Bill Increases Access to and Protects Union Membership in New York State
Governor Cuomo: "We're going to sign that Janus bill, but my friends that is the first step of the resistance. We sign that bill, then we go to work and we turn this state around and we turn this nation around and we make America America again."
Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed landmark legislation to strengthen the rights of working men and women in New York State. This new law increases access to and protects union membership in New York's public-sector workplaces in anticipation of an adverse ruling in the pending Supreme Court case Janus v. AFSCME. Additionally, the law provides safeguards against the deliberate actions taken by the federal government that continue to undermine the efforts of organized labor across this country. More information available here.
AUDIO of the Governor's remarks is available here.
PHOTOS of the event are available on Governor Cuomo's Flickr page.
A rush transcript of the Governor's remarks is available below:
Thank you. Boy this is a good looking room. Are we fired up today? First, to Mr. Michael Mulgrew. He is such, such a great labor leader because he's so good at what he does. He is effective, he makes change, he brings courage, without Michael, and without his leadership and without Mario Cilento and Henry Garrido, we are not in this room today. Michael Mulgrew, thank you very much.
To all the teachers for their daily contribution. I thank you. My mother was a public school teacher. It takes a special kind of patience to be a public school teacher which she demonstrated because she had to deal with me for all those years. But give yourselves a round of applause because it really is a magnificent occupation.
To all the labor leaders here. Thank you for being here. And thank you not just for the support on this bill, but as Michael said, and I'm going to speak about in a moment, this is the tip of the iceberg. We are in the middle of a big, big fight nationwide. And it is just starting. But we're going to be the state that shows how to mobilize and how to win, and that's what this is a metaphor for today.
To Mario Cilento who's been a great AFL-CIO leader because I'll tell you the magic that he's brought. He has unified the labor movement in a way I haven't seen it unified in decades. It's no longer public sector unions, private sector unions. It is the union family. When one of us is in trouble, we're all in trouble. It's solidarity. We stand together.
This is the tip of the iceberg. And let's be honest and let me be blunt because I am a New Yorker and that's what we do. We're blunt as New Yorkers, and we're proud of it. But there is an extreme conservative movement that is sweeping this nation. And these are frightening times. I was talking to a young lady last week, you know, she said some days I don't even recognize my country anymore.
And it's true. And it's every day. Every day something more bizarre happens than the last day. And it just keeps getting worse and it's worse and it's worse and it's worse. This is an extreme conservative administration. Reporter said to me what does that mean extreme conservative? Why do you keep saying extreme conservative? I said look at the words. Extreme conservative. You put those together, they're extreme conservative. We've had political differences in this state before. We have liberals, we have democrats, we have conservatives. Fine, that's part of the dialogue. That's part of what makes us New York. I had a difficult conversation with one of my daughters the other morning. She accused me of being conservative on an issue. And that's fighting words in my house. I have three daughters who are of dating age, let's call it. And I don't think there's anything wrong with asking for a full background check before a boyfriend comes into the house. I don't. she says, I embarrass her when I fingerprint them, why? It comes off. And if they don't want to be fingerprinted, you know there's a problem.
So we have those debates, but that's now what this is. This is a different level of conservatism that we haven't seen before and they make it very clear. Talk about being blunt. They are anti-New York. They are anti-immigrant. They are anti-working men and women. They are anti-union. That is their position and they're going to do everything they can to hurt this state and hurt our values and hurt everything that everyone in this room has worked so hard to accomplish. And the truth is, the last presidential campaign, our people were defrauded by President Trump. That's the truth. The truth is, he had middle-class men and women who voted for President Trump. Why? Because he saw the desperation of the middle-class, he felt the pain of the middle-class, which is real. They've been going backwards for 20 years in terms of real wages. Backwards for 20 years. They're afraid about their future, they're afraid about their children's future and he felt that pain and he reached out to it and he touched it and he said, "I'm your guy. I'm going to fight for the middle-class." And people had such pain, they bought it. It's like one of those late-night TV commercials, they say, "Buy this pill. This pill will make you lose weight. It will grow hair. It will tighten creepy skin. And you will feel 21-years-old." Who doesn't want to buy that pill? I need that pill. That's what he offered. Elect me and I'm going to solve all your problems. Well you know what? It was a scam, it was a fraud, the people in this room knew it and now the people of this country know it.
What was the first thing he did when he got in office, first thing? Passed a tax cut, $1.5 trillion - 80 percent goes to the richest 1 percent of America and the corporations. And then he says, "Well, maybe the corporations will then pass it on to the workers." Maybe there's a Santa Clause. It's possible. But if what you really wanted to do was help the middle-class, you would have helped the middle-class, you would have raised their wages. If you really wanted to help the middle-class, you would have said to the corporations, "I'll give you a tax cut, but you pass it on in terms of wages to the workers and you create new jobs." But he didn't do that. He gave them a big fat tax rebate and they just got a big fat paycheck. That's all that happened. $1.5 trillion - that's what he did. He's been revealed as a fraud on that and everything they have done since. The truth is that in many ways, the middle-class and the unions are an enemy to his economic plan. Because his economic plan is about making corporations and businesses more money and if you are a public sector union, giving you higher wages means raising taxes and he doesn't want to do that. If you're a private sector union, giving you a raise means lower corporate dividends and stock prices and he doesn't want to do that. So there has been a pattern, a pattern to be destructive to the union movement.
It's not just the Janus case. That's just the tip of the iceberg. Department of Justice, filed a brief with the Supreme Court expressing the belief that the fair share of fees collected by public sector employees are a violation of the first amendment. Exact opposite position that Obama took. Two Trump appointees to the NLRB are both pro-corporate. Teachers in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Arizona are being denied decent contracts and we stand in solidarity with them.
