor has saddled the next chief executive with a boatload of unsigned contracts.
“Did you hear one word about how the fiscal cliff got built?” Croghan said. “About how responsible Mayor Mike has been building that cliff stone by stone?"
Despite the current impasse, Croghan maintains that the unions will successfully negotiate new contracts in the future.
Local 371 President Anthony Wells, meanwhile, said that if Mayor Bloomberg had not refused to negotiate with unions over the last several years, new contracts would have already been settled – and the next mayor wouldn’t be facing such a difficult task dealing with so many overdue contracts all at once.
“It was the mayor that put us in this position of doing it all at one time,” Wells said. “We’re not looking to break the city. We’re looking to have a real conversation to come up with an equitable deal.”
Local 46 President John Skinner blasted the Bloomberg administration for having an “anti-public employee attitude.”
“If the city isn’t smart enough to do business where they pay their workers a fair wage and give them reasonable raises, they’re not doing their job right,” Skinner said. “The developers and the biggest people in this city are getting along fine with Mr. Bloomberg while everybody else has to give up [something] except the very elite. And it’s wrong.”
Councilwoman Letitia James, who is also running to become the next New York City public advocate, said that the general public needs to understand that when members of the Bloomberg administration talk about unions, they’re really talking about hardworking New Yorkers who are struggling.
“They are families who, unfortunately, can’t find affordable housing,” Councilwoman James said. “The reality is that people can barely make ends meet in the City of New York. For twelve years, we’ve had Mayor Bloomberg who has been out of touch with working people, and now, it’s time to get a contact. No more outsourcing. No more privatization. It’s time we focus, not on the rich, but on the working people of the City of New York.”
Patrolman’s Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch said that after a disaster like Hurricane Sandy when union workers consistently stepped up to answer the city’s desperate calls for help – it is time for Mayor Bloomberg to step up and pay the “bill” for those heroic efforts.
“We did our jobs when the water was up to our necks,” Lynch said. “We’re asking for fairness for the work that we do every day.”