Mayoral View On Contracts Has Changed

The Wall Street Journal - December 31, 2013

by Michael Howard Saul

When Mayor Michael Bloomberg steps down on Tuesday at the end of his third four-year term, he is leaving his successor with every employee contract in New York City expired. During his second term, he boasted he would do the opposite.

In September 2008, before Mr. Bloomberg led a movement to overturn term limits and get a third term, the mayor made a point of noting that a contract with Local 237 of the International Brotherhood of the Teamsters would extend beyond the end of his second term in 2009.

"That's important because whoever succeeds this administration won't have to deal with a situation where part of the labor force is not under contract," Mr. Bloomberg said, according to video from the 2008 news conference being circulated recently among labor leaders.

"They'll be able to get their feet wet, learn the ropes, see where they stand and take a look at that fiscal year before they have to face serious negotiations."

Mr. Bloomberg said he remembered a lot of expired contracts when he took office in 2002 and said he would leave his successor with very few.

As Bill de Blasio prepares to take office Wednesday, all 152 city employee-bargaining units—representing hundreds of thousands of workers—have expired contracts, a first since the 1970s. Union leaders are seeking retroactive raises that could cost billions of dollars.

Harry Nespoli, head of the sanitation workers' union and chairman of the Municipal Labor Committee, an umbrella group of city unions, said Mr. Bloomberg is leaving Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio with a fiscal problem.

"At the end of the day, he did not want new contracts and he left it," Mr. Nespoli said. "This is very poor shape for the administration coming in."

Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, said: "If you are a good steward of the city, then you should leave the city in a good place for the person who's following you, and he clearly did not do that."

A Bloomberg spokesman said the administration has had an offer on the table since 2010 that mirrors the "reasonable deals" state workers reached with Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

"But the unions made a conscious decision to delay raises in hopes of an unrealistic deal with the next mayor," he said. "The incoming administration is inheriting a city budget in better fiscal condition than any administration in city history."