Published December 30, 2010
As New York City finishes cleaning up the mess of the recent debilitating blizzard, it also faces allegations that union workers entrusted with cleaning up the mess of snow decided to stage a slowdown as the blizzard hit.
The plan was to snarl the blizzard cleanup to protest budget cuts, several sources and a city lawmaker told the New York Post. The lawmaker, City Councilman Dan Halloran, underscored those claims in an interview Thursday on Fox News' "Your World."
Halloran said he met with three plow workers from the Sanitation Department -- and two Department of Transportation supervisors who were on loan -- at his office after he was flooded with irate calls from constituents. The workers said the work slowdown was pushed by supervisors, not the unions, as the result of growing hostility between Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the workers responsible for clearing the snow.
"They're saying that the shops that they worked in ... basically had the go ahead to take their time, that they wouldn't be be supervised, that if they missed routes it wasn't going to be a problem," Halloran told Fox News.
In the last two years, the agency's workforce has been slashed by 400 trash haulers and supervisors -- down from 6,300 -- because of the city's budget crisis. And, effective Friday, 100 department supervisors are to be demoted and their salaries slashed as an added cost-saving move. Sources said budget cuts were also at the heart of poor planning for the blizzard last weekend.
The blizzard struck days before 100 Sanitation Department supervisors in charge of coordinating the plowing fleet were scheduled to be demoted in a budget-cutting move. The timing of the demotions, scheduled for Jan. 1, ignited the initial speculation that disgruntled supervisors had purposely sabotaged the snow removal effort in an act of revenge.
"I don't think it took place, but we are going to do an investigation to make sure that it didn't," Bloomberg said Thursday.
Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty said he was also concerned but had seen no sign of a such a move. The heads of the two unions that represent sanitation department supervisors and rank-and-file workers said the rumors were false and insulting.
Joseph Mannion, president of the Sanitation Officers Association, which represents about 1,000 supervisors and has been fighting the pending demotions, called that claim "ludicrous."
"There would never be a coordination to do anything in the snow. It's absolutely a taboo issue," he said. "You never, ever play with people's lives. And that's what they are saying we did."
The New York Post contributed to this report.