Speaking as union leader for 10,000 public employees in fiscally troubled Nassau -- and as a registered Republican like many of his members -- Jerry Laricchiuta declared Friday: "We find ourselves under attack by those in our party, mostly over to the far right."
"They have convinced many people in this country that the reason for the economic crisis is the pensions and benefits and salaries that public workers have fought for over the years," he said. "It's without merit. And yet they've got a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to attack labor and they're going to take it."
Laricchiuta's role as CSEA Local 830 president makes him a man much in the news. He was part of a panel at St. John's University Law School discussing Wisconsin's civil-service furor. Wisconsin GOP Gov. Scott Walker, Laricchiuta said, "is looking to be the trophy for the far right in a way where if they are successful, they can cut off funding to the Democratic Party. That's what it's all about." But making "villains" of working Americans goes too far and will backfire, he said.
BATTLE ZONE Months after a famously close and crucial election, Nassau's 7th Senate District re-emerges as a battleground in state politics.
Rookie Sen. Jack Martins and several new upstate GOP incumbents are drawing fire in regional radio ads aired by the Communications Workers of America for backing expiration of a tax surcharge on high-income residents. "We think the Republicans need to understand who the constituents are -- not millionaires but people who need public services," Arthur Cheliotes, president of CWA Local 1180, said Friday.
Martins, of Mineola, is also targeted by the New Roosevelt Initiative group -- headed by reform Democrat Bill Samuels. Martins had signed a pledge for a 2012 independent-redistricting bill pushed by ex-NYC Mayor Ed Koch, but has since balked. The group says Martins lied about his commitment to reforming Albany. A rally outside his district office is scheduled for Saturday.
Of the CWA, Martins said he sides with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and GOP Senate colleagues to "resist calls by special interests to impose taxes" when spending is the problem. On redistricting, he says: "I was elected to represent the people of Long Island, not Ed Koch or Bill Samuels or any special interest group." Martins did vote for a Republican redistricting bill last week using a new commission, but it wouldn't take effect for 10 years.