Municipal Government

Bill & Hill’s Progressive Cred Under Fire

February 8, 2016
By Joe Maniscalco

Hillary Clinton and Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Hillary Clinton and Mayor Bill de Blasio.

New York, NY – Presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton and Big Apple Mayor Bill de Blasio are experiencing a lot of commonality this week — both Democratic powerhouses are being accused of acting like a couple of "PINOs" – Progressives In Name Only. 

An angry and upset Clinton made headlines during her first head-to-head debate with rival  Bernie Sanders on Thursday night when she loudly balked at challenges to her progressive bona-fides. A day later, Transportation Workers Union Local 100 President John Samuelsen leveled similar charges at longtime Clinton ally Bill de Blasio. 

“Mayor de Blasio is the ‘progressive’ emperor with no clothes,” Samuelsen said in a statement released on Friday. The TWU Local 100 president later told LaborPress that the mayor has “hijacked” the progressive banner, and is “doing an injustice to real progressive who are trying to improve the quality of lives of working families in New York City.”

Mayor de Blasio quickly ran afoul of TWU Local 100 after floating a deal to end his administration’s increasingly problematic standoff with horse carriage drivers and Teamsters Local 553 that that would have ended up barring competing pedicab drivers below 86th Street. TWU Local 100 is actively organizing New York City’s pedicab operators. 

But Samuelsen’s criticism of the mayor doesn’t end with pedicab drivers. 

“I believe that Mayor de Blasio views the trade union movement as a stumbling block to accomplishing his agenda,” Samuelsen said. “He doesn’t view the trade union movement as an ally in many instances. He sees the trade union movement as getting in the way of whatever his view of New York City utopia is.”

The Mayor’s Office did not want to comment on Samuelsen’s remarks. Spokesperson Wiley Norvell said that Mayor de Blasio’s record “speaks for itself.”

According to Samuelsen, however, the mayor has been on the wrong side of working men and women on a variety of other important issues ranging from his support of a non-union Wegmans supermarket opening up shop at the Brooklyn Navy Yard – to failing to restore protections for school bus drivers, and busting MTA bus operators involved in accidents. 

“How do you call yourself progressive when you take on one anti-trade union position after another” Samuelsen said. “That’s not progressive — unless you have a different definition of progressive, which apparently [Mayor de Blasio] does. He has no right to call himself a progressive.”

Most scathing, however, is Samuelsen’s assertion that Mayor de Blasio has “relentlessly attacked NYCs’ unionized construction trades in an effort to appease real estate developers” —and that efforts to wipe out the horse carriage industry stem not from a love of mistreated animals as claimed — but  from a thirst for real estate dollars.  

“Everybody recognizes that the real estate industry manufactured this artificial (horse carriage) crisis,” Samuelsen said. “All the attacks on the construction trades — it all roots back to real estate developers that want to build in New York City non-union. He’s made a deal with the devil — siding with the rich folks over workers.”

Who does Samuelsen think truly represents progressive values? 

“Bernie Sanders, for sure,” Samuelsen said. “I think Bernie Sanders is not beholden to the establishment — Bill de Blasio obviously is. Bernie Sanders is not beholden to the monied interested that Bill de Blasio has been ensnared by.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio served as Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager during her 2000 run for U.S. Senate, and was regional HUD director in Bill Clinton’s administration prior to that. Although slow to endorse Hillary Clinton’s latest presidential bid, the mayor ended up traveling to Iowa and knocking on doors on her behalf ahead of that state’s recent caucuses. 

“This word ‘progressive’ gets kicked around all the time,” Samuelsen said. “I think that progressives need to take a step back and actually define what it means to be a progressive."

February 8, 2016

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