There’s blood on the floor of the county offices.
Less than a week after Christmas nearly 300 county workers were given pink slips last week and another 137 others were demoted. The workers are frightened and angry but their union bosses cannot say they didn’t see this coming.
It could get worse. If the Civil Service Employees Association can’t reach an agreement with the legislature, Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano has warned that another round of layoffs could take place in February.
The union leaders say Mangano could have balanced the budget with a small tax hike as low as 25 cents a day. But the county needs to close a budget gap of more than $300 million and Mangano insists that he won’t raise taxes.
It was painful to see the budget axe fall. Employees, some with more than 15 years on the job, were escorted out of their offices when they arrived for work on Thursday morning. According to union officials most of the targeted civil service workers were from the county departments of social services, probation and public works.
The work that they do is important. They keep our streets in good repair, make certain that the poorest in the county have access to medical care and food stamps and monitor people given a second chance by the courts. No one should pretend that their services are not needed. And, except for some overtime excess, these workers were not overpaid.
Nearly a dozen county workers had accepted an early retirement package. They will get $1,000 for every year of service with the county. This was not nearly enough to balance the budget. The union officials expect that more workers will accept this offer. It’s not clear if that is still an option for the laid-off workers.
The labor leaders said it was a “dark day” an indeed it was.
“This is supposed to be one of the greatest counties in the country,” said Jerry Laricchiuta, president of the county’s largest union, told reporters in his Mineola office. He called Nassau County “the embarrassment of New York State.”
Unlike the people he represents, Laricchiuta will still have a job on Monday morning. If this is an embarrassment then Laricchiuta and other union leaders share in the blame. They should have worked with county on givebacks that would have averted the need for layoffs. In tough times that is far better than being out of work.
Mangano wasn’t posturing. The county must produce a balanced budget. And raising taxes should not be an option. Nassau County already has the highest taxes in the nation. The county has to learn to live within its means.
There is still time for the union leaders to come back to the bargaining table. The rank and file should urge them to do so immediately.
A Blank Slate Media Editorial