In response to:
The Issue at Ocean Hill from the November 21, 1968 issue
To the Editors:
Although Mr. Jason Epstein reports at length on the City Central Labor Council and city labor unions in his second article about the serious school crisis in The New York Review (“The Issue at Ocean Hill,” November 21, 1968) he did not consult anyone at the New York City Central Labor Council. Nor did he call, write, or speak to anyone at the New York City Central Labor Council in the interests of writing a factual, reliable, true account.
Readers of The New York Review expect and receive clear, accurate, intelligent, analytical reviews of new books—novels, poetry, history, politics—of theater, music, arts. It is, therefore, puzzling that articles on political news, on public “issues,” are not of equal, comparable value. Should The New York Review be confined to reviews of books and the arts and avoid politics, “current events,” or assign articles to competent writers?
While it is certainly a compliment to be spoken about as candidate for mayor of the City of New York and as a power in being able to nominate a mayor, realistic observation of the political scene in New York City shows that labor is in no position to nominate or even influence nomination of a mayoral candidate. Mr. Epstein’s information has all the connotation of having come from a special City Hall leak. (Congratulations do go to Mr. Shanker, however, not for being a candidate but for having been made illustrious by David Levine’s caricature.)
To use Mr. Epstein’s own word, “non-sense,” his analysis of what decentralization entails: “control of millions of dollars with which to hire teachers, contractors, plumbers, electricians, teamsters” is pure non-sense. This is exactly not what brings the City Central Labor Council “into the struggle” nor “why the UFT has chosen to close the City’s schools.” Enclosed for your information is a copy of the statement issued on September 26 by the New York City Central Labor Council; the New York City Board of Education has available information on decentralization.
Finally, Mr. Epstein contradicts himself: first he asserts that there is an elaborate (and sinister) plot by the unions “to destroy Mayor Lindsay” and to back Albert Shanker for mayor. Then in the second part of his piece he asserts labor is withdrawing support from UFT. Only Mr. Epstein is in possession of this news and his interpretation is also unique. He ought to learn to document his statements. For example: he writes, “There have been signs, in the last few days, that even the Central Labor Council has begun to withdraw its support from the UFT. It has, for example, ordered union school custodians to reopen the schools and permit non-striking teachers to enter their classrooms.”
Had he been accurate, he would have known and written that the school custodians were asked to open the schools so that the New York City Board of Elections could freely deliver voting equipment to be installed and for voters to come on Election Day, November 5; that UFT, International Operating Engineers, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, all the unions, agreed to this arrangement to insure normal, regular voting procedure in New York City.
Please be assured that all labor continues fullest support for the United Federation of Teachers, AFT-AFL-CIO.
New York City Central Labor Council
January 16, 1969