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Public Workers Getting Snowed

The snow is mostly melted after a near-record storm immobilized much of New York for nearly four days last week. But before non-New Yorkers gloat -- beware -- the Big Apple's storm offers just a taste of a crop of problems that are likely to be coming your way.

Nationally, billionaire New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been the toast of town for cutting budgets -- and resisting raising any kind of taxes on Wall Street. He proposed to that snowed-in folks enjoy the snow day by taking in a Broadway show, but residents of Brooklyn and Queens weren't lazing about, they were digging themselves out, or waiting for help -- that didn't come. And that wasn't just the fault of the polar weather but their mayor's priorities.

The conservative rumor mill did its best to make sure people never put two and two together. They spent their week blaming the Right's new favorite target: unionized public employees. As Dave Johnson at the Center for American Progress notes, propaganda machines begins with a simple narrative, repeat it endlessly, and then tie current events to the narrative to drive the point home.

The blizzard narrative became that it's not tax cuts or layoffs that trigger state shortages and service crashes. It's the workers. Public Services fouled up? It must be public service workers' foul play.

In this case, the New York Post ran a story based on three unidentified plow workers claiming that the streets weren't plowed because the union was slowing down work to protest the aforementioned layoffs. 900 State Workers lost their jobs in New York on New Year's Eve. Because the story fit the narrative, FOX News and others ran with the rumor and then the mainstream media jumped in. CBS News ran a story on the "report" of the slowdown, and the New York Times reported "public unease".

Buckle your snowshoes for more of this in the coming year, a lot of attacks from newly elected representatives and state officials on public sector workers -- and their unions. New Republican Wisconsin governor Scott Walker is bragging that he's going to "force" state workers' benefits in line with everyone else, New York's new Democratic governor just announced a pay freeze, and John Boehner is calling for austerity. For the state and its workers, mind you, not the super-rich few.  Let's make a New Year's resolution not to get snowed.

Laura Flanders

Laura Flanders

Laura Flanders interviews forward-thinking people about the key questions of our time on The Laura Flanders Show, a nationally syndicated radio and television program also available as a podcast. A contributing writer to The Nation, Flanders is also the author of six books, including The New York Times best-seller, BUSHWOMEN: Tales of a Cynical Species.  She is the recipient of a 2019 Izzy Award for excellence in independent journalism, the Pat Mitchell Lifetime Achievement Award for advancing women’s and girls’ visibility in media and a 2020 Lannan Cultural Freedom Fellowship for her reporting and advocacy for public media.

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