And it isn't the first time New York City sanitation workers have endangered residents' well-being. In the 1960s, a Teamsters-affiliated sanitation workers' strike led to trash fires, typhoid warnings and rat infestations, as 100,000 tons of rotting garbage piled up. Three decades later, a coordinated job action by city building-service workers and sanitation workers caused another public trash nuisance declared "dangerous to life and health" in the Big Apple.
New Yorkers could learn a thing or two from those of us who call Colorado Springs, Colo., home. We have no fear of being held hostage to a politically driven sanitation department -- because we have no sanitation department. We have no sanitation department because enlightened advocates of limited government in our town realized that competitive bidders in the private sector could provide better service at lower cost.
And we're not alone. As the Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Michigan reported: "The largest study ever conducted on outsourced garbage collection, conducted by the federal government in the 1970s, reported 29 to 37 percent savings in cities with populations over 50,000. A 1994 study by the Reason Foundation discovered that the city of Los Angeles was paying about 30 percent more for garbage collection than its surrounding suburbs, in which private waste haulers were employed. A 1982 study of city garbage collection in Canada discovered an astonishing 50 percent average savings as a result of privatization."
Completely privatized trash collection means city residents don't get socked with the bill for fraudulently engineered overtime pay, inflated pensions and gold-plated health benefits in perpetuity -- not to mention the capital and operating costs of vehicles and equipment. The Colorado Springs model, as city councilman Sean Paige calls it, is a blueprint for how every city can cope with budget adversity while freeing itself from thuggish union threats when contracts expire or cuts are made. Those who dawdled on privatization efforts in better times are suffering dire, deadly consequences now.
Let the snow-choked streets of New York be a lesson for the rest of the nation: It's time to put the Big Chill on Big Labor-run municipal services.