Transit Workers Union Local 100 (171764)

For some, infighting for the direction of progressive politics has devolved into a purity contest. Those actions can be seen in the verbal sparring between the Transit Workers Union of America and the Working Families Party.

Both groups are assisting New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the fight to flip Assembly seats in New York dominated by Republicans. Both want to push progressive politics to the forefront. But the rhetoric used to get there has become an issue.

In an emailed statement, TWU of America President John Samuelsen criticized the Working Families Party for being “counterproductive” with their alleged “more progressive than thou” talk.

“Unfortunately, the WFP now seems largely focused on being the self-anointed purity police to determine who is a proper progressive in their brand of social order,” stated Samuelson. “Gone from the WFP is the foundational principle that the pathway to economic security for working families is a good union job. Worse, WFP now seems intent on undermining efforts to challenge Trump’s onslaught against working people across America.”

Last week, the WFP leaders pointed out their uneasiness with the announcement of Cuomo’s desire to flip Assembly seats in the state and pleaded for him to focus more on getting a clear Democratic majority in the State Senate.

Samuelsen reserved some of his distaste for WFP New York State Director Bill Lipton over these actions.

“Newsflash Bill Lipton—When Democrats and trade unionists are uniting to defend America’s working families against the Trump administration’s attacks, you should be standing with us, not attacking us,” said Samuelsen. “TWU Local 100 and nearly every other trade union in New York State has withdrawn from the WFP precisely because of misguided actions such as these. It is counterproductive and flagrantly hypocritical.”

Lipton responded in an emailed statement to the AmNews saying that although he holds unions such as TWU in high regard, his and the party’s belief remain the same.

“We stand by our statement that it is positive and important that the governor is finally engaging seriously in efforts to help Congressional Democrats,” Lipton wrote. “We also stand by our statement that he must finally apply the same standard with the State Senate. Millions of working families are living in fear of losing their health care, their rights, or being deported. President Trump and his allies are proposing a phony infrastructure plan to enrich the 1 percent while our transit systems here in NY are deteriorating at an alarming rate.” 

Lipton continued, “That’s why national leaders, including Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and DNC Deputy Chair Keith Ellison, have joined in recent days with the entire New York State Democratic Congressional delegation in calling for an end to the IDC-Republican alliance in the State Senate. We need the governor and our Democratic leaders in Albany to unite to win a durable progressive majority in Albany that can resist Trump and protect working families.”