Labor's Rally Leaves Some New Yorkers Cold
December 19th, 2005
Was it just the cold weather, or had New Yorkers’ hearts really chilled to the idea of a transit strike?
At this evening’s labor rally, organized by the New York City Central Labor Council in support of transit workers who could go on strike at midnight, it was hard to find ordinary New Yorkers who were in favor of the transit strike.
“I think they should just go to work,” said Tom Ryan, who lives on Staten Island and would, in the event of a strike, have to work from home in lieu of catching the express bus he normally takes. “I don’t have much sympathy for them, to be honest with you.”
Marc Minardo said he was against the strike even though he wouldn’t personally be adversely affected because he walks to work. “It will cripple the city,” he said, adding that he felt disagreements in the contract could have — and should have — been handled well before this stage in the negotiations game.
At the rally, held in front of Governor George Pataki’s offices on 3rd Avenue and 40th Street, United Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten had already shouted her support into the microphone, as had Al Sharpton. Chris Shelton of the Communication Workers of America took a stab at rallying public sentiment. “The public should be thanking you because you’re not only protecting your pension,” he yelled to the transit workers, “you’re protecting their pension too.”
A fire truck rolled by, honking its support and blaring its sirens. The protesters cheered back wildly. Signs for several other unions — retail, hotel, electrical and service workers unions — dotted the crowd of chanters. Somewhere among them were rumored to be representatives from District Council 37, the largest public employee union in the city.
At least one passerby was moved — to a sort of sympathetic neutrality. “They get people where they need to go,” said Carmella Sheppard, 30, a therapist who lives and works nearby. “They should be heard.”
But Sheppard, who has lived in the city for only six months, was more impressed by the sheer spectacle of a good old fashioned New York City protest, even if its ranks were somewhat thin. “What makes the city so great is that you can fight for what you stand for.”
A few minutes later, Transport Workers Union President Roger Toussaint rallied his troops with chants and promises to fight for them. “I’m gonna leave here and go back to the hotel and give it one more shot,” he said.By Hilary Russ on December 19, 2005, 8:22 pm
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