The repeal of Ohio Gov. John Kasich's anti-union law last week marked the biggest political win of 2011 for labor unions. Post-election analyses hailed the result as a sign that organized labor was still a force to be reckoned with and a major player in the 2012 presidential election.
Now, fresh off the Ohio win, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) is setting its sights not on, say, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker or Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, but an unlikely political opponent: New York's Democratic governor, Andrew Cuomo. AFSCME, one of the largest public-worker unions in the US, recently made a six-figure ad buy in New York in which it will trumpet the role of public workers in responding to and recovering from Hurricane Irene, which caused $7 billion worth of damage along the East Coast.
AFSCME's ad buy is a big one, spanning two weeks and TV, radio, and print media outlets. Here's a TV ad from the New York blitz:
So why target Cuomo, a Democrat, instead of GOP governors, you might ask? Even though he's a Dem, union officials see Cuomo as on the wrong side of the fight over workers' rights and benefits. In 2010, Cuomo campaigned on reforming pensions for public workers, sparking a battle with teachers unions. In a February budget speech, Cuomo asked unions for $450 million in concessions to help balance a budget awash in red ink. The unions have fought Cuomo at every turn, bashing him for capping a state property tax that helps fund schools and for mimicking GOP governors' attacks on public workers.
Think of AFSCME's New York ad buy as a warning shot: Whether you're a Democrat or a Republican, if you try to slash workers' rights, unions are willing to spend big to push back just as hard.