Will the worker candidate become a pro-Labor mayor?
From the way Eric Adams talks, you’d think his expected election as the next mayor of New York City would be the union’s biggest win since then the 40-hour week.
âYou should be comfortable because one of you will become mayor of New York City. One of them, “Adams said to members of Construction & General Building Laborers’ Local 79 in the South Bronx on August 23rd.” Probably the first time in history a union member has become mayor. ” (Not quite – John Hylan, Mayor from 1918 to 1925, and William O’Dwyer, Mayor from 1946 to 1950, are believed to have once been trade unions.) âI am you! I am you! “Adams said – one line that he uses for months in the election campaign, when he took up the most influential work recommendations in the overcrowded democratic mayor’s field. Adams showed love for Local 79, and the union loved him too. “He’s a hard-working guy like the workers we are,” said Chaz Rynkiewicz, the local vice president, when he introduced Adams. “You like hard work?” There was cheer from the orange-clad crowd.
Local 79 may have more hard work ahead of them if the union is to be on Adams’s side. After all, the local hero supported one of Adams’ leading rivals, Scott Stringer, in the Democratic Mayor’s primary and an affiliated political action committee $ 333,334 spent Support stringers run. It’s not that Adams was closely with the union before – he is often criticized the town’s construction unions for not having enough colored workers, and he stood up against Local 79 Safety Education Legislation and applicable wage legislation.
Now, on the primary honeymoon, everyone in labor wants to be Adams’ boyfriend, and Adams wants to be friends with labor. But that’s easier said than done as a number of unions have to weigh how hard they want to work to keep Adams on their side.
The United Federation of Teachers may also face one of the greatest challenges in getting the new mayor as an ally. After all, the UFT spent $ 3.75 million in support of Stringer’s mayoral campaign and continued spending even after decades of sexual harassment allegations against Stringer became public and most political observers no longer consider him a viable contender. Looking back, it’s 20/20 now that Adams won the primary, but it’s not like he was a good fit for union politics anyway. Adams was far too great acceptance of charter schools to the taste of the UFT. And while Stringer was talking about putting two teachers in each elementary school class (read: more UFT members) Adams posited that for some summer courses a teacher could teach virtually 300 to 400 students at the same time. (Adams went back later.)
UFT President Michael Mulgrew said the union had some concerns about Adams’ political positions. But the union leader told City & State he expected a good, constructive relationship. “Especially someone like Eric, who’s been here and ran for so many offices and we’ve worked with him at different times – there’s an understanding that politics is politics and governance rules,” Mulgrew said. “It is what it is. Let’s move on.”
Adams, by and large, talks a lot about government efficiency, and specifically expressed himself as two-year hiring freeze the city worker. Plans like this put off unions that are always on the lookout for growth. But this honeymoon is all about finding common ground, and Mulgrew pointed out that Adams and the UFT agree that the bureaucracy in the Department of Education is too bloated. “Eric made it very clear during the primary process that the Department of Education needed a complete reorganization,” said Mulgrew. “And we agree with that.”
A potential Adams administration and Mulgrew would also have to agree on a new contract relatively quickly. The UFT contract expires in September 2022 and neither side would likely want a drawn out fight. Of course, UFT has been here before – the union supports Bill Thompson in the 2013 Democratic mayoral election and then had to work in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s New York. This transition was far more dramatic than this. The then Mayor Michael Bloomberg left his post at the end of 2013 without a single local union under contract. All agreements had meanwhile expired years apart between the billionaire mayor and the unions he thought were disabled. The de Blasio administration came in and got them all done. Despite some Battles with workEspecially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, de Blasio was considered a friend of the unions – especially compared to his predecessor.
But the dynamic between the local unions, who represent the workers, and the mayor, who appoints and represents the management, is tense. Members of the unions that supported and helped Adams win – such as District Council 37, which represents many civil servants, and the Uniformed Fire Officers Association – are cautiously optimistic about Adams mayorship. But it’s still cautious as Adams is in some ways untested. He never served on the city council, and since district presidents have few responsibilities, he was free to choose his battles.
âThose who supported him feel good that our person is there,â said one worker, who asked for anonymity because they weren’t allowed to speak on behalf of their union, âbut they don’t really know what’s going on will when you … “are at the table negotiating dollars and cents.”
