As a member of the Newspaper Guild-CWA since 1990, Mario Cilento has a long history of fighting for working men and women. His work at the New York State AFL-CIO began in 1992; he was elected president in 2011.
As president, Cilento has focused on transforming the way people see the labor movement to ensure New Yorkers understand unions are made up of people who work, and that we are all connected by that work.
President Cilento has concentrated on harnessing the collective power of the State AFL‐CIO’s 2.5 million members statewide by creating the “Making NY Work” initiative that enhanced the existing political campaign framework into a proactive year‐round legislative action network.
Cilento’s renewed focus on membership engagement combined with new communication strategies helped lead to the resounding and historic defeat of the 2017 constitutional convention ballot proposal despite the fact early polls showed close to 70 percent support for a constitutional convention. The measure was eventually defeated 83 percent to 17 percent.
In 2018, Cilento launched the Federation’s “Union Strong” campaign. The campaign builds off the success of the constitutional convention victory and serves as a reminder of what working people can accomplish when we all work together.
In March of 2019 the state federation began producing the “Union Strong” podcast reaching more than 50,000 listeners. And, in July of 2020 launched the “Union Strong” App, the first of its kind for the Labor Movement.
Cilento’s new approach to grassroots campaigns has resulted in the enactment of legislation, that’s made a real impact on the lives of working families.
Under his leadership, the New York State AFL-CIO has secured several protections for workers across New York State in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court decision on Janus v AFSCME, including preserving a public employee’s right to join a union and protecting their rights after they have joined.
The labor movement secured several other victories under President Cilento’s leadership, most recently legislation related to COVID-19 making quarantined workers eligible for paid family leave and/or disability insurance and a law that expedited death benefits to families of essential workers in the public sector who lost their lives keeping all of us safe.
Additional legislative victories include: the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act which gives farmworkers labor rights including the right to organize, a mandatory day of rest, and the right to overtime pay; the ground-breaking Paid Family Leave legislation; a $15 per hour minimum wage; the reauthorization of the World Trade Center Health Program and extension of the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund to aid the thousands of brave men and women who risked their own lives to help in the rescue and recovery after 9/11; the first increase in unemployment benefits in 14 years with historic indexation; as well as a 50 percent boost in the minimum workers’ compensation benefit; and passage of the Safe Patient Handling Act.
President Cilento graduated from Fordham University in 1990 with a Bachelor of Science Degree.