Local 1180 Whacks Mayor With Own Campaign Ads

Chief Leader - October 27, 2009

by ARI PAUL

City Comptroller and Democratic mayoral candidate William C. Thompson is being heavily outspent by Mayor Bloomberg, so one municipal union is trying to balance the scales a bit by giving him a push in the home stretch.

Besides running anti-Bloomberg television advertisements, Communications Workers of America Local 1180 members Oct. 20 rallied near City Hall with the message, "NYC is not for sale."

Not Working for Average Person'

Union Vice President Bill Henning contended that despite what Mr. Bloomberg has said about his governance, his main constituency has been the upper class. One of the union's television ads shows one wealthy couple boasting how much richer they have gotten during the Bloomberg administration. Meanwhile, Mr. Henning argued, the cost of living for working people has increased.

"His program is not working for the average working New Yorker," he said. "It's working for Wall Street, the beneficiaries of the big bail-outs. It's not working for renters. His Rent Guidelines Board put in huge rent increases, and even bigger ones if you're fortunate enough to pay less than $1,000 a month in rent."

While leading in the polls as well as boasting numerous endorsements, including holding his own when it comes to labor support, Mr. Bloomberg has attacked Mr. Thompson on several counts, most notably questioning his tenure as the President of the former Board of Education. Mr. Henning saw the negative ads as a sign of weakness.

"If he's so good, why is he going negative on Thompson?" he asked. "It's pretty clear why: because he's in big trouble."

Term-Limits Fallout

Mr. Henning said that Mr. Bloomberg's popularity was slipping because there was still widespread anger over his decision to extend term limits without a referendum, something he had previously vowed never to do.

The union official continued that one of the biggest failings of the administration was standing by Commissioners who were not performing adequately. Without naming names, he invoked the Deutsche Bank building fire of August 2007, in which two Firefighters died. The Manhattan District Attorney's Office found that in the year prior to that incident, in which the site had multiple Building and Fire Code violations, the Fire Department had not inspected the building, even though it was mandated to do so every 15 days. Fire unions had harshly criticized Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta, who is retiring at the end of this year, over the deadly fire. The Buildings Department also came under heavy criticism, but its Commissioner was allowed to remain until a deadly crane accident last year led to her resignation.

"His sticking to Commissioners long past the time when they have proved their effectiveness is kind of interesting," Mr. Henning said. "Somebody said that the press criticism of a Commissioner was the best job security that they had."

Unions' Divided Loyalties

Labor is split in this election, as most of the private-sector unions have gotten behind Mr. Bloomberg's pro-business growth agenda. The Mayor also enjoys the support of all five uniformed Police Department unions as well as Teamsters Local 237 and the Uniformed Sanitationmen's Association.

But Mr. Henning noted that several unions that supported Mr. Bloomberg four years ago turned against him this time, most notably District Council 37.

"There's a real defection from the last time," he said. "There are some unions that have gone with Bloomberg. There's an awful lot of power of the incumbency, but many fewer unions this time are going with Bloomberg than the last time, and I think it's due in large part to the disenchantment with this guy being so completely out of touch with what average New Yorkers have to go through every day."

Mr. Thompson has the endorsements of Transport Workers Union Local 100 and the Uniformed Firefighters Association. The Correction Officers Benevolent Association, a key Bloomberg endorser in 2001, is also supporting Mr. Thompson.

The Local 1180 protest last week was not coordinated with other groups or the Thompson campaign. In fact, its message was more anti- Bloomberg than pro-Thompson. Mr. Henning did not go out of his way- after bashing eight years of Mayor Bloomberg-to say that Mr. Thompson had proven himself to be more tuned in to the needs of working New Yorkers during the campaign and as Comptroller.

"He's certainly much more sympathetic," Mr. Henning said.