Mario Cilento, president of the New York State AFL-CIO, discusses the labor group’s new campaign, “Making NY Work,” which aims to change the debate over creating jobs and inserting a perspective from average workers instead of corporations, in an interview with Nick Powell.
Cilento said the conversation has been dominated by corporations for too long and that he wants to make sure the voices of hardworking New Yorkers are heard.
“Working men and women have been on the defensive in this state and across the country for many years now,” Cilento said. “We have had to defend our basic wages, benefits and conditions of employment, and the time to stop it is now because we are recognizing the income inequality in this state and across this country is greater than it has ever been.”
Cilento points to the recent authorization of expanded casino gambling as the type of long-term investment in sustainable jobs that the state should be making. On average, casino workers are paid a comfortable living wage, Cilento said, which helps boost the income tax base for communities and allows them to continue to pay government employees like police officers and firefighters instead of having to continually layoff workers to balance budgets.
The AFL-CIO would like to see state policy focused more on attracting new industries to the state and less on providing tax breaks to large companies in exchange for a promise of jobs that sometimes don’t materialize. And, if the state does provide tax incentives to corporations, it needs to hold them more accountable if they fail to create the jobs they promise.
“If we are going to give you a million dollars in tax breaks and you are going to create a thousand jobs then create the thousand jobs. If you don’t, if you create 500 jobs, we need to get that money back. Not to punish that employer but to give it to the next employer on the list so they in fact can create those jobs,” Cilento said. “We have got to do this better.”
Along this theme, the AFL-CIO plans to make a push in 2014 to reform the state’s system of Industrial Development Agencies, or IDA’s, to make them more accountable and fair.