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Unions to Cuomo: Resign Now

After the state AG found credible complaints of sexual harassment, NY unions want Cuomo gone

Brian Young's picture
Aug 04, 2021

On Tuesday, August 4th, New York Attorney General Letitia James released the findings of her office’s investigation into sexual assault and harassment allegations against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

The five-month probe talked to 179 individuals, as well as examining documents, texts, photographs, emails, and audio files. It included evidence of two new allegations that included running his fingers across the chest of a woman who worked for an energy company and repeated inappropriate touching of a female state trooper who was assigned, at the Governor’s request, to his security detail. Perhaps the most egregious complaint against the Governor came from a person listed as “Executive Assistant #1” who described having her butt grabbed by the Governor while taking a photo and how in November of 2020 the Governor reached under her blouse and grabbed her breast while giving her a hug.

"I mean it was – he was like cupping my breast. He cupped my breast. I have to tell you it was – at the moment I was in such shock," she told investigators. "I remember walking down the stairs, escorting myself out the front door, going back to my car, taking a deep breath and saying to myself, okay, everything that just happened I have to now pretend like it didn't just happen. Go back to the Capitol and sit at my desk and continue with my afternoon."

"And I remember thinking to myself who – I knew what just went on, I knew and he knew too that was wrong. And that I in no way, shape or form invited that nor did I ask for it. I didn't want it. I feel like I was being taken advantage of," she said in the report.

In total, the investigation found evidence to deem 11 complaints credible against the Governor. It also found that Cuomo created a toxic work environment by frequently talking about the physical appearance of women, including in the executive office. The report also found that "the Governor often touched people, more frequently women, and often without permission."

In the hours after the report was released calls for Cuomo to resign have been deafening. While most of the calls for him to step down before James’s report came out were from political enemies, now long-time allies and friends have called for him to leave office. Calls to resign have now come from President Joe Biden and all of the state’s Congressional representatives. Multiple unions, many of which have been extremely close to the Governor, have also joined the chorus of resignation calls.

“The attorney general has detailed conduct that is repugnant and indefensible in any workplace and especially in the state’s highest elected office,” said the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) which represents more than 600,000 people in schools across the state. “Equally troubling was the governor’s response to the report. Sadly, both show he is unfit to serve in office.”

While NYSUT has often had a frosty relationship with the Governor, SEIU 32BJ has consistently been a strong ally of the Governor, even leaving the Working Families Party in 2018 after they decided to run a primary candidate against Cuomo. However, in a statement from President Kyle Bragg, the union said that he created a work environment of sexual harassment and that no one is exempted from facing the penalties for doing that. “We urge the governor to resign and to take responsibility for his well-documented actions and how they have hurt women, and those who have devoted themselves to advance the interests of all New Yorkers,” said Bragg.

Another Cuomo ally, the Hotel Trades Council also released a statement saying, “The behavior described in the attorney general’s report is deeply disturbing and should never be tolerated in any workplace. If he does not resign, the Assembly should move promptly to impeach him.”

The largest non-education public employee union in the state DC 37, which is the NYC AFSCME affiliate and represents 200,000 current and retired city employees, also called on Cuomo to leave office saying “Safety and security must be the standard of every workplace. The details made public as part of Attorney General Letitia James’ investigation make clear that is not the case in the Governor’s office," DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido said in its statement. “We cannot turn a blind eye to the harassment perpetuated by Governor Cuomo. It is evident he is no longer fit to serve.”

Even RWDSU, whose President Stuart Appelbaum often attends press conferences with the Governor, said that while the union fights daily to bring dignity and respect to the workplace and that New Yorkers shouldn’t accept anything less from their leaders. “Whether Governor Cuomo believes he acted maliciously or not, we cannot look the other way; nor should he. Governor Cuomo needs to recognize the harm he has caused the women who have bravely come forward. While we acknowledge the good things he has achieved, now is the time for Governor Cuomo to resign.”

Even the powerful New York State AFL-CIO issued a statement from their President Mario Cilento saying “The first job of any elected official is keeping safe the people they serve; it is clear from the appalling findings of the Attorney General’s report, Governor Cuomo failed to do that. We fought for and won the very worker protections that were violated; there must be accountability without exception. Governor Cuomo can no longer lead the state.”

Other union leaders like John Samuelson, the President of the Transport Workers Union and the former President of TWU Local 100 which represents NYC Transit workers, said that his union has already broken with Cuomo after over a decade of supporting the Governor. “Am I considering an alternative to Cuomo for governor? Absolutely. Definitely,” he said to the NY Post in July before the report came out. “We are not going to continue to support dishonest brokers — and Cuomo is one. I’m not going to support a guy who doesn’t support my members. How could the labor movement support someone for governor who engaged in workforce criminality, sexual harassment?”

Although Cuomo has been under investigation for months, he has largely held onto power because powerful interests in the state like unions and real estate groups like REBNY have refused to call for his resignation. Instead, they took a wait and see approach saying that they would withhold judgement until after the Attorney General investigated the claims. Before the report was released many voters in the state took this same approach. However, after the report detailed a culture of harassment and potential assault on the part of the Governor, the floodgates have opened with almost all of his support evaporating.

In a Marist poll conducted just hours after the Attorney General’s report and Cuomo’s subsequent pre-recorded response, the pollsters found that 59% of New Yorkers including 52% of Democrats believe that Cuomo should step down. 59% also said that if he doesn’t step down, he should be impeached. Only 32% want to see him serve out the rest of his term which ends in 2022. Cuomo has said that he plans to run for reelection next year, although he has not commented on running since the report was released. Only 12% of New Yorkers say they would support him for reelection next year.

If Cuomo refuses to step down, which is seeming more and more likely, then the State Assembly would be forced to start an impeachment proceeding. Reports are that leaders in the Assembly are hoping to start these by mid-September.

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