New York Lawmaker Claims Union Supervisors Dragged Out Snow Clean-up

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," December 30, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

BRIAN SULLIVAN, GUEST HOST: Union retaliation exposed, and now fears of what is happening in the Big Apple will take this nation by storm.

Welcome, everybody. I'm Brian Sullivan, in once again for Neil. And this is "Your World."

A huge story from New York today -- a criminal investigation being launched into claims that sanitation workers deliberately slowed the snow cleanup here to protest budget cuts, a group of unionized workers reportedly confessing, claiming their supervisors ordered them to take off routes, plow major routes in an untimely fashion, keep plows slightly higher above the road surface, skip over streets that are on their routes, and wait for orders before attacking piles of snow.

It's no laughing matter, those clogged roads blamed for at least two deaths. Unions call talk of a slowdown -- quote -- "hogwash."

With us now, Republican City Councilman Dan Halloran, who says those workers confessed to him.



SULLIVAN: What were you told? Who met with you?

HALLORAN: Well, I got two phone calls -- sets of phone calls from two different groups. One were DOT supervisors and the other were sanitation workers.

And it was very disturbing. They came into the office. These are constituents of mine, people who saw their community around them unable to get out of the snow -- College Point, Bayside, Whitestone were completely snowed in. I had residents without power for two days because Con Edison could not get to the streets to clean the lines that were down. And these workers were very upset about it.

They were clear that their union, the sanitation workers union, wasn't engaging in a slowdown, but that their supervisors, the people who are actually on the chopping block -- there's 100 supervisors who are going to be demoted for budgetary reasons by the mayor's office.

We have had attrition rate of about 400 workers that were down over the past few years. There've been talks of further layoffs and further cuts. In fact, the mayor proposed going to one-day-a-week garbage collection this -- just this past budget cycle.

SULLIVAN: So they are angry. OK? And let's be clear about what you heard in these conversations.


SULLIVAN: It seems clear to you that these workers were saying that their supervisors were telling them and their crews to basically do a poor job as a means of protest?

HALLORAN: It's -- that is what they saying. They are saying that the shops that they worked in -- the garages they worked in, all of which were in Queens -- so I can't speak to rest of the city -- I can only speak to the Queens shops that they were working with -- basically had the go-ahead to take their time, that they wouldn't be supervised, that if they missed routes, it wasn't going to be a problem, that they needed to send a message.

And ultimately in my district, the DOT employees who were secondary to the sanitation department were told to just sit and wait and they would get instructions as when to start cleaning up. Six, eight hours later, they were still sitting, waiting to clean up.

SULLIVAN: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg holding a press conference about this today. Let's hear what he had to say in reaction to the story.


MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, MAYOR OF NEW YORK: I don't think it took place. But we're going to do an investigation to make sure that it didn't. It would be an outrage if it took place. But I just don't know.


SULLIVAN: Well, the mayor saying it would be an outrage if it happened, but sort of questioning...


SULLIVAN: ... I think you and whether or not these conversations ever occurred.

HALLORAN: Look, the mayor is being very circumspect. He's gotten a lot of grief over the snowstorm.

In my entire life, I have never seen such a poor response from the city in terms of cleaning up after a snowstorm. Last year, we had about an inch and a half more snow, and in 24 hours, the streets were cleaned. What has changed between last year and now? What has changed between the snowstorm of 1996, which was the worst snowstorm that we have had in the last two decades, and now?

In 1996...

SULLIVAN: Well, the unions will say there are 400, what, some fewer sanitation workers who were cut.

HALLORAN: Here's the problem with that. The math doesn't work. We still had the same 2,500 units out in the field doing the snowplowing. So it didn't change the math in terms of the number of equipment pieces that were out there. The assistance we received from DOT was actually greater this year than it's ever been. And we also had private and secondary sources bringing equipment into bear as well.

The linchpin to all of this is the supervisors, who are responsible for targeting the locations, assigning the routes and ensuring they were cleaned up.

SULLIVAN: Quickly, would you believe this would be then maybe a rogue action by a small group of unionized sanitation workers or more union- wide?

HALLORAN: I am tending to think that it was the supervisor group, that some of these rogue supervisors, very irate with the mayor, very upset with his policies...


HALLORAN: ... were taking it out on us.

Don't forget, though, 10 percent of the union work force also called in sick that day. So, over 500 union workers out of a total pool of 5,000 didn't show up for work and called out.


And, by the way, we did try to call the union. We didn't get a response back from them. But they did call the story hogwash when The Post contacted them.

City Councilman Dan Halloran, thank you very much.


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