The city’s powerful teachers’ union just can’t seem to get mayoral races right.
When the United Federation of Teachers offered its coveted endorsement to Bill Thompson in June, it was seen as a game changer for the candidate. But the union’s efforts came up short yet again, with Mr. Thompson conceding the contest today after placing a distant second.
This is not a new situation for the UFT, which chose to sit out the 2005 and 2009 races, and–as its critics like to point out–last backed a winning candidate in 1989.
A coalition of labor unions has launched a major Spanish-language radio campaign touting City Council Speaker Christine Quinn for mayor.
SEIU 32BJ, the Hotel Trades Council, the Mason Tenders District Council and Teamsters Joint Local 16 have teamed up as “Unidos para Comunidades Trabajadoras” for the one-minute spot, which touts Ms. Quinn’s record and declares: “It’s time we had a mayor who looks out for us.”
While the big labor unions and elected officials have mostly stayed mum on the mayoral race so far, the same can’t be said for the citywide race for comptroller. Accordingly, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, currently unopposed, continues to amass endorsement after endorsement in his bid, a long list of which you can view below. The latest arrived today in the form of the influential 1199 SEIU.
“When it comes to fighting to make sure hard working New Yorkers have good paying jobs and access to quality healthcare, Scott has been in the corner of working families throughout his career,” George Gresham, the union’s president, said in a statement. “It is why we enthusiastically support him as the next New York City Comptroller.”
Councilman Robert Jackson has racked up the endorsement of the United Federation of Teachers in his bid to be Manhattan’s next borough president. UFT President Michael Mulgrew announced the endorsement, which was voted on by the members of the teacher’s union, in a statement today.
“For more than 30 years, Robert Jackson has fought for New York City’s public school children and has been their champion and advocate,” Mr. Mulgrew said. “He understands personally the power of education and has fought to make sure every child has the chance for the best education possible.”
On his weekly radio show this morning, Mayor Michael Bloomberg discussed the city’s ongoing bus driver strike and waxed philosophical about the nature of public employee unions. And, while explaining the inherent challenges in cutting certain government services, the mayor made sure to extend empathic concern to those on the opposite side of the negotiating table.
“Municipal unions have always had great support from the legislators, whether they are city, state or even federal unions,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “You see the post office–which loses a fortune–they can’t cut back the number of post offices and workers. [This is] partially because every town wants to keep their post office, but partially because there are a lot of jobs involved. I’m sympathetic to people who want to keep their jobs.”
Last night, members of the Communications Workers of America Union distributed flyers calling Cablevision CEO James Dolan an “Ebenezer Scrooge” outside the annual holiday fundraiser for the Lustgarten Foundation, a pancreatic cancer charity supported by the company. Cablevision released a statement about the situation this afternoon calling the union’s activities at the event “shameful” and accusing CWA of numerous other misdeeds.
“This benefit was about curing pancreatic cancer. For the CWA union to interfere with this important effort is a new low for a union that has already tried to exploit Hurricane Sandy, intimidate employees and mislead other unions,” the statement said. “It is deeply offensive to not only Cablevision employees and customers, but also to cancer sufferers and their families.”
Though the bluster of the Chicago teacher strike calmed down last week, the tensions between teacher’s unions and prominent mayors have not ceased. For his part, Mayor Michael Bloomberg is siding with his Second City counterpart, Rahm Emanuel, who pushed for changes to Chicago’s public school system despite opposition from the local teacher’s unions. Mr. Bloomberg discussed the situation this morning at NBC’s third annual Education Nation Summit at the Bartos Forum of the New York Public Library.
“I think Rahm Emanuel, the mayor of Chicago, was quite right to move towards a longer school day,” he said. “I also think Rahm was right in pushing towards evaluations as a reform that the Obama administration made as part of Race to the Top.”
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s office is not impressed with James O’Keefe’s latest hidden camera video. Mr. O’Keefe, a controversial conservative activist, posed as an executive with a do-nothing company in the clip and met with a pair of union officials in New York asking whether they could use their political connections to help him secure environmental grants for simply digging and re-filling holes in the dirt. The men Mr. O’Keefe spoke to, John Hutchings of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, former assemblyman Ronald Tocci and Mr. Tocci’s brother, Anthony Tocci, describe how they have lobbyists who help them “push our agenda through.” They specifically name several elected officials they claim are friendly to them; Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, Congressmen Eliot Engel and Jerry Nadler and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. Mr. Silver’s spokesman, Michael Whyland, told us Mr. O’Keefe’s video shouldn’t be treated as serious journalism.
“This is not reporting. This is not journalism. It doesn’t even rise to the level of a comic strip. This is the kind of stuff that gives honest reporters a bad name,” Mr. Whyland said.
The latest video from controversial conservative provocateur James O’Keefe’s “Project Veritas” implies unions and several big name New York politicians are colluding to earn state and federal contracts for do-nothing companies purporting to hire for so-called “environmental jobs.”
In the clip, Mr. O’Keefe portrays an executive for a business that literally digs ditches and fills them back up with more dirt. He visits with John Hutchings, whom he describes as a “director” of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, and former assemblyman Ronald Tocci and another man who apparently discuss how easy it is for them to use their lobbyists and political connections to get cash for businesses.
“When we go for a bill, you know, you’ve got to get approval of the Senate, and the Assembly and then the Governor’s got to sign that. We have a lobbyist for the Senate [Republicans], and we have a lobbyist for the Democrats and that’s how we try to push our agenda through,” Mr. Hutchings says in the video.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn won’t tolerate anyone messing with Mayor Bloomberg and Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, doesn’t want messing with Ms. Quinn for angrily leaving this morning’s rally celebrating the upcoming vote to pass the living wage bill after someone mocked the mayor.
Ms. Quinn made her exit from morning’s rally on the City Hall steps when someone shouted a crack about “Pharaoh Bloomberg.” Mr. Appelbaum, who was in attendance at the awkward rally, leapt to the Speaker’s defense this afternoon with a press release reminding people of her role in getting the living wage bill vote passed in the first place.
“Make no mistake, there would be no living wage law bill without the Speaker,” Mr. Appelbaum said. “Even though Chris may have left the rally after declaring her support for the bill, the most important thing for us to remember is that thousands of new Yorkers will receive higher wages because she had the courage to stand up and pass the living wage law.”