FINANCIAL DISTRICT — Mayoral hopeful and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio said there is a model approach to the city’s massive backlog of labor contracts in the work done by Governor Andrew Cuomo, while blasting what he called Mayor Bloomberg's hands-off approach to the issue.
“I think the governor's approach can be fairly summarized as: Walk softly, carry a big stick,” de Blasio said, addressing a group of community and business leaders in lower Manhattan on Wednesday.
What to do about the billions in city contracts that Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration has been unable — or unwilling — to deal with in his third term has become a major issue in the campaign to replace him. Labor leaders have called for retroactive pay raises and other benefits for their members, who have been without contracts for years.
De Blasio criticized Bloomberg’s handling of the contracts, saying that the city was in “dangerous territory” having its entire workforce in need of labor agreements.
“Previous mayors of every stripe, I don’t think they would have thought it was allowable as part of their job description to leave all the contracts open,” de Blasio said. “I also don't think they would have assumed they would have gotten away with it politically.”
The public advocate contrasted what he said was Cuomo’s forceful yet clear approach to labor, exemplified by Medicaid redesign negotiations during the governor’s first term.
“He's set out a clear vision of where we need to go. He invited the stakeholders to be part of the process. There was not rancor, there was not accusations,” de Blasio said.
Asked after if he felt the same way about Cuomo’s approach to the creation of the new petition tier for future state employees — soemthing bitterly opposed by unions — de Blasio said his comments were specifically about Cuomo’s style.
“The approach has always been respectful and communicative, and I think that makes it very, very different than what Mayor Bloomberg has done,” he said.
But the public advocate did appear to praise Cuomo’s willingness to take on labor in what he believed were the interests of the state.
“I think the governor, to his credit, said, ‘Look these are the kind of things I have to do to balance the budget, and these are the kinds of thinks I have to do to be economically stable going forward.’" de Blasio said. "But he never did it as an attack on labor."