Did Big Apple public unions stage a slowdown on snow removal?

posted at 11:15 am on December 30, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

So says the New York Post, based on one elected official as a source, speaking for a few alleged whistleblowers.  Purportedly, the Snow Slow came in response to belt-tightening by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and was meant to send a message: We’re in charge:

Selfish Sanitation Department bosses from the snow-slammed outer boroughs ordered their drivers to snarl the blizzard cleanup to protest budget cuts — a disastrous move that turned streets into a minefield for emergency-services vehicles, The Post has learned.

Miles of roads stretching from as north as Whitestone, Queens, to the south shore of Staten Island still remained treacherously unplowed last night because of the shameless job action, several sources and a city lawmaker said, which was over a raft of demotions, attrition and budget cuts.

“They sent a message to the rest of the city that these particular labor issues are more important,” said City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Queens), who was visited yesterday by a group of guilt-ridden sanitation workers who confessed the shameless plot.

Independently, the Post quotes other sources who claim that snow removal workers may not be conspiring to send a message, but they aren’t exactly motivated, either.  One way that they claim to be gumming up snow removal is to stick only to streets explicitly assigned to them, and keeping the shovels high on their plows to necessitate repeated plowing — and extra overtime.  Others claim that the drivers are deliberately “smashing plows” to slow down the work and keep the city frozen in place.

I’m a little skeptical, but mainly because the primary source for the conspiracy theory is an elected official who can expect to be held accountable for the poor performance thus far in the Big Apple.  Also, the Twin Cities had the same level of snowfall a few weeks ago, and snow removal was a problem for us, too.  Minneapolis/St Paul and the first-ring suburbs have a large amount of infrastructure to deal with heavy snowfalls and about a fifth of the population, and we still have huge piles of snow blocking sidewalks downtown.  Heck, we can’t even get the Metrodome fixed; now, the estimate for repair and reinflation is the end of March.  I’m not sure that NYC could have done better, with its relatively smaller snow-removal infrastructure, lack of places to put the snow, and population density.

Is it possible that this was a coordinated slowdown effort by public-sector unions to make Bloomberg and city officials look incompetent?  Sure, but the simpler answers are usually closer to the truth.  The simpler answers here are that this was freakishly heavy snowfall in a city not used to such things, and, well, it has a mayor more interested in salt use in restaurants than on the roads.

Besides, some enthusiasm for the work can be seen in this WCBS video from earlier in the week.  Workers wanted to get a stuck plow back into operation so badly that they wrecked a car  to do it.  No worries, though, because the car’s owner works for … the city:

On the street in Brooklyn Heights a sanitation crew ignored residents’ cries as they struggled to pull out one of its snow removal vehicles from the snow, CBS 2-TV reports.

The outraged wife of the destroyed vehicle’s owner, who didn’t want to be identified because her husband works for the City that owns the damaged vehicle, told CBS 2 that it should never have happened.

“There should’ve been a City official here. There should’ve been a supervisor. This was unacceptable disregard for personal property,” she said.

Update: If it is true, then Aaron Worthing thinks that at least one charge of negligent homicide is in order.


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Organized labor or Organized crime?

They both look after their own interests, protect their own and extort money from people with threats and actions… hmmm… are we sure that there is a difference here? Beyond the fact that Capone knew how to run the garbage collectors competently?

In any event, those working in the public sector work for all of the people, not some company. They need to be de-certified as not necessary, too costly and ineffective. If they can’t even do snow removal well, then they should all go.

ajacksonian on December 30, 2010 at 1:20 PM

Is there a valid justification for Republicans in congress to investigate this in January? Lord knows Democrat run New York is going to do nothing to bring their own goon squad to justice.

American Elephant on December 30, 2010 at 1:21 PM

Organized labor or Organized crime?

Same dif. The latter morphed into the former.

American Elephant on December 30, 2010 at 1:22 PM

Organized labor or Organized crime?

ajacksonian on December 30, 2010 at 1:20 PM

Why’d you write Organized Labor twice?

These are the same kind of people and organizations that stole the WTC steel.

CPL 310 on December 30, 2010 at 1:24 PM

I’m not sure that NYC could have done better, with its relatively smaller snow-removal infrastructure, lack of places to put the snow, and population density.

What does population density have to do with it? If anything, a more dense population per land area would have more people paying taxes to get the job done.

And there is an obvious place to put the snow: Dump it in the water. Snow removal for the borough of Manhattan should be very simple and straightforward in that respect. The other boroughs have more land farther from the water, but they also have… more land.

