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Author: Mike Corbett

NYSYD Responds to Homophobic Young Republican Blog Post

I must express my disappointment on the recent post on the New York Young Republican Club (NYYRC) blog. In the article, the author was angry that the rainbow flag, a longstanding symbol of the LGBT movement, was hanging at a United States Embassy abroad. Although I would not be surprised if the Tea Party elements of the GOP expressed such views, I am quite shocked that the author was a member of my age group, one which, regardless of political affiliation, tends to be more tolerant of our differences.

According to the author, the problem stemmed from a friend of his visiting the American Embassy in London. While there, the friend took a photo of two rainbow flags draped near the entrance. While I agree such a showing might ruffle some feathers in certain parts of the world, let me reiterate that this was London. Why is this an important fact? Since March 13, legalized same-sex marriage is the law of the land in England.

The author also seemed upset that the rainbow flag flew at another embassy, but that country is Israel, where a 2009 poll shows that 61 percent support same-sex nuptials, a higher percentage than in recent surveys here in America, where 55 percent of respondents favor legal gay marriage.

The author added his objection to the high number of gay ambassadors who have been appointed by President Obama. To be honest, I didn’t know whether any of our diplomats were gay. That’s because the sexual orientation of our ambassadors is completely irrelevant to me. The only thing I care about is whether they are qualified to represent the United States abroad. Furthermore, to invoke the name of the late Christopher Stevens in this bigoted diatribe is unconscionable. It almost seems as if the author is insinuating that Ambassador Stevens was killed because he was gay.

Anyway, the post from the NYYRC blog has been removed. I am hopeful that, regardless of political affiliation, my generation will continue to strive for equality for all Americans.

Happy Labor Day!

Brothers and Sisters,

On behalf of the entire New York State Young Democrats family, I would like to wish everyone a very Happy Labor Day!

On Saturday September 12, 2009 we will once again march in the New York City Central Labor Council’s Labor Day Parade and March with our brothers and sisters from Teamsters Local 814 & Joint Council 16. We will be meeting at 10am on 46th Street between 6th & 7th Avenues in Manhattan. Please contact Mike Corbett at for more information.

Labor Day is the day we honor and acknowledge the hard work of union members across the country. As Congress comes back into session, organized labor continues to advocate the passage of The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) and we must continue to support this effort. This bill would enable working people to bargain for better benefits, wages and working conditions by restoring workers freedom to choose for themselves whether to join a union. Please call your elected members of Congress and the Senate and urge them to support EFCA.

As Labor Day unofficially marks the end of Summer, I would like to reflect on our accomplishments over the past few months:

The 2009 YDA National Convention was a huge success for NYSYD. The Manhattan Young Democrats were once again honored as the YDA Chapter of the Year. MYD was also honored for the best one time program for their Open Seat Project. We are all so proud of what MYD has achieved.

In addition, two of our members were seated on the YDA Executive Committee: Stephanie Hausner was appointed to the Democratic National Committee by YDA President Crystal Strait. Michael Corbett was elected Chair of the Young Democrats of America Labor Caucus. We are proud of Stephanie and Michael as well as the other New Yorkers who were elected to YDA Caucus offices.

A reminder to all members…

Please do not forget to vote in the upcoming primary elections. If you need information on looking up your voter registration or locating your polling place please visit the New York State Board of Elections web site at

In Solidarity,
Matthew Silverstein                           Mike Corbett, Chair
NYSYD President                                YDA Labor Caucus

Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, Champion of the Working Class

Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, Champion of the Working Class

Rep. Hilda Solis (D-CA) is all smiles
Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis is all smiles at the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing earlier this month.

After weeks of stalling on the part of the Republicans, the full US Senate voted to confirm Hilda Solis as the Secretary of Labor. The 80-17 vote officially ends the eight years of a business oriented department and shifts the balance of power back to the working class and labor unions. Now, with Secretary Solis at the helm, we can feel more confident that the Department of Labor will protect and promote union interests and that the Labor Movement will remain strong, especially in this time of economic uncertainty. In fact, I am reminded of how much the election of a Democratic President and appointment of a strong, progressive woman as Secretary of Labor effected our country similarly during the height of the Great Depression.

In 1932, the country rallied behind a governor from New York who made a pledge: a New Deal for the American People. After taking office, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt acted swiftly on many fronts. This included what can arguably the most import Cabinet appointment in the history of the United States. President Roosevelt tapped his longtime friend Frances Perkins to become Secretary of Labor. Perkins’ name into the history books immediately as the first woman in the Cabinet, and thus the first to enter the Presidential Line of Succession. However, Frances Perkins mark on history did not end there. Over the course of the FDR Administration, it was Secretary Perkins who set the tone.

Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins guided the New Deal, whether it was advising FDR (left) or supporting Collective Bargaining rights of Pennsylvania Steelworkers (right, with hat on shaking hands)

It is she who convinced President Roosevelt not send federal troops to San Francisco to stop a Longshoremens’ strike. History now remembers this as the San Francisco General Strike of 1934, which led to the unionization of all the ports on the West Coast. Also in 1934, Secretary Perkins was touring steel mills in Pennsylvania when she asked the town of Homestead for meeting space. When the mayor refused to allow such a meeting on city property, Perkins found an alternative venue and held the meeting anyway, informing the workers of their Collective Bargaining rights.

Frances Perkins was also a force in the Capitol as well. In fact, you can link most of the main pieces of legislation that ended the Great Depression to the Secretary of Labor. From the Fair Labor Standards Act, which established minimum wage and overtime standards, to the revolutionary Social Security Act of 1935, just to name a few, the name Frances Perkins is written all over the New Deal. It is also a name which you see each time you enter the Department of Labor, which is housed in the Frances Perkins Building. Not to put all of this pressure on the incoming Secretary of Labor, but for the United States to climb out of the depths of this recession, Hilda Solis must become our Frances Perkins, the voice of the working class.

President-elect Barack Obama looks on as his nominee for Secretary of Labor, Representative Hilda Solis (D-CA), talks to the media.

In December, the president-elect nominated then-Representative Hilda Solis (D-CA) to join his Cabinet as Labor Secretary. That’s when the right wing circled the wagons, hoping to shoot down the chances of  having Secretary of Labor that has long been a supporter of unions. After seeing Cabinet Member after Cabinet Member pass through confirmation, it finally came time for Secretary of Labor. The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) heard the testimony of Hilda Solis in early February. After numerous delays, the committee approved the nomination by voice vote and sent the confirmation to the Senate Floor. Members of both parties praised Solis. “Hilda Solis comes from a working family herself so she understands how the troubled economy is hurting average Americans. American workers deserve to have her voice and her leadership as their Secretary of Labor, and I’m pleased that our committee approved her,” said Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Chairman of the HELP Committee. Ranking minority member Senator Michael Enzi (R-WY) added,  “I look forward to working with her in her new Cabinet position as Secretary of Labor and her staff on the this and the many other labor and economic issues facing our country.”

The full Senate voted in favor to confirm on February 24, and the vote included a majority of the Republican caucus voting for the confirmation.

Full Senate Vote for the Confirmation of Hilda Solis as Secretary of Labor

Now that we can officially say Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, the initiatives are simple…Employee Free Choice Act, revamping the National Labor Relations Board, increase the minimum wage. These are just some the issues that will come across Secretary Solis’ desk in the coming weeks and months. I am confident that under her leadership, this country will once again flourish as it has in the past- under the strength of the middle class and working families. I am proud to call Hilda Solis Secretary of Labor, and look froward to a brighter future for the Labor Movement. I have no doubt Hilda Solis will be today what Frances Perkins was to our grandparents- a Champion.

Democrats Should Support Senator Kirsten Gillibrand

United States Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.)

Yesterday, Kirsten Gillibrand was sworn in as the Junior United State Senator from New York. After a long wait to find out who would fill the vacancy left by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, we got an answer and, as we have done as a party over the last year, unite around the choice. However, many New York Democrats have refused to even give Senator Gillibrand a chance.

Governor David Paterson appointed then-Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand to the vacant US Senate seat shortly after Inauguration. There was an almost instantaneous reaction, but it was a surprise to me that the negative reaction came from many Empire State Democrats. Representative Carolyn McCarthy (D-Long Island) all but announced she will run in the Democratic primary election next year after appearing on cable news programs. The congresswoman, whose husband was killed and son injured by a gunman on the Long Island Railroad, based her decision on the National Rifle Association’s previous support of Senator Gillibrand. In addition, New York City Council Councilman Joel Rivera (D-Bronx) organized a protest on the steps of City Hall based on the senator’s immigration stance.

As we know, Kirsten Gillibrand comes from a highly conservative area of New York State, and her political views are representative of that of her district. This point only makes sense, considering my views represent a lifelong resident of Manhattan. The 20th district emcompasses parts of ten counties in an area that almost completely surrounds Albany. In running for Congress in 2006, Gillibrand was running against a strong incumbent in Representative John Sweeney. During the race, Gillibrand meshed her core Democratic values to those of her fellow residents of the 20th. Although a recording of a 911 call made by Sweeney’s wife claiming domestic abuse probably put her over the top, Gillibrand would not have been close had her viewpoints been as liberal as someone from New York City.

