Working Families Party

WFP Emails, Linking IDC To Liberty Act

The Working Families Party in an email sent Tuesday night links the internecine dispute over control of the state Senate to the passage of the Liberty Act, a measure that would designate New York as a sanctuary state for undocumented immigrants.

“Republicans hold a minority of seats in the State Senate,” the petition email signed by State Director Bill Lipton states. “The only reason they control it is because of support from nine Senators who were elected as Democrats but caucus with Republicans. With Trump threatening to deport millions, we need to put them on notice right now.”

The measure is opposed by Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, who said the measure, which limits state and local police coordination with federal immigration enforcement, is potentially unconstitutional and illegal.

“It would keep us all safer by drawing a bright line between state and local law enforcement and out-of-control federal immigration enforcement,” Lipton wrote. “The GOP-IDC coalition in State Senate won’t allow the bill to come up for a vote. But they’re starting to feel the heat.”

The measure was narrowly approved in the Democratic-led Assembly on Monday, with votes against the bill by upstate and suburban Democrats. Even if the sanctuary state bill came for a vote in the Senate, it would likely be a similarly tough sell for Democratic lawmakers in moderate, suburban districts.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, too, has not embraced the bill, saying on Wednesday his office is reviewing it.

The Republican conference has a governing majority of 32 members when including Brooklyn Democratic Sen. Simcha Felder, who is not a member of the IDC. At the same time, the IDC has pointed to a range of liberal policy victories in the Senate, including minimum wage increases and the creation of a paid-family leave program.

Still, the feud between the two sides in the Senate is expected to be an underlying battle through the session, set off by the addition of three new members to the conference over the last several months.

“The Independent Democratic Conference, made up of Democrats, conferences only with Democrats,” said IDC spokeswoman Candice Giove. “The Working Families Party is an actual breakaway movement, having left the Democratic Party in the ’90s. We encourage the rogue Working Families Party to return to the Democratic Party and stop attacking other Democrats for political points.”

Mike McGuire, a former treasurer with the WFP, blasted the labor-backed party in a statement.

“The Working Families Party no longer has anything to do with working families and has forgotten their goals of bettering the lives of the working- and middle-class,” he said. “By forming a majority coalition, the bold leadership of the IDC–who throughout their existence have carried most of the legislation important to workers–protects the values and visions of the working- and middle-class and ensures that important policy advances in the Senate. I applaud their decision and look forward to working with them this upcoming legislative session.”

WFP Supports Striking Momentive Workers

With just a few hours to go before President-elect Donald Trump take office, New York’s Working Families Party is using what it anticipates will be “wholesale attacks on working people” by the incoming administration and its allies to highlight the plight of several hundred striking workers at Momentive Performance Materials, a chemical plant in Waterford.

“Many workers at the company have seen their wages slashed and their jobs outsourced,” Bill Lipton, WFP state director, wrote in an email to supporters this afternoon. “Now management wants to slash healthcare for current workers and completely eliminate healthcare and life insurance for retirees – many of whom are dealing with illnesses related to their exposure to deadly chemicals at the plant.”

“Now more than ever, we need to stand strong against all attacks on workers, whether they come from Trump or his hedge fund billionaire friends.”

Lipton’s email includes a link to an online petition that expresses solidarity with the Momentive employees.

The unionized workers, who are members of CWA, walked off the job last November after contract talks with the company failed. Momentive is owned by Apollo Global Management, a New York City-based hedge fund that acquired General Electric’s advanced materials division, which includes the Waterford operation, for $3.8 billion in 2006.

According to a TU report, the actual ownership of Momentive is fairly complicated – a corporate web that includes six billionaires on the Forbes magazine list of the nation’s 400 richest people, including Stephen Schwarzman, founder and CEO of the Blackstone Group, who was tapped by President-elect Donald Trump to serve as his chief job creation adviser.

