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Bloomberg and Labor

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's A Free Country, we bring you the unmissable quotes from the morning's political conversations on WNYC. Today on The Brian Lehrer Show, Joyce Purnick, Bloomberg biographer and WNYC political analyst, talked about Bloomberg's history with public workers.

In the shadow of Wisconsin collective bargaining standoff, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's strong language on union's excesses, and pro-union protests across the country last weekend, Mayor Michael Bloomberg carved out his position in a New York Times op-ed on Sunday headlined, "Limit Pay, Not Unions."

Joyce Purnick said it was a classic Bloomberg approach: "to be practical, to be pragmatic and not to be driven by ideology."

Purnick did point out that Bloomberg's glowing language on organized labor ("they are integral to training, deploying and managing a professional work force") is a little at odds with his record of contracting out work to the private sector. But she said his position makes good political sense right now. 

If he's going to get pension reform out of Albany, he doesn't want to have the unions, which support Albany lawmakers with huge contributions...as his enemies. He doesn't want that. So to some degree, he needs the unions to work with him. He's got another three years as mayor. He can't declare war on the unions. There's no way you can govern in New York City, and declare war on the unions. You can run that way, but you can't govern that way.

And no matter how friendly Bloomberg's tone is, when pension reform givebacks are on the table, Purnick said the unions will be the first to blink.

I think they realize he's not Scott Walker, but they cannot say that publicly. The irony here is he has not been, throughout his entire two terms plus, tough on the unions. He gave teachers over the years a 43 percent salary increase. Now, he did that for reasons that are strong. He did that because the city teachers were not earning parity with the teachers in Nassau and Suffolk, and so on, at the time he took office, and it was getting more and more difficult to hire teachers. It made absolute sense. It made absolute sense to try to further professionalize the teachers in New York City. But it is a 43 percent increase. And he did not get a lot, he got some, but he did not get a lot of givebacks for that, a lot of concessions.

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Comments [8]

D.L.McNamara

What a joke. Of course there is no need to do away with unions if you plan to just disregard any agreements you make with them. Bloomberg is trying to take the $12,000 variable supplement payment away from police retirees. Retirees who have been off the job for years and retired under specific agreements. At least Walker is being honest about doing away with the unions. Did Bloomberg pay Purnick to write her book? Purnick comes across as a schoolgirl with a crush rather than an experienced political analyst.

Mar. 03 2011 04:19 PM
really? from Maplewood

why is no one in the media reporting and emphasizing that the union in Wisconsin have agreed to the cuts that the governor proposed? This is a pretty important fact. If the unions have agreed to proposed cuts, going after their collective barganing rights proves that this is a targeted, calculated distruction of unions. Examine the how the legislature in Ohio passed their attack on unions.

Mar. 02 2011 11:15 PM
Natasha Assa from Old Westbury

Folks, bloomberg does not give a damn about teacher quality and children's success at school he is trying to raise his profile among the right-wing feeders of our politics by demonstrating that he too can bust unions, most importantly teachers' union. What they really want is to turn teachers into what college instructors have become - contingent workforce - without secure appointments, benefits or any respect from society. They cannot bear that a regular teacher can still derive a middle class wage with benefits when folks with PhDs are teaching in higher education (!) below poverty line.

Mar. 02 2011 01:50 PM
bernie from bklyn

what reforms have they held up or delayed? every single one! how about just plain old progress? do you ride the MTA? the only thing the TWU enables is aggressive REGRESSION.

Mar. 02 2011 11:21 AM
Stephen from prospect heights

Real stats:
http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=3372

Complete rollback of New Deal and Great Society and I fear the right wing is winning the war of words because I keep on hearing about union intransigence as well as perceptions that labor is more privileged. Aside from the point that everyone's standards should be brought up and when cutting taxes the folks on bottom typically suffer before anyone else, the entire economy for the last 25-30's has embraced greed where many folks sucked and will jump on the treadmill and willing to sacrifice a social safety net because of the promised of early retirement, business ownership or wealth. Sweepstakes mythology has fascist side-effects. Also, regretfully much of organized labor has assumed a corporatist position. Almost 75 year of corporatism where we have seen large unions' management sell out the interest of labor because they are in-cahoots with management. From a recent email to a friend: "Corporatism is labor's collaboration with capital, is endemic and this collaboration essentially co-opts class conflict. In labor's accommodation of capital's desires, labor disregards the revolutionary call for the equitable distribution of profits. For various reasons, this has been occurring since the Great Depression and has manifested in such awful moments such as Labor's support of the Marshall Plan, deferring consumption for investment to open markets, and continually coming out on the wrong side of the civil rights movement." This toleration of collaboration between Wall Street and Labor Management was partially fueled by the sweepstakes mythos. The good folks in WI are opening the eyes of a country that has been asleep at the wheel for almost two generations.

Mar. 02 2011 11:18 AM
jerry shapiro from New York

instead of these glib assertions, when exactly have the unions stood in the way of these so-called reforms? and what reforms are we talking about?

Mar. 02 2011 11:11 AM
bernie from bklyn

nyc is one of the places in this country where unions create a bad name for the rest of the country's unions. between the still-mob controlled construction unions that delay and fleece every single building project in nyc and the lack of accountability from the dept of sanitation after the obvious work stoppage during the x-mas weekend blizzard. and don't even get me started on the corrupt SEIU and the worst of all- MTA workers....nothing is black & white . corporations can be evil but so can the unions.

Mar. 02 2011 10:55 AM
Susan from NYC

Bloomberg is an incompetent bully trying to distract us from the abysmal failure of the schools since he wrested control from the school board (see NYT articles on faked reading and math test scores, utter incompetence in the sciences, life-killing drop-out rate, etc). He shoved Cathie Black, an incompetent, unqualified socialite friend of his girlfriend, down our throats (to the tune of $250,000/y) as chancellor, then had to hire a babysitter for her ($192,000/y) to give the system some semblance of knowledgeable management. At this point he is just an embarrassing punch line.

Mar. 02 2011 10:55 AM

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