The Transit Workers Union Local 100 is holding a daylong “reclaim public transit” event tomorrow in conjunction with Occupy Wall Street and the Working Families Party, against the backdrop of their protracted contract negotiationswith the Metropolitan Transit Authority. According to the statement announcing the event, it is designed to “highlight funding and infrastructure needs of public transportation across the nation” and “raise awareness about how public transit supports good jobs, sustainable communities, a greener environment and reduced consumption of oil.” Tomorrow’s event will include a pair of press conferences as well as leafleting and petitions calling on the MTA to “reoccupy” underutilized buildings in Downtown Brooklyn in order to cut costs.
After a group of unions angry over the passage of the Tier VI pension reform plan pulled support from the Somos El Futuro’s annual Legislative Conference, Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave the organization a pair of hefty donations.
“We think the unions’ actions are unfortunate, and don’t want the conference to suffer as a result. We both support the Somos El Futuro Conference and, as such, we will be donating $72,000 to Somos El Futuro and the scholarship to make up for the donations that the unions withdrew,” the mayor and governor said in a joint statement.
Night of the Living Deals
Albany’s “Night of the Living Deals” included the passage of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s pension reform plan for public employees. Both the governor and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, perhaps the most high profile supporter of Tier VI, released statements praising the passage of the proposal.
“This bold and transformational pension reform plan is a historic win for New York taxpayers and municipalities that will save more than $80 billion over the next 30 years, while preserving retirement security for public workers. Without this critical reform, New Yorkers would have seen significant tax increases, as well as layoffs to teachers, firefighters and police,” Mr. Cuomo said.
Against the backdrop of the contentious turf war over Governor Andrew Cuomo’s pension reform plan, a trio of Democratic Assemblyman and several labor leaders are calling for passage of the Institutional Investor Recovery Act. This legislation would allow the Attorney General to seek damages and recoveries when public pension funds suffer losses due to securities fraud. Currently, the Martin Act gives the Attorney General broad powers to prosecute securities fraud, but it does not allow the State to recover losses on behalf of public pension funds. Pursuing losses from financial firms is a favored topic of opponents of the governor’s pension reform push who argue the focus should be on penalizing Wall Street firms that lost money from the pension fund rather than cutting benefits.
“All the focus on the issue of pensions has been on the benefit side of the equation. We need to look at what happened on the investment side. It simply doesn’t make sense that the pension funds have no practical way to recover investment losses caused by fraud,” said Assemblyman Peter Abbate the lead sponsor of the bill to update the Martin Act.
Legislators are returning to work at the Capitol in Albany after four days out of session and, on their way back, they’ll be greeted by a “giant inflatable Wall Street pig” named “1%.” AFSCME, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, announced their intention to stage the porcine protest against Governor Andrew Cuomo’s pension reform proposal in a statement sent out yesterday.
“’1%,’ a giant cigar-chomping Wall Street pig will be making his debut and welcoming politicians back to Albany. The pig, “1%,” is named after the greedy Wall Street special interests and large corporations in the one percent that willingly distort the facts, and outright lie in order to promote Tier 6— Governor Cuomo’s 40% pension-cutting scheme,” the statement said.
Opposing Governor Andrew Cuomo’s pension plan is about to come to Zuccotti Park.
One of New York’s public employee unions, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, is holding a “Tier It Down!” rally tomorrow afternoon against Governor Cuomo’s “Tier 6″ proposal, where new employees would receive scaled down pension benefits in an effort to curb costs.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg appeared on Fred Dicker’s radio show, “Live From The State Capitol,” to discuss Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Tier VI pension reform proposal. Despite rumors of a strained relationship between hizzoner and the governor, Mayor Bloomberg, who was joined by Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings, praised the push for pension reform and blasted legislators who are trying to block Tier VI.
“Our message is that we have an expense that none of us can afford; pension costs that were voted by the Legislature are just destroying the budgets from one end of New York State to the other,” Mayor Bloomberg said.
In a Q&A session with reporters after the cabinet meeting today Governor Andrew Cuomo discussed the state of his push to reform the pension system for public workers. Governor Cuomo was asked about legislators who are demanding he negotiate the reforms with the unions and get them to agree to a plan, but he was adamant that there’s nothing to negotiate and the unions are inherently opposed to reform.
“We just finished negotiating quote-un-quote with our public employee unions; salaries, benefits, et cetera when we did contracts. The contracts were ratified. Pensions are not subject to collective bargaining negotiations, so you can’t negotiate a pension in the collective bargaining. If you just finished negotiating a contract and someone says, ‘Well, go negotiate the pension with the unions and I’ll only pass pension reform if the union agrees,’ there’s nothing left to negotiate with the union,” Governor Cuomo said. “By definition, the unions don’t want a reform that would diminish pension benefits, so the answer’s always going to be, ‘No.’”
After a contentious dispute, Cablevision’s Brooklyn workforce voted to unionize with the Communication Workers of America. The union blasted out a press release touting the results. CWA says that they are the first Cablevision workers to join a union and that “cable TV is an overwhelmingly non-union industry while the traditional telecommunications industry remains highly unionized.”
Needless to say, union officials are extremely happy. “Over the past few months these courageous workers withstood a blistering assault on their right to form a union,” CWA District One Vice President, Chris Shelton, said. “Cablevision truly took the low road by pressuring workers with endless amounts misinformation, but these workers–backed by countless community leaders and elected officials–stood strong. Now we will bargain collectively for a contract that gives the Cablevision 99% equity and dignity on the job.”
Martin Luther King Day has passed us by, but Al Sharpton became the latest political figure to invoke the late Civil Rights hero in the fight between Cablevision and their employees in Brooklyn who want to unionize with the Communications Workers of America. Mr. Sharpton made his comments about MLK while speaking to Cablevision staffers yesterday.