Arf. arf, I'm a tough guy
I'm a tough guy, I walked
across the Brooklyn Bridge
Bloomberg: Some of Koch's Style, None of His Resolve
By Wayne Barrett | December 21, 2005
The Bloomberg/Pataki position that no talks will resume until the Transport Workers Union returns to work flies in the face of city history. Former Labor Commissioner Robert Linn could not recall any city strike that had ever ended without a negotiated settlement, adding that "it was clearly not the Koch point of view that we should never negotiate with a union that's on strike."
Linn, who was at Ed Koch's side during the 1981 transit strike, recalled two other strikes that occurred while he handled labor negotiations for City Hall, involving the Committee on Interns and Residents and nurses in public hospitals. Linn said the city negotiated with the unions each time, recalling that "it was Mayor Koch's position" that MTA chair Richard Ravitch and TWU president John Law "remain in a room and never go out until they settled." Linn says that should be the city and MTA policy now: "My position is that both parties need to come together immediately."
"To say that we will not negotiate," says Linn, "must mean that the city expects the union to capitulate soon. If that's the strategy, how long a strike will this be?" Linn listed a half dozen city strikes that occurred prior to the Koch years that ended with settlements, but would not eliminate the possibility that a union may have returned without a contract in a prior labor dispute. "Occasionally strikes break down," he said. But he was unaware of any time in city labor history when it was mayoral policy "not to meet until the workers come back."
Ironically, Mayor Bloomberg has consciously adopted the style and rhetoric of Brooklyn Bridge Koch in the current strike, while rejecting the Koch talk-at-all-times position that ultimately resolved it.
I think the mayor's people think that pressure from the International and the fines will force the union back. Neither Pataki or Bloomberg have been crisis managers. Pataki let Giuliani do the heavy lifting after 9/11 and Bloomberg avoided any mayor crises during his first term.
Let me just say this: with the city's tabloids calling for a lynching of Roger Toussaint, I mean they wanted him tossed in the East River, largely negative stories in the media, with below zero temps and miles to walk, that would all combine to force them back to the table.
Only problem is that there is vastly more support for the union than they counted on. They expected that the city would turn on the union and that just didn't happen, despite the articles in the Daily News and Post.
The media in New York still thinks their average customer is Archie Bunker or meathead and it isn't. It's George Jefferson, a middle class minority worker, maybe a government worker.
Bloomberg really, really screwed up with his language. The thugs comment was a gift to the union and tossed the race card on the table like a flop in Texas Hold 'Em.
The Daily News strike of 1990 had the same level of miscalculation. They never thought the union would hold together. In this case, they never thought the union would get any support.
Bloomberg keeps stamping his feet and Pataki makes his demands, soft hands guys who never had a hard day of physical work as an adult.
But let's not forget something: these are guys who work in all weathers doing hard physical labor who don't flinch at fines or jail and on strike days before Christmas. You want to see balls, that's balls. Christmas is December 25th for tranist workers too. A day they plan to picket on.
Think about that kind of resolve, millions of dollars in fines, open, racially-tinged hostility in the press, and vile comments from the mayor and governor, and they still keep going.
I mean, they're dropping an anvil on them and they keep fighting. This might indicate to a smart person, that turning down the rhetoric, taking the fucking pensions off the table and letting people get back to work might be the smartest thing to do.
posted by Steve @ 7:12:00 PM