Two of Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio’s five latest appointments, Robert Linn, the city’s new director of labor relations, and Stanley Brezenoff, who will advise First Deputy Mayor Tony Shorris in an unpaid role, received a mixed response from some city union leaders who are hoping that the two government veterans will settle the outstanding municipal labor contracts with the city.
Both Linn and Brezenoff worked under former Mayor Ed Koch in different roles, with Brezenoff serving as Koch’s deputy mayor for operations as well as first deputy mayor, and Linn as Koch’s chief labor negotiator. Ed Ott, a labor consultant and former executive director of the Central Labor Council, noted that Linn has the experience to match that of de Blasio’s other administration appointees thus far.
“Linn’s a pro. In the end the policies will be up to the mayor, and he’ll carry it out,” Ott said. “There seems to be a pattern here. The mayor-elect really wants experience.”
Ott added that because Linn is from a different era of city government, he will arrive at the negotiating table “without all of the wounded sitting opposite him from previous wars,” but also cautioned that “the Koch years weren’t great for the unions,” which could be cause for concern for municipal workers. Ott characterized Brezenoff as a problem solver, and said that his recent jobs in the private sector belie his passion for lending a hand in government where needed.
Harry Nespoli, president of the Uniformed Sanitationmen’s Association and chairman of the city’s Municipal Labor Committee echoed Ott’s view of Linn, having negotiated with him during the Koch administration.
“I was a trustee [for the sanitation workers] and Bob was a negotiator. He sat across the table and we reached agreements back then,” Nespoli said. “Bob realizes that it’s a give and take on both sides of the table, and the unions certainly realize it. We’ve done it in the past. We helped the city out whenever they needed it and were looking for help.”
On Brezenoff, Nespoli simply said that he is willing to sit down with “anybody, especially somebody that’s been around the block and knows what it’s all about.”
However, Arthur Cheliotes, the president of the Communication Workers of America Local 1180, had a more cautious take on Linn and Brezenoff. Specifically, Cheliotes wants more details on Brezenoff’s role, pointing to a potential conflict of interest since Brezenoff is the CEO of Continuum Health Partners, a nonprofit organization that operates a network of hospitals in the city, and could be involved in negotiations with the city’s unionized hospital workforce.
“I’m a little concerned. I think what we want to be careful about is a revolving door of people going in and out of government and perhaps having conflicts that are inherent that might resurface,” Cheliotes said.
Cheliotes also was measured when discussing Linn. As one of the few current labor leaders who has been around long enough to have collectively bargained with the Koch administration, Cheliotes said that Linn is someone “we can negotiate with,” but he also expressed reservations about sitting across the table from Linn once again.
“I didn’t really like his style. One of the things that troubled me is his understanding of the city workforce, something I don’t think Bob got while he was there,” Cheliotes said. “He does not understand the value of what we do and that really works against us in negotiation, I think. It’s important that any negotiator understand that role that career employees play in making city work, instead of treating us as another expense line in the budget.”
Tags: Arthur Cheliotes, CWA Local 1180, Ed Koch, Ed Ott, harry nespoli, labor contracts, labor negotiations, Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, Municipal Labor Committee, Robert Linn, Stan Brezenoff, Tony Shorris, Uniformed Sanitationmen's Association