The logo of the Blue Dog Conservative Democrats, a coalition of 47 conservative and moderate Democratic members of the House of Representatives
The logo of the Blue Dog Conservative Democrats

The Democratic Congressional candidates who were victorious in 2006 were mostly Conservative Democrats, known as “Blue Dog Democrats,” a coalition of moderate and conservative Democratic members of the House of Representatives. There are currently 47 members of the coalition, including Congressman Michael Arcuri (D-NY) and former Congresswoman Gillibrand. Without them, Republicans may have stayed in the majority in 2006, which may have led to a different result in the recent Presidential Election. As I mentioned, these are not your cookie-cutter Democrats, as they come from conservative areas of their respective states.

There is no precedent however to Blue Dog representatives becoming Senators; Kirsten Gillibrand will be the first. Now we come back to fellow Democrats objections to the appointment of Gillibrand to the United States Senate. I do agree that representing a conservative congressional district do not allow for one to be as liberal as the whole of New York State would prefer. However, in the past week, Senator Gillibrand has been more than receptive to speak with those who may be concerned with her viewpoints. I am optimistic that over the next few months, we will discover a more liberal Gillibrand than we have previously seen. This is why I wish my fellow New York Democrats would hold their criticism until Senator Gillibrand has a chance to get her feet wet in her new job. I also think it is wrong to judge someone on only one political viewpoint, such as gun control or immigration. The fact that the NRA has given Gillibrand a 100% rating on issues relating to gun owners has been mentioned at length. However, I have heard very little about the fact that Gillibrand also garners a 100% rating from the American Civil Liberties Union, and her views on a woman’s right to choose and laws protecting gay couples are consistent with the Democratic party platform.

Congresswoman Gillibrand campaigning for re-election last year with President Bill Clinton.
Congresswoman Gillibrand campaigning for re-election last year with President Bill Clinton.

Personally, I would like to focus on the positive reasons behind the appointment of Kirsten Gillibrand. The first that sticks out is that at 42 years old, Gillibrand is now the youngest member of the United States Senate. Considering the average age of Senators is 62, I am encouraged that somone from my own state is now, for all intents and purposes, the Young Democrat in the Senate. In addition, there are still 17 women remaining in the Senate chamber. Considering the previous holder of this seat just made 16 million cracks in the glass ceiling and, more importantly, the subsequent damage done by the unfortunate vice presidential campaign by Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK), I feel it was important to appoint another strong woman to this office. I can think of few who fit that description as well as Kirsten Gillibrand. Finally, I feel strongly that this seat will safely remain in Democratic hands for years to come. Not only does Gillibrand give an upstate-downstate balance to New York’s two US Senate seats, but her approval rating among New York Republicans is even higher than that of Democrats throughout the state. Combine this with the fact that Gillibrand raised in excess of $4.6 million for her reelection bid this past year, outraising her opponent and former Republican State Chair Sandy Treadwell 4-to-1 in the most expensive Congressional race in 2008 (Note: Though Treadwell had over $7 million in his campaign account, he only “raised” $1.1 million, while self-financing the campaign to the tune of $5.9 million; he still lost). Put simply, Kirsten Gillibrand is what can only be called a political powerhouse for the Democratic party, and will be for years to come.

In short, I want to express my great pleasure in the appointment of Kirsten Gillibrand as the Junior United State Senator from New York. Together with Senior Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), we have two people in Washington, DC that will continue to bring resources, prowess, and pride back home to us here in the Empire State. Things continue to look bright here in New York…or should I say, bright blue!

Saving The Best For Last: Obama picks Solis as Labor Secretary

UNION YES! Then-State Senator Hilda Solis demonstrating with members of UNITE HERE to protect prevailing wage standards for state government contracts, which was vetoed by Governor Pete Wilson
Rep. Hilda Solis (D-CA) addresses the Democratic National Convention in August. President-elect Barack Obama has nominated Solis to become Secretary of Labor.
Rep. Hilda Solis joins fellow Congress Members Rosa DeLauro, Jan Schakowski and George Miller along with Former Miss America Carolyn Sapp and AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Linda Chavez-Thompson in 2005. This was a campaign called “Love Mom, Not Wal-Mart” protesting against gender discrimination within the conglomerate. Behind them is a giant Mother’s Day card which all signed.

Throughout her years in Congress, Hilda Solis has been one of the most ardent supporters of the middle class around the country. Rep. Solis has a near perfect voting record when it comes to the interests of working families, according to In fact, when it comes to the most important issue to unions today, the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), Rep. Solis signed on as a co-sponsor to the bill introduced by fellow California Congressman, Rep. George Miller (D-CA). When the debate on EFCA hit the House floor, Hilda Solis made no bones about her strong support for the passage of the bill.

As a third generation member of a union, and a second generation union officer, I will be proud to have Hilda Solis heading the Department of Labor.

Change is coming.

Which side are you on?