New York City will soon be getting a big helping hand from America's unions, as the city tries to rebuild after the terrorist attack of September 11. The AFL-CIO, labor's umbrella organization, recently announced a new initiative to put pension funds to work. The toll of those who perished or were injured in the World Trade Center attack touched virtually every union in the United States, from airline pilots and attendants to electrical workers, firefighters, civil service employees and office personnel. AFL-CIO President John Sweeney said it is only natural that unions contribute to New York's rebuilding.
The labor leader unveiled a plan to invest $750 million of union retirement funds. Part of that will assist in commercial development in the city. A lot of the money will flow toward affordable housing for working families. "The shortage of affordable housing was a problem before September 11, and it remains an even greater problem today," said Mr. Sweeney. "On behalf of America's working families, I want to say that our unions, our members, are all committed to this city. Now, more than ever, we realize that we are all New Yorkers."
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg calls it a very good investment. He said it may not appear so now, but the city's best days are yet to come.
"New York City needs two things: It needs jobs, and it needs buildings. And this investment will do both things. It will create jobs, and it will create structures that we will work and live in," said the mayor.
Mr. Bloomberg, recognizing a new sense of unity in New York since September 11, says he hopes it will change forever the way labor and management get along. "We have to do things together," he said. "And the old divisions between management and labor, between business and unions, just have to go away. We are in this together. Those divisions are relics of the past and should not exist."
Mr. Bloomberg came to office as a billionaire businessman. Organized labor did not endorse his candidacy. But that was then, and this is now. New York City has more than 375 local unions from every trade, occupation and sector of its economy, representing more than a million workers. That is a fact of New York life that local politicians find they simply cannot ignore.