Interestingly, though we have heard a lot from Gov. Andrew Cuomo on how he plans to stand up to any Trump policies he deems harmful to New York (and also work with the new president when possible, particularly when it comes to infrastructure), he hasn’t yet said anything – to my knowledge – on this particular strike. The governor has taken actions to help end worker-employer disputes of this sort before, though usually when they are of a higher profile nature, politically speaking.

WFP Urges IDC To Block ‘Trump Agenda’

The Working Families Party on Monday expressed disappointment over the decision by the seven-member Independent Democratic Conference to side with the Senate GOP in a governing coalition while also urging the lawmakers to help bloc the “Trump agenda” in Albany.

“Many IDC members are hard-working legislators who claim to share progressive values,” said WFP state director Bill Lipton. “But they will be utterly discredited in their districts if they prop up a Republican majority that is unwilling to block Trump and instead will seek to further his agenda in New York.”

It’s not clear whether the Senate GOP would be able to instill any of the “Trump agenda” at the state Capitol given the narrow divide in the chamber and the likelihood Majority Leader John Flanagan will need to keep the IDC close should a vacancy arise.

The WFP had been among a range of liberal groups and organizations seeking to push the IDC and Brooklyn Democratic Sen. Simcha Felder to align with the mainline Democrats in the Senate and apply pressure on Gov. Andrew Cuomo at the same time to broker a compromise.

But IDC Leader Jeff Klein and Flanagan are extending their coalition in the Senate as the new legislative term begins this week.

“This is not a time for politicians to pat themselves on the back for making deals with Trump and his allies for a few concessions,” Lipton said. “Not when Trump and the Republicans are ready to roll back our rights and set fire to the constitution. This is the time for all leaders of conscience to unite around a progressive alternative to Trump’s dangerous and divisive agenda.”

WFP’s Guilt By Association

A common thread has emerged with the critics of Sen. Simcha Felder’s decision to stick with the Senate Republicans: Siding with the GOP is akin to siding with President-elect Donald Trump.

That was the reaction of the Working Families Party, the labor-backed organization that slammed Felder’s decision and provided a warning shot to any other Democrats (such as the unnamed Independent Democratic Conference) for aligning themselves with the state Senate Republicans.

“The election of Donald Trump is an emergency. Trump’s selection of senior advisors and cabinet officials with white supremacist, racist, anti-Semitic, and Islamophobic views only serves to heighten the threat that millions of New Yorkers are now facing — most immediately immigrants, Muslims, and women,” said Bill Lipton’s the WFP’s state director.

“The New York Republican Party has stood hand in hand with Donald Trump since the beginning of his campaign. They stood with him as he toured the nation spouting hateful, dangerous rhetoric. They used many of the same divisive and hateful tactics in their own campaigns here in New York. They’ve joined him in rejecting climate science, and have stood with him since Election Day as he has brought bigotry and white supremacy directly into the White House in the form of Steve Bannon, Jeff Sessions, and others.”

The WFP has urged Democratic officeholders in New York to stand as a firewall of sorts against Trump and Republican congressional rule in Washington. One way of doing that is a Democratic-controlled Senate — a prospect that is further out of reach by Felder’s decision to remain in the GOP conference.

“If we are going to make New York a bulwark against Trumpism, Democratic State Senators must unite to show their unequivocal opposition to the racism, misogyny, xenophobia, and sharp departure from democratic norms that Trump is set to unleash. We must unite to show our deep commitment to transforming our politics and economy so that they work for working families everywhere,” Lipton said.

“These are not normal times. Any Democratic State Senator who makes the choice to caucus with Republicans will be abandoning those working families in New York most urgently threatened by a Trump presidency. New York Senate Democrats must unite to stand strong for all of us.”

The pressure could ultimately wind up being a moot point should Republicans win two races on Long Island that are yet to be officially declared and retain the status quo in the chamber.

