Sally Goldenberg, Larry Celona and Josh Margolin in NY Post:
These garbage men really stink.
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.
J.P. Freire at Washington Examiner:
I reported yesterday how well compensated these people are:
…[T]he top salary of $66,672 is only the tip of the iceberg for active sanitation worker compensation because it excludes other things like overtime and extra pay for certain assignments. For example, one worker in 2009 had a salary of $55,639 but actually earned $79,937 for the year.Sanitation workers don’t pay a dime for premiums on their cadillac health care plan, which includes prescription drug coverage along with dental and eye care for the whole family. Many continue to receive the full benefit upon retiring after only 10 years. And then there’s the matter of their pension:…Nearly 180 retired [sanitation workers] make over $66,000 year — in other words, over and above the maximum salary of currently working employees. In fact, 20 retirees make upwards of $90,000 in retirement, up to $132,360.
Keep that in mind when reading lines like this:
…[M]ultiple Sanitation Department sources told The Post yesterday that angry plow drivers have only been clearing streets assigned to them even if that means they have to drive through snowed-in roads with their plows raised.
And they are keeping their plow blades unusually high, making it necessary for them to have to run extra passes, adding time and extra pay.
One mechanic said some drivers are purposely smashing plows and salt spreaders to further stall the cleanup effort.
Sure, Mayor Bloomberg planned poorly and should have announced a snow emergency. But this story makes it clear that even if he did, it wouldn’t have made a difference. The question is whether Bloomberg will do anything about it.
Among the victims of this crime: A newborn baby died after waiting nine hours for paramedics to arrive.
Assuming this is true it’s likely to provide much more ammunition to the arguments of those on the right who have started speaking out against the very idea of a public employees being allowed to unionize. Personally, I don’t think it would be appropriate to ban people from voluntarily associating just because they’re public employees. However, situations like this do raise the legitimate question of whether public employees in certain positions should be legally permitted to engage in some of the tactics that unions in the private sector engage during work disputes. When you’re a position where your job is one that is essential to the operation of the city — like a policeman, fireman, or sanitation worker — I think it’s highly questionable to concede that you should the right to go on strike. Essentially what happens in that situation is that the Union has a huge negotiating advantage over the city because leaders would not want to deal with the backlash that would result from the fact that garbage hasn’t been picked up in a week.
Ronald Reagan set the precedent for this in 1980 when he fired every air traffic controller in the country for going on a strike that they were not legally permitted to call. Of course, no American city would be able to do the same thing with it’s police force for fire department, which is why forbidding essential public employees from going on strike seems to me to be an entirely reasonable idea.
On the face of it, it’s not implausible–it wouldn’t be the first time that New York City unions chose the worst possible time to show their displeasure with working conditions. (Two of the last three transit strikes, for example, have taken place during the holiday season.)Nonetheless, the charges are serious, and I’d like to see some better backup than a politician claiming he has secret union informants. If it is true that the trucks were driving around with their plows up, refusing to plow any but the streets they were specifically directed to plow, presumably there will be witnesses who saw this. Similarly, I assume that people noticed if their streets were plowed with the plows set too high, requiring a second pass.In individual cases, that won’t tell you whether it was an organized plan, incompetent individual workers, or workers who were simply trying to score a little extra overtime for themselves. But in aggregate, it should be possible to detect a pattern. Couldn’t the Post find anyone in Queens or the Bronx who claims to have seen this misbehavior?Hopefully, Bloomberg will appoint some sort of investigative committee–after all, it’s his political price to pay. Of course, even if it turns out that the sanitation workers did make things worse, that won’t absolve the mayoral administration that apparently decided to ignore the storm warnings rather than pay the sanitation workers expensive overtime for working the Christmas holiday.
Mike Riggs at Daily Caller
I’m a little skeptical, but mainly because the primary source for the conspiracy theory is an elected official who can expect to be held accountable for the poor performance thus far in the Big Apple. Also, the Twin Cities had the same level of snowfall a few weeks ago, and snow removal was a problem for us, too. Minneapolis/St Paul and the first-ring suburbs have a large amount of infrastructure to deal with heavy snowfalls and about a fifth of the population, and we still have huge piles of snow blocking sidewalks downtown. Heck, we can’t even get the Metrodome fixed; now, the estimate for repair and reinflation is the end of March. I’m not sure that NYC could have done better, with its relatively smaller snow-removal infrastructure, lack of places to put the snow, and population density.
Is it possible that this was a coordinated slowdown effort by public-sector unions to make Bloomberg and city officials look incompetent? Sure, but the simpler answers are usually closer to the truth. The simpler answers here are that this was freakishly heavy snowfall in a city not used to such things, and, well, it has a mayor more interested in salt use in restaurants than on the roads.