March 7, 2016
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – One of the biggest pay raises in American history, supercharged contract battles, the Koch brother ally waging a scorched earth battle against organized labor in the Midwest – and the looming showdown between Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. This week’s premiere episode of “Blue Collar Buzz,” LaborPress’ new radio show/podcast debuting this Sunday at 9 p.m. on AM970 The Answer,” has got it all.
When Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature wrapped up a contentious budget battle earlier this week, the City University of New York escaped a $485 million reduction in funding that could have further devastated the entire system. The averted cuts, however, did nothing to affect the austerity conditions that the Professional Staff Congress — the union representing CUNY faculty and staff — says is continuing to undermine the entire university experience for over a half million matriculated and non-matriculated students.
PSC Treasurer Sharon Persinger tells "Blue Collar Buzz" that the deal struck in Albany works out to less than a two-percent budget increase for CUNY, while leaving faculty and staff groping around for a new contract — something they haven’t have in six years. The ongoing feud between Governor Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio hasn’t made CUNY’s complicated funding formula involving both the city and state, any easier.
Verizon workers, too, also continue to search for a new contract, even as management appears intent on destroying good middle class jobs and crushing retail orgainzing efforts in Brooklyn. While the company continues to rake in billions of dollars each month, Pete Sikora, research economist for Communication Workers of America, District 1, says that the union's members have reached a “crisis point.” Bargaining has been locked-up since last June.
Low-wage earners in New York City, however, had 15 big reasons to celebrate this week, after Governor Cuomo signed legislation setting the Empire State on a pathway to a $15 an hour minimum wage. Milly Silva, 1199 SEIU executive vice president, talks about how the momentous victory was achieved, and how it is now “setting the tone and direction of what needs to happen in this country.”
Meanwhile, out in Wisconsin, the National Labor Relations Board has come down on John Menard, Jr’s eponymously-titled chain of home improvement centers for illegally preventing workers from organizing. As OPEIU attorney Seth Goldstein tells “Blue Collar Buzz,” Menard’s virulent aversion to organized labor has little to do with economics, and everything to do with ideology. Even going so far as to threaten to delay expansion plans until after the presidential election.
“We feel and believe this may be an effort to pressure people to vote the way [Menoard] wants them to vote,” Goldstein says.
Of course, any candidate that the GOP puts up to succeed President Obama would be a nightmare for working people. But who on the Democratic side do working men and women here in New York think will be a better president — Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton?
On this week’s premier episode of LaborPress’ “Blue Collar Buzz,” we hear from representatives of two powerful labor unions as they each make a case for their respective candidates.
Here’s a hint: 1199 SEIU is betting on Clinton to fulfill labor's goals, while CWA is backing Sanders to put an end to politics as usual.
Check out an audio clip of the show below: