Complexes are not good. Whether Oedipus or Sybil, prison-industrial or military-industrial, you want to avoid complexes and think twice about dating people who have them. Unfortunately, according to our outgoing mayor, New York City has got one—namely “a labor-electoral complex that is undermining our collective future.”
In a final major speech delivered to a friendly crowd at the Economic Club on Wednesday, Mayor Bloomberg said the biggest threat now to the survival of the city is the rising cost of employee pensions and healthcare. “Here in New York City, over the past twelve years our pension costs have gone from $1.5 billion to $8.2 billion,” he said. “That’s almost a 500 percent increase—when inflation totaled only 35 percent.” Healthcare costs for employees and retirees were also soarding. Together, the mayor said, those benefits costs represented a drain that has already dragged other cities into bankruptcy and will threaten the same in New York’s near future if we’re not careful.
“And let’s face it: The future that most elected officials worry most about is their own. Winning election—or reelection—is the goal around which everything else revolves,” the mayor said. “But we cannot afford for our elected officials to put their own futures ahead of the next generation’s, and to continue perpetuating a labor-electoral complex that is undermining our collective future.”
The complex the mayor is refering to is the sinister tendency of unions to support politicians who they like. Not many big municipal unions supported Bill de Blasio in the 2013 primary (DC 37 backed John Liu, and the UFT went for Bill Thompson) but de Blasio is closely linked to the Working Families Party, which is backed by labor, as well as to SEIU-1199 and the Communications Workers of America.
So insidious is the threat of the labor-electoral complex that Bloomberg himself succumbed to its spells more than once. In 2004, he granted a generous contract to DC37, the massive union that represents many municipal workers; in the 2005 campaign, DC37 endorsed Bloomberg. Also in 2005, he gave a sweet deal to the UFT, who coincidentally sat out that year’s election.
The mayor apparently kicked the habit after his first re-election, bravely deciding in 2009 to rely only on his nine-digit campaign spending and the support of a small but hardy band of newspaper barons to get him a third term.
Now. the mayor having gotten wise to their schemes, not a single municipal employee has a contract, leaving de Blasio with a towering stack of labor negotiations to work through. But that, says Bloomberg, is a good thing: Because he held the line against granting another contract that exacerbated that pension/healthcare problem, the mayor argued, unions were now desperate to get a deal and willing to compromise.