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In addition to laying off more than 1,000 county employees, Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano is seeking to pass the Fiscal Crisis Reform Act, which would allow the executive to declare a fiscal crisis which would then give him nearly unlimited powers to re-open any union contracts and modify them without any oversight. The bill would allow him to make the changes without any input from unions or workers. He would have the authority to eliminate government departments and offices, take control of the administration of departments and functions of government and freeze wages for all county employees. He is also seeking to require workers to pay 25 percent more for their health care costs.
The Central Labor Council and the Local Long Island Federation of Labor have been leading the opposition to the bill:
This bill is a blatant assault on the principles of collective bargaining and an attack on working men and women throughout Nassau County. We need to make it abundantly clear to our elected officials that they cannot use the Michigan model of politics here on Long Island. The passage of this legislation has tremendous ramifications for workers in Nassau County, Long Island and beyond.
The workers of Nassau County provide invaluable services to county residents every day and have already made significant concessions. Cutting services provided by the Nassau County workforce will not ease our tax burden. In fact, in a $10,000 property tax bill, only $300 is for the services provided by County workers.
Opponents of the proposal say it is unconstitutional and could set a dangerous precedent that could be re-created in other states and localities.
This is just the latest in a series of attacks directed by Mangano on unions and government services:
Under Mangano's direction, Nassau, a county just east of New York City with a population of 1.3 million, has pushed to find budget savings by privatizing local services. Many other states and municipalities across the country will be tempted to pursue similar schemes as the economic downturn continues to take a punishing toll on municipal coffers. But the potentially rising costs for Nassau citizens may serve as a warning that privatization is no magic bullet for struggling cities and towns.
On January 1, 2012, Veolia Transportation is expected to assume control of the bus system from Metropolitan Transportation Authority, its current manager. But that transition is just the first step of a larger privitization plan. If Mangano succeeds in finding a buyer and gaining approval from the rebpublican controlled county legislature, he will also sell the county's sewage treatment system for $1.3 billion.
The county has not said whether the bus contract or the eventual sewer contract will rule out fare and rate increases or service cutbacks. A spokesman for Mangano, Brian Nevin, declined to comment on these issues.
Labor is also steamed about the much large privatization plan on the horizon, Mangano's plan to sell off Nassau's sewer system -- waste treatment plants and all -- to a private bidder.