October 23, 2016, 10:26 PM
BY JENNIFER FERMINO, ERIN DURKIN
|Hizzoner's feuds with unions could make it tough to obtain their support when he seeks reelection. (JOE MARINO/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)|
Bill de Blasio came into office hoping to be the most labor-friendly mayor the city had seen in years, but as he gears up for re-election his work to win over support from some unions may require serious elbow grease.
In a column exclusive to the Daily News, Transport Workers Union Local 100 President John Samuelsen called on workers to question what de Blasio did to help them during his nearly three years in office before deciding whether to support him.
“To my brothers and sisters in the labor movement, I say this: Thoughtfully contemplate whether de Blasio really shares our trade union values before you give the mayor your stamp of approval. At Bill’s core, it’s all about Bill, not the trade unionist working families we represent,” Samuelsen, head of the 42,000-member union, wrote.
De Blasio, initially considered a longshot, did not get the support of most unions in the mayoral primary in 2013, but the labor movement coalesced around him in the general election — a feat he hopes to repeat in 2017, where he does not yet face a serious challenger.
But the mayor angered a number of trade union leaders on issues ranging from prevailing wages to his crusade to ban horse-drawn carriages in Central Park, and some feel his interests lie elsewhere.
|John Samuelsen, president of the Transport Workers Union Local 100, says de Blasio focuses more on himself than unions. (JAMES KEIVOM/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)|
Gregory Floyd, president of Teamsters Local 237, said de Blasio has too often sided with deep-pocketed supporters and his allies in the progressive movement over union interests.
“If there’s a conflict, he’d go to the donor,” he said.
His union, which represents 24,000 members including school safety agents, has clashed with the de Blasio administration over plans to remove metal detectors from some schools, where he charges the mayor is putting the interests of civil liberties advocates ahead of the safety of his members.
“There are knives and guns and weapons being brought into school every week,” he said. “It's like they have this tone deaf attitude. They have their beliefs, and they won’t deviate from it.”
|Patrick Lynch, head of Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, is seen at a union rally. The union has clashed with de Blasio over pay raises. (MARCUS SANTOS)|
Building trades unions fought with de Blasio because they want a mandate that builders on affordable housing projects getting subsidies pay union-level prevailing wages. Hizzoner resisted, saying that would make it too expensive to build much-needed affordable apartments.
De Blasio also famously feuded with the city’s police unions, which most recently faulted his handling of the fatal shooting of a mentally ill Bronx woman, Deborah Danner. The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, which represents 24,000 members, protested the city’s offer of a contract for cops with raises they think are too low.
"We share many of the concerns we've heard from other union leaders, especially as it relates to Mayor de Blasio's poor treatment of working women and men,” said union President Pat Lynch. “If he fails to [negotiate a fair contract], we will continue to make our voices heard and will join with other workers who are being left behind to find new leadership that will listen."
Despite those blunders, some of the city’s large and politically influential unions appear likely to back his re-election bid next year.
|Bob Master of Communications Workers of America says the city hasn't had a pro-union mayor in more than 20 years. (MIKE GROLL/AP)|
"The overwhelming majority of labor people in this city understand that we have not had such a pro-union, pro-worker mayor for over two decades,” said Bob Master, political director of the 30,000-member Communications Workers of America.
De Blasio has won plaudits from labor for his living wage and paid sick day policies, instituting universal pre-kindergarten, backing a higher minimum wage, and recently announcing a plan to make sure fast-food workers have more predictable schedules.
He also settled contracts with the majority of city workers, all of which were long-expired when he took office, and sided with unions in public disputes with private companies.
Harry Nespoli, chair of the Municipal Labor Committee, said most public workers unions are pleased contracts are resolved.
|Hector Figueroa of Local 32 BJ of SEIU expects his group to endorse de Blasio. (JEFFERSON SIEGEL/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)|
“The relationship with him right now, after the contracts, is the most important thing. The way I hear it, he’s listening to what union leaders are saying,” he said.
The varying sentiments illustrate a divide between unions representing the building trades and the bulk of the labor movement, one union leader said. “Private sector unions are in one place, and building trades a different place,” the source said. “They have a problem with the prevailing wage, and I think there’s also a cultural divide.”
Hector Figueroa, president of union 32BJ, said de Blasio has asked him for a re-election endorsement, and will probably get it.
“It’s no secret. The elections are in 2017, and I would be surprised if he was not seeking support at this point from other unions. I would be very surprised if he doesn't enjoy the endorsement of this union,” said Figueroa, who represents 70,000 building services workers and doormen.
|Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union was once a de Blasio foe. But Appelbaum says the mayor has done enough to earn the union's respect. (ASTRID STAWIARZ/GETTY IMAGES)|
United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew did not respond to requests for comment.
Though a slew of prominent Democrats names have been messaged as possible opponents for de Blasio, none has stepped forward to mount a credible challenge. “They’re going to run out of time,” said Figueroa, who has not heard from any other pols exploring a campaign. “It’s very difficult for an incumbent mayor to be defeated, and if anyone is actually trying to do it they are using the most secretive campaign I’ve ever seen.”
Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union, backed Christine Quinn in the 2013 mayoral primary, and publicly criticized de Blasio.
“I think the reason that has changed is because of what he’s done, and the way he’s done it. He’s earned our respect,” he said.
De Blasio’s aides expect the largest and most influential unions in driving workers to the polls to be 32BJ, healthcare union 1199, which was his biggest labor backer in 2013, the teachers’ union, and city workers union DC37, which has 121,000 members.
“From universal paid sick days to Living Wage laws, record creation of affordable housing and the first rent freeze in New York City history, Mayor de Blasio is fighting every day to make our city better and fairer for working families,” said de Blasio campaign spokesman Dan Levitan.
WITH REUVEN BLAU