On Saturday New York Governor Andrew Cuomo secured the gubernatorial nomination from the Working Families Party of New York despite a record of trying to break unions and doing the bidding of his Big Business financial backers. Cuomo was almost defeated by Zephyr Teachout a strong progressive activist who won over 40% of the vote.
The concessions from Governor Cuomo that WFP leadership paraded out in hopes of assuaging membership anger proved to be short lived. Cuomo agreed to fight to increase the minimum wage and help Democrats across the state win their elections. The day after the WFP convention Cuomo backtracked on both pledges.
Cuomo, who endorsed a higher minimum wage with an option for localities to hike it further based on cost of living in his video message to the convention, said he still opposes complete local control of the minimum wage.“I oppose municipalities being able to set their own wage. I did and I do,” he said. “I would allow localities within a state-prescribed formula to adjust a local wage but not that the locality gets to set the rate wherever they want. I’m against that. I was against it. I am against it.”
He also said his support for Senate candidates would be based on who supported his agenda, not down the line support for Democratic candidates.
In other words, the little he pledged to do when securing the WFP nomination he now won’t actually do.
The nomination fight exposed significant divisions within the WFP membership which includes both unions that need state contracts that Cuomo controls and progressives activists who want to see changes made to the way New York’s political system operates. Without union support the WFP would not be as strong an organization but that support comes with a price as last night’s nomination fight clearly demonstrated.
Those paying attention may have gotten a good look at the limitations of the fusion party strategy as well as what happens when unions who work for their members and need to avoid alienating a paymaster crash into activists who have more abstract and systemic goals. If Saturday was any indication, the results aren’t pretty.
Photo by Azi Paybarah under Creative Commons license