[Marxism] New Yorkonsin

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Jun 8 07:11:12 MDT 2012


NY Times June 7, 2012
Donations to Key Cuomo Ally Show a Rift Among Unions
By NICHOLAS CONFESSORE

Backed with millions of dollars in contributions from business, 
the Committee to Save New York has been Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s 
most important ally in his battles with public-sector unions over 
government spending, pensions and teacher accountability.

But the committee turns out to have another source of money: a 
group of building trade unions who contributed $500,000 last year. 
Their decision to back Mr. Cuomo — and help finance an offensive 
against their public-sector brethren — illuminates a deepening 
fissure in the labor movement.

Labor officials said the union contributions to the business group 
in 2011, which were revealed in records filed with the federal 
Labor Department and interviews with people familiar with the 
donations, reflected workers’ deep unease about a slowdown in the 
construction industry in New York and their hope that Mr. Cuomo 
and the business committee could persuade voters and lawmakers to 
support publicly financed building projects and encourage growth.

But the unions’ aid to the business coalition also shows how 
battles over government spending, especially at the state level, 
have deepened longstanding tensions in the labor movement between 
union members employed by government and those employed by private 
business.

Public unions are the focus of intense attacks from Republicans, 
including the wealthy conservative donors whose millions of 
dollars helped Gov. Scott Walker defeat a labor-backed recall 
effort in Wisconsin this week. But as states struggle with 
declining tax revenues, and as gridlock in Washington leaves 
little prospect for additional federal aid to states, the alliance 
among Mr. Cuomo, the Committee to Save New York and the private 
unions reflects a new level of complexity to labor’s plight. Even 
as unions face off against Republican opponents, they are also 
often at war with a prominent Democratic governor, who has 
conquered Albany in part by dividing labor in the country’s most 
unionized state.

“I think that any efforts to split the labor movement, whether 
it’s Democrats or Republicans, are unwelcome and not helpful to 
long-run stability in the state,” said Michael Podhorzer, the 
political director for the A.F.L.-C.I.O. “I think that ‘exploit’ 
is the right word,” he added. “You could see in the Walker recall 
that the labor movement remained very unified.”

The unions contributing to the Committee to Save New York included 
the Mason Tenders’ District Council, which oversees local 
laborers’ unions in New York City, as well as affiliates of the 
Laborers Eastern Region, an organization of laborers unions in New 
York City, New Jersey and Delaware. Gary LaBarbera, president of 
the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, 
sits on the committee’s advisory board.

The council joined “because we believed it was important to 
support the governor’s agenda of bringing fiscal responsibility to 
New York and attracting private investment and job creation to our 
state,” said Paul Fernandes, a spokesman for Mr. LaBarbera.

“It should come as no surprise,” he continued, “that we would want 
to work with other civic and business leaders to support efforts 
to get our state on sound fiscal and economic footing.”

One labor official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to 
discuss the unions’ decision, said that unlike public workers, 
union members in the building trades — electricians, construction 
workers and plumbers — could not qualify for benefits unless there 
was private sector work to be had.

“We don’t have pension funds if our members are not working,” the 
official said. “We don’t have health insurance if our workers are 
not working.”

The construction unions are closely aligned with the real estate 
industry, which is a major source of donations for the committee 
and Mr. Cuomo. The committee, which raised $17 million last year, 
also received $2.4 million from gambling interests, including 
Genting, a company seeking to build a major casino in New York.

“Our leadership has had long relationships with building trades 
for many, many years,” said Michael McKeon, a spokesman for the 
committee. “And that is fully consistent with the mission of the 
Committee to Save New York.”

Mr. Cuomo’s ties to the laborers’ union are deep. Maggie Moran, 
while working as a top official at the regional union, was a 
senior adviser to his 2010 campaign. She remained an executive at 
the laborers’ union until January, during the period when the 
unions made their contributions to the Committee to Save New York. 
Ms. Moran declined to comment on Thursday.

While some unions, including the Civil Service Employees 
Association, withheld their endorsement of Mr. Cuomo, the Mason 
Tenders and other trade unions delivered foot soldiers on Election 
Day. When Mr. Cuomo gave his victory speech on Election Day in 
2010, he thanked Ms. Moran and the laborers by name.

Mr. Cuomo has adopted a tough posture, rhetorically and 
legislatively, toward unions, but has also sought to work with 
them. Unlike Mr. Walker, in Wisconsin, Mr. Cuomo did not seek to 
strip public unions of their collective bargaining rights.

“Our philosophy is that it’s not a question of labor or business 
interests,” said Richard Bamberger, a Cuomo spokesman. “It’s both 
or neither.”

Last summer, Mr. Cuomo demanded that New York’s public sector 
unions, including the largest, the Civil Service Employees 
Association, accept major wage and benefit concessions as part of 
a deal to rein in state spending, and he warned of sweeping 
layoffs if they refused.

In February, Mr. Cuomo used the threat of his emergency budget 
power to force teachers’ unions to accept a more rigorous system 
of classroom evaluations. And in March, backed by millions of 
dollars in advertising from the Committee to Save New York, Mr. 
Cuomo persuaded lawmakers to cut pensions for future public 
employees in New York City and across the state, prompting unhappy 
unions to boycott an annual conference of black and Latino lawmakers.

A person with knowledge of the committee’s deliberations said Mr. 
LaBarbera had sought to scale back more aggressive advertising 
attacks that had been under consideration.

Even as Mr. Cuomo and the committee pushed for concessions from 
public sector unions, they have promoted public works proposals 
that would benefit members of the construction unions, including 
significant spending on economic development and infrastructure 
projects.

In March, Mr. Cuomo announced an agreement on the centerpiece of 
his jobs program: the New York Works Task Force, with a mandate to 
raise and invest billions of dollars to rebuild the state’s roads, 
bridges and parks, and create tens of thousands of jobs. Both 
union leaders and the Committee to Save New York praised the 
infrastructure spending.

“It’s worked,” Mr. McKeon said of the committee’s efforts. “The 
New York Works program is a success.”




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