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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Is Labor Protest Behind Slow Snow Cleanup?

Most of the New York metro area is coping very poorly with the cleanup after the Blizzard of 2010. Incompetence is one theory for the bad response. But what if city and state workers, angry and fearful about possible pension plan insolvency, are dragging their heels as part of an organized labor slowdown? This theory seems more plausible, as alternative explanations for the woeful response start to get debunked one by one. 

The easiest explanation -- that the severity of the storm is to blame -- is also easily debunked.  Yes, this was a two-foot snow accumulation event, but this was not the Storm of the Century.   In the last eight years alone, there have been three snowstorms producing more than the 20 inches reported for this past weekend's blizzard.  None resulted in the chaos reported this week.  

The storm ought not to have caught emergency officials by surprise. I was tracking this storm system since it hit California earlier last week -- so were the forecasters at Accuweather. Overnight on Christmas morning the first forecast change from zero snow to 4-8 inches was announced. By Christmas afternoon -- 24 hours before the storm "got bad" -- predictions were for blizzard conditions and over one foot of snow.

That was ample time for preparations.

Oh yes, it was Christmas. Couldn't get distracted from the Christmas Day basketball tripleheader.  That theory just doesn't wash either.

A silent labor action, perhaps by workers annoyed at getting squeezed with increasing pension contributions and health insurance contributions, marginal nominal wage increases and other burdens, becomes more and more plausible by the hour.

Eric Dixon is a New York lawyer.  He operates Eric Dixon LLC, offering world-class strategic analysis.  Mr. Dixon is reachable at 917-696-2442.

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