Over the course of the past few days, much has been made about the layoffs taking place at the Thruway Authority. And let me state for the record, we don’t wish for anyone to lose their job. The hardship that a job loss can cause is more than any one person or family should need to endure. But when expenses exceed revenues, something has to give. Which brings me to the point of this blog post.
In a recent letter to employees and posted at various Thruway Authority offices, Martin Latko, President of Teamsters Local 72, says that others, Governor Cuomo, Executive Director Madison and Commissioner Milstein are to blame for the layoffs. He writes, “Gentlemen, you have created one angry workforce. Personally, in over 35 years with the Thruway Authority, I have never seen morale lower. You have both the power and the connections to turn this around. I urge you to do the right thing as fellow human beings.”
But here is what I find troubling. While not fully exempt from blame, Governor Cuomo, Mr. Madison and Mr. Milstein, are not the sole cause of these layoffs. Especially when you consider that many of the reasons why expenses are outpacing revenues started long before they arrived on site. According to a report last year from NYS Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, he clearly stated that the Thruway Authority needed to control its expenses before passing on costs to toll payers across the state. In fact, over the past decade, Thruway Authority expenses jumped 36%, far above its revenue. I am not a mathematician, but even I can see that is not sustainable.
We fought tooth and nail to ensure that a “modest” 45% toll increase on trucks did not get put in place last year. We said that there were many other options that the Thruway Authority could undertake to cut costs and not need to increase tolls nor even layoff employees. But do you know who fought us the entire time? That’s right, the leadership of CSEA and the Teamsters. They don’t want any conversation about what can, and must, be fixed to make the Thruway Authority and Canal Corp. more affordable.
And what are those changes you ask? The Authority has finally recognized it has a lot of work to do to control its expenses. If one wants to look beyond layoffs, let’s talk about controversial issues such as the Taylor Law and Triborough Amendment. Let’s adjust healthcare contributions levels. We should do away with Project Labor Agreements.
The reality is that blame is a two way street. If the leadership of CSEA and the Teamsters were willing to examine other cost saving options, maybe these layoffs would not have been necessary in the first place. But to put the blame solely on Governor Cuomo, Executive Director Madison and Commissioner Milstein is wrong.
In an interview yesterday, former Lt. Gov. Ravitch put it very eloquently what will need to happen to fix New York. He said, “…crisis demonstrated that solutions could only be reached through leadership and a willingness by stakeholders to take positions against their own short-term interest…”
It is time for people to stop waiting for the economy to improve so we can avoid the controversial issues I pointed out earlier. Our future depends on it.