Andy King To Labor – “I Want To Be Your Candidate”
August 13, 2012
By Joe Maniscalco LaborPress Staff Writer
Before deciding to take the plunge and challenge now disgraced New York City Councilman Larry Seabrook for the 12th Councilmanic District in the Bronx back in 2009, Andy King says he never thought about a career in politics.
Sure, he worked on Democratic Fernando Ferrer’s 2005 mayoral campaign, but the 49-year-old married father of three says he never thought about running for public office himself until lots of people started asking him the same question: “Why don’t you run?”
“I never thought about it in my wildest dreams while I was serving my community,” King says. “But when you’re called to service, you’ve got to answer the call.
This time around, the call came quicker than expected. King’s next shot at running again wasn’t supposed to come until 2013 – but then Seabrook was convicted of nine counts of corruption and the people living in the Bronx neighborhoods where King grew up found themselves without representation in the New York City Council. A special election to fill the vacated seat will now be held on November 6, and King, the former DC37 caseworker with the Administration for Children’s Services and community organizer with 1199SEIU, plans on winning it as labor’s champion.
“I want my brothers and sisters in the labor movement to know that I want to be their candidate,” says King. “I’m one of them running for office. I’m part of the 99 percent.”
King, who came out of the public school system, played basketball, ran track and earned his BA from William Patterson University, has a long history lobbying for quality and accessible healthcare for all.
“Health care is a right, not a privilege,” King says. “We’ve seen across the state, when hospitals close, communities fall apart.”
If elected, King – who also founded the Bronx Youth Empowerment Program in the northeast section of the borough – also promises to push hard for a living wage. “I understand the challenges of a family of four trying to feed themselves on a salary of $30,000,” King says. “I see our homecare workers struggling everyday to manage when they’re getting paid $7.50 an hour. When people are given a living wage everyone is better off. The poverty level for a family of four is $25,000. Why would we pay anybody anything less than that? It’s like we’re paying people to be poor.”
And labor’s would-be champion in the New York City Council has a lot to say about the right wing’s systematic attempt to somehow pin the poor economy on unions.
“That is the one-percent coming after the working man and the working woman,” King says. “The unions are not the cause of what happened in the financial industry. It was greed from those who were sitting at the table and thinking they were in Atlantic City.”
For King, it’s a simple case of the guilty parties, the 1%, trying to cover their own backsides.
“They want to take the person who’s mopping or cleaning up an office, or someone who is providing daycare, or someone who is making sure that seniors are being cared for, and blame them for the financial crisis across America,” outrageously unbelievable King says. “No! Our workforce of hard working Americans are not even at the table to make those decisions. “So, how all of a sudden these hardworking Americans – people who are part of labor, who helped set the standards so that the rich don’t abuse workers – how did they become the scapegoats? How did they become the problem and the fall of Wall Street? They’re not. It’s all just a spin. It’s just the 1 percent pointing fingers at everyone else as opposed to pointing fingers at themselves. Could you imagine if we didn’t have labor [unions]? We’d probably still be back in the 1800s with the slave trade still happening.”
King also eschews outsourcing, says the current administration has done too much of it, and it needs to end. “When you look at what this regime has done by outsourcing a lot of the money from the City of New York to contractors who have botched things while benefiting themselves, I think we should be bringing back that money and put it back into City government, put it back into the people of New York, put it back into the union brothers and sisters who can do the job, and will do the job, at a third of the cost or half of the cost.”
Despite, his clear convictions, Kings says that he’s always worked to unite people – and believes that labor needs to do the same in the face of right wing assaults. “I recommend all of us in labor go back to organizing 101,” King says. “We don’t have the money, so you combat it with people power. And every time there’s an issue for one union, all unions should come out together. Everybody’s got to pay attention. An injustice to one of us is an injustice to all of us. We as unions need to understand that, because they’ll pit us against each other.”
Recalling his first attempt at gaining the 12th District New York City Council, Kings says, “I didn’t pick up my ball and run away into a corner. I continued to do the work because it never was about me. It was about service to my brothers and sisters in this district – and making sure we have a better quality of life.”