Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Quinn Exits-Stage Right

What a show yesterday. In the middle of the celebration for having labored long and hard to give birth to a bill that had so many birth defects that it isn't even clear that the effort was worthwhile, Speaker Quinn walked out from the victory lap because someone called Mike Bloomberg "pharaoh!" How lame is that?

As the WSJ reports: "It was supposed to be a celebratory news conference for New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, a moment to herald passage of a living-wage bill she personally helped craft. Instead, in a move that could damage her potential mayoral candidacy, Ms. Quinn abruptly walked out of the City Hall event at the beginning of her remarks after a supporter called Mayor Michael Bloomberg "Pharaoh Bloomberg."

Her reasoning was almost as faulty as the bill itself: "Look, that's not appropriate," Ms. Quinn said, telling the crowd to respect opposing viewpoints and requesting an apology. When no one responded, she raised her right hand and said: "Congratulations on the bill—I'm not going to participate in name-calling."

Please! This was pure theater-orchestrated by juggler Quinn who is trying to straddle support for a union sponsored bill alongside her seven year love affair with the billionaire mayor. All the speaker had to do was to chastise the remarks as inappropriate-and then move on.

But what wasn't said yesterday-and it was obscured by the calculated dramatics from the speaker-is that this bill will only impact around 600 workers a year, at best. And the measure was diluted when the retail workers were kicked to the curb by the Related-loving Quinn. Also obscured was the fact that a living wage had been negotiated in the city's largest development project-Willets Point-only to be sh*t canned by the mayor without any concomitant temper tantrum from the speaker or anyone in organized labor.

This labor requirement was arguably the linchpin of the city council's approval of the redevelopment plan in 2008. As we have pointed out: "Which brings us back to Willets Point. It is unclear whether the current legislation would apply to Willets Point but shouldn't labor and the council be holding Bloomberg to his commitment? Was the Willets Point living wage promise simply a ruse to gain approval of a controversial project? If so, isn't it time for the council to exercise its oversight authority?"

So all of the drama surrounding living wage hides the fact that the legislation is purely symbolic and that any real commitment to struggling workers is absent-either with elected officials or the union that's supposed to champion their cause. That was clear the moment that Bloomberg removed the requirement from the mayor's signature development without a peep from labor or a single council member.