Which unions are in and out of the WFP?

Gov. Andrew Cuomo with Hector Figueroa of 32BJ SEIU in 2018.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo with Hector Figueroa of 32BJ SEIU in 2018.
Fred Pollard / Office of the Governor
Gov. Andrew Cuomo with Hector Figueroa of 32BJ SEIU in 2018. Figueroa’s union recently left the Working Families Party.

Which unions are in and out of the WFP?

Assessing the fallout of the tussle over endorsing Cynthia Nixon for governor.
April 16, 2018

An ongoing drama has been unfolding around labor unions and the Working Families Party. At the heart of the issue most recently: the party’s endorsement of Cynthia Nixon. Although the WFP’s nominating convention is in May, party officials overwhelming voted to endorse Nixon on Saturday over incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

On Friday before the vote, Cuomo announced he would not seek the party’s ballot line at its nominating convention. And on Thursday night, State of Politics and the New York Post reported that labor unions including the United Federation of Teachers, 32BJ SEIU and RWDSU might even unite to create their own party if the WFP were to back Nixon.

For now, it remains unclear whether the unions will actually form a new party. A spokesperson for 32BJ SEIU told State of Politics the union was not part of discussions to create a new ballot line. A spokesperson for RWDSU told City & State that the union's president, Stuart Appelbaum, has been part of conversations, but declined to specify if those talks involved the creation of a new party.

Nonetheless, the WFP’s decision to endorse Nixon coincides with the latest round of an exodus dating back at least to 2014 of labor unions leaving the party they had helped to found 20 years ago.

To keep track of the latest developments, here is a list of major unions that are still a part of the WFP and those that have left its ranks. The WFP could not provide a comprehensive list of remaining unions, but a person close to the party told City & State that many union members still strongly identify with the Working Families Party.

WHO’S IN

New York State United Teachers - Unlike the New York City-based United Federation of Teachers, whose President Michael Mulgrew is an outspoken Cuomo supporter and WFP critic, NYSUT still remains a part of the Working Families Party. Nixon has made fulling funding New York public schools a key part of her campaign. According to state filings, NYSUT gave the WFP $27,750 in 2017. 

Amalgamated Transit Union - A spokesperson for ATU told City & State that the ATU International continues to supports the WFP, but local chapters make final membership decisions. According to financial filings, ATU gave the Working Families party $15,000 in 2017.

United Food and Commercial Workers - At the time of publication, neither UFCW nor the WFP could confirm the union’s membership status. According to financial filings, UFCW, largely the local 1500 chapter, gave the WFP $15,533 in 2017.

New York State Nurses Association - A person close to the Working Families Party confirmed to City & State that NYSNA is still a member of the WFP. The person added it would likely not be leaving any time soon. A spokesperson for NYSNA told City & State that he could not answer whether the union is still a member of the party. According to financial filings, NYSNA gave the WFP $48,750 in 2017.

United Automobile Workers - Although UAW Region 9A Assistant Director Beverley Brakeman spoke out in defense of Cuomo at the WFP state committee meeting that happened over the weekend, a spokesperson for the the union confirmed to City & State that it remains a member of the Working Families Party despite the disagreement. According to financial filings, UAW gave the WFP $20,250 in 2017.
 

WHO’S OUT

32BJ SEIU - Union President Héctor Figueroa said in a statement Friday night that 32BJ will leave the WFP and would not attend its state committee meeting over the past weekend. Before making the withdrawal official, Figueroa, a supporter of Cuomo, expressed concern that the Working Families Party would throw its support behind Nixon. According to financial filings, 32BJ gave the WFP $73,350 in 2017.

Communication Workers of America - In 2016, after the national Working Families Party nominated U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders for president, Bob Master, the assistant to the vice president of CWA District 1, said the union’s national president would redouble the union’s commitment to the WFP. But in March, Master, who is also a co-chairman of the party, indicated his support for Cuomo and that the incumbent would likely get the nomination. On Friday afternoon, Dennis Trainor, vice president of CWA District 1, released a statement saying that his union will leave the WFP. According the financial filings, CWA donated $204,150 to the WFP in 2017 and the first month of 2018. Local chapter 1180 donated $12,250 in 2017.

Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union - In a statement emailed Friday night, RWDSU President Stuart Applebaum blasted WFP state director Bill Lipton, saying that the party was no longer “the party we started all those years ago.” A spokesperson confirmed to City & State that as of Friday, RWDSU is no longer a member of the Working Families Party. According to financial filings, RWDSU gave the WFP $33,805.04 in 2016.

1199SEIU - The union withdrew its membership and funding in late 2014, due at least in part to the re-election of Cuomo, whom many unions have had close dealings with. At the time, the party came close to endorsing his opponent, Zephyr Teachout, instead.

United Federation of Teachers - In a statement on the union website, UFT President Michael Mulgrew called WFP state director Bill Lipton “misguided and delusional” for thinking the party still represents the interests of labor. He added UFT left the party “years ago.”

Hotel Trades Council - Like 1199SEIU, Hotel Trades Council was unhappy with the Working Families Party’s near-nomination of Teachout over Cuomo in 2014. It cut ties with the party soon after the election.

Transport Workers Union - TWU has not paid dues to the Working Families party for “the past few years,” with president and Cuomo supporter John Samuelsen saying the creation of a new party for labor would be “a good idea.”

Update: A spokesperson for RWDSU told City & State that the union's president, Stuart Appelbaum, has been part of conversations, but declined to specify if those talks involved the creation of a new party.

Rebecca C. Lewis
is an editorial assistant at City & State.
20180718