State Union Big Does the Impossible: Makes You Feel Sorry for Paterson


State civil service unions are in court trying to block the day-a-week unpaid furloughs that Governor Paterson maneuvered the legislature into approving this week.

The unions face an uphill battle, both in and out of court and you’d think that, given their heavy lift, they’d be trying to make their case to the public as eloquently as possible.
But there was Danny Donohue, the fireplug president of the powerful Civil Service Employees Association at the anti-furlough rally of 3,500 workers in Albany this week leading an elegant chant of “Bullshit!” and making an unfavorable comparison between Governor Paterson and a giant inflatable rat.

“Somebody said, ‘The rat is a good symbol of the governor.’ I say that’s an insult to a rodent,” Donohue shouted to the crowd. Donohue’s crack accomplished the nearly impossible political feat of generating sympathy for Paterson.
Yesterday, top Paterson aide Larry Schwartz gently shot back: “I think Danny says a lot of things that he regrets after he says them, that he realizes after the fact that they were immature and irresponsible and inappropriate and he’s embarrassed by them,” Schwartz told The News‘ Glenn Blain. “I think he’s supposed to be a leader, he should act like a leader and take a more responsible, more mature tone, which he could do to get his message across that he disagrees with the governor.”

What’s even more surprising about his shout-out to the cheap seats is that Donohue is currently campaigning to be the next secretary-treasurer of his parent national union, the giant 1.6 million-member American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees. Should he win the job he’s likely to step up to become president when current head Gerald McEntee retires. “Right now the position I’m running for is secretary-treasurer. But I believe I can do either job. If Gerry McEntee was to step down, I’d be ready to run for president of this union,” Donohue told the Chief-Leader in March. Donohue’s running against Lee Saunders, who had the unenviable task of digging District Council 37 here in the city out of its own huge hole back in 1999 after a massive scandal brought down many of the municipal union’s leaders. Saunders, who won points as a tough player who didn’t seem to need to shout to be heard, is currently McEntee’s chief of staff. The election will be settled at AFSCME’s convention next month.