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The whistleblowers, who wish to remain unidentified because they fear retaliation, went on to describe the methods used by the Sanitation Department to make a bad situation worse. These included such things as raising the level of the plows higher than the roadway, deliberately skipping streets along their assigned routes, and being told to wait for orders before plowing accumulating piles of snow. In addition, “multiple Sanitation Department sources” told The NY Post that “angry plow drivers have only been clearing streets assigned to them, even if that means they have to drive through snowed-in roads with their plows raised.” They added that “some drivers are purposely smashing plows and salt spreaders to further stall the cleanup effort.”
(Adding insult to injury? A photograph of a plow driver taking a reported one-and-a-half hour nap while on duty at 9:30 AM Monday morning. This is the second time in recent months that NY Post photographers have snapped city workers sleeping on the job.)
Much of the union’s alleged strategy centered around the idea that dragging out snow removal would allow them to pad overtime checks, for which the hourly rate is substantially higher than regular pay. The cost of overtime pay was apparently a factor in the city’s initially inadequate response to the storm as well, since preparation for the upcoming blizzard would have required a full compliment of workers showing up on Saturday the 24th, and collecting overtime for continuing work on Christmas Day. Thus, an adequate number of workers was not called in when it might have made a critical difference.
(The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), which has responsibility for keeping New York’s public transportation systems running, apparently dropped the ball as well. An unnamed source told the NY Post that the agency opted for a its lowest level “Plan 1″ for coping with the storm, instead of “Plan 4,” its highest emergency response. As a result, subway, bus and train service was equally devastated. In one reported incident, over a hundred passengers were stuck on two trains near Aqueduct Race Track for over six hours “without food, water or bathroom facilities.”)
USA president Harry Nespoli confirmed that his employees are indeed working “lucrative 14 hours shifts,” (note the two hour discrepancy from his quote above), but both he and Joseph Mannion, president of the union that represents agency supervisors, denied any such job action was taking place, as did Sanitation Department spokesman Matthew Lipani. “There are no organized or wildcat actions being taken by the sanitation workers or the supervisors,” said Lipani.
It behooves the city to get to the truth. But not merely because the alleged work slowdown was annoying or inconvenient, forcing thousands of New Yorkers to fend for themselves in term of clearing streets or getting to work. For some New Yorkers it was tragic. In Crown Heights, Brooklyn, a newborn baby died during the ten hours it took emergency workers to respond to the frantic mother’s 911 call. In Queens, 75-year-old Yvonne Freeman passed away between the time her daughter called to report her mother’s difficulty in breathing, and the three hours it took first responders to reach her.
“My heart goes out to those who experienced trauma and tragedy,” Bloomberg said Wednesday.
Not good enough. Not by a long shot. If there’s a scintilla of truth to this story, the all too typical response of wrist-slap suspensions for guilty workers, or even the firing some some higher-ups, is woefully insufficient. If the two confirmed deaths directly related to the inability of emergency workers to reach the victims can be attributed to a deliberate job action by the Sanitation union, criminal prosecutions must be initiated. It is one thing for disgruntled unionists to hold an entire city hostage due to, as the aforementioned agency supervisor head Joseph Mannion characterized it, “resentment out there” towards a budget-cutting Mayor. It is quite another when such nonsense becomes deadly.
As for the rest of the nation, one can only wonder how other public sector unions across the country will respond to the inevitable cutbacks that must occur in states faced with fiscal insolvency. If the alleged reaction of New York Sanitation workers and their bosses is a prevailing attitude, the American public may been in for some additionally ugly, and perhaps deadly, times ahead.
Perhaps we are more “Greece-like” than we care to imagine.
Arnold Ahlert is a contributing columnist to the conservative website, JewishWorldReview.com.
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