The New York Post is reporting that the New York City sanitation workers deliberately slowed down the snow cleanup as a way to pay back the administration for cutbacks. On the face of it, it's not implausible--it wouldn't be the first time that New York City unions chose the worst possible time to show their displeasure with working conditions. (Two of the last three transit strikes, for example, have taken place during the holiday season.)
Nonetheless, the charges are serious, and I'd like to see some better backup than a politician claiming he has secret union informants. If it is true that the trucks were driving around with their plows up, refusing to plow any but the streets they were specifically directed to plow, presumably there will be witnesses who saw this. Similarly, I assume that people noticed if their streets were plowed with the plows set too high, requiring a second pass.
In individual cases, that won't tell you whether it was an organized plan, incompetent individual workers, or workers who were simply trying to score a little extra overtime for themselves. But in aggregate, it should be possible to detect a pattern. Couldn't the Post find anyone in Queens or the Bronx who claims to have seen this misbehavior?
Hopefully, Bloomberg will appoint some sort of investigative committee--after all, it's his political price to pay. Of course, even if it turns out that the sanitation workers did make things worse, that won't absolve the mayoral administration that apparently decided to ignore the storm warnings
rather than pay the sanitation workers expensive overtime for working the Christmas holiday.
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is a columnist at Bloomberg View
and a former senior editor at The Atlantic.
Her new book is The Up Side of Down