By former Assemblyman Steven Sanders
There are valid reasons to support a candidate running for governor this year other than Andrew Cuomo. He has certainly failed to reign in corruption in Albany as he promised he would. That is principally because he has been weak on changing campaign contribution laws and gargantuan political donations. These are the very laws that have enabled him to build a bulging $31M campaign war chest. He was slow to try to bring together warring factions of the Democratic majority in the State Senate, so much so that the Republican Party with fewer elected members has maintained control of that House for the past number of years thwarting pro-tenant and pro-consumer legislation in favor of big business.
Governor Cuomo has refused to increase taxes, even by a dime, on the wealthiest one percent in New York State while vital social service and education programs have been underfunded for lack of resources. He has tried to evade responsibility for the deteriorating condition of our mass transit system even though he controls the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). He has unnecessarily ramped up the feud with Mayor De Blasio, displaying an unflattering vindictive streak.
However, he cannot be taken to task, as “Sex and the City” actress turned governor candidate Cynthia Nixon has tried to do, over the issue of allowing municipal employees to go on strike. Some of us vividly remember the devastating strikes in New York City by the transportation workers, the sanitation workers and public school teachers in the 1960s and ‘70s. We can recall how difficult it was getting around the five boroughs during the transit strikes and the mounds of rotting garbage on the streets during the sanitation strikes. Fortunately, fire fighters and police never went down that road, and that is largely because of the Taylor Law, which Ms. Nixon wants to abolish.
The Taylor Law makes it illegal for municipal employees to strike and instead sets up a process of binding arbitration to resolve labor disputes. Both Cuomo and De Blasio agree that the Taylor Law needs to remain intact. That alone is quite unusual given the fact that the two men agree on virtually nothing else.
Don’t get me wrong. I believe that labor unions are very important. The recent closely contested United States Supreme Court decision ending automatic payroll deductions to unions is a blow to the their financial viability and will ultimately put all rank and file workers at a greater disadvantage with their corporate employers. But municipal labor unions are different. The services that they provide are essential to the health and safety of residents of the city. Walkouts or strikes that cripple city services profoundly endangers the very essence of the city. It can lead to death.
The Taylor Law was enacted to protect citizens and to create a reasonable alternative for unions to resolve labor/management disputes other than resorting to strikes. Governing effectively is about more than appealing to a narrow base of enthusiastic supporters. It is about doing what is in the best interest of people you seek to represent and not what may be in your momentary political interest. On this one Cynthia Nixon needs more rehearsal and another take.