received a package from reader and history buff Walter Karling which led
to some research exploring the history of the printing of the document
that declared our nation free.
to the “English on signs” debate discussed in my column of two weeks
ago, Walter mailed me a copy of the first public printing of the
Declaration of Independence. It was in German.
the evening of July 4, 1776 the signers had authorized John Dunlop to
print what is now known as the Dunlop broadsides, the in-house document
which was distributed to the colonies’ legislatures.
day later, on July 5, The Pennsylvanischer Staatsbote
was the new country’s first paper to announce that the
Declaration of Independence had been adopted.
the Staatsbote was able to print a German version in the next issue
of its semi-weekly, a broadside print was published, by Steiner and Cist,
on July 5 or 6.
July 6 the Declaration was first published in English in the Pennsylvania
column, “We Are A Nation Of Immigrants” received quite a reaction with
readers vocal on both sides of the Linguistic Rights debate.
offering, in German — far from my favorite language
— illustrates our nation’s multi-cultural roots. When the proud
Pennsylvania German community was the first to read the historic
Declaration, the Continental Congress didn’t seems to care what language
they read it in. Certainly, they didn’t demand that the broadside or the
newspaper also print it in English.
so it has been throughout our history. Immigrant groups
came and spoke their language. Sooner or later they assimilated
while our nation and English survived.
perhaps the English has changed.
the results of this acceptance of immigrants and their cultures has
produced the greatest nation in history.
Mayor Must Speak Truth To City Unions
The City of New York customarily signs contracts with its employee unions a year or more after the previous contract has expired. This practice moots any issues of productivity increases or changes in work rules, since the pay increases are retroactive, and the midst of a contract is never the time to change the rules of the workplace. These belated agreements are often accompanied by a statement by the City that this is the last time such an agreement will be entered into, and that, in the next round, bargaining for which is supposed to begin at once, the City will insist on reform, etc. The unions quietly snicker at these pronouncement, because they have heard them before. The mayors change, the rhetoric remains the same.
year, Mayor Bloomberg announced that six hundred million dollars of a
three billion dollar deficit could only be made up by savings in labor
costs, and that if these savings were not achieved, there would be
substantial layoffs. The negotiations with the unions on how to
achieve savings got nowhere, the main union offer being a two hundred
million dollar loan to the city at an interest rate six times as high as
what we earn on our savings accounts. In fact, there were no labor
concessions in 2002, while the threatened mass layoffs were confined to
some 2,900 school aides, many of whom could be rehired because of
attrition and new parent coordinator positions. The unions had held
firm on rejecting givebacks, the City blinked and the threat evaporated.
week the mayor helicoptered to Melville, in Suffolk County, to tell the
assembled City union leaders that there is no money in the till, or
available to be borrowed, for wage increases.
thing to remember is that labor ritually complains that the City has acted
rudely, in bad faith, not consulting them, etc. and that labor relations
would be more harmonious if only the unions were kept in the loop, and
treated with the dignity and respect. There may be an inference that
arrogant City officials do not consider their employees to be their social
equals, for one reason or another. This is part of the script, watch
for it to reappear.
doubt that this administration even has a loop in which labor could be
kept. It is a closely-managed operation based on the mayor’s 20
years in the private sector as CEO of a privately-held company. Senior
staff at City Hall works in an open bullpen, but its walls largely limit
are, however, certain historic objectives of leaders of public employee
Protection of their members, come what may, whether they are competent or
inept, sane or insane, industrious or lazy, honest or corrupt, promiscuous
in school or chaste, as long as they pay union dues.
Enrichment of their members, their dependents and their heirs, regardless
of the city’s ability to pay.
Insulation of their members from any plan that would require that they do
more work, even if it only took a nibble of their downtime.
Resistance to proposals that would reward any union member for industry,
proficiency, performance or productivity.
the private sector, union demands are somewhat tempered by economic
reality, the prospect that the employer may go bankrupt or lose market
share, and therefore jobs, to rivals with lower labor costs. The
survival and prosperity of the employer are important elements in
collective bargaining. In the real economy, unions and management
are often in the same boat.
such rational considerations intrude in the public sector. The city
cannot flee to an area with lower costs, even though its employers and
taxpayers may do just that. The City is unlikely to go bankrupt
because there are state and federal authorities who would intercede, in
exchange for assuming control of the city’s finances.
worst the unions have to fear is the layoff of their members with the
least seniority. Even that dire prospect, for younger employees, is
considered by labor as better than across the board reductions in pay and
benefits or changes in work rules.
simple mantra, and it bears restatement, is better 90 happy members than
100 unhappy ones, because the 100 can elect new leaders. The old
leaders would lose their jobs, along with the privileges of their
relatives and cronies, their cars and drivers, preferred lawyers and
accountants, union welfare and health benefit funds, six figure salaries
and other perquisites which accompany life devoted to the protection of
workers from exploitation.
scandals in District Council 37 and the Patrolmen’s Benevolent
Association have exceeded in scale the misconduct of City employees in the
last ten years, and union wrongdoing has been at the top of the food
chain, not shakedowns by mid-level personnel which keep the Department of
Investigation busy. At the same time, there are many honorable
people who work for labor unions. They are men and women of integrity and
principle, who deserve our respect, even when we disagree with some of
what they are trying to do.
look forward to the resumption of negotiations with labor, assuming that
the mayor will cave at budget time April 2004. If he does stand up
and insist on reforms, labor is ready to wait and bargain instead with the
hungry aspirants for his job, in hope that the mayor will be replaced in
2005 by a more pliant figure, anxious to be re-elected in 2009.
advice to Mayor Bloomberg is that the best way to get a second term is to
act like a one-term mayor — do the right thing on productivity and
privatization. Restrict bilingual education, social promotion and other
feel-good schemes now indulged in by self-serving clock and calendar
watchers in City employ. And keep a jeweler’s eye on the
Department of Education.
should rely on the people realizing, with the aid of your resources in
bringing the message to them, that they have a decent, honest and
courageous mayor, and that City Hall should not be turned over to someone
who, lacking your resources, will be inevitably dependent on special
interests. On the other hand, if you pander, you may well lose,
because they are better panderers than you are, with much greater
experience at it and far less sense of responsibility. Don’t
postpone reform to the second term; Rule 7 is “Do it now.”
Stern was NYC Parks Commissioner for 15 years and a councilmember for
nine. He is founder and director of NYCivic, a good government group. He
can be reached at: email@example.com
Michael Schenkler can be reached at: MSchenkler@QueensTribune.com