Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

NYC Unions Tired Of Being Scapegoated

More on why the deal to avert layoffs by allowing Bloomberg to steal the union health care fund fell apart today:

In a private meeting, member unions of the Municipal Labor Committee balked at making concessions to prevent the mayor from following through on his threat to lay off 4,100 teachers.

The resistance of the unions to self-funding a plan to avert layoffs of the teachers and hundreds of other city workers jeopardizes a city budget deal that had been in the works.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn had asked Municipal Labor Committee Chairman Harry Nespoli to come to the table to discuss ways to prevent the layoffs. Talks centered on tapping into the Health Insurance Stabilization Fund, which is run jointly by the city and the unions.

But Mr. Nespoli released a terse, pessimistic statement this afternoon following the committee meeting, which he said lasted several hours.

“I can tell you that there is a lot of mistrust of City Hall based upon the way we have been treated in the last eight months or so,” the statement said. “That is all I am going to say right now.”

The reference appeared to be to the mayor's refusal to give ground on his layoff threat.

Not all of the committee's 90 unions are against the deal, but enough are resisting it to put its outcome in doubt.

The United Federation of Teachers, which stands to lose the most, is in favor of the deal, the details of which have yet to be ironed out between the mayor's office, the City Council and the unions. One labor insider said the deal “was neither blown up nor locked up.” The insider said that some unions wanted a no-layoff guarantee to be extended for a period of longer than one year.

Gregory Floyd, president of Teamsters Local 237, who attended the meeting, said that the pushback on the deal stems from the fact that the fund was set up for health benefits, that several unions did not receive contracts in the last round of negotiations, and that key City Hall staffers who dealt with labor in the past are no longer around.

He cited former Deputy Mayor for Government Affairs Kevin Sheekey, who left for Bloomberg LP; former Deputy Mayor of Operations Ed Skyler, who is now at Citigroup; former Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott, who is now schools chancellor; and James Hanley, commissioner of the Mayor's Office of Labor Relations, who is recovering after surgery.

“Put all those factors together and there was a lot of anger in the room,” Mr. Floyd said. “The unions are always willing to negotiate, but we're tired of being scapegoated.”

One of the more outspoken leaders against the deal was Norman Seabrook, president of the Correction Officers' Benevolent Association. Mr. Seabrook said Ms. Quinn and Mr. Bloomberg should not expect “labor to be the savior” in the budget process. He said current talks have involved taking $400 million from the fund in exchange for one year without layoffs. But he said that would put unions in the same position, confronting layoffs, but with less leverage, 12 months from now.

“I’d be interested in talking about it if I had a two and a half year deal that took me into the next administration,” he said. “For me, it’s a breaking point to even start with anything less than that.”

There's no assurance that Bloomberg won't look to find a loophole in the deal and do layoffs anyway.

Remember that's what he's done with the teacher data reports, which he promised the UFT wouldn't be published in the media before he, you know, reneged on that.

And frankly, as I wrote earlier today in this post and then later when the deal fell apart in this post, there is no reason for the unions to bail Bloomberg out on this mess.

He backed himself into the corner with the layoff ultimatum.

He knows the money is there to avert layoffs - $550 million of it, which he is using to upgrade technology in the DOE.

He could tap that cash anytime and avoid layoffs.

But he insists there will be layoffs instead, even though this policy is very unpopular, even though he is very unpopular, even though his education policies are very unpopular.

I say don't give him a parachute to save himself.

Certainly don't give him $360 million from the health care fund when he already has the money to avoid layoffs.

He's twisting in the wind on this and he knows it.

His dilemma is of his own making.

And he has the money to solve the problem already.


  1. Of course you are right and lets face it, after Quinn allowed the third term who in their right mind would trust her or Bloomberg? He is up against it and lets not forget who will be laid off if teachers are let go. He has created this mess and he deserves no help from labor. Principals have not received their budgets yet. Mass confusion will ensue and Bloomberg will blame everyone else but the fault will become his. This could be even a bigger problem for him than the blizzard. For my money both he and Quinn should take a hike.

  2. I agree that this could be a bigger problem than the blizzard. You can see it in the coverage of the special education mandates for incoming kindergartners. Missing the deadline for seatings opens the city up to having to send these kids to private school. And the blame goes squarely to Bloomberg, Klein, and now Walcott. They built few schools, they spend capital budget money on technology instead of buildings - but people are seeing through this. They are blaming the right people for this - Bloomberg (with his 38% approval), KLein and (haven't seen a recent poll yet, but since he's the face of these policies, can't imagine its higher than when he started), Walcott.