Monday, November 3, 2014



Are the Teamsters out to bring down Mayor deBlasio?

The Teamsters:NYC's 21st Century Tammany Hall 

by Elizabeth Forel   
President, The Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages

Update:  12/17/14 -- On Monday, December 8th, the bill to ban horse-drawn carriages - Intro 573 was finally introduced into the City Council / Transportation Committee.  Click here to see the text.  Immediately, the Teamsters, who "represent" the carriage trade,  jumped into high gear and pressured Council Members to come out in opposition of the bill.  Several did - including those from the City Council, State Legislature and even Congress.  They all said the same thing. 

We oppose this bill because it would kill "good union jobs." 

Newsflash:  These are not good union jobs.  A good union job provides benefits to the dues payer -  i.e., health, vacation pay, sick days, collective bargaining.  Such benefits do not exist here because it is not a real union job.    For $60 a month, the Teamsters act as a lobby group.    It seems that the Teamsters and other union friends are throwing their weight around, bullying council members into taking this position, based on untruths.  The drivers want to protect their cash only business where they can report what they want to the IRS.  The workers/drivers are mostly independent contractors, not employees.  They do not even qualify for sick pay under the new law.  This is a good union job? 

Please contact your council member by calling their district office  if he/she has taken this position. Click here.

Illegal:  Horse-drawn carriage in Climate March

The Teamsters, as Local 553, have been representing the carriage drivers in NYC since 2008 when they saw an opportunity arise after a horse named Smoothie was killed in a spooking accident.  The drivers are not organized into a union shop, which means that there is no mandate to join; no collective bargaining, vacation, medical benefits or retirement benefits that one would expect to find in a real union.   Both the owners and workers are in the same local and most of the drivers have not joined.  The $60 dues are essentially a lobbying fee.  Nevertheless, the Teamsters have no problem calling them “good union jobs.”

One wonders why the Teamsters cannot help the drivers get authentic “good union jobs” and continue to represent them in another business.  The death knell has already sounded in this industry and whether it is through legislation per Mayor deBlasio or eventually through the Hudson Yards Redevelopment project, the end will happen.

Unions helped build the middle class, improving wages, making the workweek shorter, workplace safer and addressing the health and retirement needs of workers.   I understand it and support it.  Real union members should be outraged at this “fake union”  because it is a sham – designed to bully the City Council and the Mayor into submission with implied threats of working against them next election.
typical congestion near Central Park

The only way for the unions or the Daily News (which has waged a crusade against a ban and deBlasio)  to get support for this industry is to lie – and lie they do.    They never let facts get in the way.  Because these blatant lies have not been challenged by a media that is only too willing to follow in lock step, the truth is not getting out.

Have You Been Brainwashed by the Media?

Beware – the Media is Managing the Carriage Horse Issue.

These are some of their recurring lies —  “Teamster Speak” —   with our response:

The horse carriages contribute $19 million to the tourism industry.

The horse carriages contribute $19 million to the tourism industry.

The source of the $19 million number is Steve Nislick from NYClass.   When projecting the income expected from a new electric car tourism industry, he estimated the income from the carriage industry for comparison.  It was an unfortunate overestimated guess and these numbers could not be substantiated.  This is a cash only industry made up of 68 separate businesses, whose tax returns are private.  Nevertheless, that did not prevent Crain’s NY Business, Daily News and many others in the media from citing this puffed up number.  The bigger the number, the more viable and important the carriage industry sounds.
The Teamster flyer also claims that the drivers make between $40,000 and $100,000 per year.  But these numbers do not jibe with the $19,000,000 figure also on the flyer.
A confidential source from the carriage trade has told us the income is more like $10,000,000 annually but only about half of that gets reported to the IRS since it is a cash only business.     Using a figure of approximately 4% for NYC tax, this would mean that the industry is contributing only about $200,000 annually to the tax coffers of NYC not the $760,000 that their supporters claim.
The way this can be settled once and for all is to have all drivers – owners and employees both – submit their tax returns for public scrutiny.    But until then, they need to stop lying about how viable their industry is.

The Teamsters continue to say that the industry is regulated by four city agencies and the ASPCA.

hardly romantic

The ASPCA withdrew from enforcing animal cruelty laws and oversight of the carriage trade in January 2014.  The four city agencies are the Departments of Health and Mental Hygiene, Consumer Affairs, Transportation, and the NYPD, which ostensibly took over from the ASPCA.  We continuously complain about the lack of law enforcement, particularly on the streets.  The NYPD looks the other way as the drivers make illegal u-turns, leave their horses unattended and untethered or overload their carriages.  There is no one to stop them.  As state Senator Tony Avella said in the Times Ledger in January 2014   “The city has been doing an awful job monitoring this industry,” he said. “It’s disgraceful.”  Yes, Senator and unfortunately nothing has changed under our new mayor.  With the departure of the ASPCA, it has gotten worse.

