Thus armed with the facts, Pete introduced a council resolution calling for formation of a committee to work out a city-wide plan for staggering working hours. He insisted upon and got a public hearing on his resolution. Although Pete's proposal was backed by representatives of organized labor and numerous civic groups, it was killed by the committee which apparently preferred overcrowded conditions rather than adopt a Cacchione plan.
Thirty-four years later, as this is written, Mayor Abraham Beame and the Metropolitan Transit Authority are pleading with employers to institute staggered working hours. Had the city's powers heeded Pete in 1942, staggered working hours would have long ago become the normal pattern of New York life and some relief would have been obtained from the beastly daily crush in the city's subways.
Pete came into office pledged to fight the high cost of living. He got his first chance shortly after he was sworn in when a drive was under way to boost the 5-cent subway fare. (Yes, Virginia, there once was a 5-cent fare!)
First, he got to the people. He wrote a pamphlet backing the bill introduced in the State Legislature by State Senator Charles Muzzicato, Republican-ALP of East Harlem, the effect of which was to freeze the fare at 5 cents. He explained the issue in hundreds of letters to organizations and helped send a large delegation to Albany. He went along with the delegation and spoke eloquently in favor of the Muzzicato Bill. The measure was passed and signed by the Governor, saving the 5-cent fare for the time.
Rent, housing and prices, the nightmare of most low-income workers, bulked large in Pete's thinking. He not only backed every effort of the wartime Office of Price Administration (OPA) to keep prices down but pressed it to put a freeze on rents, introducing a resolution to that effect. Again, this was no formal for-the-record gesture on Pete's part. Characteristically, he sought to enlist mass support and participation in the fight, sending out a letter early in July, 1943 urging organizations to send representatives to a heating on the resolution. He went further. Early in September -- and this, it should be recalled, was long before there were in existence mass tenants' organizations such as the Metropolitan Council on Housing -- he called for the formation of neighborhood committees to combat rent rises.
As on rents and fares, so did Pete act on similar questions, introducing measures to keep milk and bread prices down and to back the OPA in a