WFP Warns Dems Against Aligning With Senate GOP

The Working Families Party in a statement on Friday issued a blanket warning to “any New York Democratic State Senator” who sides with Republicans in the chamber that doing so would “prop up Trumpism.”

The statement comes as the balance of power in the Senate, currently under Republican control, is yet to be officially sorted out.

Democrats in the mainline conference point out at least two races on Long Island are under an absentee ballot count.

Meanwhile, Brooklyn Democratic Sen. Simcha Felder, who has sided with the Senate GOP in the chamber, is yet to formally decide which conference he will sit with in the new legislative session. Zack Fink of NY1 this afternoon reported Felder is in talks with the Senate Democratic leadership.

At the same time, the Independent Democratic Conference has grown in size to seven members with the addition of Brooklyn Democratic Sen. Jesse Hamilton. The IDC, led by Bronx Democrat Jeff Klein, has aligned itself with Republicans in the past and has previously formed a power-sharing majority coalition with the GOP.

The WFP has pledged to be a “bulwark” in New York against Trump’s policies, placing pressure on Democratic state elected officials to provide an alternative policy choice to a Republican-led federal government.

Here’s the full WFP statement:

“These are dangerous times. With the election of Donald Trump, working families face multiple imminent threats,” said WFP state Director Bill Lipton. “Trump has pledged to take actions to round up and deport millions of Americans, decimate unions, take health care coverage away from millions, threaten women’s reproductive rights, and allow runaway climate change to continue — all while deregulating the economy and cutting taxes for the wealthy. He has attacked the rule of law and freedom of the press.

Despite this, the New York Republican Party has proudly stood with Donald Trump every step of the way during his campaign. In fact, they used many of the same divisive tactics to dehumanize our fellow New Yorkers in the recent election.

Any New York Democratic State Senator who caucuses with Republicans will be choosing to prop up Trumpism at the expense of New Yorkers in order to gain personal power. Some might say this is a way to “get things done,” but now is not the time to try to win some things that help some of us. Now is the time to stand tall for all of us.

WFP Touts Primary Wins

Lots of people and organizations are claiming victory this morning after seeing the results from yesterday’s (extremely low turnout) primaries, and that includes the Working Families Party, which informed supporters (and reporters) in a late night email that its candidates had won a “clean sweep” of the party’s “priority” contests.

According to the email, the WFP is particularly pleased that its candidates fended off challenges from the “billionaire-funded ‘New Yorkers for Independent Action’ SuperPAC seeking to privatize public schools,” adding:

“Senator Gustavo Rivera and Assemblymembers Latrice Walker and Pamela Harris in NYC and Assemblymember Phil Ramos on Long Island all won victories despite a massive, million-dollar independent expenditure from the SuperPAC in these races.”

Other incumbent Senate Democrats supported by the WFP who beat back challengers included James Sanders and Toby Ann Stavisky, both of whom represent districts in Queens.

The party also touted wins by its endorsed candidates running for open Assembly seats, including: lawyer and play producer Robert Carroll, who won the Park Slope seat being vacated by retiring Assemblyman Jim Brennan; and community board chair and coffee shop founder Tremaine Wright (NYC), who landed the Bed-Stuy seat currently represented by retiring Assemblywoman Annette Robinson; Anthony Eramo (Long Island), who was victorious in the fight for now-Sen. Toddd Kaminsky’s former seat in the lower house; Monica Wallace (Buffalo), who won the primary for the seat Republican Assemblywoman Angela Wozniak is giving up due to a sexual harassment scandal; and also Jamaal Bailey.

Bailey is a district leader and protégé of Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. He won the fight for the Bronx/Westchester Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson, who departed to join the Cuomo administration earlier this year after losing a bid for Mount Vernon mayor in 2015.

The WFP did not pick a favorite in one of the biggest Senate primary brawls – a four-way race for the seat Sen. Adriano Espaillat is leaving after winning the June primary for retiring Harlem Rep. Charlie Rangel’s seat.

