Hubby Victor once headed the city’s largest municipal union, but touting her marriage on her palm cards–she lists “Wife of Victor Gotbaum” as one of her qualifications for public advocate–hasn’t helped Betsy Gotbaum. The only labor endorsement Gotbaum has managed to snag is from the New York State Court Officers Association–not exactly a force in city politics.
Meanwhile, City Council member Steve DiBrienza, one of her six opponents, has 35 unions and counting–including the cops, the Albany heavyweights at the Civil Service Employees Association, and Victor’s old fiefdom, DC 37, a 145,000-member gorilla.
“Steve DiBrienza earned every single labor endorsement he got,” shouted DC 37 local president Mark Rosenthal. “With her anti-labor record, Betsy earned not getting any!”
Labor’s grudge against Gotbaum goes way back: Back in 1997, Rosenthal helped oust now-indicted DC 37 boss Stanley Hill. Since Hill was Victor Gotbaum’s handpicked successor, some still hold him responsible for the union’s long slide into corruption.
And public employees nurse a particular bitterness against Betsy: As Parks Commissioner in the Dinkins administration, she presided over the 1991 layoffs of about 1,000 employees. The workers felt betrayed, and insist Betsy could have prevented the layoffs if she’d really tried. It didn’t help that 187 of the laid-off laborers just happened to be members of a DC 37 local whose president had clashed with Victor; or that the very next year, she ushered in public assistance recipients in the Work Experience Program to fill their positions.
But the real reason labor hates Gotbaum? She’s one of the haves. At $1.3 million, she’s leading the passel of candidates in the dust.
“When she interviewed with Local 1180 for our endorsement, she kept talking about how much money she raised for the New-York Historical Society, brought it back from the brink,” said Bill Henning of the communication workers local. “She didn’t sound like she knew very well what the job was because she kept talking about fundraising.”
But while the city charter says nothing about fundraising being part of the public advocate’s job, the Times and the News praised her skills in that department when they gave her their coveted endorsements.
Why? “It’s class solidarity,” suggested Ed Ott of the New York City Central Labor Council. –Annia Ciezadlo