7.02.2007

Is Levy Getting His Comeuppance? Part 5: Sharks vs Jets

Rick Brand of NewsDay has some of the inside story (Suffolk's Levy claims 'set up' in sales-tax holdup - 7.1.07) to the deal between Steve Levy and the Assembly minority caucus to establish a hiring hall in Suffolk County in exchange for the continuation of a sales tax.

It appears that Sheldon Silver called Levy to tell him that the minority caucus was not on board with the sales tax extension unless he agreed to a state-sponsored hiring hall. Levy tells Silver that if the state does the hall then there's nothing he could do about it. Done. Silver believes he has a deal and that gets communicated to the caucus. The deal gets leaked, making Levy look like, well, a politician. Levy hold multiple press conferences in which he denies the No Deal Deal.

The latest twist is that Levy is now claiming it was a clever set-up--although he doesn't say by whom.

Suffolk assemblyman and caucus member, Philip Ramos, insists that the caucus was told that Levy agreed to the deal--and questions his political motivation for all of his protestations . He said,"I don't believe Levy wants a solution. ... If the caucus gets the day laborers off the street, Steve Levy loses a big part of his political identity."

So that's the background to the No Deal Deal. Again, it's New York politics.

But here's the intriguing part of Brand's article. He quotes Desmond Ryan, a veteran Albany lobbyist, as saying that the dispute could widen to the ranks of unions, wary of hiring halls for day laborers. "Unions see it as a direct assault on members' jobs," he said.

Of course, the role of unions in this issue--and in so much of what goes on in Suffolk County politics--has been a major part of the untold story. The truth is that unions are powerful in Suffolk--very powerful AND very white. And they don't much care for newcomers. A great deal of the hostility directed at day laborers comes from the unions. And Levy's opposition to the undocumented is mostly about protecting union turf.

However, it's an old story: Politicians protecting the turf of powerful and very white unions. Undocumented workers are only the most recent group that the unions and their politicians have sought to freeze out. Samething has happened with African American, Latino, Asian and other workers. Anybody that comes into the market and seeks employment in unionized or related industries is going to find themselves kicked back.

Brand also includes a not so subtle threat from Richard Schaffer, Suffolk Democratic Party Boss, to Ramos. He says that the placement of the state's hiring hall will be controversial (and no doubt he's in position to make sure it is), and he wonders whether Ramos is OK with it going into his district. And Schaffer and the unions arethiclose.

It's now starting to look like the prelude to a rumble between the sharks and the Jets. Levy has brought forward his gang: local politicians, the party boss and the unions. Ramos has the minority caucus. The only trouble for Ramos is that he's largely alone in shark territory--and the sharks are looking to put a hurt on him.

Read the Is Levy Getting His Comeuppance? series.