There have been only three equine deaths due to collisions with motorized vehicles and no human fatalities.

This is quintessential “teamster speak” manipulating the facts so it is only about collisions when other causes of death are equally as important.  In fact there have been many reported deaths of horses in this industry.  In January 2006 when we started this campaign, Spotty had just died from a spooking accident. Later in September, Juliet, an old mare, was diagnosed with Exertional Rhabdomyolisis or “Tying up Syndrome” and died in her stall.  In 2007, Smoothie was killed in another spooking accident.  In 2011, Charlie collapsed and died on the street on his way to the park.   This does not account for the many horses who died behind closed doors in the stables from colic or another cause.  The only way to know this is through the Freedom of Information Law.

Since we started analyzing the known incidents, at least 13 horses have died publicly in 30 years.  This does not include horses who died in the stables.
While it is true there have been no human deaths in NYC, there have been human deaths elsewhere that involve carriage horses and it is only a matter of time before it happens here.  

The Teamsters’ position is irresponsible because they deny the nervous nature of these powerful horses who spook easily and become unwitting weapons when frightened, bolting into traffic causing havoc. It’s a Safety Issue addresses these concerns.

reminding Mayor deBlasio about his promise to ban the carriage trade

The Quinnipiac poll has shown that more than 60% of New Yorkers oppose banning horse-drawn carriages.

This poll was taken months after an unchallenged onslaught of media propaganda led by the NY Daily News, which continues to this day.  In this kind of environment where the truth is not welcome, it is not surprising that people who have been subjected to media brainwashing would react this way.

Prior to Mayor deBlasio’s election, every poll taken on this subject resulted in between 75 and 80% of respondents in favor of a ban.

There are 300 people whose jobs will be affected.  Teamster George  Miranda said. “By destroying the horse-carriage industry, the city would be killing good jobs and leaving 400 hardworking taxpayers and their families out in the cold.”

The number of people in the industry has grown like Pinocchio’s nose.  However, a June 2014 document from the Department of Consumer Affairs shows 228 horse carriage license holders.  Not all of them live or work in NYC.  Some are not even in the industry.  One had been deported to Mexico; another lives in Sicily, one owns a restaurant in Brooklyn, and yet another has a carriage business in Cape May – but they continue to hold on to their licenses.  They are relatively inexpensive – another NYC perk — only $35 for two years compared to $30 for one year for pedicabs.  Owners pay $100 for two years compared to $110 for one year for pedicabs.

We Feel Your Pain
Mayor deBlasio is the first pro union mayor in 20 years.  He inherited a mess from Mayor Bloomberg including many municipal union contracts that had not been renewed – some for five years –  representing 300,000 people.  Yet his administration is moving along and almost finished negotiating and resolving these contracts.

So why are the Teamsters beating up on Mayor deBlasio publicly, siding with the Daily News, which prints covers saying that the mayor is an ass.  Do municipal union members realize what the leadership is doing?

If the Teamsters succeed in getting Mayor deBlasio to go back on his word, it will hurt him. He will become known as a flip flopper and worse.  When he runs for reelection in 2017, this could be used against him.  He will be known as someone who does not keep his word and is essentially a puppet for the Teamsters.  Although NYC is considered to be a Democratic city our last two mayors were Republicans.  Is this what the Teamsters want?  Are they really that dense – all for a couple of hundred people that they could retrain in real union jobs?  Or is it something else?   Do they have someone in mind that they want to put up against deBlasio – someone who will be their puppet?

Follow the money …

Bottom line – do we want this city ruled by the Teamsters – the updated version of Tammany Hall – or a strong mayor who answers to his own conscience?


originally posted in the blog 
"Animal Rights:  Rethinking our Relationship with Other Species" 10/15/14

1 comment:

Michael said...

These facts are just more reasons why it is silly to think that people actually oppose this ban! The horribly cruel industry must end. The jobs can and will be saved. The political undercurrent of this should not be permitted to allow the continued suffering these lovely animals endure. Come on people, it is 2015 and this is Manhattan. The horses are in danger, but so are the humans. This ban must, and will, pass!