Keeping an eye on the political process
Volume 122, No. 9October, 2022
There’s no denying it: Local 802 must engage in the world of politics in order to effectively advocate for our members and get laws passed that help musicians, artists and all working people. To that end, I recently attended the biennial convention of the Committee on Political Education of the New York State AFL-CIO. (I am an elected delegate to the state AFL-CIO along with Lynne Cohen, and Tino Gagliardi is also a delegate by virtue of being president of Local 802.)
The COPE convention is part of the process of how the New York State AFL-CIO endorses political candidates. The executive committee makes recommendations, and if anyone on the convention floor wants to make a motion to change the recommendation, they can do so by coming to a mic, making the motion and stating their argument. The motion must get a two-thirds vote to pass and this does not happen very often. You vote by standing, and if the count is not obvious you remain standing while aides count the votes.
There were about 600 delegates in attendance and the room was dominated by two unions. The New York State United Teachers is New York’s largest union, with 600,000 members. AFSCME District 37, which represents government workers, has 150,000 members and they were all wearing green shirts that day, making them easy to spot in the crowd. I found it interesting that these two large, public worker unions did not agree on much. This is because some elected officials who support city and state workers also support defunding public schools, while other officials who support the priorities of teachers will often try to downsize government agencies.
I did find it frustrating when the delegates of District 37 simply voted as they were told. Their leaders had “stand up” and “stay seated” signs and they obeyed the signs in a bloc.
The endorsement recommendations were for the U.S. House of Representatives, the New York State Senate and the New York State Assembly. In many cases the executive committee recommended no endorsement, wanting to wait until after the August 23 primaries.
Two votes stood out to me. The executive committee recommended no endorsement for congressional district 18. There was a successful motion to endorse Pat Ryan and a week later Ryan won a special election to finish the district 19 term of Antonio Delgado, who left to be lieutenant governor. Ryan’s victory over Republican Marc Molinaro was widely seen as a bellwether in a swing district in the Monticello area. Ryan also won the primary to run in the newly drawn district 18 which largely covers the same area.
The other interesting vote was a motion to endorse Representative Jamaal Bowman. Bowman defeated longterm Representative Eliot Engel in the 2020 primary. Bowman aligns himself with many of the more left-wing House members like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Pramila Jayapal. As such, he voted against the bipartisan infrastructure bill because that coalition wanted to tie that bill to another bill that would have built “human infrastructure” such as childcare. Many in the room took a dim view of the no vote on the infrastructure bill and the motion failed. No endorsement was made.
High points in the convention were Senator Chuck Schumer’s entrance from the back of the room. He was greeted like a rock star with a standing ovation and ear-splittingly loud entrance music. Another was the introduction of the first woman president of the National AFL-CIO, Liz Shuler, who succeeded the late Richard Trumka.
Local 802’s endorsement process will continue through this fall and we’ll let our members know about endorsements as they come in. (For more information about our endorsement process or timeline, contact Local 802 Chief of Staff Dan Point at firstname.lastname@example.org.) For the moment, please make sure that you’re registered to vote and have election day (Tuesday, Nov. 8) on your calendar. Also, two important websites to bookmark are https://www.elections.ny.gov/ and www.nysaflcio.org/politics . Please note that the endorsements of the New York State AFL-CIO are not necessarily the same as Local 802. Of course we are a member of the New York State AFL-CIO, but we have our own endorsement process and priorities.