Sunday, January 18, 2015

POLICE JOB ACTION LESSONS

I expect the Monday morning quarterbacks to start using their perfect 20-20 hindsight to declare defeat for the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association and their President Patrick Lynch after the recent PBA job action.  By having a slowdown officers achieved no tangible gains. Mayor Bill de Blasio never apologized to them; they still don't have a contract. In addition, they are now a divided union, as Juan Gonzalez reported on Tuesday, with dissidents ready to challenge Lynch for his job. On the surface this looks like a major PBA setback. 

We desperately need some objective pro-labor analysis of what went on and is continuing.  Reading Daily Kos oppose the job action while criticizing Bill O'Reilly's support for it was more irony than anyone could possibly handle.

The PBA has been without a contract or raises for years. Their pay lags behind what other police officers in the area earn. The PBA contract dispute is in arbitration and I don't see any possible way they will emerge with anything much better than the uniform pattern setting 11% over 6 years and 7 months that their supervisors agreed to in recent settlements. This is a major issue.

After making these points that point to the futility of the police slowdown, I stand by an earlier posting where I stated that the police showed how a union (albeit a very different kind of union) can pull off an illegal job action even in the current political climate and without much public support (see this Quinipiac College poll; see also Lynch's predictable defiant reaction).  The Taylor law penalties for public sector job actions have not been invoked, nor are they likely to be, against the police who refused to do a big part of their job for weeks. Police Commissioner William Bratton agreed on National Public Radio that there was a protest or job action going on. That was a significant admission.

The problem the police had with their slowdown was they didn't have anything specific they were asking for in public except for an apology from the mayor for being disrespectful. Detailed demands could have easily been leaked to the press but they were not. Everyone had to speculate about what the job action was all about.  It looks like it was a mistake not to ask for something concrete as they have done in past disputes with City Hall.  That seems to be one of the main contentions of the PBA dissidents.

I agree with the dissidents on this tactical failure. I think the city will be generous on items such as bullet proof glass for police cars, new bullet proof vests and upgrading precincts. The police look to be in a positive position concerning making gains to their working conditions.  We can be reasonably certain the PBA will not be asked to take givebacks.  Labor militancy, even if the PBA President went way over the top with his rhetoric against Mayor de Blasio, has left the average officer no worse off in the end than when this started.

Looking into the future, if PBA President Lynch survives a challenge and wins reelection, he may continue to pursue a political strategy against the mayor but his hand here appears to be weaker and that is something progressives can be happy about.  While de Blasio has been a disappointment when it comes to those of us who work in the schools, a Mayor Eva Moskowitz would be exponentially worse.

As for my feelings about the police as part of the working class, I again urge everyone to read former TWU Local 100 President Roger Toussaint's amazing Portside piece on the police and community.  Roger sees police as workers and links our struggles. 

He writes:
In New York, some of the very former governors and mayors who gave the police hell to get raises, insisted on underpaying them, leaving them without contracts for years on end are today, once again, claiming to be their best defenders and crusaders. Why is that? Could it be because, they see an opportunity to use the cops to discourage and put down a movement that could help change America and challenge their rape of the country's wealth? Cops and firefighters should think hard about where their better interest lies and who their true allies are. Tomorrow, the attempt to rob them of their pensions will return to the front burner. And when contract time comes they will be left out in the cold and standing alone. Who should their leaders serve? Their members best interests or those of the rich and powerful?

It's more than irony that both the leader of NY's PBA (Pat Lynch) and Eric Garner grew up as sons of NYC transit workers. Not only was Pat's father a lifelong transit worker but Pat himself worked briefly as a conductor. Eric Garner's mother is a retired train operator, his sister is an active duty bus operator as are cousins who serve as active transit workers (train operator). So not only is it literally true that "That could have been any of us," but the loyalty being exercised by the leadership of the PBA to the interests of the rich and powerful, is misguided and misplaced on this count too.

The best way to stop the continuing downward spiral for working people, including teachers, police, transit workers and many others might be for us to combine the power of many unions into militant action. I made a suggestion to then UFT President Randi Weingarten at the Executive Board in 2005 to form a militant alliance of teachers and transit workers before we gave away so many of our rights that year in a horrible contract.  My friend Sam Lazarus was urging me on.  Needless to say, our idea went nowhere and working people are worse off as time has gone by.

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow, fantastic understanding and assessment by Toussaint. Over and over again, the French knew it when they stormed the Bastille, there is strength in numbers.

Anonymous said...

While I no not support Lynch's disrespect of the Mayor, I admire his aggressive advocacy for his members. Who is advancing the cause of public education in a loud, firm voice?

Bronx ATR said...

