3 of 4 Democrats for public advocate support retroactive raises for city workers
While most of the Democrats running for mayor have aggressively fudged their answers to the question of whether they'd grant retroactive raises to municipal workers, three Democrats running for public advocate are making themselves clearer: They want the city to pay up.
Reshma Saujani, Letitia James and Cathy Guerriero have all promised to advocate for the raises. Only Dan Squadron has expressed hesitation, citing the cost.
"The public advocate has got to stand up and fight for retroactive raises," said Saujani, a former hedge fund attorney and deputy public advocate, during a candidate forum on "Eyewitness News Up Close." "And what I know as someone who has worked in government, when we want to find the money, we can find the money. And we should find it."
Right now, the city's employees are working on old contracts, and their unions are demanding that the next mayor give them raises for all the years they were working without new agreements.
Estimates of how much retroactive raises, which are a huge issue for public-sector unions, would cost the city range from $4.5 billion to $7.8 billion.
The only Democratic candidate who expressed reservations about the prospect of the city granting raises was Squadron, a state senator from Brooklyn, who said, "[Retroactive raises] need to be on the table but the idea that you're gonna do the complete retroactive raise at a cost of $8 billion, I don't know how you can to afford that."
James, a councilwoman from Brooklyn, said, "I am the only candidate that has publicly urged that we set aside a fund primarily for the purposes of renegotiating their contracts and retroactive pay."
Guerriero, a Teachers College professor, described herself as the "unequivocal union candidate in the race," and said that the unions "need" their retroactive raises.
Asked how the city could afford it, Guerriero said, "Listen, if it has to be done in a lag time, do it in a lag time. If it has to be happen over time, that's fine. But this is not money that's a gift. They already purchased into this. This is their money."
The public advocate, as the name suggests, can declare support for the raises, but has no power to grant them.