The Municipal Labor Committee wants Mayor de Blasio to plug the city's $8-billion budget hole by offering early-retirement incentives while borrowing to cover lost revenue and COVID-19-related expenses.
Last month, he warned he would have to turn to layoffs unless Congress provided stimulus aid to states and localities that have been hard-hit by the pandemic, noting that by early May some Mayors had resorted to furloughs and layoffs, and "Every one of us has to start looking at that possibility if we don't have any money."
Case for Buyouts
MLC Chairman Harry Nespoli May 28 urged Mr. de Blasio not to take any "drastic action" but instead implement "early-retirement incentive programs and obtaining authority to issue debt to cover lost revenue and increased expenses."
"Already some of the typically anti-labor contingent are pushing for you to take an ax to slash the public-sector workforce," the man who also is president of the Uniformed Sanitationmen's Association wrote. "As we know you recognize, the consequence of such action is likely to exacerbate an already-damaged city economy—laid-off workers add to the strain on municipal relief."
Mr. Nespoli continued, "Layoffs will also send an unmistakable message that the public sector workers who have sacrificed on the front lines for the safety and well-being of the City during this crisis are expendable. At a time when jobs, income and services should be maintained for the people of New York City, the opposite would happen."
His letter argued that "offering earlier retirement would allow many higher-salaried New York City workers to leave the public payroll voluntarily."
Success in Past
In 1995, that strategy produced 18,000 voluntary exits. In 2002, as the Bloomberg administration struggled to restore financial stability in the aftermath of 9/11's impact on lower Manhattan, 4,000 civil servants opted to leave early while receiving additional pension credit.
Henry Garrido, the MLC co-chair and executive director of District Council 37, said "more than 100,000 city workers are vested and eligible to retire and meet the age requirement to do so."
In a June 3 phone interview, he said municipal layoffs would deepen the city's revenue decline while hobbling its ability to help New Yorkers weather the worst pandemic since the 1918 Spanish Flu outbreak.
"The obvious issue would be the loss of personal-income-tax revenue for the city that comes with a layoff," Mr. Garrido said. "There are more than one million people applying for unemployment here. The number-one loss of income for the city is the loss of revenue from the personal income tax."
He warned that layoffs would have a cascading impact "at a time in our history where we need public services more than ever...with the number of people applying for unemployment more than tripling."
'We Provide the Services'
"All of these people are entitled to food stamps, they are entitled to health care benefits, they are entitled to Medicare and the city has an obligation by law to provide these services," he said.
In addition to 3,000 new hires for COVID-19 contact tracing, Mr. Garrido said DC 37 members were involved in providing a half-million meals a day to food-insecure children and adults. "We are still doing this across 500 schools, and the numbers have not declined at all," he said.
The Mayor can designate departments for workforce reduction, but once those agencies are flagged, their provisional employees are supposed to be dismissed first, followed by the most-recent hires. According to the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, the city has 14,965 provisional workers.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics June 5 reported that in May 585,000 government jobs were lost nationwide, on top of the 963,000 recorded the month before. It attributed two-thirds of April's job loss to pandemic-related school closings.
Both the Mayor and Governor Cuomo imposed hiring freezes, and state workers have had scheduled pay raises deferred to help improve Albany's short-term finances.
Bob Croghan, a vice chair of the MLC and chairman of the Organization of Staff Analysts who joined city government in 1965, narrowly missed being laid off a decade later during the fiscal crisis, when 700 Caseworkers were let go in reverse seniority order. He said that the "downside with layoffs is you get rid of the young ones and that demoralizes the staff something terrible."
The Citizens Budget Commission June 10 proposed the city balance its budget by reducing headcount by 11,000, including 1,174 jobs in the NYPD over the next two years. The business-backed think-tank also recommended a temporary 2-percent property-tax hike.
The Mayor and City Council are required to enact a new budget by July 1. The stimulus bill aiding states and localities has stalled in the U.S. Senate, with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell saying his Republican conference would not consider it until late summer.
CBC President Andrew Rein said in a statement, "New York should receive but cannot wait around for a large Federal aid package. It swiftly should reduce spending, shrink the workforce through attrition, and collaborate with labor to identify and implement savings."
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