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Cuomo's Possible Lack of Organized Labor Support May Be by Design

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As he gears up for re-election, Governor Andrew Cuomo may not have a strong ally in organized labor, and while not having union backing is unusual for a Democrat in New York, it may be the governor's political design.

At a labor rally in Albany last week, Danny Donohue, the head of the largest public employees union in New York State, when speaking about Governor Andrew Cuomo, said, "We the people of this state are sick and tired of being had by this moron."

Then, a few minutes later, he said, "When he says New York's open for business? For some people. And to be honest about it, and I'll end with this, the state's open for business. Monkey business. And it's Mario Cuomo's son Andrew which is the biggest monkey we got."

Cuomo brushed off the comments during a visit to Staten Island Thursday.

"I did not hear them, and I have no response," he said. "But thank you for asking."

Cuomo doesn't seem terribly worried that labor is not only unmotivated to help him win re-election, but also could potentially work against him. Observers say that's because the voters that Cuomo is hoping to win over this fall are those in the suburbs and swing districts, and labor's priorities don't always play well in those areas.

"It was important in Bill de Blasio's winning the mayoralty," said Richard Steier, editor of "The Chief." "In Governor Cuomo's case, he was elected largely without labor support, so he could argue that he really didn't need labor, and he's acted that way since he took office."

During his first year in office, Cuomo got state workers to sign contracts that froze their pay for three years and forced them to make larger contributions towards benefits. Then, after those contracts had safely been approved, he pushed through a new pension tier that labor leaders viewed as unfavorable to new union members who will be affected.

Strategists, though, say that that tough stance may actually be winning Cuomo voters in the 60 percent of the statewide electorate that lives outside of New York City.

"He looked to position himself as someone who is a Democrat but was fiscally conservative," Steier said.

Cuomo's gamble with labor could wind up paying off. So far, there is no declared Republican opponent, and there certainly will not be a Democratic primary, where a labor endorsement could make a huge difference.

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