Union Blues

The city’s largest public employee union, District Council 37, has decided to try its luck with Democratic mayoral candidate William Thompson rather than the incumbent, Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The politically powerful union’s endorsement has been interpreted as a blow to Mr. Bloomberg’s bid for a third term, but it’s hard to figure out how this should be seen as anything but good news for New York City taxpayers. Mr. Bloomberg is going to have to make some hard decisions if, as expected, he wins another term in November. Some of those decisions will impact DC 37’s members, so it’s just as well that he is running without their blessing.

Mr. Bloomberg appeared before the union’s top executives during a recent vetting session and told them that they had better get used to doing more with less. That’s not what public employee unions want to hear. Not surprisingly, then, they decided to abandon the mayor in favor of Mr. Thompson, who is expected to emerge as Mr. Bloomberg’s Democratic challenger after the party’s primary next month.

As the city’s comptroller for the past eight years, Mr. Thompson knows as well as anyone that the near future looks challenging—to say the least—for city government.

Nevertheless, he seems less willing than Mr. Bloomberg to speak the truth to the city’s unionized workers. It’s a simple fact that city workers will have to make some sacrifices over the next four or more years. Mr. Bloomberg clearly is willing to speak the truth, and as a result, the city’s biggest union wants no part of him.

It would be wrong to conclude that Mr. Bloomberg is unsympathetic to the plight of the city’s unionized workforce. It appears as though City Hall is willing to give the city’s teachers a generous contract over the next two years, one that will give teachers a raise of at least 8 percent. That would increase starting salaries to nearly $50,000 per year.

Nobody should begrudge hardworking teachers a decent raise, even in hard times. The impressive gains in the city’s school system over the past eight years are a reflection of the school system’s frontline troops. Nevertheless, City Hall ought to continue to demand changes to inflexible work rules and other union mandates in exchange for a nice raise.

Teachers need to work for the raises they are about to get.

The next four years won’t be easy. The city’s unions have to realize this simple fact.

Union Blues