Recently, Assemblymember Brian McLaughlin, in his role as head of the New York City Central Labor Council, sat quietly at the side of United Federation Teachers President Randi Weingarten at a City Council hearing where the teachers were being pummeled and maligned for gains they had won at the bargaining table.
Last Friday, however, McLaughlin let the other shoe drop as he lambasted City Council Speaker Gifford Miller for what he called "a blatant attempt to advance the political career of one person [at the expense of] the public education careers of over 100,000 workers [who] were ridiculed in the process."
In the process, McLaughlin, who is widely expected to run for mayor two years hence, was blasting Miller, said to be the frontrunner among Democrats, including McLaughlin, seeking to gain their party’s nomination for mayor.
Clearly, here was the labor candidate denouncing the anti-labor candidate in no uncertain terms in what will be recalled as the day the race for the 2005 Democratic mayoral primary got off the mark.
Miller, commenting on McLaughlin’s attack, insisted he supports unions, called for the city to negotiate a contract with the teachers’ union, and said the hearings had been called to address issues impacting students.
McLaughlin made his remarks in a speech at Queens College in his role as president of the 1.5 million Central Labor Council before the college Labor Resource Center Labor Breakfast Series.
As a central point of the talk he called on Miller to help us fully understand the process that took place which, allowed such a slanted and highly publicized forum on public employee labor contract collective bargaining.
McLaughlin (D–Flushing) said the important thing was to get back to the bargaining table to negotiate contracts with teachers that expired in May, as well as with principals and custodians.
The theme of McLaughlin’s talk was "New York 2010: Envisioning a New City." He said labor had "built our city" and it was time to go on the offensive, to get tough and play offense and take the lead in the fight for social justice and civil rights."
At this point, McLaughlin noted the Freedom Ride last month led organized labor to once again take the lead in the fight for social justice and civil rights for millions of immigrants. McLaughlin chaired the Freedom Ride rally in Flushing Meadows–Corona Park, an event which was not without political significance.
This could be another weapon in his arsenal for the mayor’s chair, as would be his running as Queens’ favorite son candidate in a highly Democratic borough.
All in all, McLaughlin’s vision for a future New York called for investments in "long-term economic actions today so we can have jobs tomorrow."
SCHUMER BLOCKS GOP ENERGY BILL: U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D–New York) was credited last Friday with blocking passage of the Republican energy bill, which had passed the House earlier in the week with the strong backing of President George W. Bush. But this may not be the end of it; Senate Majority Leader William Frist has vowed to try to get the measure passed again before Congress adjourns for the year.
While Arizona Senator John McCain deserted his party to oppose the bill for giving billions away to many energy industry groups, Schumer based his opposition on a provision that would shield producers of the gas additive MTBE from defective product suits, several of which are pending in Queens.
MTBE (methyl tertiary-butyl ether) is added to gasoline to boost octane and reduce air pollution. But when there are leakages of it, it leaks into underground water more quickly. Reportedly, these leaks have occurred and affected about 100 public water wells in Queens and Long Island, so water suppliers, facing very costly cleanups have sued manufacturers of the chemical.
Mindful of this, Schumer threatened to stage a filibuster against the energy bill last month.
Meanwhile, the 1,200-page bill delivers about $25.7 billion in tax breaks over 10 years, with three-fourths of the incentives, or $17 billion, going to energy companies.
Voting against the bill in the House, Congressmember Joseph Crowley (D–Queens/Bronx) said "Voting ‘yes’ on the bill would have meant voting in favor of endangering the environment, hurting consumers and investors, and providing unaffordable subsidies to energy industries."
GIANARIS SPEAKER AT DEM CONFERENCE: Assemblymember Michael Gianaris (D–Astoria) was among the speakers addressing young college Democrats last Saturday at the Northeastern College Democrats Conference which was held at New York University in lower Manhattan.
The three-day conference covered campaign training for a variety of grassroots organizations, such as Emily’s List, Century Democrats and NARAL Pro-Choice America.
GIOIA CONGRATULATES LaG CC: City Councilmember Eric Gioia (D–Long Island City) offered warm congratulations last week to LaGuardia Community College for being the only community college in New York state and among the top three community colleges in the nation, according to a study by the Community College Survey of Student Engagement.
Gioia said the school, located in Long Island City in his district, "represents everything that’s right about higher education in our city and our country."
He stated, "LaGuardia is an oasis of hope, a place that keeps the American dreams alive and viable today."
LaGuardia was cited for particular excellence in three areas: student effort, support for learners, and high achievement. In August, Gioia announced $20.5 million for funding the continued expansion of the 33-year-old school.
MALONEY SEEKS WTC SITE MEMORIAL STUDY: Congressmember Carolyn Maloney (D–Queens/Manhattan) has introduced the World Trade Center Historic Study Act, which directs the National Park Services to conduct a study of the feasibility and suitability of establishing a memorial at the Twin Towers site to commemorate the tragic events of September 11, 2001.
The Coalition of 9/11 Families supports the bill, which is cosponsored by Congressmember Christopher Shays (D–Connecticut). Maloney said:
"The footprints of the World Trade Center Towers need to be protected and honored. This is the wish of the families who lost loved ones that day, and it ought to become a shared goal for the country as well."
WEINER FUNDS BEACH FIXUP: Hoping to get the Rockaways beaches fixed up in time for next summer’s swim season, Congressmember Anthony Weiner (D–Queens/Brooklyn) has secured a $1.25 million grant to pay for a project to halt beach erosion.
Weiner said the project will start next month with 1.06 million cubic yards of sand being pumped onto the beach between Beach 26 and Beach 109 Streets. Since 1999, Weiner has secured over $12 million to fight Rockaway Beach erosion.