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Where were the unions?

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Given the gravity of the economic crisis that the city faced, it seems that things have worked out about as well as anyone might have hoped.

For those city workers who lost their jobs, this must...

"There is power. There is power in a band of union men."

Given the gravity of the economic crisis that the city faced, it seems that things have worked out about as well as anyone might have hoped.

For those city workers who lost their jobs, this must be a most difficult time. Unemployment in the city is at a record high and finding a decent job must be a daunting experience. Nevertheless, the city was able to avoid massive layoffs and some of service cuts dearest to the hearts of the people of Queens have been restored.

Nobody likes paying higher property taxes and the return of the sales tax on clothing is particularly annoying. The higher income tax will affect many families who do not consider themselves wealthy.

Still, all in all the mayor and the City Council have done an excellent job under enormous pressure. Despite differences, they were able to hammer out a budget on deadline that will keep the city afloat, at least for one more year. The state Legislature could learn from their example.

The one group that did not step up to the plate is the municipal unions. Although the union leaders say they were prepared to offer hundreds of millions of dollars in concessions, in the end they gave up little or nothing. The union leaders could and should have agreed to a longer work week and employee contributions to health benefits. Without hurting members already in the pension system, the unions could have agreed to pension plans for new hires that would be more in line with pension plans offered for similar work in the private sector.

The bottom line is that the welfare of their members is linked directly to the long-term financial health of the city. There is still time for the unions to shoulder part of the burden of getting New York City back on track. That may call for making decisions that will make them less than popular with the rank and file.

Divided loyalty

It’s time for Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin (D-Flushing) to decide whether he wants to be one of the city’s most powerful union leaders or a state legislator. Trying to be both is a clear conflict of interest.

As a legislator, McLaughlin is called upon to vote on state funding for programs in New York City, including the funding for city schools. There may be occasions when the interests of his New York City constituents will be the same as those of the laborers he represents as the head of the Central Labor Council. But what happens when they conflict? Which job will be more important?

This isn’t a gray area. The potential for conflict of interest should be obvious to everyone.

Smoke screen

Despite the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth, most restaurants in Queens appear to be complying with the city’s tough new antismoking regulations.

The restaurants say their business is off by as much as 20 percent. So far we have not seen hard facts to back up this claim. If business at the eateries is down, there may be other reasons such as the sluggish economy and the rain-drenched spring.

Although we share the concerns about growing government intrusion, we suspect that most people are happy that they won’t have to worry about sucking up tobacco fumes when they go out to eat. We believe New Yorkers will grow accustomed to the new law and the smokers will use other opportunities to pursue their deadly habit.

Posted 7:16 pm, October 10, 2011
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