Yesterday afternoon, the course of the New York State Senate was altered when a faction of the on-paper Democratic majority announced they would instead form a power-sharing agreement with the Republicans, equally splitting control of the chamber in an “unprecedented” fashion. Although labor has been wary of the situation thus far, seemingly preferring Democratic rule, Transport Workers Union Local 100 called the new coalition-style government “the best possible option” for the state.
“In the aftermath of Super Storm Sandy, and the devastation suffered by the working families of New York, we must get down to the business of governing,” said the union’s president, John Samuelsen, in a statement late last night. “The Independent Democratic Conference— led by serious, effective senators such as Jeff Klein, Diane Savino, and Malcolm Smith — has shown great commitment in fighting for public union employees and their families. It is obvious that at this point their decision to create a bipartisan coalition was the best possible option to ensure a functioning government for all New Yorkers and NYC Transit Workers and our families.”
For what it’s worth, TWU Local 100’s endorsements sometimes cut against the political grain, and the union, which has been without a contract since January, likely has a particularly vested interest in the state government in the coming months.
In contrast, several other unions have responded more coolly. RWDSU, for example, ominously warned the smaller Democratic conference to deliver on the minimum wage legislation they support.
“We are pleased that Senator Klein has made passage of a minimum wage increase in New York a priority,” RWDSU president Stuart Appelbaum said in a press release yesterday. “The bill that he introduced last year, to increase New York’s minimum wage to $8.50 an hour and then index it to inflation, should not be weakened by his new coalition partners. We would expect that this will be the same bill he will pass for with his new Republican colleagues.”
While the labor-backed Working Families Party sounded aggressive on the topic, with their executive director, Dan Cantor, declaring the new coalition “puts the progressive agenda in jeopardy” and suggested a potential electoral face-off could occur next time these senators face the voters.
“On Election Day, New Yorkers made their voices heard for a Democratic-Working Families majority because of the issues that hang in the balance in Albany,” Mr. Cantor said. Public financing of elections. Women’s health. Reforming stop and frisk. Raising the minimum wage and indexing it to inflation. A real DREAM Act. These are not trivial issues. Senator Klein has voiced support for them in the past, but his Republican partners stand against us on each one. The burden therefore rests on the shoulders of Senator Klein and the IDC to prove that they can deliver. If they can, then this coalition may yet be validated. But if they cannot, then we will hold them to account.”