New York’s liberal establishment is undergoing an overdue shake-up: At their gathering this past weekend, the Working Families Party, long a leftward-pushing force on the state Democrats, officially spurned Governor Andrew Cuomo by endorsing Cynthia Nixon, along with City Council member Jumaane Williams for lieutenant governor.
According to The New York Times, the Cuomo campaign isn’t going to take this kind of move lying down: Even before the Nixon endorsement came in, the Times was reporting that the state’s big unions were withdrawing their support for the WFP, allegedly at Cuomo’s behest. The Communications Workers of America, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 32BJ, the United Federation of Teachers, and the Retail and Department Store Workers Union have all opted to stick with Cuomo and his vastly richer reelection machine—splitting the long-standing community-labor alliance that formed the bulwark of the WFP’s base—rather than throwing in with the progressive outsider’s campaign and risking the wrath of the governor.
But the Times also reported that the Cuomo campaign is allegedly leaning on unions to withdraw their support for the community-service groups who have endorsed Nixon: “If unions or anyone give money to any of these groups, they can lose my number,” Cuomo reportedly said at a meeting last week.
Who are these groups who could be impacted by the governor’s threat? So far, New York Communities for Change (NYCC), Citizen Action of New York, and Make the Road Action (the political wing of Make the Road New York) have all endorsed Nixon, and now face political alienation and the potential loss of union funding as they struggle on with their grassroots organizing work.
Citizen Action of New York
Citizen Action’s Executive Director Karen Scharff responded to Cuomo’s move by reiterating the organization’s disenchantment with an administration that has repeatedly proven it “would only stand up for working people when it aided his political ambitions and didn’t irk his billionaire donors.” The organization’s support for Nixon embodies Citizen Action’s determination to overhaul the campaign-finance and voting laws to dismantle the legislative sclerosis that Cuomo’s tenure has symbolized. Nixon has aligned with the group’s key reform demand for “a system of publicly funded campaigns to limit the influence of big money in politics.” The group, which campaigned alongside labor to demand a $15 statewide minimum wage, pledges to “continue to work with our union brothers and sisters” on campaigns for universal health care and school-funding reform. And the endorsement of Cuomo’s challenger fuels their overarching budget agenda, demanding broad protections for public-welfare benefits and fairer tax policies that would tax the rich at a more sane rate.