The labor opposition to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to ban carriage horses has gone statewide.
The 2.5-million-member New York State AFL-CIO unanimously decided to support the Teamsters of Local 553—who drive the carriages—in their bid to shut down a City Council proposal to ban the industry, introduced at the mayor’s behest.
“At a time of wage stagnation and an economy that replaces good jobs with those that confine workers to poverty, it’s shocking that the City would even consider destroying the horse carriage industry,” Mario Cilento, president of the AFL-CIO, said. “These are good, middle-class jobs that have allowed hardworking New Yorkers and their families to thrive. We should be doing more to create family-sustaining jobs, not annihilating an entire industry that provides them.”
Mr. de Blasio’s campaign promise to ban the horse-drawn carts earned him the favor of animal rights groups like NYCLASS, which advertised heavily against his primary opponent Christine Quinn. But it has pitted him against typical allies in the labor movement, including the Working Families Party, and now the AFL-CIO, a coalition of all the state’s unions.
Some 300 drivers are currently employed by the carriage horse industry. The bill introduced into the City Council this week would allow for some of them to receive reduced-price green taxi medallions, an offer at which many have scoffed, and also allows for the exploration of other new jobs (electric cars are one possibility that has been floated).
“We believe the legislation represents a humane and equitable solution that moves the horses off our streets, safeguards the animals, and protects the livelihoods of the men and women who provide carriage rides,” de Blasio spokesman Wiley Norvell said.
It remains to be seen whether the legislation has enough support to pass the Council and land on the mayor’s desk—several lawmakers have spoken out against the proposal since its introduction.
Teamsters president George Miranda thanked the AFL-CIO for its backing. The coalition plans to work in conjunction with the New York City Central Labor Council on “grassroots and political opposition” to the ban.
“There is nothing worse than going into the holiday season with your job on the line. The carriage drivers haven’t done anything wrong, but will lose everything if their jobs are banned,” Mr. Miranda said in a statement. “Through the New York State AFL-CIO, the labor movement speaks with one voice. We thank New York’s unions for standing with these families.”