In a dramatic acceleration of his transition to City Hall, Mayor de Blasio made five appointments to his administration, including a veteran negotiator to be his point man in forging new contracts with all of the municipal unions.
As the city’s next director of labor relations, Bob Linn, 65, is returning to a job he held more than a generation ago, under then-Mayor Ed Koch. But this time, de Blasio said, Linn will face the “hardest assignment” in the history of labor relations at City Hall.
It was a reference to some unfinished business that former Mayor Michael Bloomberg left to his predecessor: All of the city’s 300,000 unionized employees have been working without contracts, some for five years. The unions are demanding more than $7 billion in back pay.
De Blasio said he hoped to resolve “as many (contracts) as possible” in 2014. “It’s one of the most important focal points of this administration,” he said.
The municipal union leaders had a guarded response. Linn “was always a tough negotiator,” said Harry Nespoli, of the Municipal Labor Committee. “But it’ll probably be better than what we have now under Bloomberg.”
Capital NY got a quote from Linn:
In his opening remarks, Linn said it was "premature at this point" to discuss contract negotiations.
He then extended an olive branch to the frustrated, 300,000-person city workforce, which was often at odds with departing Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
"It has certainly become fashionable to denigrate public-sector workers and you will never hear that from any of us," Linn said.
Also a more extended statement from Nespoli and Vincent Alvarez, another labor leader:
Labor leaders expressed cautious optimism upon hearing of the new appointments.
Harry Nespoli, who chairs the city's Municipal Labor Committee, said he "expects" retroactive raises.
"We expect it now. It's time. We've been living on credit cards this whole time," Nespoli told Capital. "We're hoping Bob will listen to what we have to say, and we'll listen to him as well. It will be a slow process but I think with this new administration we can reach an agreement."
He said he will meet with his members in the coming weeks to discuss negotiations.
Vincent Alvarez of the city's Central Labor Council said, "It's a new day, and the mayor and Linn recognize that we need to move forward. … Obviously retroactivity is part of the issue but we will let that unfold at the bargaining table."
We'll just have to see how things go here.