This applies not only to the municipal unions, who have to negotiate contracts directly with the city, but also to the private sector unions, which still work with the town hall on legislative and budgetary issues. It will be easier for Adams to make happy allies who supported him in the primary, such as 32BJ SEIU and the New York Hotel and Motel Trade Councilbecause he doesn’t have to balance the city budget on her back. But the labor movement is not a monolith, and Adams sometimes has to choose between allies. The debate over Amazon’s planned headquarters in Queens has pitted major unions against each other, forcing elected officials to choose either side. Stephanie Luce, professor of occupational science at the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies, said the same dynamic will repeat itself as the city leaves the pandemic behind. “We had a huge job loss and the city was trying to recover and rebuild, but it is too early to say where jobs will and will not be recovering,” she said. “The workforce does not agree on any of these questions about what kind of jobs should be created.”
Another aggravating factor for unions is the continuation of Adams Courting business elites like John Catsimatidis and Bloomberg, the hold a fundraiser for the democratic candidate on September 15th. De Blasio had a knee-jerk dislike for the city’s richest residents – and the feeling was mutual. Now Adams, the former police officer and former Republican, has been welcomed with open arms. And when unions are sometimes at odds, there is no question that Adams must choose between subscribers to the Wall Street Journal and those who read The Chief Leader.
But there may not be a more closely watched relationship than that between Adams and the New York Police-Benevolent Association. Adams, who served in the New York City Police Department until 2006, was once a member. And it is this membership that helps him show solidarity with the workers – despite the fact that there is an ongoing debate as to whether police unions, given their consistently conservative policies, even belong in the workers’ movement. And that’s why the relationship between Adams, the PBA and the other law enforcement unions is a bit troubled. Most NYPD unions, including the PBA, did not support any candidate in the Democratic mayoral election. The NYPD Captains Endowment Association, which Adams represented as he rose through the ranks, was the only exception and supported Adams’ opponent Andrew Yang. But it was not clear if most of the candidates, given their toxicity in democratic politics, wanted law enforcement union support anyway.
The PBA and de Blasio have publicly denigrated each other during his tenure, despite progressive critics saying the mayor didn’t go far enough in introducing reforms to the NYPD. Adams starts on a much better basis. Its platform included the need to reform the police station culturebut did not mention the union. Adams has criticized the PBA before and he said did not want his approval, but at the same time touted the support of individual officers represented by the PBA. And his pro-police platform and law enforcement rÃ©sumÃ© clearly hit a nerve – he was one of three candidates for mayoral, PBA President Pat Lynch recommended to its members.
Adams’ campaign declined to comment on this story. When asked about the PBA’s relationship with Adams, Lynch listed things that he thought Adams could improve on. “Veteran cops are retiring in droves and the NYPD is fighting to get people to take the test,” he said in a statement emailed to City & State – though the NYPD told the Wall Street Journal The number of applicants for police officers was not much lower in 2021 than in 2019. Lynch said the city “needs to rethink how it recruits and keeps police officers, (but) Adams has an advantage because he knows what it is like to try to get one.” To educate police officers â. Family in this town on a policeman’s salary. And when he did, the pay was much more competitive than it is today. “
The fact is, no union, not even the notoriously combative PBA, will criticize Adams in the early days of his tenure. His stock is high and he is likely to ride a wave of goodwill. Adams, if elected, would be the city’s second black mayor at a time when some unions like construction and police unions are trying to emphasize their support for black New Yorkers and better represent their increasingly diverse members.
“There’s a shift going on here and some of them still have some white men in charge,” said Bertha Lewis, a progressive activist who supported Adams in the primary. “There’s a change in the melanin of who the base members are.” Public fights with Adams would look bad, and the man who might become the next mayor is quick to cite the possible influence of racism on political disagreement. That gives Adams a strategic advantage with the unions that didn’t support him, Lewis said. “You have to mend it with him,” she said.
At the moment, Adams seems to be approachable. When asked about the Local 79 rally what he would do with unions that didn’t support him in the primary, Adams said they were now on his team and he was on theirs. âThere are intramural scrimmages during elementary school. Now that the intramural scrimmages are over, we’re all wearing the New York team jersey, âhe said. “We’re the same. I’m just a straightforward union guy.”