As New York politics begins another year, the tentacles of Big Labor are more visible than ever.
Up in Albany, the budget season opens Tuesday as Gov. Cuomo announces his priorities.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie set his own goals last week: Find ways to spend more money on health care and education — sectors that happen to include political-powerhouse unions such as SEIU 1199 and the United Federation of Teachers.
This, when the big challenge is closing a state deficit of at least $4 billion.
Then again, Heastie wouldn’t be speaker if he hadn’t first pledged fealty to the teachers unions. He even took the unusual step of previewing his legislative priorities last month to UFT chief Mike Mulgrew and other members at the union’s headquarters.
Also telling: The agenda released last week by the Republicans who (barely) control the state Senate doesn’t include anything that might rile the unions.
After all, labor, especially the public-sector unions, spends big on politics — and also supplies legions of campaign workers to help its friends and fight its enemies.
Rep. Joe Crowley, head of the Queens Democratic machine, was reportedly behind UFT shill Daniel Dromm’s rise from heading the Education Committee to helming Finance, which oversees the city’s $85 billion budget. And Daneek Miller, a former Amalgamated Transit Union official, will chair the Civil Service and Labor Committee.
Labor’s power was also on display in the silence from Gov. Cuomo’s office on a letter from three business leaders asking him to save billions for the MTA by opening up subway-construction projects to non-union firms.
The letter pointed to the recent New York Times exposé on the massive funding outlays on the East Side Access project to give LIRR trains access to Grand Central, where costs have soared to almost $3.5 billion per mile — seven times the world average. (The Second Avenue subway line, similarly, cost $2.5 billion a mile.)
As the Times reported, ESA featherbedding included 200 entire jobs (of 900 total on the project) that involved nothing at all — for pay of around $1,000 a day. And that’s on top of all the extra “workers” that New York unions demand on-site — which can triple the crew size, without getting any more work done.
You start to see why the MTA stinted on basic subway maintenance, leading to the endless waves of delays now plaguing the system.
But don’t expect Cuomo to address the business leaders’ suggestions: Unions working on MTA projects have donated over $1 million to his campaigns.
So, next time you’re waiting half an hour on a platform or between stations, say “thanks” to New York’s potent unions.