The Monster on December 30, 2010 at 1:28 PM

Ed and AP are likely the only persons outside the Koszone who are truly and honestly shocked, shocked that union thugs would do such things. For anyone else who’s been around the block more than once, school’s out.

whatcat on December 30, 2010 at 1:29 PM

There are a bunch of people on the ronpaulforums who want to register.

Spathi on December 30, 2010 at 11:35 AM

Ron Paul? Come On. They are good there. We can do without the traffic. Thank you.

antisocial on December 30, 2010 at 1:31 PM

wait you telling me union members (i.e socilaists) would place their self interest ahead of someone else’s? no way. socialist believe everyone should be eqaul…./

unseen on December 30, 2010 at 1:41 PM

If this is true they should fire every last one of them and hire illegals to do the jobs by paying them in cash (at 1/4 the rate), under the table …

BowHuntingTexas on December 30, 2010 at 1:49 PM

Why is anybody making excuses for these people? I watched it. They repeatedly hit the same few streets, ignored others completely, and only today have I seen any trucks putting down sand and salt.

I had three fricken sanitation trucks idling on my street Tuesday night behind a stuck car for…wait for it…four hours.

Bonus: They did not even plow the street. That finally got done yesterday.

A Balrog of Morgoth on December 30, 2010 at 1:50 PM

How about all of us New Yorker HotAir readers organizing a Tea Party protest at the HQ of the NYC Sanitation Union, complete with one of those giant rats that union thugs like to use? Let’s not let this crisis go to waste!

People who work for non-profit agencies that are fully funded by tax payer dollars should have never been allowed to unionize. Unions were created during the industrial revolution because the owners of private companies were making millions, while the workers got paid slave wages.

At what point in time were public sanitation workers, transit workers, school teachers, cops, etc, living in poverty while others got rich off of the backs of their labor? When were they ever forced to shop at a company store? Public unions weren’t necessary when unions first came into being, and they’re not necessary today.

They were created by New Leftists in an attempt to empower the public sector and disempower the private sector in order to undermine our capitalist system. 50 years later, the country is about to collapse under the weight of public sector entitlements.

Time to take to the streets and talk some sense while people are angry and paying attention.

ardenenoch on December 30, 2010 at 2:14 PM

Anyone injured by the ‘strike’ should sue the Union officials responsible….and bankrupt them.

JIMV on December 30, 2010 at 2:19 PM

JIMV on December 30, 2010 at 2:19 PM

They’ll end up suing the employer (NYC) instead.

ladyingray on December 30, 2010 at 2:23 PM

Keep in mind that there were TWO rather large snow storms last year that NYC handled just fine. Now, they are overwhelmed and inexperienced? Yes, this storm was bigger, but it wasn’t that much bigger. Say an extra day’s worth of work at most. But there were some streets, not in Manhattan, I’ll grant you, that were not plowed even once prior to Thursday. There has been something of a tradition in NYC that once Manhattan is plowed, how bad can it be in “outer” boroughs? Remember John Lindsey, the greatest mayor Manhattan ever had, and the 1968 storm?

Fred 2 on December 30, 2010 at 3:16 PM

Did a union slowdown in Philly last weekend cause the Vikings Philly postponement?

faraway on December 30, 2010 at 3:23 PM

Question for the NYCers. Everyone is talking about how Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island are still paralyzed, but not the Bronx, does the Blommy have a soft spot for them?

Lance Murdock on December 30, 2010 at 3:23 PM

Did a union slowdown in Philly last weekend cause the Vikings Philly postponement?
faraway on December 30, 2010 at 3:23 PM

The playoff-bound Eagles can blame their humiliating loss to a rookie QB on the local unions.

Bishop on December 30, 2010 at 3:27 PM

Dan Halloran did post on facebook yesterday that he’d just come from a very disturbing meeting, but didn’t give details at the time. If this is true, then arrests need to be made.

Connie on December 30, 2010 at 3:31 PM

Did Big Apple public unions stage a slowdown on snow removal?

Seriously; somebody feels the need to even ASK this?

Have you ever been to New York?

Have you ever seen a government employee “at work?”

Do you even know what a union IS?

If the answer to any of the above is “yes,” then there is no way in Hell you should even wonder about this.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying space aliens or Elvis’s baby couldn’t possibly have been the cause. But until and unless somebody provides some damned solid evidence that it’s NOT a union slowdown, I’m just going to go with the odds on this one.

logis on December 30, 2010 at 3:33 PM

A Balrog of Morgoth on December 30, 2010 at 1:50 PM

Still one of the best names for a commenter. Just thought I’d throw that out there…

catmman on December 30, 2010 at 3:50 PM

Did Big Apple public unions stage a slowdown on snow removal?

