Law and Politics

Labor Optimistic About De Blasio Win

November 6, 2013
By Steven Wishnia

Bill de Blasio

The election results were anticlimactic but the mood optimistic at Bill de Blasio’s victory party at the Park Slope Armory election night. Most of the guests were still on line outside when New York 1 called him the winner, the moment the polls closed. The Democratic mayoral candidate captured almost 74 percent of the vote—which many saw as a major political turning point.

“It’s a long-deserved change,” said Jennifer Faucher, political liaison for the New York State Public Employees Federation. “This is a significant victory for labor.” “Progressive politics are back,” exulted Rep. Jose Serrano (D-Bronx), while outgoing City Councilmember Robert Jackson (D-Manhattan) said the victory margin “clearly signifies that Bill de Blasio was right on the Tale of Two Cities.”

SEIU Local 1199 president George Gresham called the mayor-elect “someone who’s not afraid to say unions are the key to the middle class” and hoped he would “set an example for the whole country” that you can be elected and govern without shifting to the far right.

Local 1199, the first large union in the city to endorse de Blasio, focused on campaigning among its members, Gresham said. With 100,000 members plus their families registered to vote in the city, he explained, that was “enough to get the rest of the public to pay attention.”

The election affirmed the need to create politicians who’ll work to shrink income inequality, said New York City Central Labor Council president Vincent Alvarez. “Over the past 12 years, we’ve fallen behind in a lot of areas.” He’s also optimistic about “the talent that’s coming into the new City Council,” who include most of the 41 candidates endorsed by all the city’s unions.

Election night was not the time to discuss policy specifics, Alvarez added, but a main priority in the private sector would be responsible economic development, while in the public sector it would be the 300,000 city workers who don’t have contracts.

One of those 300,000 is Lennox Ali, a bus-maintenance worker from the Bronx and Transport Workers Union member. As Republican candidate Joseph Lhota was conceding, Ali was pointing at the former Metropolitan Transportation Authority boss’s image on the TV screen. “I’ve been up since 5 this morning making sure no one voted for him,” he said. “He gave us zeroes. He wouldn’t do anything for us.”

“I think de Blasio is going to make a real difference after 20 years of Republican control,” said Assemblymember Dick Gottfried (D-Manhattan). While many of the mayor-elect’s proposals—such as raising taxes on the rich to fund expanding pre-kindergarten—would have to go through an often-hostile state legislature, Gottfried said, “it’s been a long time since we’ve had a mayor who would speak forcefully for a progressive agenda in Albany,” and he is coming in “with a strong voter mandate.”

In his victory speech, de Blasio called economic inequality “the defining challenge of our times” and said the “crisis of affordability has been decades in the making.” Progressive changes “won’t happen overnight,” he said, “but they will happen.”

November 6, 2013

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