Trump refused to raise the minimum wage on the federal level. He's seeking to reduce the number of workers who are receiving mandatory overtime pay. OSHA safety instructors have been reduced. Congress is trying to repeal Davis-Bacon. There's a bill in Congress that would allow employers to circumvent state and local paid sick leave laws. There's a House bill that would allow projects that receive federal money to be exempt from the scaffold law. The pattern is clear. They are coming at the union movement piece by piece. Why? Because there's two reasons. Number one: because you built and protect the middle class. That's what the labor movement did. That was their great achievement. You achieved the 40-hour work week, you achieved pension rights, you achieved OSHA benefits, you achieved safe working regulations and you are the equalizer at the bargaining table during collective bargaining and they don't want that. they want more power in the hands of management so they can exploit the worker.
The second reason is, the labor movement to them is the enemy because they are extreme conservatives and the labor movement has always been the engine of progressive progress from day one. The union movement drove the civil rights movement. The union movement women's rights movement. The union movement drove the environmental movement. The union movement drove the gay rights movement. It is the union movement that drives the Democratic party and that's why they want to weaken the union movement. That is the truth. What do we do? We do what Mike Mulgrew said, we fight back. We fight back. We know this fight. We fought this fight all through our history. These are big corporations and big businesses. This is profit and trying to take advantage of working men and women and trying to use the power differential to exploit and extort workers. That's what it is. And it has been the classic fight that we have fought for the past 100 years in this country. While the country is trying to figure out what to do, what we're going to do in New York is we're going to lead the way. We're going to show them what to do.
How do you help this middle class? First, you respect the dignity and sacrifice of work and public service and you respect what it means to give 20 years of your life in public service. And you respect retirement and pension benefits and disability benefits. And you honor that public service and you respect it.
Second, what we're doing in New York is we're providing a tax cut for the middle class to put more money in their pocket and then to alleviate the anxiety that every middle class family feels. We say we're going to be the first state in the nation to provide free college tuition for every child in the state because no parent should have to worry about that.
Then we showed the extreme conservative movement that they are taking us back and we are not going back we are going forward. We are going to expose their hypocrisy and how dangerous they are. Their anti-immigrant. First, there is no greater case of hypocrisy than them being anti-immigrant. Unless you are a Native American, Apache, Sioux, Comanche, you are an immigrant. And they are not Native Americans. You want talk about undocumented and the way they torture the DACA children. I'm an Italian-American, I came from poor Italian-Americans who came here. You know what they called Italian-Americans back in the day? They called them wops. You know what wop stood for? Without papers. I'm undocumented. You want to deport an undocumented person, start with me, because I'm an undocumented person.
When you attack immigrants, and you try to pit us together, by religion, by color of skin, by race, they are spreading a social cancer in this country. Nobody can beat America, but what you can do is create Americans fighting other Americans. And that's exactly what they're doing. You have more neo-Nazi groups created in the past two years than the previous 20. We have more anti-Semitic actions in New York than we've had in the past decade. They are doing that. They are spreading hate and division. They think divide and conquer. Well not here my friends. Because we know diversity is our greatest strength, it's what makes us beautiful, 18 million people, and we are all one.
They want to take women backwards. They literally want to take away a woman's right to choose and undo Roe v. Wade. Can you believe it? We want to take women forward. We just had this great revelation about sexual harassment against women, which was reviling, but should have led us to the point where we said you know what we're going to stand up and do something about it. It's all across all industries: entertainment, business, all sorts of fancy people, small people. Exposing the culture of sexual harassment. What do we hear from the federal government? Nothing. Nothing. Now we know why the President doesn't want to talk about sexual harassment because if the President talked about sexual harassment well then we'd have Stormy and then we'd have Windy, and Rainy, and Cloudy, and Foggy and we'd have a whole weather report by the time we're done. But in this state, in this state we're going forward and we just passed the most aggressive, anti-sexual harassment policy for women in the United States of America and I applaud my Assembly and Senate colleagues for doing that.
We're going to show what you can do together and we're going to show that progressive politics works. You can achieve it and it works for all. We did it in New York and we're just going to hold up New York as our model. Remember what you did. You passed marriage equality in this state five years before the Supreme Court even looked at it. You passed $15, the highest minimum wage in the United States of America to respect working men and women. We passed common sense gun control after Sandy Hook, we saved lives while Washington is still trying to decide what to do. We passed paid family leave, we passed free college, we passed women's anti-sexual harassment, we protected union's pensions rights because they were earned and nobody can take them away. We see the fraud that was perpetrated on by the people of this country by this Administration. We understand what they did in the election. We understand how they exploited the field, but we know who they are and they've shown themselves for who they are.
And we're now going to stand up and fight back and fight back like we never did before. Not just on policy, we're going to stand up politically. You are the progressive force. When you come together there is nothing that you cannot do. The AFL-CIO movement in this state has always been the progressive vehicle. I have been in politics since my I was my father's campaign manager, I was 23 years old. When you come together there is nothing you can't do. And you have to come together this year and we have to send the message this year we have to elect a Democratic congress all across this state because they have, because those Republican Congresspeople in this state have actually voted against the interests of the people who elected them. We're going to elect a Democratic Senate with a real majority so we can pass voting reform, and bail reform, and campaign finance reform and take us to a new level of progressive achievement. And we're going to have the biggest Democratic turnout in the history of this state and sweep every seat and say to Washington this is the way we turn back this Administration--by showing how progressive politics and a progressive force can work. We're going to sign that Janus bill, but my friends that is the first step of the resistance. We sign that bill, then we go to work and we turn this state around and we turn this nation around and we make America America again. Thank you and God bless you.