Prep for Paterson Labor Gets Ready

By Staff Report

Mar. 14, 2008

Soon-to-be New York Gov. David Paterson has walked picket lines and championed pro-worker legislation for years, but union leaders are not expecting dramatic change now that their longtime friend will be in charge in Albany.

Labor officials say Paterson is more progressive than Eliot Spitzer, but some worry that an intense pressure on the incoming governor to build consensus could make it difficult for him to move significantly to the left of his predecessor. Union officials say they often had to convince Spitzer that their ideas were both correct and politically feasible; with Paterson, the emphasis will be on political viability.

Unions also have close ties to Paterson’s father, former state Sen. Basil Paterson, an influential labor lawyer who represents 1199/SEIU United Health Care Workers East, the United Federation of Teachers and Transport Workers Union Local 100.

In the short term, union officials say they will have to be sensitive to the fact that Paterson did not win office on a platform that was tested in a campaign. Any talk of what changes he might make in Spitzer’s priorities is premature. Restoring confidence in the executive should be his No. 1 goal, officials say.

In the long run, labor leaders are hoping he will get behind measures that would tie development to livable-wage jobs; maintain health care spending; and raise taxes on wealthy New Yorkers.

Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union, insists Paterson will be motivated by one way of thinking.

“David has shown that he’s directed by his own inner compass and he does what he thinks is right,” Appelbaum says. “He’s not afraid to challenge others when he thinks there’s a better direction. And he’s done that consistently.”

Filed by Daniel Massey of Crain’s New York Business, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, e-mail

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