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August 10, 2004

Unions' political party endorses Senators who supported minimum-wage vote

Five Republican state Senators were endorsed by the union-funded Working Families Party the day the Senate agreed to increase New York's minimum wage by 39 percent, the New York Sun reported.

The union party had nominated challengers to the five incumbents only days before, but arranged for the challengers to bow out in favor of the Republican candidates, according to the newspaper.

In mid-July, "Working Families Party officials quietly filed petitions nominating little-known candidates to run against five Senate Republicans—Dale Volker and George Maziarz of western New York, Nicholas Spano of Westchester County, and Michael Balboni and Carl Marcellino of Long Island," Sun columnist William F. Hammond Jr. reported in the Aug. 9 edition.

"A day or two later, each of the five unknowns notified the Board of Elections that they were withdrawing from the race," Hammond wrote. "This conveniently gave officials at the Working Families Party four extra days - until July 23 - to fill the ballot ‘vacancies' left behind."

Party officials signed documents naming the five incumbents as the Working Families Party's nominees July 20, the day Senate and Assembly leaders announced agreement on raising the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.15. The following day, when the Senate voted 51-7 to approve the increase, the five senators signed documents officially accepting the nominations, according to the Sun.

The Working Families Party was founded by a coalition of unions and other organizations, including the powerful hospital workers union SEIU Local 1199 and the Communications Workers of America.

Governor Pataki vetoed the minimum-wage increase, saying it would hurt New York's competitiveness. The Business Council had urged the Governor to veto, saying an increase in the minimum wage would hurt many lower-income workers.

The Working Families Party and other labor organizations are urging the Senate and Assembly to override the Governor's veto. The Assembly is expected to vote in favor of an override, while Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno has not said whether his house will do so.