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Governor maintains uneven at best relationship with labor community

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Albany/HV: Governor maintains uneven at best relationship with labor community
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ALBANY, N.Y. — When Governor Andrew Cuomo took office in 2011, he distributed a book detailing how then-Governor Hugh Carey nearly 40 years ago convinced both labor and businesses to set aside their differences and go along with a bailout plan for New York City.

Cuomo saw parallels to the situation he inherited: A $10 billion budget deficit.

"There were some tough decisions made, but we sat down at the table and we negotiated as did other unions. We demand some respect for doing that," said NYSCOPBA president Donn Rowe.

Cuomo was able to negotiate less generous contracts with the state's major public employee unions. Later, the governor would propose and the legislature would pass a new, less expensive pension tier.

Now, Cuomo is trying to consolidate various human services facilities, which labor leaders say has gone too far.

"At this point we're at a breaking point as far as providing the correct services for the state and how we do it. We are so stretched thin and so consolidated that in some areas it's beyond repair," Rowe said.

Danny Donohue, the president of the Civil Service Employees Association, went even further. At a rally protesting the consolidations, he called Cuomo a moron and a monkey.

"His goal seems to be to get rid of public employees in general and take their jobs and give it to the private sector," Donahue said.

While some labor groups like the Public Employees Federation backed Cuomo's 2010 campaign, CSEA did not. Following a round of tough contract negotiations, PEF's members dumped its longtime president, Ken Brynien.

"CSEA did not endorse him last time and very honestly I'd be hard pressed to think we'd endorse him this year," said Donahue.

Cuomo's favorability rating among union households is high, at 61 percent, according to Siena College. He also remains on good terms with other labor leaders, including the United Federation of Teachers' Michael Mulgrew, and private-sector labor groups. And with the state budget expected to include surplus this year, the governor himself has been touting his budget and tax cuts, most recently with the state's top business lobby.

"We have a very robust tax cut program for the state that will help drive businesses," said Gov. Cuomo, D-New York.

Responding to labor officials complaints, Cuomo's top aide Larry Schwartz said in a statement that "union leadership isn't what it used to be."

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