First, it was an arbitrator’s finding that the police patrol union deserved a pay hike that the city says amounts to 25 percent. Then, the union representing Boston’s school bus drivers walked out for a day, stranding thousands of children.
The two simmering labor disputes, erupting in the middle of a heated race for mayor, cast a spotlight on state Representative Martin J. Walsh, the longtime union leader turned mayoral candidate.
Walsh’s union ties have caused some political foes to question whether he can stand up to labor. But Walsh and his supporters see the unanticipated events of the past two weeks as a prime opportunity to demonstrate his ability to lead Boston’s workforce as mayor.
For voters, the emergence of the labor issues provides a chance to compare and contrast Walsh with his opponent, Councilor John R. Connolly. The next mayor will inherit a $2.6 billion budget that dedicates two-thirds of spending to wages, pensions, and health insurance.
“How will either of these people manage the city? That’s a critical question,” said David Luberoff, a senior project adviser to the Boston Area Research Initiative at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. “How much do you empower your [chief financial officer]? How important is the balance sheet?”
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