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“It’s very simple at these political conventions: you either win or you lose. Uh, and I won...” -- Gov. Cuomo
The ability of the system to buy-off some union leaders is nothing new. It's been going on since unions were invented. But it's still stunning to watch the process unfold as it has this past week in New York and Chicago.
N.Y. union leaders, including the UFT's, threatened to blow up the Working Families Party unless the group endorsed Gov. Cuomo for re-election. WFP delegates took the warning seriously and endorsed Republicrat Cuomo over progressive challenger Zephy Teachout, 59%-41% at Sunday's WFP convention. They did so at the risk of doing irreparable damage to the movement that had won impressive victories in N.Y.C. and Newark mayoral races in the past year and an important school board victory in Connecticut. While it's electoral strategies may not be applicable everywhere, WFP is seen by progressives nationally as a model for united, independent alliance of community groups, led by organized labor (an oxymoron?).
Cuomo didn't even attend the meeting for fear of being booed off the stage. He didn't have to. He had already cut his deal with his labor lieutenants by promising to do nothing more, as Diane Ravitch put it, than to act like a Democrat. And it only took a few hours before he was even hedging on that promise.
In a post-convention statement, Teachout said:
“This week a number of leaders in the Working Families Party struck a deal with Governor Cuomo,” she said in a Sunday evening release. “I do not support the deal because I believe that New Yorkers deserve much, much more. Because Governor Cuomo’s record shows that he is untrustworthy. And because I believe that in democracy you should never let a primary—or power—go uncontested.”
In Chicago, it was a similar story with S.E.I.U. Local #73 leaders dropping $25,000 of their members' hard-earned money into the already bloated campaign war chest of Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Readers might remember how Local 73 leadership tried to undercut the CTU by signing a contract a month before the Chicago Teachers Strike of 2012 and having their members cross CTU picket lines.
Two days later, Rahm showed his gratitude by dropping the pension bomb on their members.