Labor was divided in that race, which ended up being carried by Espaillat’s hand-picked successor, Marisol Alcantara, who was also backed by IDC Leader Jeff Klein, of the Bronx, and has indicated (though her spokeswoman, Lis Smith) that she will join the breakaway GOP-allied IDC conference after her all-but-certain general election win in November.

The party is most proud of the significant victory by Yuh-Line Niou, a 33-year-old Taiwan-born Assembly staffer who – as a WFP candidate – lost the April special election for the Lower Manhattan seat that used to belong to former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

Niou won a six-way primary in a field that included Silver’s special election successor, soon-to-be-former Assemblywoman Alice Cancel, (who finished fourth last night); and Paul Newell, a district leader and tenant advocate who unsuccessfully challenged Silver in a 2008 primary.

WFP State Director Bill Lipton credited Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, whom the party backed over hometown favorite Hillary Clinton in the Democratic presidential primary, for energizing the progressive movement – an energy Lipton says continues and carried over into local races.

“Tonight’s results show that energy is only growing,” Lipton said. “WFP candidates swept our priority races tonight, fending off a million-dollar expenditure from billionaires seeking to privatize education and winning key open seat races that will shape the state Assembly for years to come. We congratulate all of tonight’s winners and look forward to working to send them to Albany and to winning a Democratic-Working Families majority in the state Senate in November.”

(Of course, the IDC – about to grow to six members strong – is probably going to have a lot more to say about who controls the chamber come January, but that’s a fight for another day).

The WFP took a gamble in backing Sanders and has lost the support of some of its big union backers (and their cash), whose officials groused that the party has become too ideological and dogmatic, leading to multiple fights with New York’s top Democrat, Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

But Cuomo has been making (another) leftward lean of late, championing key WFP issues like a $15-an-hour minimum wage and Paid Family Leave, leading party leaders to take some credit for their role in pushing the Democrats – not just in New York, but across the nation – to the left.

The WFP has a big political challenge on the horizon as the Democratic elected official who is arguably its closest ally (not to mention Cuomo’s biggest nemesis), NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, is up for re-election next year, and, given his weak poll numbers, is facing potential primary battles from one – if not more – of his fellow Democrats.

WFP Gives National Endorsement To Clinton

The labor-backed Working Families Party on Tuesday issued a national endorsement of Democrat Hillary Clinton after supporting Bernie Sanders’s White House bid earlier this year.

“The change we need next year starts with electing Secretary Clinton, but it doesn’t end there,” said WFP Executive Director Dan Cantor. “We know we won’t always agree, and we’re ready to work hard to press her to deliver on the economic, environmental and racial justice promises she made during the campaign.”

The endorsement comes after the organization held a national membership vote with 68.2 percent voted to endorse Clinton. The New York Working Families Party’s state committee is due to meet separately this month to issue its own nomination for president.

The WFP’s endorsement comes as Clinton has sought to line up liberals after his primary campaign against Sanders, a Vermont senator, as well as Republicans opposed to the nomination of Donald Trump.

Clinton’s courting of Republicans has caused for some unease on the left, concerned that as president she will track back to the center and govern as a moderate Democrat.

But the WFP insisted in a statement it will stick to its progressive stance, noting it continues to support candidates who “share Bernie Sanders’ vision” such as congressional candidate Zephyr Teachout who is running for the 19th district in the Hudson Valley.

Teachout had sought the WFP’s nomination for governor in 2014 against Democratic incumbent Andrew Cuomo, but was ultimately denied.

After Mixed Primary, WFP Fundraises

The Working Families Party didn’t get all it wanted in Tuesday’s primary results.

Its endorsed candidate for president, Bernie Sanders, was crushed in the vote total by Hillary Clinton.

Yuh-Line Niou, the WFP candidate in the race to replace Sheldon Silver in the state Assembly, lost to Alice Cancel, who was supported by the disgraced former speaker’s allies in lower Manhattan.

