Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Unions Must Jump Out for Teachout

How many Democrats will jump Cuomo's ship on September 9? 

Today's Democrats are turning into yesterday's Republicans.


Look no further than New York State, where Democratic governor and aspiring outdoorsman Andrew Cuomo reportedly warned of "repercussions" for members of the state AFL-CIO if they did not endorse him at their union's annual convention on August 18. Amid this language and other acts of douchbaggery, it’s no surprise that U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara  is investigating Cuomo for meddling in the affairs of the supposedly independent anti-corruption Moreland Commission. Among other things, Cuomo is suspected of having an inflated head that's leaking something other than air.

Sure enough, Cuomo's name was absent from all convention literature and open discussion about the race for governor was prohibited before the body. The Lobbyist for the Student's name has become so toxic in his home state that he doesn't even want to talk about himself these days, brushing aside a recent call for a debate with Fordham law professor Zephyr Teachout, his opponent in the Democratic primary. Referring to political debates as a "campaign strategy", Cuomo said he'd leave the decision to debate Teachout up to the campaigns and "whatever they decide."

Evidently, an open discussion about the future of New York State now hinges on the whims of Joe Percoco, Cuomo's campaign manager who was also recently suspected of strong-arming members of the Moreland Commission into scrubbing Cuomo clean. Multiple sources say Percoco pressured key members of the commission into issuing public statements in support of the executive office in the days following the publication of a New York Times article which ripped the lid off the inner workings of Cuomo's Albany.

Teachout should not expect comments from Percoco about a debate anytime soon, however, as Percoco seemingly cherishes his role as Cuomo's "man behind the man" and invisible campaign manager. With both men refusing to talk about talking about the issues, voters can only speculate about the status of a government that has grown less transparent than pond scum.
Among other stark contrasts with Teachout, Cuomo's icy relationship with unions and other groups is indicative of a shifting paradigm in local and national politics—an intra-party rejection of Democrats beholden to big money in favor of grassroots populists who seek to rise above the fetid fumes of money and threats to transparent, moral ground.

Cracks in the system have only been deepened by the supposed standard-bearers of the Democratic Party, with the tax and trade policies of Cuomo, the Clintons, and President Obama turning Ronald Reagan's trickle-down into a deluge for .01 percent of Americans. Today's most prominent Democratic leaders have become everything Reagan dreamed they could become and more, insulating the pockets of plutocrats with the calluses of working men and women everywhere.

It seems NYSUT—whose members comprised the majority in attendance on August 18—could also use a dose of transparency these days. Cuomo recently signed a bill that the Albany legislature approved faster than you can say quid pro quo, as even the NYSUT Board of Directors was not aware of a law which strengthens the retirement safety net of a mere three members—Karen Magee, Paul Pecorale, and Martin Messner—all of whom were elected NYSUT officers in the union's recent election.

While questions linger about the origins of the bill, the larger question is did newly-elected officers of the state's largest teachers union—with the unanimous support of lawmakers—trade self-serving legislation for political favors? Both the timing and secrecy of this legislation raises unsettling questions about the principles of union leadership, who must not tip-toe away from transparency but march towards it.

The union has no good reason not to challenge Cuomo, after all, and a non-endorsement only muffles the political discourse and forces working teachers to retreat into their classrooms, away from politics in both voice and vote. Teachers in the United States cannot afford to sink further into political apathy, and union leaders have a responsibility to help engender an open debate about those government officials who are helping the rich subsume the system.

NYSUT members must hear why State Senator Jeff Klein, for example, deserves their time and VOTE-COPE money. Klein, a Democrat who yielded progressive control of the senate to Republicans and stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Cuomo at a recent rally for charter schools, is another example of a leader with the face of a Democrat and the fangs of a Republican.

State Senator Jeff Klein (background) has a face only NYSUT could love.

Former New York Senator and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, recently sighted hobnobbing in the Hamptons with AFT President Randi Weingarten, will dilute any national conversation about economic inequality should she be the Democratic nominee for president in 2016. Both Republican and Democratic talking points will likely revolve around the need to help "all" Americans by cutting corporate taxes and shipping jobs overseas competing in the global economy.

Cuomo's "death penalty" for New York's public schools also spells doom for both social justice and his core values as a Democratic, which he likely never possessed in the first place. The good news is that Zephyr Teachout and her running mate for Lieutenant Governor Tim Wu exist, and their campaign has gained momentum since Cuomo unsuccessfully tried to kick Teachout off the ballot for not being as New York as him.

Cuomo and his running mate Kathy Hochul—a former bank lobbyist and future Republican—have $35 million to spend compared to Teachout and Wu's $181,000. This money, however, speaks only through glossy campaign flyers and commercials, and no amount money could turn Cuomo and Hochul back into real Democrats.  Perhaps the Cuomo campaign will soon invite Republican challenger Rob Astorino to debate, confident they can out-Democrat him.

America’s workers, not its lawmakers, keep the machine of democracy running daily. It is therefore up to workers and their unions to be first on the scene when its engine seizes in a cloud of cronyism and greed.

Unions must lead with solutions, promoting candidates like Teachout who will seek to undo recent changes to the Great Seal of the United States:

Both political parties have finally agreed on one thing.

Our democracy depends on it.

1 comment:

  1. Well done again, Sull. Doing all I can to get people to show at her bus tour event tomorrow here in Syracuse and to vote in the primary!