Mario Cilento

President New York State AFL-CIO

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 transforming the existing political campaign framework into a proactive year‐round legislative action network. The Federation focuses on better educating members on the issues that impact their well‐being before the legislative session even begins, and then translating that knowledge into grassroots advocacy in their respective communities.

Cilento’s renewed focus on membership engagement combined with new communication strategies has helped lead to the enactment of progressive legislation, which has a real impact on the lives of working families across the state.  Among the most recent improvements are: IDA reform that will for the first time require Industrial Development Agencies (IDA) to have transparency and accountability standards when public money is used for economic development.

IDA reform was identified as one of the Federation’s key initiatives in its “Making NY Work” campaign created by President Cilento in 2013. The campaign was a comprehensive member and public education campaign to change the corporate driven policy agenda in Albany to one that comes from the perspective of hardworking New Yorkers.  

Other legislative victories under President Cilento’s leadership include the Veterans’ Service Credit bill which allows all veterans to purchase up to three years of pension credit. And for the first time, the benefit equally recognizes the women who proudly served our country; the ground-breaking Paid Family Leave benefit that will have a positive impact on working people by allowing them to put their families first during times of need; the $15 per hour minimum wage that will allow hard-working men and women the chance to better support themselves and their families; the reauthorization of the World Trade Center Health Program and extension of the September 11th 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 the historic indexation of the maximum benefit to 50 percent of the average weekly wage; as well as a 50 percent boost in the minimum workers’ compensation benefit.

Under President Cilento’s leadership, the State AFL-CIO also coordinated a successful multi-union effort to revolutionize the delivery of health care in New York.  By reducing the manual lifting and repositioning of patients, The Safe Patient Handling Act, enacted in March 2014, reduces injuries to health care workers and those they care for. Before this legislation, health care workers experienced some of the highest rates of occupational injury.

Prior to being elected president, Cilento served as Public Relations Director from 1992‐1999. From 1999 through his election as president, he served as Chief of Staff, coordinating the day to day and long‐term political, legislative, communications and grassroots strategies of the organization, as well as the overall policy and development of the organization’s staff departments.   He was also responsible for outreach, initiatives and strategies concerning the State Federation’s Executive Board and affiliates.

President Cilento has also served as a Commissioner of the New York State Insurance Fund and on the Executive Boards of the Workforce Development Institute and the Working Theater.  He currently serves on the Cornell University Board of Trustees as well as the New York State AFL‐CIO/Cornell ILR Board.

President Cilento graduated from Fordham University in 1990 with a Bachelors of Science Degree.