Members of women’s, environmental, labor, community, housing, civil rights, and immigrant organizations spoke out Tuesday on the need for elected state officials to act on a variety of issues including raising the minimum wage, passage of the Dream Act for immigrants and implementing public financing of elections. The representatives included Bob Milone of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) 1107 and the Working Families Party; Sandy Oxford of the United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) 888, Loretta Manning and Yusef Belford of Community Voices Heard Power and Rockland County Legislator Ilan Schoenberger.
They called upon state legislators to act on the progressive agenda passed by voters earlier this month. Milone specified they want State Senator David Carlucci (D-New City) to support the new Democratic majority in the Senate. Carlucci is one of four members of the Independent Democratic Conference. Milone said the coalition was concerned about rumors that the independent Democrats might caucus with the Senate Republicans.
“We’re just urging him to help elect a Democratic leader in the senate,” said Milone, who said he has worked with Carlucci for years and spoke with him as recently as Monday.
“The only way we’re going to get our issues on the floor and voted upon in the senate is if we can get all the Democrats together,” said Milone. “We’re looking to get the Independent Democratic Committee, the four members of the committee which includes our senator, Senator Carlucci.”
Manning said public financing of elections will make running for elected office an option for anyone.
“Right now elections are bought,” she said, adding that many candidates are wealthy.
Manning said it should not matter what is in her bank account that determines if she can run for office but how the voters feel about what she is willing to do to increase jobs and raise wages. A bill for campaign finance reform has been passed in the assembly but not in the senate.
“Do the right thing,” she urged. “Remember we’re the ones that put you there.”
Belford also brought up the need to increase the minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.50. Milone noted that 14 states have a higher minimum wage than New York.
Milone said they have worked with Carlucci in the past and that members of the Working Families state committee plan to meet with him this week.
“We’re very proud of David and what he’s done in the senate so far,” said Milone, noting that Carlucci supported some of the issues the coalition identified.
Other issues on the coalition’s agenda are the Reproductive Health act, tenants’ rights, a ban on hydrofracking, criminal justice reform and indexing the minimum wage to inflation.
Schoenberger said, “ We need our state senators and assembly members to support the progressive changes which the people voted. We need to tell every member of the state senate and the assembly to work together with the governor to accomplish this progressive agenda which represents the will of the people.”
Oxford spoke about the Dream Act and how it would help young immigrants in the state.
A similar program with unions and other groups took place in New York City on Tuesday with one in Buffalo planned for today and another in Syracuse on Thursday. Additional coalition member are Citizen Action of New York, Democracy for America, Moveon.org, New York Communities for Change, SEIU 32BJ, Strong Economy for All, Tenants PAC and United New York.