Standing behind a wooden podium on the fifth floor of the Alhabrama Ballroom, he said would play a far more active role in helping labor recruit new members and protect their benefits and wages. He also disputed the notion that labor represented a "special interest" and said, rather, they reflect "the public interest."
"Our mission is to restore the middle class, which has been not just slipping away gently" but "is in danger of disappearing altogether" de Blasio said at the breakfast. "The American labor movement created the middle class in this country."
He went on to say there has been "a relentless assault on labor in the last few decades" and "then you see the middle class in sharp decline, the dumbing down of wages and benefits. That math isn't hard to do. The attack on labor has reduced the economic stability of American families, greatly." He added:
"And some out there will say labor is a 'special interest' and I will say it is in the public interest for people to be unionized so" so a family's breadwinner "gets good wages and benefits, the family is stable and strong economically. That is in the taxpayer's interest. That is in the society's interest."So, I look forward to doing all I can, not only to respect and work with public sector labor but to help build the private sector labor movement. New orgazing, supporting carwash workers, supporting security workers, support fast-food workers, this is the work of our times."
I can remember a candidate named Obama saying some very nice things about labor unions and union members during the '08 campaign, something about getting some comfortable shoes and walking picket lines if he needed to in order to support labor, and that candidate, once he became president, turning his back on labor (especially during the assault in Wisconsin.)
So words don't mean as much to me as actions and I'll wait to see how de Blasio handles contract negotiations and DOE policy as it relates to the treatment of teachers before I render judgment on him.
Nonetheless, it is nice to have a mayoral candidate say these kinds of words - I respect public sector labor, I want to expand private sector labor, labor unions are not special interests, they are in the public interest.
These are not words you would have heard from Chris Quinn.
These are not words you have ever heard from Mike Bloomberg.
You certainly won't hear them from Joe Lhota.
Or Andrew Cuomo.
Just like you won't hear nice words like these that de Blasio said about teachers the other day from any of those other politicians:
"I just want to say humanly, personally, Charlaine and I have just the deepest appreciation for the dozens and dozens of teachers who took Chiara and Dante by the hand over the last 14 years and supported them, uplifted them, were there for them in so many ways," he said at the union's headquarters near City Hall. "We have had an extraordinary experience as parents seeing just how good the teachers of this city are."
Again, I'll reserve judgment until I see Bill de Blasio put some actions behind these nice words.
Let's see what these contract negotiations look like in a few months.
Let's see what he does to change the tenor, tone and policies from Tweed.
Still, we're doing a lot better than we were in July when it looked like Anthony Weiner and Christine Quinn were going to be locked in a runoff to take on the labor-bashing Joe Lhota in the general election in November.