More Evidence Of Union Slowdowns During NYC Blizzard Cleanup

As I noted last week, there were reports that New York City’s lackluster response to the  Christmas blizzard was due at least in part to work stoppages by city sanitation workers. Now, there’s further corroboration of unionized workers slacking during the the blizzard.

First, it looks like a much higher percentage than normal of workers called in sick that night:

Between 660 and 720 Sanitation workers called in sick for the cleanup of last week’s blizzard — more than double the usual rate, The Post has learned.

About 11 to 12 percent of the Sanitation Department’s 6,000-strong force didn’t show up for work on Monday or Tuesday, city officials confirmed, as 20 inches of snow brought the Apple to a near-standstill.

Second, we’ve got more anecdotal evidence of workers slacking when they should have been plowing:

Instead of plowing, they got plowed.

A group of on-duty Sanitation supervisors is under investigation for allegedly buying booze and chilling in their cozy department car for hours Monday night after the blizzard stranded a bus and three snowplows blocks away.

The city Department of Investigation is probing the incident after witnesses said four snow blowers blew off their duties to get blitzed, buying two six-packs of beer from a Brooklyn bodega. The workers then walked five blocks to their car, which was in 20 inches of snow in the middle of 18th at McDonald avenues near the F train entrance, passing the stuck bus and idle plows on 18th Avenue between Third and Fourth streets.

The four remained in the idling sedan until morning — then told their bosses they could do nothing about the blizzard because they had run out of gas, one witness said.

“They just sat in their car all night with the heat running,” the witness said.

So, yes, I stand by my previous comments about public employee unions.

FILED UNDER: Economics and Business, US Politics, , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Tano says:

    “So, yes, I stand by my previous comments about public employee unions.”

    How is this an example of the unions doing something? This is the behavior of a few workers. Is there any evidence that the unions condoned, or encouraged this behavior? Is there any evidence that the union leaders told workers to go grab a six-pack and ride out the storm in their cars?

    Let alone, of course, any evidence, beyond the original anonymous accusation, that this actually went down the way the tabloids said it did. You know the NY Post is perhaps the least credible newspaper in the country.

  2. meep says:

    Yeah, I just posted on this topic here:

    If there was a “plan” on the union side, it was spectacularly idiotic. You’ve got a bunch of snowbound people due to your actions…. did you think they wouldn’t watch/videotape what you were doing?

  3. Spiff says:

    So, upon allegation alone, as self appointed judge and jury, without the benefit of the facts you first decide that they’re guilty. Then you extrapolate your it to blame not just the representative of these public sector employees, but all representative organizations of public employees. That’s an act I would expect from the flaming left.

  4. wr says:

    Wait a minute! Four NYC employees slacked off when they should have been working? My God, Doug, you’re right and I’ve been completely wrong about this whole thing.

    Clearly, now that I know that (the NY Post says) four employees on the public payroll shirked their duty, I now believe that we should eliminate unions for public workers, slash all their pay to minimum wage, and abolish all pension plans.

    Clearly you have proven that the union was directly responsible for all the terrible things that happened during this storm, and I am with you one hundred percent.

    By the way, it appears that some bankers participated in massive fraud that led to worldwide economic meltdown. I can assume that you believe the entire banking system is corrupt and should be shut down, right?

    Oh, wait. Those were a few bad apples. It’s only union workers whose misdeeds can be applied to their entire class.

  5. Axel Edgren says:

    Even if the unions behaved in an exemplary manner the GOP maniacs would come up with something else. They see labor power as an obscene wrong in the universe.

  6. Terrye says:

    The problem is not that all public employees are being blamed for the actions of a few…the problem is that a situation like this high lights the problems with public service unions in general. The truth is it would be a lot easier to fire private sector people for this kind of behavior. Not to mention the fact that public service unions are helping to bankrupt cities and states.

  7. Terrye says:


    That is ridiculous.

  8. Axel Edgren says:

    Terrye: If Obama followed Marx half as much as the GOP follows Rand, he would be called a communist in every newschannel. The GOP simply does not want public unions – not because of any potential problems but because it is symbolically wrong, like a courthouse taking down the ten commandments in recognition of the US secular nature.

