|Radio show “Reaching Out With Gregory Floyd” featured a conversation with Mario Cilento, President of the NYS AFL-CIO and Vincent Alvarez, President of the NYC Central Labor Council on the importance of voting “NO” to Con Con.|
Over two million New Yorkers can’t be wrong; they saw Con Con as a con. The Constitutional Convention, Proposition #1 on the recent election ballot, was resoundingly rejected by a margin of 5 to 1, with 83% voting against it. Had the question—which comes up every 20 years—been approved, there would have been a multi-year, multi-million dollar process put in place to convene a convention of delegates from throughout New York State to review and reshape New York’s constitution.
Supporters argued that it was way back in 1938 when a major re-write of the 60,000 word document took place and that it is in dire need of an update today. Opponents argued that there is a legislative process that provides for amendments and revisions to the constitution, which has been used successfully 222 times since the original constitution was enacted in 1777. The opposition, which brought together diverse groups rarely joined for a single cause—from environmentalists, to educators, to planned parenthood and gun lobbyists—viewed a constitutional convention as merely a ploy by well-heeled special interests and political insiders to put their interests first.
Labor took a leadership role in defeating the proposition. Unions throughout the state pooled more than three million dollars to get the message across: “A wholesale revision of New York’s constitution would be disastrous for union households. Vote No.” And we did. As Gregory Floyd, President of Teamsters Local 237—the largest public employees Local in the IBT—explained to his members at a Shop Stewards meeting he held prior to the vote: “The idea of a Constitutional Convention may sound innocent enough, but it’s not. For municipal employees in particular, it could be deadly. Our pensions and other benefits are guaranteed in the current state constitution. A Convention would give the union-bashers and unionbusters what they want: The chance to do us in. Especially in the political climate we live in—with 28 Right-to-Work states already in place, it is imperative that we in New York State, with the highest number of union members, and with 70% of them public sector workers, retain our position as the number one state to safeguard its workers.”
Part of the strategy that led to this huge victory was to appeal to all voters — Democrats and Republicans, union members and non-union workers — convincing them that a Constitutional Convention was a misguided waste of time and money that could bring unintended results. And it worked.
Gregory Floyd talks to Shop Stewards on why a “NO” vote on the Constitutional Convention is essential to union workers, especially public sector employees.