I n 1978, New York City went through the most difficult public-sector bargaining in memory. Three years earlier, the city had been saved from bankruptcy by a massive infusion of state and federal aid. With the money came an Emergency Financial Control Board and a municipal wage freeze.
The wage freeze expired in 1978, and the city had to negotiate with all six of its major unions: the transit workers, the municipal workers, the teachers, the housing authority workers, the police, and the firefighters. At the table were Mayor Ed Koch, labor leaders Victor Gotbaum, Sam DeMilia, and Barry Feinstein; US Senators Daniel Moynihan and William Proxmire, and labor mediator Theodore Kheel.
What does it feel like to live through 98 days of bargaining? What are the problems faced by elected officials, union leaders, and city residents? If it didn't succeed in reaching a settlement, New York City faced bankruptcy, the shutdown of the transit system, and disruption of municipal services. How did New York avoid catastrophe? This 35 minute video, made in 1979, tells the story in cinéma vérité fashion, using television footage of the times. This video uses both color and black and white footage.
Although the problems faced by New York City in 1978 are bigger than any city faces today, the same issues crop up everywhere in public-sector bargaining during times of limited financial resources.
"An excellent introduction to the issues raised in public-sector collective bargaining."
--Franklin J. Havlicek, Vice President of Industrial Relations, The Washington Post
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