Mayor de Blasio, on a visit Dec. 19 to Iowa, historically the site of the nation’s first presidential caucuses, told reporters that he was not planning to seek the White House in 2020.
That no doubt gladdened the hearts of three major civil-service unions, who said he is no friend to labor and certainly not the progressive he portrays himself to be.
“He says he’s a friend of working people, but when it comes to his own employees, he is anti-worker and anti-union,” Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick J. Lynch said in a statement.
The PBA sent a contingent of members to Des Moines, where Mr. de Blasio addressed the Democratic group Progress Iowa, to “show that Bill de Blasio is a liar, he’s not a friend of labor, and look at what he’s doing to us, and that’s the real Bill de Blasio,” John Puglissi, the PBA’s first vice president, told the Daily News in the lobby of the Mayor’s hotel.
“His absence from his real job is part of a continued pattern by the Mayor,” Elias Husamudeen, president of the Correction Officers Benevolent Association, said in his own statement. “...Enough is enough, do your damn job already.” He said Mr. de Blasio has failed to ensure the safety of correction officers on Rikers Island, where attacks by inmates have been rising.
Transport Workers Union Local 100 took out a full-page ad in the Des Moines Register saying, “He claims he’s a true-blue Progressive. But take a closer look. He’s a fake.”
They’ve Got Their Reasons
Each of the unions has specific grievances with Mr. de Blasio. The PBA says, as it has for many years, that its members are underpaid in comparison to officers in neighboring jurisdictions and that the city’s offer in current negotiations requiring the union to make concessions to fund raises won’t fix things. The union is pursuing arbitration.
COBA is angry at changes Mr. de Blasio has made in the way Rikers Island is run, particularly limiting the use of solitary confinement, which correction unions blame in part for rising violence. Mr. Husamudeen has ridiculed the Mayor’s proposal to close Rikers in 10 years as “Fantasy Island.”
The TWU—which is allied with Mr. de Blasio’s frequent sparring partner, Governor Cuomo—wants the city to contribute $400 million to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s quick-fix plan for the subways.
Mr. de Blasio says that’s off the table until Mr. Cuomo restores MTA money he diverted to non-transit purposes such as funding state-owned ski resorts last year that were losing visitors because of unseasonably warm weather.
The TWU ad also criticized Mr. de Blasio for efforts to rein in the horse-carriage industry and the city policy of arresting bus drivers who hit pedestrians.
“This is an all-granola, no-grit brand of phony progressivism and it will not benefit America’s working families,” TWU International President John Samuelsen said in a statement. “Mayor de Blasio is very quick to throw his so-called principles in the gutter when it’s politically expedient. He’s a situational progressive, and definitely not an ardent trade-union supporter. De Blasio is as phony as a three-dollar bill!”
Austin Finan of Mr. de Blasio’s press office said the TWU advertisement was “a lame ad and a frivolous waste of hard-working members’ dues.”
Of the PBA contract, he said he was confident that mediation would achieve a just result. “We’re more than fine with their protests and wish them safe travels.”
Before the trip, Mr. de Blasio said his goal was to help flip control of Congress from the Republicans to the Democrats. “I will do my best to help because I think it’s mission-critical for New York City,” he said.
States Where Action Is
“The changes in Washington do not occur simply by showing up and lobbying a Senator in the hallway,” he added. “They have to happen in the states, where you can change the very makeup of the Congress.”
In his speech in Des Moines, he told an audience of about 200, “Progressive, Democratic candidates with a clear, strong economic message and a populist approach who go to the grassroots—that is the Republicans’ worst nightmare. That’s what we need more of in this state and every state.”
In a separate interview with the Des Moines Register, he said, that progressive politics are “ascendant” now and could be the basis of a new Democratic coalition.
“It’s not, ‘Are we going to focus on white, working-class voters or are we going to focus on voters of color or younger voters?’ No!” he said. “The message and the vision that unites all of those voters is these very specific economic ideas that would improve their lives.”
Gumming It Up
He said at his press conference, “No, I’m not running for President. I’m Mayor of New York for four years. I have four years and 13 days as of this moment.”
But, he added, he can still try to influence the direction of the Democratic Party nationally. “I can walk and chew gum at the same time,” he said.
“Moments later, he dramatically pulled a pack of gum from his pocket, popped a piece into his mouth and walked out the door,” the Register reported.