But the labor-backed WFP does see bright spots: Democrat Todd Kaminsky won the Senate seat on Long Island vacated by ex-Majority Leader Dean Skelos.

And, as the party’s state director Bill Lipton writes in a fundraising email, the debate over increasing the state’s minimum wage to $15 is now at the forefront of the national political dicussion.

“The enthusiasm that New Yorkers of so many backgrounds showed for Bernie over the past two weeks as he barnstormed through the state was more than just a sight to behold,” Lipton wrote. “It was also a validation of the progressive issues that are driving Bernie’s campaign and which have come to define this entire primary race — issues of economic, racial, and social justice.”

Lipton in the email says there’s momentum there for success when it comes to these issues and is urging help to sponsor a candidate training session later this year.

“The energy is there. Now we just need the resources and training to turn that energy into victory,” the WFP wrote in the fundraising note. “This June, we’re organizing a 3-day training in Albany for progressive candidates, staff, and activists who want to bring this revolution home to New York in 2016.”

As The Daily News reported this week, key labor unions have cut off support from the WFP, such as 1199 SEIU, which backed Republican Chris McGrath in the 9th Senate district. But the WFP retains an active base of liberal supporters as well as labor unions like the Communications Workers of America, currently engaged in a labor protest with Verizon.

WFP Endorses Falk In SD-40

The Working Families Party has endorsed Democrat Andrew Falk in the Hudson Valley’s 40th Senate district.

“We are proud to endorse Andrew Falk for State Senate. As a forward-thinking leader, Andrew has the courage to challenge the status quo and fight for the interests of everyday working people,” said Pat Welsh, the Westchester-Putnam WFP chair. “Since his first run for office in 2012, Andrew has consistently and tirelessly stood up for working families – fighting to raise the minimum wage, for pay equity for women, and to protect our environment. Andrew has never backed down when it comes to fighting for what he believes in.”

Falk faces fellow Democrat Debbie Carter Costello for the party’s nomination in the district, which is currently represented by Republican Sen. Terrence Murphy.

The 40th Senate district has been one Democrats have eyed for the last several cycles, but has proven to be a difficult nut crack. Democrats saw a potential opening in 2014, when incumbent Republican Sen. Greg Ball declined to run for re-election, but Murphy won the seat against two-time candidate Justin Wagner.

“I am honored to have the endorsement of the Working Families Party. Not only do they represent a progressive and labor oriented constituency that I agree with, the ballot line is also a vital component to winning the 40th Senate District,” Falk said. “Middle and working class families are the backbone of the Hudson Valley and today they face tremendous challenges. Only by working together can we make progress on creating jobs, giving our children every opportunity for success, and providing the Hudson Valley a real voice for ethical and honest government in Albany.”

WFP Troubled By Graham Decision

The Working Families Party in a statement said it was troubled by the decision by the U.S. Department of Justice to not charge police officers in the death of Ramarley Graham, an unarmed black teenager.

“We are deeply disappointed in the decision by federal prosecutors not to pursue charges in the killing of Ramarley Graham,” said WFP State Director Bill Lipton. “Despite changes in stop-and-frisk policy in New York City, the system is obviously broken when an unarmed Black teenager can be shot to death in his own bathroom and no one is held to account by any part of our criminal justice system. Any officers who were involved in the killing of Ramarley Graham should no longer be employed by the New York City Police Department.”

The Grahama decision comes amid heightened concerns over the policing in the United State, the interactions between police and minorities and whether local elected district attorneys are able to pursue indictments against police officers in such incidents.

A jury earlier this year convicted New York City Police Officer Peter Liang in the shooting death of Akai Gurley, a conviction that was condemned by some members of the city’s Asian community.

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is seeking to give Attorney General Eric Schneiderman the permanent power of special prosecutor to pursue cases in which civilians die in interactions with the police.