Seriously; somebody feels the need to even ASK this?

Have you ever been to New York?

This +1!
Seriously, this is par for the course in NY. This is a shot across Andy Cuomo’s bow. This union needs to be broken right now. All of the Dept of Sanitation should be fired. There are so many unemployed in the city and these idiots are goldbricking? Its time to start teaching hard lessons.

Iblis on December 30, 2010 at 3:55 PM

I am sure that if CSI/Law and Order gets around to making a show about the Snow Slow, it will be the fault of some Big Business/Pro-Life/Far Right Talkshow cabal that mandated the vehicles run on the oil refined from the skulls of baby seals.

MunDane68 on December 30, 2010 at 3:57 PM

Is there a valid justification for Republicans in congress to investigate this in January? Lord knows Democrat run New York is going to do nothing to bring their own goon squad to justice.

American Elephant on December 30, 2010 at 1:21 PM

Michael Grimm is the new Republican Congressman from Staten Island. He doesn’t have any seniority, but I doubt his constituents probably wouldn’t mind a few NYC officials being grilled over why their borough, along with Queens and Brooklyn, were snowed in for the better part of four days.

(Also, and non-Sanitation Department related, someone shot this YouTube video during the storm Sunday night, showing why if you build a subway line in an open cut trench, with no place to dump the snow, it might have a few problems when the snow and the third rail electricity start to meet. Makes for a pretty cool light show.)

jon1979 on December 30, 2010 at 4:06 PM

Question for the NYCers. Everyone is talking about how Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island are still paralyzed, but not the Bronx, does the Blommy have a soft spot for them?

Lance Murdock on December 30, 2010 at 3:23 PM

There’s a big history of the City ignoring Queens especially during snow storms. The Bronx isn’t as densely populated as Brooklyn, isn’t on island and is even more likely to be ignored. As long as the Deegan, the Bruckner, and the Cross Bronx are clear, and they are as they’re interstates, nobody cares about the Bronx.

Iblis on December 30, 2010 at 4:17 PM

At least one infant and one woman died because emergency workers couldn’t get to them thru snow-filled streets. These thugs should be prosecuted.

byepartisan on December 30, 2010 at 4:18 PM

All union members on this planet are in a permanent state of “slowdown”, 24/7 and 365. That is the purpose of unions.

Really Right on December 30, 2010 at 12:43 PM

What!!! I thought it was 364 days. Janet said so. Did the union add an extra day as overtime?!?

Yoop on December 30, 2010 at 4:36 PM

Iblis on December 30, 2010 at 4:17 PM

Thanks for the clarification.

Lance Murdock on December 30, 2010 at 4:43 PM

I take it no one in NYC owns a snowmobile??

RonK on December 30, 2010 at 5:01 PM

Why is snow in New York even national news? Screw New York. Nobody who doesn’t live there gives a flip.

Blacklake on December 30, 2010 at 5:51 PM

Why is snow in New York even national news? Screw New York. Nobody who doesn’t live there gives a flip.
Blacklake on December 30, 2010 at 5:51 PM

The MEDIA care a great deal about New York City — partly because half of them do in fact live there, and partly because Bloomberg is one of the Quizlings they’re hoping to dump on Republicans in the next Presidential cycle. This is all part of their incredibly bizarre “vetting” process.

Obviously, there is no objective reason that any normal person should CARE about any of this crap. But it is the answer to the question: “Why is this national news?”

logis on December 30, 2010 at 6:04 PM

This is sick. End of story. Those phuckers cost lives and should do hard time in prison for it.

Anyone know the process for firing a Unionized Sanitation Worker in NYC?

Also Ed/AP here’s a link to a video clip courtesy of TRS

http://www.therightscoop.com/union-workers-admit-sabotage-of-nyc-snow-cleanup

SgtSVJones on December 30, 2010 at 6:28 PM

The (alleged) slowdown reminds me of this scene from Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome — where MasterBlaster claims to run Barter Town.

And we remember how that turned out for MasterBlaster…

Paul_in_NJ on December 30, 2010 at 6:47 PM

Let’s try that again — link fixed!

The (alleged) slowdown reminds me of this scene from Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome — where MasterBlaster claims to run Barter Town.

And we remember how that turned out for MasterBlaster…

Paul_in_NJ on December 30, 2010 at 6:48 PM

On Christmas Day, it was predicted that NYC would get 10-18 inches of snow.

Did the city pre-salt? NO!

Did the city clear the major arteries and the bus routes? NO!

Is the city going to investigate that this was an illegal union effort at a slowdown? NO!

Bonus question: How did three Sanitation trucks break down outside the same Dunkin Donuts at the same time?

