NEW YORK, NY – Central Park’s horse carriage drivers were joined by a cross section of the New York City labor movement for a rally at City Hall today. The rally preceded the introduction of City Council legislation to ban the industry. See more photos from the event, here.
“Today, New York City’s labor movement stands as one behind our brothers and sisters in the carriage industry,” said Teamster Joint Council 16 President George Miranda. The carriage drivers are among the 120,000 members of the Teamsters union in Downstate New York. “If the City Council takes away their jobs, these workers will lose everything – and they haven’t done anything wrong. We are asking City Council Members to oppose this bill, and we intend to win.”
“What am I supposed to do without this job?” said Angel Hernandez, one of the 300 New Yorkers employed in the carriage industry. “How do I pay my bills? Provide for my children? I am proud of the work that I do and hope the City Council doesn’t take this job away from my family.”
The Teamsters and carriage drivers were joined by the labor umbrella organization New York City Central Labor Council, as well as many of its member unions, such as 32BJ SEIU, the Laborers, United Food and Commercial Workers, Transportation Workers Union, United Auto Workers, the Carpenters, the Machinists, the Insulators Union, the Plumbers Union, and the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, District 9.
“Today, a bill will be introduced to eliminate 300+ careers in an iconic industry, and turn the livelihoods of 300+ plus families upside down,” said Vincent Alvarez, President of the New York City Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO, which represents 1.3 million working New Yorkers. “The role of government should not be to create a problem where one doesn’t exist, and then force workers to come up with solutions to save their jobs. We will stand with the Teamsters for as long as it takes to ensure that these working men are able to continue to maintain these family-sustaining careers, in a historic and iconic industry that our city has come to know and love.”
“32BJ stands in solidarity with the working men and women of the NYC horse carriage industry,” said 32BJ SEIU Secretary-Treasurer Kyle Bragg. “We encourage the administration to reach an agreement with the Teamsters that protects the livelihood of the 300 workers that depend on this industry and ensure that they can continue their careers and support their families.”
The New York Taxiworkers Alliance also joined the rally, on the heels of the organization’s announced opposition to the carriage ban bill. The taxiworkers argued that the legislation is bad for carriage drivers, but bad for taxiworkers too, as it would push carriage drivers into the taxi industry.
“The 18,000-member strong New York Taxi Workers Alliance strongly opposes the City’s proposal to ban the horse carriage industry and relocate the drivers into the for-hire-vehicle sector by giving them green cab permits,” said New York Taxi Workers Alliance Executive Director Bhairavi Desai. “Banning an entire industry without thought to the loss of livelihoods is not something we can take lightly. Workers can’t be just moved around like pieces on a chess board. When green cab permits are processed by the TLC (Taxi and Limousine Commission), there is a protocol and wait list. Will horse carriage drivers who have never operated a vehicle for hire be given preference over livery, black car and taxi drivers on the waiting list?”
One after another, labor leaders spoke out in favor of keeping the carriage and the union jobs they provide in New York City.
“This is a legitimate, middle-class industry that has come under attack by radical forces who built a campaign on a lie,” said Mike Prohaska, the Business Managet of Laborers Local 79. “If the City Council chooses to put the carriage drivers out of work, all of New York City’s middle-class becomes an endangered species.”
“We support our Teamster sisters and brothers who are horse carriage drivers in their fight to save their livelihood and the work of their well cared for horses,” said Julie Kushner, Director, UAW Region 9A. “In a city that always changes, it is reassuring to see a vibrant tradition persevere. A hansom cab ride through Central Park is a beloved New York tradition we should not recklessly cast aside.”
“The Central Park carriage drivers are our brothers and sisters in the labor movement,” said Joseph Ramaglia, Business Manager / Secretary Treasurer of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, District Council 9. “They are also our neighbors and fellow New Yorkers. Their jobs should not be sacrificed on the whim of special interests. New York City’s Painters & Allied Trades have their back.”
“Our members know what it means to provide for a family,” said Matthew Aracich at International Association of Heat & Frost Insulators & Allied Workers Local #12. “We recognize the importance of a day’s work and the significance each day’s work has for a middle class family. The carriage drivers are very proud of the work they do and we are equally proud to stand with them.”
Central Park’s carriage horses are tightly regulated for their health and safety. They are guaranteed at least 5 weeks vacation each year on a farm, are inspected twice a year by a vet, and are protected from working in extreme temperatures. Accidents are rare: only three horses and no people have died in carriage accidents in the last 30 years. The bill to ban carriages is sponsored by Council Member Daniel Dromm.