Unions knock New York City Council’s PEG push
A number of unions and left-leaning groups have penned a letter to 25 New York City Council members saying they were “truly disappointed” that the lawmakers urged Mayor Bill de Blasio to have agencies engage in a once-routine process of identifying savings that could trim their budgets by 5 percent.
The letter, sent Wednesday, contended de Blasio has already been fiscally prudent by settling nearly all outstanding municipal contracts and setting aside “substantial budget reserves” while increasing staffing in “long-neglected areas like corrections, homeless services, tax enforcement, and finally bringing considerable IT work in-house (to save money).”
The memo was signed by DC 37, which represents municipal workers, 32BJ, which represents building service personnel, the New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council, the Working Families Party, the Fiscal Policy Institute, Communication Workers of America and Vocal New York. The groups also noted that the mayor embarked on a “significant increase in the police force” because it was requested by the Council.
“One of the saddest consequences of a fixation on a repeated [Program to Eliminate the Gap] programs was the immiseration of the largely women of color non-profit workforce providing human services under City contract,” the letter reads. “It was heartening that several of you stood with the Mayor at DC 37 two weeks ago to announce the City’s commitment to establish a sensible $15 hourly wage floor for this committed and hard-working workforce. Yes, that entails budget costs, but this was another area where previous administrations were penny-wise and pound-foolish.”
City Councilman Daniel Garodnick, a lead lawmaker on a Dec. 31 letter promoting a PEG program, said the mayor appears to be in agreement with the Council that the PEG exercise is needed, and that a response to the unions was unnecessary. Garodnick noted that PEG involves identifying cost savings, but does not require that any such steps be taken. Every mayor has used the method since 1982, except de Blasio.
“The letter says that they’re interested in working with us to effectively utilize scarce taxpayer resources, and that is what this proposal is all about,” Garodnick said. “We have additional spending needs – and the letter identifies some of them – so we need to make sure that we have the ability to spend money on the things that we want to spend money on.”
A spokeswoman for City Council Finance Committee Chairwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, who signed the letter calling for a PEG process, said she had not yet received the unions’ correspondence and thus could not comment on it.
A Council source claimed the pushback seemed to have been orchestrated by the administration, though this individual acknowledged this was not a known fact.
Jeremy John, director of political action at DC 37, said the union was not urged on by the administration, but was “outraged” by the lawmakers’ letter, so it drafted the memo and reached out to partners.
“Our viewpoint on this is clear that cuts to the city workforce and cuts to the services provided by the city is rolling back some of the progress that has been done over the last two or three years,” John said.
The Hotel Trades Council and Working Families Party did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The de Blasio administration said the mayor is still “seriously considering” undertaking a PEG before his executive budget is out this spring, but warned the proposal could result in the elimination of up to 45,000 positions, including more than 10,000 teachers and 5,700 police officers, and reductions in daily FDNY emergency medical service tours and resources used to enforce paid sick leave policies.
“Budget monitors and rating agencies have all applauded this administration's fiscal prudence, with reserves at unprecedented highs, out-year gaps low, and a strong $1.1 billion citywide savings program that we’ll build on in collaboration with the Council,” de Blasio spokeswoman Amy Spitalnick said in a statement.
The two letters are posted below: