Organized labor shows its strength on Proposal One

Photo courtesy of Andy Pallotta via Twitter

New York’s powerful labor unions are celebrating today after voters emphatically defeated a constitutional convention.

Every county in the state voted the measure down, handing proponents of holding a convention a defeat by a nearly 4-to-1 margin, sinking the measure 83.2 percent to 16.8 percent with 98 percent of precincts reporting.

“This is a defining moment for the labor movement as it demonstrates what can be accomplished when we all work together, from the public sector, private sector and building trades unions, to the Central Labor Councils and Area Labor Federations,” said AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento.

Unions came out aggressively against the ballot question, which is required to be offered to New York’s voters every 20 years, forming a conglomerate called New Yorkers Against corruption, which focused on the influence of money in politics.

NYSUT President Andy Pallotta pointed at the union’s efforts to mobilize it membership as key to their victory.

“For the past two months, as part of an unprecedented coalition, NYSUT members made more than 500,000 calls from phone banks; knocked on tens of thousands of doors; and distributed literature to their friends, families and colleagues,” Pallotta said. “Everywhere you turned, you saw a lawn sign, a car magnet or a button urging a ‘No’ vote — a sign that NYSUT, and labor, remains a strong force in New York state fighting to protect workers from wealthy special interests.”

Ironically, the unions and interest groups collectively outspent the vote “yes” faction by a margin of two-to-one, according to disclosed expenditures, not including communications within their own union, such as the lawn sign and literature packets they sent to their membership.

Overall, the victory symbolizes the financial and political strength of unions in New York state.
“This victory leaves us well positioned to successfully advocate on behalf of all working men and women because as our opponents know, when the labor movement is thriving we not only raise the wages, benefits and conditions of employment of union members; we raise the standard of living and quality of life of all working people,” Cilento said.

NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman, who worked hard to defeat the convention, hopes some of the issues raised during the convention debate remain part of the conversation.

“The issues raised by New Yorkers on both sides of the Con Con debate must not be ignored,” Lieberman said in a statement Tuesday evening. “Both sides recognized serious flaws in the state of New York’s democracy – most significantly the pervasive gerrymandering that turns our elections into rubber stamps for Albany incumbents. The NYCLU will continue to press for fair, publicly-financed elections and meaningful voting reform.”

While the prospect of a Con Con was handily defeated by the electorate, the other two ballot proposals did see success.

Prop Two, which would allow for the removal of pensions for public officials found guilty of corruption was passed with overwhelming support 72.9 percent to 27.1 percent against.

Proposal Three, which allows for the creation of a land bank in Adirondack Park to help municipalities complete projects more efficiently, saw a much tighter vote before ultimately being approved 52 percent to 48 percent.