Election day is but two days away, but I feel compelled to write this. Earlier in the week, I posted a statement by Freedom Road calling for a vote for Charles Barron, Black activist and New York City Council member, as governor of NY State, and specifically warning against any vote for Democrat Andrew Cuomo, even on the Working Families Party line.
The day that flier came out, the New York Times confirmed its correctness by publishing an article entitled “Cuomo Vows Offensive Against Labor Unions.” Based on an extensive hour and a half interview with the politician, it is a grim harbinger of things to come.
The lede, the first paragraph, tells the story:
Andrew M. Cuomo will mount a presidential-style permanent political campaign to counter the well-financed labor unions he believes have bullied previous governors and lawmakers into making bad decisions. He will seek to transform the state’s weak business lobby into a more formidable ally, believing that corporate leaders in New York have virtually surrendered the field to big labor.
Go ahead, read that again and let it sink in.
The next governor of New York has vowed an ongoing frontal attack on one of the few union bulwarks left in the United States. Union membership in the US, after decades of brutal attacks by corporate power and of government hostility or indifference, has declined to 12.3% of the workforce. New York is the only state where over a quarter of all workers (barely, 25.3%) are still union members. Six states have unionization rates below 5%.
This has consequences. One of the ugliest effects of the union busting that shifted into high gear with President Ronald Reagan’s breaking of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Union in 1981 is that real wages for blue collar workers have remained stagnant or declined since the 1970s. Meanwhile, the incomes and wealth of the top 1% of the population have soared.
Contemplate for a moment the second half of that paragraph, too. He wants to make the state’s business community “a stronger ally” of his, does he? On account of Wall Street, the too-big-to-fail banks, corporate executives, developers and landlords don’t have enough political clout, I guess. Even the Supreme Court’s recent Citizens United decision to allow unlimited secret spending on political campaigns isn’t a big enough thumb on the scales for Cuomo.
A couple of additional thoughts:
First, the main strength unions in New York State have is not, whatever Cuomo claims, their ability to put millions into a bank account and buy television ads, with the result that:
The governor’s popularity drops; the governor’s knees weaken; the governor falls to one knee, collapses, makes a deal.
New York State unions do buy ads, but their political clout is based much more on their attention to state elections and on their ability to flood Albany with informed and fired-up members when important bills are before the Legislature. Anyone who has watched buses of construction workers, teachers, or purple-clad SEIU members descend on the State Capital to reason with, shall we say, their elected officials will have to wonder--and worry about--what Cuomo’s plans to counter that might be.
Second, this has shown up the weakness of the Working Families Party as an electoral third party formed expressly to representative working class interests in New York State. NY is one of eight “fusion states” where parties can cross-endorse the candidates of other parties (usually one of the two major parties). The WFP has mainly endorsed Democrats (and run its own candidates in Democratic primaries), but has also backed Republicans and sometimes run candidates solely on the WFP line--and won.
The catch is that to maintain ballot status, WFP must garner 50,000 votes for its gubernatorial candidate every election cycle. Without this, a party must go through the arduous work of collecting tens of thousands of valid signatures on petitions—which, for instance, the Green Party has done since 2002.
This year, Cuomo--whose Republican challenger Carl Paladino is racist, sexist, reactionary, seriously dim and a sure loser--played cat and mouse with the Working Families Party for months, withholding acceptance of a promised WFP nomination he didn’t really need.
At last, with no time at all left before the ballots were to be printed, the Working Families Party was permitted to ”crook the pregnant hinges of the knee,” as Shakespeare hath it, and kiss Cuomo’s ass, accepting his whole platform, full of anti-union and pro-business planks. They, like the progressive unions which bankroll the WFP, are now working to elect a candidate who is a sworn enemy of the union movement and of the working class as a whole.
In closing, I echo the FRSO/OSCL statement. Fellow NYers, this Tuesday, please vote for Charles Barron and the Unity Party! Or, if you are so inclined, vote for Howie Hawkins and the Greens. Or skip the governor's race on the ballot. But don't stab yourself in the back with a vote for Cuomo.