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Can Cuomo Count On The Rank & File Vote?

New York, NY – New York, NY – On Tuesday, Governor Andrew Cuomo explicitly declared his support for the #Count Me In movement, and the #Count Me In movement — in the form of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York’s unanimous endorsement of the incumbent’s reelection — officially aligned with the governor. But Cuomo still faces lots of disaffected rank & file workers fed up with corporatists running the Democratic Party.

Governor Andrew Cuomo and Building Trades President Gary LaBarbera stand together at Tuesday’s #Count Me In rally at Union Square.

“You know, I’m a proud Democrat, and I want to tell you, we Democrats have had some disappointments because to some extent, the Democratic Party has forgotten the bread and butter issues for working men and women,” Building Trades leader Gary LaBarbera told the trade unionists filling Union Square this week. “But I want to tell you one Democrat that has not forgotten the working men and women in this city and this state — and that is our Governor, Andrew Cuomo.”

In 2016, an all-too significant percentage of union households eschewed corporate Democrat poster girl Hilary Clinton in favor of notoriously anti-worker real estate huckster Donald Trump. 

Last year, United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard told LaborPress’ “Blue Collar Buzz” podcast how hard it was getting his members to check a box for Clinton and the Dems during the 2016 race.

“We’ve got members who have literally said to me during the election campaign and after, ‘We’ve been voting Democrat all our lives, and look…we don’t have anything to show for it,’” Gerard said. “‘We might as well take a chance on this guy [Trump]. He can’t be any worse.’”

Before following in his father’s footsteps becoming governor of the Empire State, Andrew Cuomo led the Department of Housing and Urban Development in the Bill Clinton administration. He later campaigned hard for Hilary Clinton during her disastrous 2016 presidential run. 

I want to tell you one Democrat that has not forgotten the working men and women in this city and this state — and that is our Governor, Andrew Cuomo.

This year, Cuomo has got to hope a significant number of Building Trades workers and their allies can overlook his Clintonian ties and, instead, focus on massive union building projects he’s backed like the Tappan Zee Bridge, 2nd Avenue Subway line, and LaGuardia Airport rehab.  

“You fight for PLAs, [Project Labor Agreements], you count me in,” Governor Cuomo told Tuesday’s rally-goers. “You need free college tuition for your kids so they can have a brighter future? You need lower middle class taxes? You count me in. You are fighting for fairness, and for dignity, and for justice and respect for the hard working men and women who built this city and built this state and made New York — New York. You count me in.”

As impressive as the sight of thousands of hardhats in the streets may be, IBEW Local 3 head Chris Erikson extolled his fellow trade unionists to register to vote and take their fighting spirit all the way into the polls this fall. 

“We can be in the street, we can scream and yell, the fact of the matter is, we need to elect people that are going to look out for the working class, and the working men and women in this country,” Erikson said. 

Like USW President Leo Gerard, IBEW Local 3 business manager Chris Erikson has also had to face hard pressed members who decided to roll the dice on Trump last time out. 

“I can tell you, some of my members — whether they like the hair, the ‘make America great,’ or the wall — they voted for Donald Trump,” Erikson said. “And I want to tell you — the people that he has surrounded himself with don’t give a rat’s ass about your economic security. They don’t care. We need to fix that — and we need to fix that at the ballot box.”

Cuomo took time out of this week’s #Count Me In rally to laud Trump’s initial talks of a $1.5 infrastructure program to rebuild the crumbling nation.

“Unfortunately, He broke his promise,” Cuomo quickly added. “He said he was going to put the middle class back to work. The only thing he did was a tax cut — 80-percent of it goes to the richest one-percent of Americans. And he forgot his promise to the middle class. He abandoned the working men and women of this nation. And he missed an opportunity for this country. Because, either we build this country forward, or we go backwards. Either we advance, or other counties will advance. And right now, this country is standing still.”

LaBarbera called on members of the Building Trades to become the governor’s “army” and warned them that they could “make or break” Cuomo’s chances of reelection in Novemeber. 

“We have to use our collective strength — not only to fight the tyranny of open shop, not only to fight against employers that want to take away our benefits, that want to destroy the middle class, that want to destroy wages and standards — we have to fight and mobilize for our governor,” he said. 

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