(Syracuse, NY) Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate for Governor, held a news conference today outside Governor Cuomo's media event for the Women's Equality Party (WEP) ballot line to say that Cuomo's economic policies are a slap in the face to working-class women he has neglected as Governor, especially women on welfare and minimum wage workers.
Hawkins said he supported providing free child care to all families in New York who need it. The US and South Africa are the only two industrial democracies without universal child care.
"A vote for Cuomo's Women's Equality Party is not a vote for women's equality but a vote for Cuomo's agenda of public austerity to pay for tax cuts for the rich. His trickle-down economic policies don't trickle down to working-class women who need living-wage jobs, a closing of the male-female pay gap, paid family leave, and increased cash assistance and job and educational opportunities for single mothers in poverty," said Hawkins.
Hawkins pointed out that the budget letter to state agencies released this week by Cuomo shows that he plans to continue his austerity budget proposals that disinvest from essential services, attack public workers and teachers, and underfund schools, infrastructure needs, and local governments in order to provide tax cuts and subsidies to his wealthy contributors.
"Cuomo over the last two years could have won nine of the 10 points of his so-called Women's Equality Agenda. But it was more important to him to create a campaign issue against his Republican opponent, despite his overwhelming lead in the polls. The Green Party is strongly pro-choice, so we have no problem running a referendum against the Republican's opposition to women's reproductive freedom. Cuomo has no excuse for preventing the passage of nine pieces of women-friendly legislation," said Hawkins.
WEP ironically is also the New York City title of the forced work program for poor women on welfare – Work Experience Program. Hawkins said he would eliminate WEP and its equivalents across the state and replace them with real jobs. Earlier this week the New York City Human Resources Administration Commissioner, Steven Banks, announced he was implementing a similar approach.
Hawkins faulted Cuomo's ongoing efforts to prevent raising the minimum wage above the poverty level. Two-thirds of minimum wage workers are women. Poverty rates for women, especially women of color, are much higher than for men. Nearly six in ten poor adults are women, and more than half of all poor children live in families headed by women. Poverty rates are especially high for single mothers, women of color, and elderly women living alone.
"The Democrats abandoned the poor, the majority of whom are women, decades ago. Instead, they focus their rhetoric on the so-called middle class to the neglect of low-waged working women and their families. The Green Party has a much stronger women's platform on a host of issues," said Hawkins.
Welfare benefits in New York are so low that they come to only half of the federal poverty level. Cuomo has failed to propose any increase in welfare benefits. Worse, one of his first acts as Governor was to delay the meager three-year increase in the welfare basic grant approved during Governor Paterson's tenure, which only amounts an extra dollar a day for a family of three. The welfare shelter allowance falls far below the level needed to obtain adequate housing.
Hawkins said that, when elected Governor, he would work with women advocacy organizations to pass an even stronger Women's Equality Agenda that deals with women's health and reproductive rights, ensures pay equity, provides universal child care and paid maternity leaves, curbs wage theft, combats sexual harassment, and includes stronger penalties for human trafficking.
Hawkins said that he supported the anti-fracking protestors who showed up at the event. Hawkins called for a ban on fracking four years ago as the Green candidate for Governor in 2010. He wants New York instead to invest in the transition to 100% clean renewable energy by 2030. A study by Stanford and Cornell professors found that such a program would create 4.5 million new jobs and cut electric power rates in half.
Cuomo held his event in Hawkins' neighborhood on the South Side of Syracuse in the Southwest Community Center. Cuomo arrived in a bus. The Astorino campaign, which was tailing Cuomo all day, arrived in a van. The Hawkins campaign arrived in a human-powered pedicab and offered to give Cuomo a tour of the abandoned homes and businesses in the neighborhood to show the need for public investment in urban revitalization.