Bloomberg Was for Union Raise Before He Was Against it

Lindsay Beyerstein

NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg takes a reporter's question during a news conference after the end of a three-day transit strike on December 22, 2005.

New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg was shocked, shocked earlier this month to learn that a state mediation board gave Transport Workers Union 1014 percent raise this year and next.

But the outgoing head of Local 101, Roger Toussaint, pointed out that the mayor privately approved the raise in a phone call last October.

He said at least three times in the conversation that he had no problem at all with the two 4’s,” Toussaint told the New York Times last week.

Two other union negotiators also remember the mayor telling them he had no problem with the pay hike. Bloomber says Toussaint’s claim is only partially true.” He says he supported the raises, provided the Metropolitan Transport Authority (MTA) could afford them.

The mayor, who is running for reelection, is eager to distance himself from raises he supported just last year.

The TWU and the MTA looked to a New York state arbitration panel in January after failing to come to terms on a contract. The arbitrator announced the terms of the final settlement earlier this month.

Bloomberg professed astonishment at the arbitrator’s decision:

We are going to have to raise fares again and again and again unless some day we stop all this craziness, make the investment so that we can provide a better service to more people with less labor,” the mayor said, What on earth were the arbitrators thinking about.”

TWU employees will get the equivalent of an 11 percent raise over 3 years. The MTA had asked the mediators to freeze wages for 2010 and re-open the contract when the economy improved.

The union was asking for a raise comparable to the increases negotiated since for teachers, prison guards and other City employees. The MTA justified its demand for an indefinite wage freeze by pleading poverty. But then, in May the state legislature passed a $2.3 billion bailout of the MTA.

In light of the MTA’s bailout and the deals reached by other city workers, the arbitration panel evidently decided that the union was making a more reasonable offer than the MTA.

Lindsay Beyerstein is an award-winning investigative journalist and In These Times staff writer who writes the blog Duly Noted. Her stories have appeared in Newsweek, Salon, Slate, The Nation, Ms. Magazine, and other publications. Her photographs have been published in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times’ City Room. She also blogs at The Hillman Blog (http://​www​.hill​man​foun​da​tion​.org/​h​i​l​l​m​a​nblog), a publication of the Sidney Hillman Foundation, a non-profit that honors journalism in the public interest.
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