NYC transit union moves to defeat Bloomberg

NEW YORK—The rapidly fading myth that Mayor Michael Bloomberg would sail to an easy victory, due to his ability to spend tens of millions of dollars to drown out the voices of his opponents, was shattered as the city’s powerful Transport Workers Union Local 100 gave a ringing endorsement to Democratic mayoral candidate, city Comptroller Bill Thompson.

“We’re all going to be working together, to take New York City back, block by block, community, community by community, as we move forward,” Thompson said upon receiving the endorsement. We’re going to put someone in City Hall who’s going to stand up and fight for all of us, not just for wealthy New Yorkers.”

Earlier in the season, Bloomberg had been considered the assured victor, given his wealth and ability to flood radio and television airwaves, seemingly non-stop, with ads and to send slick mailers to city residents almost on a weekly basis. But recently, the mayor’s luck has been souring: His lead over Thompson, who will almost certainly be the Democratic challenger in November, has dropped by more than half in just over a month, according to a recent Quinnipiac Poll, and a number of labor unions, democratic organizations, and most of the African American and Latino elected officials, as well as many white liberals, have endorsed Thompson. The Working Families Party recently voted to endorse Thomson as well, assuring him of a second spot on the ballot, and boots on the ground.

But TWU Local 100 represents something more: It is the first of the city’s three or four most powerful unions to back Thompson. It represents tens of thousands of bus, subway and other transit workers in New York City, making it a political powerhouse. And they’re vowing to make sure Bloomberg is defeated.

“We’ll be out in the streets,” Curtis Tate, TWU Local 100 acting president, told the World. “We’re going to knock on doors, we’ll make phone calls—whatever it takes to get Bill Thompson elected.”

Roger Toussaint, the former president of Local 100 and current TWU international vice president, came out to endorse Thompson as well. Toussaint enjoys rock star-like status in many areas. This is largely due to his leadership of the highly successful 2005 transit strike. Under New York State’s Taylor Law, which is widely considered to be in contravention of international labor law, it is illegal for public workers to strike; consequently, Bloomberg saw to it that Toussaint spent several days in jail.

“Bill Thompson has been a dedicated public servant and a friend and a supporter of working people,” Toussaint said. He added, challenging the rest of the labor movement to come out for Bloomberg’s defeat, “If you work for the city, if you’re a sanitation worker, if you’re a hospital worker, if you work in the health care industry, if you’re a cop or firefighter, if you’re in any of the many city agencies, you have to ask yourself which mayor, which leader of this city could relate more to your issues and to your concerns. If you ask yourself that question, the answer comes easy. Bill Thompson is the choice for working New Yorkers.”

Deborah Hardwick, a 26-year veteran of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, who works as a subway conductor, added, “I can say this: Bill Thompson has always been supportive of the labor movement.” Thinking of the way the current mayor handled the famous 2005 transit strike, she added “Bloomberg was not very labor friendly. I have friends and relatives who work for other unions, and they have the same opinion of him, and he is not for working families.”

Thompson, who supported TWU during the strike, and has a long history of supporting labor and progressive struggles, said that the election was about the future direction of the city.

“It’s about the middle class,” he said, “and are we going to be able to stay in NY? Are we going to be able to afford to live in New York City?” He added that low- to middle-income working people were being pushed out of the city. “We’ve seen what eight years of Michael Bloomberg has done for New York.”