Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Everybody's Doing It

"But everybody else did jump off the bridge, mom!" Well, that seems to be one of the arguments Teamsters Local 249 Vice President Joe Rossi is making in defending the city's Redd Up Crew. Today, Rich Lord reports, "Union defends city workers on campaign T-shirts".

"The city's past practice is that we've been allowed to do this," Mr. Rossi said of the wearing of political shirts and buttons. "If the city wants to [suspend the workers], that's fine, if they think they need to do that to keep up public perception. . . . If the city wants to suspend these guys, it'll probably cost them $15,000 in arbitration and then [the workers will] end up getting five-day paid vacations."

The Redd Up crew, he added, had long been allowed to diverge from the city's public works uniform policy, and members of that group often wore shirts emblazoned with the name of the late Mayor Bob O'Connor, who created the special unit of the Department of Public Works.

Let's see, Mr. Rossi. Policy and practice are two different things. ReddUp crews wore shirts emblazoned with Mayor O'Connor's name on it because the program was Mayor O'Connor's Redd Up initiative. Street cleaning trucks also used to display Tom Murphy's name and a phrase, "We're cleaning up", because that was Mayor Tom Murphy's program. Koch is no O'Connor or Murphy. City code is city code, and only when local media or vocal citizens bring them to our attention does it get enforced. In officer, now detective Rende's case, no city law or logic, for that matter, seem to apply. While that is a problem in its own right, that's the way it seems to go in Pittsburgh.

You have a point insofar as Mayor Ravenstahl's co-opted Redd Up initiative picture appears as his campaign logo. I've seen Parking Authority employees wearing "I Like Luke" buttons, and Ravenstahl and others have campaign signs posted on public roadsides, abandoned properties, and potentially URA-owned properties. But, just because the law wasn't enforced in the past is NOT a legal argument.

What you might argue is that the Ethics Board hear complaints in an even-handed fashion and enforce these city laws across the board. In that case, documentation to file your complaint is found here and here. That would help solidify the "public perception" that this city follows its own laws.

While you're at it, drop this one on them. And you might also want to follow up whether Ravenstahl repaid Burkle for the flight to NYC. Put that in your broadway show.

We need to Redd Up city government.


EdHeath said...

I don’t know, I kinda think that if the union can make a convincing case the city’s past practice has been to allow workers to wear campaign type items, the arbitrator might take a narrow view and rule for the union. Of course, as you point out, there are significant differences between wearing a shirt with the current mayor’s name and a slogan, and wearing a blatant campaign shirt. Also, the past practices may have been cases of officeholders pressuring city workers into campaigning for them, not something even a labor arbitrator would want to encourage. So Mr. Rossi will have to do better than that.

The ethics board is a wide open question. No one could predict how they will go on this because they have never done anything. And state campaign violations may end up removing Mr. Koch from the election. But I personally wouldn’t be surprised if the four city workers don’t lose a dime over this.

Skip said...

Today, Lord reports the the union itself has not reviewed the case and has not decided on steps of action. Perhaps Rossi was blowing a little smoke.

I wouldn't be surprised if the city workers, especially Quigley, don't lose a dime over this. But Koch has a bigger problem on his hands. Reports today confirm that (1)his city council staffer made campaign calls and (2) he accepted donations from corporations which is illegal according to state law, resulting in $1000 fine and/or a year in prison.

Paul Cantrell said...

I just borrowed your image of the jumping. Thank you.

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