Saturday, March 30, 2013

Paid Sick Leave And The 2013 Race For NYC Mayor: A Battle Of Optics

Time to circle back on two questions I raised in a night-owl post about the new City Council deal on paid sick leave: How might Speaker Chris Quinn retool today's announcement for campaign purposes? And how would her primary rivals, especially Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, recalibrate their attacks now that she's actually allowing the bill to the floor?
First, I have to hand it to our Anthony DelMundo for summing it up brilliantly in two pictures:
quinn sick leave presser.jpg
bdb presser sick leave.jpg
My previous item suggested Quinn's campaign -- as with her long-awaited support of a living wage bill -- would bright-side the three years she left paid sick leave in the waiting room and skip to the happy worker-and-labor-movement-friendly ending.
"The agreement is potentially more fodder for message-makers to portray Quinn not as having bowed to poll numbers or union pressure in an election year, but as a candidate who's empathetic AND a consensus builder," I wrote.
The campaign email hit my inbox at 1:14 p.m., around two hours after Quinn headlined a celebratory presser that had Council colleagues rubbing elbows with union honchos and sign-waving advocates.
"From passing living wage legislation to saving 4,100 teacher jobs and now guaranteeing paid sick leave, I will never stop bringing New Yorkers together to deliver for our city's middle class and those striving to get there," she said in the email, which included a link to a quinnfornewyork.com page featuring video of the event (and, of course, the obligatory "Contribute" button).
"Today marks a great victory for both workers and small business owners here in New York City.  I’m proud that we’ve reached agreement on a bill that will provide sick leave for nearly a million New Yorkers while at the same time offering key protections for small businesses," Quinn said, folding in a shoutout to 32BJ/SEIU.
"This bill will guarantee that all New Yorkers can take time to care for themselves and their families when  they are ill, without fear of losing employment.  And just as importantly, it will do so in the right way, at the right time, with the right protections for residents and small business owners."
(BTW: Lest you think I'm setting myself up as some sort of oracle with all this, I happily quote Hunter College's Ken Sherrill per a chat we had about 2013 issues today: “If you’re in a campaign and you cross the street, you’re going to package it as a victory.")
Quinn was wrapped and off the City Hall steps well before de Blasio arrived for his lonely-fights-are-the-most-important-ones-style rebuttal.
Sandwiched between the dueling pressers: Mayor Bloomberg's emailed vow to veto the "short-sighted" bill. (His statement showed up in my account at 11:31 p.m.)
Quinn's primary rivals, of course, are trying to make her alliances with Bloomberg the millstone of her campaign.
RACEforMAYOR_2013_print_logo_59K.jpgAs I wrote in that same late-night item, "De Blasio's repeatedly slammed Quinn as having turned her back on those everyday, outer-borough, working people his campaign sees as his potential base. The criticism has been a stump staple for de Blasio, who ran a petition in favor of the bill on his website and, not long before news of the deal broke, put out yet another video trashing Quinn as an obstructionist."
And de Blasio -- who's made Quinn's resistance to sick leave legislation a cornerstone of his attack strategy -- kept the ties between the two in sharp focus, even as he was forced to broaden his theme and aim his critiques directly at the speaker, not the Working Families Party, 32BJ or any other potential endorsers who on board with the new bill.
De Blasio clearly gets the optical value of standing alone in front of City Hall (save for the press corps) as a champion of "fairness" and "justice" for "everyday New Yorkers" -- including the 300,000 he said would not benefit from the weakened Quinn-approved bill.
“You can’t call yourself a doer when you obstruct a bill for three years. That’s ludicrous," he said this afternoon. "You know, I appreciate spin -- I’ve been around politics a long time -- but spin has to be somewhat grounded in reality. She single-handedly stopped this bill from coming to the floor for three full years. That’s not a doer. That’s an obstructionist.”
And he's still banking on the possibility of hamstringing Quinn by reminding the world of her role in allowing Bloomberg a shot at another four years in office.
In eight years on the Council and a term as public advocate, de Blasio said of the sick leave holdup, "I never saw something that had the support of 83% of the people undermined and stopped dead -- with one exception: The term limits vote, in which 87% of the people did not want to change term limits, but Christine Quinn made a deal with Michael Bloomberg to do that. So I think we see a pattern here of democracy interrupted in a way that is unheard of in most legislative bodies.”
De Blasio also worked in a reference to a March 21 Daily News story detailing the nearly $370,000 donated or bundled for Quinn's campaign by business leaders who openly opposed the legislation. (For the record, some of the same people gave to de Blasio's campaign too.)
The jury's still out on whether the outcome on paid sick leave means Quinn has solidified her progressive street-cred in the primary field and can start racking up labor endorsements that would rob de Blasio of a union-strong base and so his path to victory, or at least a runoff.
But de Blasio is recalculating, not renouncing, his argument. Next stop: Going hammer and tongs back at the sick leave issue tomorrow morning at the Rev. Al Sharpton's weekly meetup (an appearance which I am told does not constitute an endorsement).
“I think the question of leadership will be front and center in this election," he insisted today, "and I don’t think that question goes away because this compromise was struck."
As ever, stay tuned...
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