New York’s governor Andrew Cuomo has been one of the Democratic Party’s most visible fighters in the struggle against the entrenched interests of the blue social model. As the NY Times reports, he is taking on the public sector unions, and some of his most important allies are private sector unions.The Committee to Save New York, Cuomo’s “most important ally in his battles with public-sector unions over government spending, pensions and teacher accountability,” receives funding from a group of building trade unions, which have chosen to make a stand against their public sector cousins. According to the spokesman of one of the unions, his organization gave money to Gov. Cuomo “because we believed it was important to support the governor’s agenda of bringing fiscal responsibility to New York and attracting private investment and job creation to our state.”Along with Chicago mayor Rahm Emmanuel, some leading democrats are realizing that the real fight in the future of American politics is not Republican vs. Democrat; it doesn’t have to be a partisan battle at all. It’s the old institutions that resist change, many of which are blue party stalwarts, the organizations that consume money rather than generate it, which argue and complain for a greater share of available resources instead of creating new funds — this is the epicenter of the new battleground, and it isn’t just Republicans who are joining the charge.
Public unions are the focus of intense attacks from Republicans, including the wealthy conservative donors whose millions of dollars helped Gov. Scott Walker defeat a labor-backed recall effort in Wisconsin this week. But as states struggle with declining tax revenues, and as gridlock in Washington leaves little prospect for additional federal aid to states, the alliance among Mr. Cuomo, the Committee to Save New York and the private unions reflects a new level of complexity to labor’s plight. Even as unions face off against Republican opponents, they are also often at war with a prominent Democratic governor, who has conquered Albany in part by dividing labor in the country’s most unionized state.
Public sector unions at the end of the day don’t have all that many friends. People who think we have too much government want to cut their jobs; people who think government needs to do more are rebelling against their demands for pay and pensions out of line with what the private sector offers. States like New York are slowly waking up to realize just how uncompetitive their high cost structures have made them; as that realization spreads we can expect more and more private sector unions to support changes that the public unions want to fight.