Bloomberg attacks city workers

March 15, 2011

Sandy Boyer, co-host of Radio Free Eireann on WBAI in New York City, looks at New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's latest attack on workers.

NEW YORK'S billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants city workers to pay to balance the city's budget. He is threatening to lay off 6 percent of New York's teachers. There is a very real danger of teacher layoffs, but this well-publicized threat is actually part of Bloomberg's war on the seniority system. He is trying to get the New York state legislature to allow him to lay off teachers without regard to seniority.

Bloomberg likes to claim he wants to keep "good" teachers and weed out the ineffective ones. The reality is that he wants to get rid of experienced teachers with seniority because they make more money than new hires.

The United Federation of Teachers, the New York City teacher's union, has attacked the layoff threat. Union President Michael Mulgrew said, "We've already lost nearly 5,000 teachers to attrition in the last two years, and class sizes are skyrocketing across the city. It's time the mayor joined us in fighting for the children of our city."

Bloomberg wants to cut all city workers' pensions. He is planning to eliminate an annual $12,000 payment to retired cops and firefighters. Bloomberg calls it a "bonus."

It is actually something the city negotiated years ago with the fire and police unions. Steve Cassidy, the president of the city's Uniformed Firefighter's Association, called Bloomberg a "liar" who is trying to "steal" pensions: "He's unhappy with the deal that was struck 23 years ago. Too bad. That was the deal."

Bloomberg says he won't sign any union contract that doesn't slash pensions for new employees. They wouldn't qualify for a pension until they worked 10 years instead of the present five and new civilian employees couldn't retire until age 65, no matter how long they had worked.

Billionaire Bloomberg, like New York's "liberal" Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, categorically rejects taxing the rich to prevent budget cuts. They both want to let the state's "millionaire's tax"--a surcharge on people earning more than $200,000 a year--expire even though it would bring in $4-5 billion.

Neither Bloomberg nor Cuomo is willing to use the more than $16 billion New York collects every year from the stock transfer tax--a small tax on every share of stock sold--to close the state's budget deficit. Instead, they insist that it must continue to be returned to the people who sold the stock--overwhelmingly, rich Wall Street speculators.

The leaders of New York City's public employee unions are talking tough on Bloomberg's attacks on city workers. Harry Nespoli, head of the sanitation workers' union and the Municipal Labor Committee, declared, "We're fed up with this. [He's] going to have a battle. We're not just going to roll over."

Now they just need to make their actions match their words.

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