The Democratic unity tour continued Monday as Anthony Weiner and Gifford Miller joined newly minted nominee Fernando Ferrer on the steps of City Hall, with health care as today’s theme—both for the candidate and the press.
Ferrer was there to blast Mike Bloomberg for vetoing a bill requiring grocery stores to pay for employee health care. But he also had to deal with questions about his apparently imminent endorsement from SEIU 1199 and the Post report that Bloomberg blew his shot at the union’s support by refusing a demand to put 25,000 home health care workers on the city payroll. Ferrer wouldn’t say whether adding them to the city’s books was a good idea, but insisted that “all we are talking about” in discussions with 1199 are broader issues of city policy.
Like the Health Care Security Act, which requires grocers to spend an amount on health care equal to the prevailing expenditure in the industry. The bill originally targeted five industries (groceries were joined by building services, commercial laundries, construction, and hotels) but was pared down to just target food stores. In his veto message, the mayor called that narrow focus “arbitrary and capricious.” He also referred to several legal obstacles that have hectored the HCSA in its journey through the City Council; for one thing, federal law restricts how much state and local governments can tinker with employee benefits.
Needless to say, Monday’s presser didn’t dwell on the finer points of the Federal Employment Retirement and Security Act of 1974 and the Federal National Labor Relations Act. “With his veto of the Health Care Security Act, Mike Bloomberg has one again sided with his Republican allies and big business,” Ferrer declared in prepared remarks that he read haltingly. Speaking off the cuff, Miller the bill that his council passed 46-1 simply says, “we shouldn’t engage in a race to the bottom.” Councilwoman Christine Quinn argued that private companies, by failing to offer health care, were effectively getting subsidized by the taxpayer-financed health care programs that their employees ended up using. And Weiner noted that the veto was “another example of why is makes a difference if you have Freddy Ferrer in city hall or Mike Bloomberg.”
The council is likely to override the mayor’s veto. That means if Ferrer wins in November, his law department will have to determine if Bloomberg’s was wrong in saying the HCSA cannot be enforced.