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Cuomo to AFL-CIO: Workers Have Been Getting ‘Screwed’ for 30 years

August 23, 2016
By Joe Maniscalco

Members of the Building Trades salute Governor Cuomo outside the AFL-CIO Convention.
Members of the Building Trades salute Governor Cuomo Outside the AFL-CIO Convention.

New York, NY – Governor Andrew Cuomo told delegates at the 33rd New York State AFL-CIO Constitutional Convention on Monday that working men and women across the country are going into this year’s presidential election feeling nervous, angry, and frustrated because they’ve been “getting screwed for the last 30 years.”

“That’s why there’s an anger — they have gotten a raw deal,” Cuomo said. “Over the past 30 years productivity went up 74 percent — wages went up 9 percent. You know what that means? It means that the middle class is going backwards.”

New York’s chief executive noted that over the last three decades, home prices have jumped 20 percent, consumer goods have increased 30 percent and college costs have soared 60 percent – "and to aggravate things, the top one percent got a 138 percent increase."

So far, Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump has been able to exploit a lot of that fiscal pain to his advantage. The latest LA Times tracking poll actually has him slightly ahead of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton — with responding white middle-class voters currently favoring the real estate developer-turned-reality TV personality by almost 19-percentage points.

NYS AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento urged trade unionists throughout New York State to not only cast ballots for Clinton in November — but to also help the former secretary of state beat Trump in key battleground states.  

“Look, there are people who still somehow support Donald Trump,” Cilento said. “That’s their right. But just remember something: As a labor movement we are built on bedrock — a foundation of unity, solidarity, a shared sense of purpose. We are one family and if you pick on one of us you have to deal with all of us. Donald Trump hates everything that I just mentioned that we stand for. He wants to divide us, and segment us, and pit us against each other.”

Cilento, who unanimously won re-election on Monday, noted the recent Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association case which could been disastrous for unions had it not gone labor's way — and warned that the next president of the United States “must be Hillary Clinton.” 

“Let’s keep one thing in mind: The next president of the United States is going to choose at lease one, possibly two or three Supreme Court judges,” Cilento said. “And brothers and sisters, that president must be Hillary Clinton — it has to be.”

Cuomo assured delegates that Clinton will be a strong advocate for the trade union movement if she wins the White House this fall. 

“We have to elect Hillary Clinton the next president of the United States,” the governor said. “She understands it, she gets it. I was part of the [Bill] Clinton administration for eight years, and she gets and understands our issues, the problems and the solutions.”

At the same time Cuomo was advocating for Clinton, he nevertheless reminded delegates that the fight for working class men and woman will have to go on no matter who wins the White House. 

“Let’s be honest, just electing a new president is not going to make the problems disappear automatically,” Cuomo said. “We’re still going to have to organize and fight to resolve those issues.”

On that score, both Cilento and Cuomo said that New York State will lead the way. The New York State AFL-CIO’s 2.5  million trade unionists represent almost 25 percent of the statewide workforce. That’s the highest in the country and twice the national average. Last year, New York State saw a net gain of 60,000 new union members. 

Cilento called that "amazing."

“What it means is that we have a culture in this state where non-union members can actually see union members," Cilento said. "They can see the benefit and the value of being a member. Better wages, benefits and conditions of employment. Our track record of success is unprecedented.”

Said Cuomo, “What organized labor does in New York will make a national difference. When New York acts, the rest of the country follows.”

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