Rep. Maria Cimini

NEARI Backstabs Its Own

Rep. Maria Cimini
Rep. Maria Cimini, D- Providence (via Rhode Island House of Representatives)

There is just so much wrong in this RI Future story on how the National Education Association of Rhode Island has decided to endorse Representative Maria Cimini’s opponent. The reasoning is so transparent (get on Speaker Mattiello’s good side) that it’s almost laughable that they have their president, Larry Purtill, try to dress it up with a euphemism about “legislative impact.” NEARI routinely backs candidates far less productive or vocal in support of NEARI’s agenda. Cimini goes out of her way to fight for progressive causes, and her support of NEARI’s legislative agendas has been pointed out by NEARI itself.

Worse still, here’s a flyer hosted on NEARI’s website, highlighting Cimini, Rep. Chris Blazejewski, and Rep. Teresa Tanzi (all of whom aren’t in the Speaker’s good graces) as graduates of a candidate training put on by the now-defunct Ocean State Action. Where was this training being held? NEARI’s headquarters! Guess who typically were among the trainers for this annual event? NEARI members!

It’s one thing for NEARI to get a rich guy to spend his money running for the mostly harmless position of governor. It’s quite another when NEARI starts pushing candidates in subservience to the whims of a faction of Democrats who openly state they don’t intend to push progressive policy decisions — and ally with Republicans to do so. Here’s NEARI executive director Bob Walsh’s quote about what it means to be a Democrat in this week’s Providence Phoenix:

To me, it means you’re actually worried about working families. You’re. . . worried about folks who are trying to make a living and folks who, for reasons of circumstance, couldn’t make a living. The traditional, going back to FDR, I suppose, definition of the divide between Democrats and Republicans. . . it’s still that very basic definition: you give the benefit of the doubt to working folks versus the business interest. 

[I’m talking about issues like] increasing the minimum wage. The long fight. . . in weekly payroll versus biweekly pay for so-called “paycheck workers.” Being concerned about payday lending. . . [and] universal access to healthcare. Making sure that unemployment insurance is in place and extended. Making sure that there’s tuition assistance. The Pell Grants are a perfect example of a “working family issue.” When the late Senator Pell advocated for that program, year after year until it finally got put in, his line of thinking was, everybody should be able to afford to go to college, not just folks like him.

Try to square that up with a NEARI now attempting to curry favor with a House leadership team that went out of their way to squash a minimum wage increase in Providence, includes members who helped push through a biweekly payroll under the previous leadership*, has dismissed attempts to restrict payday lending, seriously considered ending Rhode Island’s healthcare exchange, and has openly said Rhode Island doesn’t cater enough to the business interest.

If this is the way their friends treat them, it doesn’t look good for progressives in Rhode Island in 2014.

Meanwhile, if you are a true blue progressive Democrat, you can support Cimini here.



*CORRECTION: An earlier version mistakenly referred to pushing through a “weekly payroll” which was incorrect.

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