An open letter to the NYC City Council by Father Brian Jordan, OFM, labor priest and chaplain to the horse carriage workers. Contact the author at Our Lady of Peace Church, 522 Carroll Street, Brooklyn, NY 11215 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Hey, members of the City Council, hold your horses before you vote on February 5 regarding the horse carriage bill. This bill defies logic, moral decency and sound labor relations.
- What logic is there to vote on a bill in which all city government officials failed to provide necessary details about this proposed legislation at a hearing in the City Council on January 22? Many of us present that day were just as angry and frustrated as the City Councilmembers when listening to the pitiful responses of city agencies. Councilmember Barry Grodenchik was right on the mark when he said to the heads of the city agencies “What you are trying to do is to sell us an empty bag with a hole in it.”
- Where is the moral decency to eliminate jobs on December 1, 2016 when there is no set date for the opening of the proposed stables in Central Park? Councilmember Antonio Reynoso’s challenging question was why after two years with Mayor DeBlasio, the city agencies are unprepared for this transition? The average time to build such a facility is three to four years. Why eliminate jobs in 2016 when the facility might be built by the next presidential election in 2020?
- Why are there no sound labor relations in this particular negotiation? According to the horse carriage drivers, they had little or no input in this disastrous decision. The only ones representing the Teamsters were their lobbyist and two union officials. There was no general meeting among all union horse carriage drivers and stablehands to discuss this proposal. To paraphrase Patrick Henry—Negotiation without wider representation is totally unfair! I admire the Teamsters but this is not a compromise but a “shotgun wedding” as Councilmemeber David Greenfield correctly asserted. Coercion by City Hall is more like it. No wonder why the majority of the horse carriage drivers are upset with the present situation.
My grave concerns are not just what was said at the January 22 hearing but what was not said, which needs to be addressed before the February 5 vote. My two grave concerns are:
Alienation of Parkland. There is a statute in New York State law that regardless of city, town, county or municipality that if there is going to be a major change or concession in a public park, a certain process must be in place so that all interested parties must agree upon before the proposed change. Where is the outrage over this lack of due process?
Wage Theft. There is also a New York state law and a state agency that responds to wage theft. It is wage theft when horse carriage drivers are being reduced in numbers and are forced to have less shifts by December 1 when there is absolutely no reason to do so. Why would City Councilmembers legislate wage theft on the same day they are voting a wage hike for themselves? This is cruel and VERY unusual punishment! Members of the City Council, where is your moral compass? You deserve a raise and the horse carriage industry deserves to have full employment until the new stables are built.
The horse carriage industry is well regulated by many city agencies in New York City. Most veterinary associations approve and certify that the horses in the carriage industry are well taken care of. Why would City Hall say it will find other jobs for the displaced workers when these workers prefer to be in the horse carriage industry and no in-depth, alternative plan has been offered to them except a flimsy promise?
My humble solution? Please vote NO to this bill in order for City Hall to get its act together and provide more transparency for this proposed legislation. Hold your horses by holding this position. Yes, on February 5, you deserve a wage hike and so should the horse carriage industry be allowed to keep their full wages until greater clarity is attained. That is true government service and good horse sense![signed]
Father Brian Jordan