I agree 100%. Mulgrew seems more prepared to march against other unions than with them. As abysmal as some of the choices made by the police union may appear, ours as a teachers union has been much worse. The police union acts according to the assumption of strength, we act on an assumption of weakness. The police union hasn't traded the rights of whole sectors of their members for a sub par contract or capitulated on every major issue. One thing to keep in mind, Pat Lynch may not be popular with many New Yorkers, but he is with cops. He will have no problem being reelected and he doesn't have loyalty oaths. Can the same be said for Mulgrew?

ed notes online said...

Excellent work here James - balanced and nuanced. I am surprised at Bronx ATR raising Mulgrew's re-election - given that New Action will endorse him in exchange for Ex Bd seats. Mulgrew will win with as high if not higher percentage than Lynch and 100% of the Ex Bd seats will be Unity endorsed. And don't think the caucus you are connected with won't play some role in making that happen.

Bronx ATR said...

Hi Norm,
My point is that without Mulgrew's loyalty oaths, vise like grip on the union, and teacher apathy - he would not win. (I don't know anyone who would vote for him.) Lynch will win on his own merits, not like his Mussolini counterpart.

Anonymous said...

There's nothing going to happen while this clown Mulgrew is our leader. He already delivered a contract, albeit a crap one, and now he's just going to rest on his laurels, collect his overpaid salary, and bet on the memberhips apathy to get reelected. Thats an easy bet to make.

Anonymous said...

Next Wednesday I'm going to tweet and go on to Facebook to voice a big NO for Mulgrew's reelection and to Cuomo's plans. In that order.

Anonymous said...

South Bronx you will be endorsing Mulgrew if you run or work with New Action. That is a fact. They have run with Unity for a while now.

Bronx ATR said...

Hi, I'm not South Bronx, I'm Bronx ATR. I agree with you, though. I'm with James' group Solidarity. If I'm not mistaken South Bronx has some major problems right now. My best wishes go out to him.

James Eterno said...

I have nothing to do with Solidarity. I am part of the ATR alliance and of course I am in ICE. I have done work with MORE as well but never had a central role. For example, I have never been on the MORE steering committee.

Bronx ATR said...

I was the under the impression the ATR alliance and Solidarity were one and the same- especially after I heard you address all of us on 11/11/14. Most ATRs I know believe you and Portelos are running it together. Thanks for the info. I was very impressed with your speech and am very disappointed with the information. I assumed you'd get hired very quickly in order to get you out of the ATR mix. Hopefully you'll stay invloved with us.

ed notes online said...

Solidarity is a caucus separate from ATRs. They have been making a big push to work with New Action even though New Action has endorsed both Weingarten and Mulgrew for president in the past 4 UFT elections.
Secondly - it is not the loyalty oath that keeps people voting Unity. There are only about 1500 people in Unity - if that much. They get perks - real perks - like inside assistance for certain people if they get in trouble and UFT can pull a transfer for them. Plus the conventions and jobs. And there are a bunch who really believe - and let's face it - there is not yet a viable alternative out there to Unity.

Francesco Portelos said...

I understand there is confusion. James and I are proof that leaders from separate groups can join together to create something good...ie ATR Alliance. Solidarity is a clean and focused group that is about building a stronger union. This entails with working with ...people in the union. Although welcomed, James is not a member of Solidarity, but Norm is.

Yes Solidarity and New Action have open communication and planning some joint actions such as rallies against abusive administrators. Our first to be against William Bryant HS Principal Namita Dwarka on March 26th. What's the problem with that exactly?

You want to know more about Solidarity, read our mission statement. Simple and clean and the reference point to our decisions.

www.solidaritycaucus.org

Solidarity's next big action will be a REP REVIEW to share positive and negative stories about our non elected reps. Www.solidaritycaucus.org/uftleadership

Francesco Portelos said...

Don't Tread on Educators it's also non caucus specific.

Solidarity is going to be a powerful group and force to be reckoned with. That will happen sooner when some stop smearing false claims and instead join.

Francesco Portelos said...

Oh and by the way it appears it's ok to work with New Action when race is involved only. According to MORE. http://newaction.org/2013/08/02/two-photos-from-demonstration-against-racist-principal/

Francesco Portelos said...

Oh and by the way it appears it's ok to work with New Action when race is involved only. According to MORE. http://newaction.org/2013/08/02/two-photos-from-demonstration-against-racist-principal/

Francesco Portelos said...

Don't Tread on Educators it's also non caucus specific.

Solidarity is going to be a powerful group and force to be reckoned with. That will happen sooner when some stop smearing false claims and instead join.

Anonymous said...

So who exactly is on the ballot to run against Mulgrew??

Mickey Mouse Might Run said...

Does it matter?

Anonymous said...

Yes

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