A Gift for the Governor   – SEIU Monitor SEIU Monitor

A Gift for the Governor  

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capitol confidentialSEIU spent half a million dollars of its members’ money on an ad thanking New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) for unilaterally hiking the minimum wage to $15 an hour for fast food workers. Interestingly, not one of the fast food workers who will benefit from the hike is an SEIU member; and Cuomo isn’t up for reelection until 2018, assuming he chooses to run again.

The powerful SEIU union, a longtime ally of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, has launched a TV ad praising his fast food wage board’s decision this week to hike that industry’s hourly pay to $15 an hour in New York, characterizing this as a move in keeping with his late father’s legacy as a liberal lion.

The ad, which hit NYC airwaves last night, is paid for by SEIU International, according to a source familiar with the effort. The buy is about $500,000…

SEIU 1199, which mainly represents healthcare workers in New York, has a long history of supporting Andrew Cuomo, and played a key role in helping him rebuild his political career and come back to win the state attorney general’s race in 2006 after his failed 2002 gubernatorial run.

The union has often stood behind the governor in a mutually beneficial relationship even as other members of the state’s labor community warred with him. Its leadership played a key role in pressuring the labor-backed Working Families Party to endorse the governor – not his far more liberal Democratic primary challenger, Fordham Law Prof. Zephyr Teachout – in last year’s election.

SEIU International President Mary Kay Henry was on hand for the post-wage board victory rally in New York City earlier this week, and she heaped praise on the governor for being a champion of the so-called “Fight for $15.”

The union has been a big player in the fast food worker wage movement, even though the effort has split its ranks – in part because the $15-an-hour increase will not (for the moment anyway) be directly impacting its members.

Some health care worker advocates have, in fact, expressed concern that raising the minimum wage in fast food will cause undue pressure in their industry, perhaps even sparking an exodus of home health aides seeking better pay elsewhere. (Though, to be clear, fast food workers still don’t have the right to unionize, nor do most receive benefits, both of which most healthcare workers already have).