  9. wr says:

    Hey Terrye — How many high level bankers were fired over the mortgage disaster? How many executives of Blackwater and the same were fired over the wanton murder of civillians? How many Halliburton executives were fired over massively overcharging the government and putting up buildings so faulty American troops were killed in the shower?

    Oh, wait, you mean it’s easier to fire POOR people. Now I see what you mean. Carry on.

  10. Matt Young says:

    Snow plowers would have preplanned a drunken holiday slowdown on the day before Christmas. So we have to distinguish the holiday effect, were they drunker than usually expected the day before Santa Day?

  11. Terrye says:


    What has any of that got to do with the snow in NYC? I am an old broad. I was in college during Viet Nam and I can remember how the lefties just loved the Khmer Rouge..until that whole Killing Field thing and then they just changed the subject…how many lefties have ever come to terms with or dealt with the wanton murder of civilians by people shouting slogans like Power to the People…if you can down that road with me then I can return the favor.

  12. Terrye says:


    Actually they have a problem with them because of the big fat deficits and the unfunded pension plans and the graft…none of which has the left even begun to acknowledge must less deal with. It is as if anyone who has a problem with work slow downs, higher taxes, deficits is just pretending to care about these things because they are right wing fanatics who want the working poor to suffer and die.

    Please, the demagoguery is just ridiculous.

  13. Axel Edgren says:

    “Actually they have a problem with them because of the big fat deficits and the unfunded pension plans and the graft”

    You could do *everything* you wanted to those dang public employees and you would still not make up for the deficit caused by the GOP fellating the rich with tax cuts.

    Priorities. Mine are more sensible than yours.

    Also, Soc. Sec is not close to a problem compared to Medicare and the costs of empire.

  14. wr says:

    Terrye — Okay, find me some “lefites” who loved the Khmer Rouge? Cite a couple of articles, there must be thousands of them, right? It’s true that Noam Chomsky was famously dubious about the reports of mass murder, but while he was wrong, he was reacting primarily to fifteen years of lies from the US government about what was happening in Southeast Asia. Still, it’s not like he was cheerleading Pol Pot the way the Right continues to really around Pinochet and the Shah.

    What you may remember is that those lefties were protesting the illegal bombing campaign against Cambodia — you know, the one that destabilized the government and allowed Pol Pot to take over. Why don’t we go down that road, Terrye — the one that leads to the irrefutable fact that it was Nixon and Kissinger that caused the nightmare in Cambodia. Not on purpose, of course, I’m not saying that — only because they didn’t care how many innocent people they murdered in their illegal bombing.

    But back to the subject. You seemed to miss the point of my examples, and then to prove it. And that point was, to spell it out clearly, that when one union member does something wrong, it is proof that the entire labor movement is hopelessly corrupt and must be eliminated. But when one rich executive does something wrong, it’s never a reflection on the corporate world, or even on that company, just the work of that one bad apple.

    On the other hand, I don’t think you want the working poor to suffer and die. I simply believe that you don’t care if the working poor suffers and dies as long as you don’t have to pay taxes.

  15. An Interested Party says:

    “I am an old broad. I was in college during Viet Nam and I can remember how the lefties just loved the Khmer Rouge..until that whole Killing Field thing and then they just changed the subject…how many lefties have ever come to terms with or dealt with the wanton murder of civilians by people shouting slogans like Power to the People…”

    Are you old enough to remember that some on the right just loved Hitler until we went to war against Germany? How many on the right have ever come to terms with or dealt with the wanton murder of civilians by right wing juntas throughout Latin America?

  16. TBogg says:

    I’m old enough to remember when the Regan administration supported the mujehadeen and Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan and when Donald Rumsfeld hand-delivered a cake to Saddam Hussein.

    I’m sorry. You were saying….?

  17. Spiff says:

    Those who claim that unions prevent people from getting fired have a problem with due process. This conservative doesn’t trust the government to run anything, especially an OHR department.

    The only way to get rid of unions is to get rid of the First Amendment. Even if you repeal every collective bargaining law in the US, workers will still be able to assemble and strike. Some of you sound like you are drooling at a return to the violence associated with scabs and strike breakers. Need a little “stick time”?

    Unions are a response to workers feeling that they have no power in the workplace. That is because they do not, as individuals. A group of individuals united to advance their mutual interests is a union – why does that scare some so much? It is an historic notion – “…with a firm reliance on divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”