The head of the Municipal Labor Committee said union leaders want Mayor de Blasio to delay up to 22,000 employee layoffs until after the presidential election.
"We have been asking the Mayor to hold off on any layoffs of city workers until after the election in November because it is liable to be a better atmosphere," Harry Nespoli, MLC chair and president of the Uniformed Sanitationmen's Association, said during a phone interview.
'No Way to Repay Them'
He added that layoffs would be no way "to repay city workers for what they've been through with this virus. These people could not work from home. They had to come to work, especially my people. My people came to work and got sick, went home, stayed out and then went back to work and left the virus with their families, and to now come back and be threatened by layoffs—I just don't think it is the right thing to do now."
At his Sept. 15 press briefing the Mayor told a reporter that his administration was still prepared to quickly set in motion the layoffs even if they took effect during the holiday season.
"The 30-day window as I understand it...unions have to be notified 30 days out, then there is a period of time in which individual workers have to be notified. And this is not anything anyone of us wants to do," Mr. de Blasio said. "I don't want to see us go down this road. It would only be a last resort."
He has said for months that he would have no option but to lay off thousands of workers as of Oct. 1 unless the city got $1 billion in concessions from the unions, an increase in its borrowing capacity from Albany, or a round of Federal aid from Congress.
The city faces a $9-billion budget gap and New York State a $30 billion shortfall. To varying degrees across the country, state and local governments' finances have been upended by the combination of the loss of revenues due to the economic slowdown induced by the coronavirus and the need to spend billions to help contain it.
On Aug. 31, the day before the layoff advisories were due to go out, Labor Commissioner Renee Campion announced the city would hold off so discussions could continue "on a daily basis" with the unions as they pressed in Albany to get the State Legislature to sign off on additional borrowing.
When asked 15 days later about the status of the union discussions, Mr. de Blasio said he was grateful for the level of engagement by labor but remained "worried about the challenges we're facing right now."
"I don't want to see anyone suffer," he said. "In fact, I think we need a big, strong public workforce to keep moving forward as a city. But I have a budget I have to balance, and I have gotten no help from Washington. The stimulus that was supposed to come never came. I have been asking Albany for something very fair and simple—long term borrowing which the city has received in past crises, [and it] hasn't happened. We are running out of options."
"We are going to try and do what we can do to help," said Mr. Nespoli. "But the state is in bad shape and there's not a sense of either party [wanting] to work together with this thing. We need the Federal Government, we need the state, we need the city to all be on the same page."
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