As Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio prepares to take his oath of office, we rejoice in the hopes that the new and improved New York—the one we voted for—will soon be all that it can be for all its denizens. It’s an exciting and meaningful time, especially for public employees, as we welcome the first Democratic mayor to this great city in 24 years.
Aside from “Democrat,” “progressive” is a word most frequently used to describe de Blasio and his supporters. But what does that word mean for New York’s working class, who have continued to churn this city’s economic engine through good times and bad? We hope that the “progress” we see is toward a vision of this city as one that props up its workers and the middle class instead of catering to an increasingly wealthy population.
Many people are concerned that the progressive philosophy is one that caters only to the poor and the needy, and it ignores the economic realities of running such a large and complicated city. Nothing could be further from the truth. New York City prospers when we all prosper, not just a few. Middle-class and low-income workers have lost a lot of ground, including jobs, wages, affordable housing and benefits in the past 20 years. Progressives want to rebalance the scales, not only because it is right, but because it is practical. Strengthening New York City’s middle class leads to a better quality of life and a healthier city for everyone.
Currently, no city union has an active contract. We believe everyone deserves to have job security, a decent quality of life and the ability to retire with dignity. We should also have affordable housing, but rents continue to rise beyond our reach. Between 2002 and 2008, the city lost nearly 200,000 affordable rental housing units.
Our members and tens of thousands of other public employees eagerly listened as New Yorkers voiced opposition to the status quo and went to the polls to elect leaders who will swing the pendulum toward blue-collar workers. It was inspiring to see so many people come together under a common dream that we can make conditions better for all workers.
For too long, the challenges of working people have been ignored in favor of the rich. We are finally in a position to restore New York as a city for all income brackets and look forward to working with de Blasio to establish fair wages, new union contracts and new NYCHA leadership to fix the city’s public housing. We know he understands the importance of giving workers a voice at City Hall and will fight for strong unions to help rebuild the city.
We are also fortunate to have a City Council that is as progressive as our mayor elect. We are pleased that all of the council members are focused on issues of importance to working people.
Public employees have been asked to work more with less over the last two decades, and we need to recognize their tireless efforts to keep New York City the greatest city in the world. Not only do they deserve respect, they deserve a city that values fairness and opportunity. Together, we can make progress toward that goal. That’s the true meaning of progressive, and I hope that a new era, when our city experiences prosperity for all, is here to stay.