Governor Andrew Cuomo was all smiles last week with the news that PEF, the Public Employees Federation union, had agreed to his contract offer that gives employees furlough days, 0% salary increases for most of the contract, and much higher health insurance premiums after he threatened to lay off thousands of them if they didn't take the contract.
PEF members had rejected the contract the first time, but the PEF leadership, along with Governor Cuomo, redid one or two things in it (not making it any better, IMO), and this time around, the PEF members agreed to it.
I know one PEF member and she voted for it the second time because she felt she had to or she would see many of her co-workers laid off. (I would have voted no, btw, but that's me...)
This is the second contract negotiation Cuomo has won by threatening to lay off thousands of state employees if the unions did not agree to huge concessions.
CSEA, the Civil Service Employees Association, also agreed to a contract with huge concessions after Cuomo threatened layoffs
Here is how Governor Cuomo did his victory lap for the PEF vote:
"This shows that collaboration works," Cuomo said at a news conference after the vote. He drew a contrast between New York ‘s labor negotiations and those in other parts of the country that have been more contentious. “This is slowing people down, providing the information, removing the emotion and cooler heads prevailing for a better outcome for all.”
Oh, yeah - there's nothing "contentious" about threatening to lay off thousands of employees unless they take your garbage contract offer that will cost them thousands of dollars a year in lost pay and extra health care costs.
That sure sounds like "collaboration" to me.
Tell me how "cool" it is to threaten to lay off thousands if they don't agree to concessions?
Cuomo is smarter than some other union-busting governors around the country because he has gotten the shills running the unions to not peg him as the union-busting oligarch that he is.
But make no mistake, Andrew Cuomo is no different than union-busters like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie or Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker or Ohio Governor John Kasich.
He is defending the 1% of this country on the backs of the 99%.
Cuomo has made ending an income tax on millionaires and billionaires the signature achievement of his administration, he has happily (and greedily) gone after the unions to take huge concessions or face layoffs, he has slashed the state budget for education and health care for senior citizens even as he has opened up the state to polluters in the gas industry who want to hydrofrack.
And if you don't like what he's doing, well, Cuomo doesn't want to hear from you.
Not at all.
A protest group modeled on Occupy Wall Street has sprung up in the state capital.
They call themselves Occupy Albany.
The Occupy Albany group has turned their protest to Governor Cuomo, who they have dubbed Governor 1% for his refusal to keep the millionaires' tax in place even as he slashes the state budget to the bone.
They call their encampment "Cuomoville."
Cuomo, famously thin-skinned and vindictive beyond belief, wanted the Occupy Albany folks arrested and displaced from their place of protest.
He called on Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings to have the protestors arrested and the protest ended.
The mayor tried to do Cuomo's bidding but was rebuffed by the police chief of the city who said he would not use any police officers to
"monitor, watch, videotape or influence any behavior that is conducted by our citizens peacefully demonstrating."
In addition, the Albany DA said he wouldn't prosecute any protestors arrested for exercising their First Amendment rights.
Cuomo, not used to losing political battles these days and certainly not used to have people under him like an Albany County district attorney or police chief tell him that they're not going to do his dirty work for him, backed down from the confrontation.
In public, Cuomo's people say the story about his demanding Occupy Albany arrests was not true.
I guess they're trying to "save face."
But make no mistake, Governor 1% backed down when students, middle aged parents and senior citizens protesting his policies in Albany didn't run from him, didn't agree to concessions or give him his way.
Here is how the NY Times viewed Cuomo's "defeat" by the Occupy Albany protestors at Camp Cuomo:
"Perhaps, as the governor’s men now say, Mr. Cuomo never sought this conflict and his aides never pressured Mr. Jennings, who they suggest may have suffered a failure of will. Or perhaps a willful governor watched others take a step back, and despite himself acquired a dose of wisdom."
Or perhaps Governor Cuomo, like all bullies around the world, backed down when somebody stood up to him.
Which is exactly what PEF and CSEA should have done in their contract negotiations.