Saturday, February 23, 2019

Amazon Takes Ball, Goes Home, Cuomo Blames Unions

I teach in half a classroom. If I get out of it next year, someone else will teach in it. Elsewhere in our building, teachers work in classrooms with no windows. The principal spent a bunch of money to place genuine air conditioning in these rooms, yet the air quality is still substandard according to UFT health analysis. We're set to get an annex in a few years, but with the destruction of our miserable trailers we won't net a whole lot of extra classrooms.

It's my understanding there were two school buildings planned for Long Island City, plans that were quickly set aside once Amazon came in. Where would Queens students go to school? De Blasio's capital plan doesn't even begin to make provision for that until after he leaves office. Who knows who comes next, or whether his successor will give a fiddler's fart about public schools?

Yet there were three billion dollars available somehow to give Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world. Andrew Cuomo is apoplectic that the deal's gone down the tubes, and reverting to form, blames unions. Yet is was Amazon's decision not to remain neutral on union, which clearly indicated they would avidly oppose it. There was evidently some agreement with unions and Amazon, but shortly thereafter, Bezos decided to take his ball and go home. Neither the agreement nor the three billion proved sufficient for him.

Now there is a lot of talk about 25,000 jobs at 150K each. That sounds pretty good. I myself haven't even got one job a 150K. But if you divide three billion by 25,000, it turns out that each of those jobs costs 120K. Now you may assume that Amazon is staying forever, and that might influence your thinking. I'm not so sure. The pizza place across the street from our school closed one day, and it opened under a new name a few months later. People told me that they were reopening to get some sort of tax credit for new businesses.

On a grander scale, who knows what's going to happen with the on-again, off-again Foxconn factory that received $4 billion in tax breaks and incentives? Was it brought back again with promises of more money? Who knows how many companies take the tax breaks and then pack up when they expire? Would Jeff Bezos have hung out in NYC if some municipality offered him a bigger bonanza elsewhere? No one really knows.

It's important, though. Because even though NY was giving Bezos the three billion dollars upfront, the actual jobs were being phased in over ten years. So what if Amazon picked up and left an empty factory? Could they profit up front while we were left with the empty hulk of the most expensive ghost in New York City?

And what exactly is a 150K job? Does it include health benefits? If not, a big chunk of that is gone. If so, a smaller chunk disappears, but it's still no longer a 150K job. Furthermore, the possibility of huge salaries for some leaves the possibility of smaller salaries for many. Would that lead New Yorkers to experience the same miserable substandard working conditions Amazon is known for elsewhere? Would it manage to contribute nothing in taxes as it does nationally?

These are all things that Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio ought to have discussed with the public before presenting this deal as the greatest thing since sliced bread, and a fait accompli. But they couldn't be bothered. And it seems once unionization was even discussed, Amazon had no interest in pursuing this deal, even for three billion dollars.

Andrew Cuomo gets up and says this cost NY 27 billion dollars, and that the 3 billion doesn't actually exist. Well, Governor Cuomo, neither does the 27. Maybe it was there, and maybe it wasn't. Still, with the rampant overcrowding my kids live with every day, it's disgraceful that both Cuomo and de Blasio were ready to throw Queens children to the dogs just for a chance to build a union-unfriendly billionaire a helipad.

For years, New York City has claimed to place children first. It's pretty clear that even this supposedly progressive mayor thought that the needs of the richest man in the world took precedence over those of New York City's children.

I wonder what three billion dollars could buy New York City schools.
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