Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Cuomo Seeks To Pit Unions And Working Familes Party Activists Against Each Other

Blake Zeff at Capital NY with another illuminating column - this one on how Cuomo is working to undercut a WFP challenge from the left by pitting unions and activists in the party against each other.

That's why he's gotten a little friendly to the unions lately, including TWU 100 with last week's contract, as well as CWA (killing some deregulation that was in the Senate and his budget bill), 1199 (money in budget for pay increases for home health car workers) and 32BJ (raising wages for workers.)

The theory goes that Cuomo is bribing the unions now and with promises for the future in return for their political backing this election season - no matter what WFP does.

And if the WFP just so happens to back a third party candidate against him, well, that's when Cuomo goes to work to destroy the Working Families Party as a viable political entity:

In return for all this magnanimity, labor sources suggest, several of the key unions in the party—like 1199, 32BJ, HTC, and possibly, now, TWU—are leaning toward endorsing the governor and, certainly, away from supporting a protest candidacy.

But that might not be enough. 

While unions tend to play a key role in most political decisions made by the WFP (like the New York City mayor’s race, for example), statewide elections are different. They require that the party’s state committee—not the executive board—determine at the end of May who will represent the ballot line in November. And it just so happens that a significant number of the 200 or so seats on the committee are filled by anti-Cuomo activists in the Citizen Action mold. (As Liz Benjamin reported last month, more than 100 state committee members participated in a conference call at that time “to discuss the possibility” of not endorsing the governor.)

Cuomo could still appeal to those activists by addressing one of their pet issues, particularly public financing, before the WFP state convention in late May. But doing that could also cost him some major concessions from GOP senate leader Dean Skelos.

Assuming the activists still oppose him, it raises the possibility of individual unions—like 32BJ, 1199, and HTC—backing the governor and the Working Families Party simultaneously challenging him.

And that’s when Cuomo would go to work undercutting the party. 

If WFP were to launch a challenge to the governor, one theory gaining currency in Albany circles is that he could urge the unions that want to continue to do business with him after he wins to cripple the party’s future efforts by starving it of funding. Several Albany insiders I spoke to suggested that the governor could even conceivably seek to revive the Liberal Party, which is reportedly eyeing a comeback after effectively having been killed off by the WFP (and, unwittingly, Cuomo) in 2002, as a new home for some of those large unions, instead of the WFP.

WFP state director Bill Lipton dismissed this notion out of hand, telling Capital, "I haven't heard of any unions having their arm twisted to pull out of the Working Families Party."

A senior official at one of the party’s largest union affiliates agreed, saying, “The governor’s too smart to ask us to do that.”

Maybe. But the fact that the party’s activists and unions are not currently on the same page means, at the very least, a challenge from the left could get as messy for them as it is for Cuomo.

That will be the strategy Cuomo uses going forward to avoid WFP from endorsing anybody but him - the message is, if WFP backs another candidate, the war between Cuomo and the party is going to get ugly and it may just end with WFP facing its own civil war.


  1. Look for a Cuomo endorsement by WFP, or at best a decision to remain neutral and endorse no one in the Governor's race.

    I'd be very surprised if they endorse a primary opponent for our Reptilian Governor.

    1. I agree, Michael. That's exactly what I heard in WFP Executive Director Dan Cantor's response to the Siena poll showing a WFP challenge to Cuomo would hurt him badly. The leadership wants nothing to do with challenging Cuomo, esp when he;s buying off some of the unions.