June 14, 2013
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – There’s nothing like shared economic hardship to bring people together – but the solidarity that the city’s municipal unions showed earlier this week at City Hall Park rallying for new contracts, hasn’t always exactly been the norm. That, however, might all be changing according to union leaders who spoke to LaborPress at the scene. (Watch Video)
“The reason why you see this solidarity is because the entire labor force has been treated so poorly,” Detectives’ Endowment Association President Michael J. Palladino said. “There’s a complete breakdown in trust between labor and management, and I think they’re fed up. They’re coming together today, and we are going to stay together until we get what we want – which is simply to be treated fairly and get a fair contract.”
Whatever issues might have separated them in the past, Local 371 President Anthony Wells said that the city’s labor unions are now all in the same unenviable position of fighting for fair contracts.
“We had to come out here in one voice,” Wells said. “It’s not just about labor, it’s about working men and women in this city and having the ability to live in this city. And when they work, getting compensated for it.”
By failing to negotiate with the city’s unions for the last several years, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has created a daunting situation for the next chief executive who will have to figure out a way to balance the city’s finances, and satisfying the working men and woman who undoubtably will have helped him or her win the election.
Harry Nespoli, Uniformed Sanitationmen’s Association president, was resolute in defining NYC as a solid union town.
“They’re not going to bust us like they busted Wisconsin,” Nespoli said. “They’re not going to break the labor unions in New York. They’re not going to do that. We’re together. We deserve raises. There are unions out there five years without a contract. The city workers keep this city running. We want what’s due us – and that’s a fair contract. That’s all we’re asking for.”
According to Robert Croghan, chair of the Organization of Staff Analysts, the cohesiveness of the city’s municipal labor unions has only been strengthening over the years.
“The unions, for the most part, in my lifetime, have become more coherent within the city,” Croghan said. “There was a time when they used to fight with each other – they don’t fight so much anymore. They’re kind of like on the same side. It’s become a culture of understanding and cooperation.”
Despite that rosy assessment, Wells acknowledged that maintaining the kind of solidarity that New York City’s municipal unions displayed earlier this week is going to require some considerable effort.
“It takes work,” Wells said. “We have to come together and look at our common ground. But the common ground is the union. The common ground is working people.”