Go check You Tube for your enjoyment pleasure.

Mayor Bloombucks is a putz!

patch on December 30, 2010 at 7:00 PM

One way that they claim to be gumming up snow removal is to stick only to streets explicitly assigned to them….

Well that’s heinous. The city has a plan, and the free-loading workers are accused of sticking to it. Go figure. I wonder how much of the rest of the evidence against these rouges is as conclusive?

tgharris on December 30, 2010 at 9:03 PM

Public Employee Unions are essentially organized crime syndicates. They should absolutely be banned. They extort the tax payers and have absolutely no problem bankrupting government agencies if they don’t get what they want. In their minds the taxpayers are the serfs, they are owed the livings of the taxpayers. Of course they will talk about getting more money from those lousy dirty rich people and big business, but those lousy dirty rich people and big businesses are the employers of the working folk, and if they leave, the jobs leave….but labor unions don’t care.

Really they don’t. There has actually been PROVEN cases here in Oregon where a local school district was struggling, and the teachers didn’t want to strike because they knew it was trying to get blood from a stone and that the only way union demands could be met was by getting money for raises from jobs that would have to be cut. The unions however stuck to their guns, the raises came through, but several jobs were just gone completely. The local teachers were furious, but there was nothing they could do. The teachers were willing to go with less so that all of them could stay employed, the union just wanted the power.

flyfishingdad on December 30, 2010 at 10:49 PM

“Is it possible that this was a coordinated slowdown effort by public-sector unions …”

Like that has never happened before.

percysunshine on December 31, 2010 at 7:41 AM

This guy had a great summary of the ATC strike and what Reagan did about it.

So why is Christie the only Repub in the country with kahonas? Ah, for the days when GOP had leadership with vision and guts! Via Politico…

July, ’81 – Robert Poli, president of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization, (PATCO) sought an across-the-board annual wage increase of $10,000 for the controllers, whose pay ranged from $20,462 to $49,229 per year. He also sought a reduction of their five-day, 40-hour workweek to a four-day, 32-hour workweek. The FAA made a $40 million counteroffer, far short of the $770 million package that the union sought.

8/3/81 – 13,000 controllers walked out after talks with the FAA collapsed. As a result, some 7,000 flights across the country were canceled on that day at the peak of the summer travel season. Reagan branded the strike illegal and threatened to fire any controller who failed to return to work within 48 hours. Federal judges levied fines of $1 million per day against the union. (In 1955, Congress made such strikes punishable by fines or a one-year jail term — a law the Supreme Court upheld in 1971.)

8/5/81 – Reagan fired more than 11,000 air traffic controllers who ignored his order to return to work. To the chagrin of the strikers, the FAA’s contingency plans worked. Some 3,000 supervisors joined 2,000 nonstriking controllers and 900 military controllers in manning airport towers. Before long, about 80 percent of flights were operating normally. Air freight remained virtually unaffected.

In carrying out his threat, Reagan also imposed a lifetime ban on rehiring the strikers.

October 1981 – The Federal Labor Relations Authority decertified PATCO.

And we lived happily ever after!

hawkdriver on January 1, 2011 at 8:14 AM

Reagan didn’t “brand” the strike illegal. It WAS illegal. My recollection is that PATCO had endorsed Reagan in 1980, and thought that would buy them some leeway. Bad move.

tgharris on January 1, 2011 at 6:37 PM

Well I hope that the families of the people that lost their lives because of the deliberate actions or inactions of the unions do not sue the city, but instead sue the unions directly. The city should sue them as well and then see if they can fire the entire union and prevent them from bidding on any public works jobs. Start a new with an entirely new group.
Its not the cities fault that the union chose to ignore the health of the entire city for MONEY.
I wonder if some smart Gov lawyer can go after them on a RICO case.

ColdWarrior57 on January 2, 2011 at 1:01 AM

Ed, you wrapped up the entire problem of Unions. The leadership makes their members think they are benefiting from membership. While the SELFISH lordship run a muck like Scrooge McDuck, with the profit gained from the investment and a cut off the top of members dues.

Then like lemmings the members follow lockstep when their Management demand more for themselves without any offer of increasing productivity or improving the workplace.

MSGTAS on January 2, 2011 at 8:45 AM

wait you telling me union members (i.e socilaists) would place their self interest ahead of someone else’s? no way. socialist believe everyone should be eqaul…./

unseen on December 30, 2010 at 1:41 PM

Union members are socialists ??? That’s a very insane thing to say, especially since they’re forced to join the union to keep their jobs.

LODGE4 on January 3, 2011 at 10:17 AM

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