Union Holds New York Hostage

by Ivan Osorio on December 30, 2010

in Labor, Politics as Usual, Regulation

Public anger over New York City’s botched snow plowing effort this week has turned to the city’s sanitation workers union — for good reason. The New York Post reports:

Selfish Sanitation Department bosses from the snow-slammed outer boroughs ordered their drivers to snarl the blizzard cleanup to protest budget cuts — a disastrous move that turned streets into a minefield for emergency-services vehicles, The Post has learned.

Miles of roads stretching from as north as Whitestone, Queens, to the south shore of Staten Island still remained treacherously unplowed last night because of the shameless job action, several sources and a city lawmaker said, which was over a raft of demotions, attrition and budget cuts.

“They sent a message to the rest of the city that these particular labor issues are more important,” said City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Queens), who was visited yesterday by a group of guilt-ridden sanitation workers who confessed the shameless plot.

Halloran said he met with three plow workers from the Sanitation Department — and two Department of Transportation supervisors who were on loan — at his office after he was flooded with irate calls from constituents.

The snitches “didn’t want to be identified because they were afraid of retaliation,” Halloran said. “They were told [by supervisors] to take off routes [and] not do the plowing of some of the major arteries in a timely manner. They were told to make the mayor pay for the layoffs, the reductions in rank for the supervisors, shrinking the rolls of the rank-and-file.”

New York’s Strongest used a variety of tactics to drag out the plowing process — and pad overtime checks — which included keeping plows slightly higher than the roadways and skipping over streets along their routes, the sources said.

The snow-removal snitches said they were told to keep their plows off most streets and to wait for orders before attacking the accumulating piles of snow.

The costs that government employee unions impose on taxpayers are bad enough. But holding a city hostage during an emergency should be truly beyond the pale. In this case, people died because emergency vehicles couldn’t get through the unplowed streets. (It’s worth noting that, while The Post is to be commended for reporting this story, the workers who revealed the union shenanigans are whistle blowers, who do not deserve the ugly “snitch” epithet.)

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg hasn’t shied away from taking on the teachers unions that have brought the city’s public schools to dysfunction. Now the sanitation union’s bosses have issued him a challenge. He must meet that challenge if he wants to put a good light on his legacy.

For more on public sector unions, see here and here.

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