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 AFLCIO’s 2.5 million members statewide by creating the “Making NY Work” initiative that enhanced the existing political campaign framework into a proactive yearround 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.

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 across the state.  

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. He achieved the inclusion of a union dues tax deduction benefit that will put an estimated $35 million back into the pockets of union members throughout the state. He also led the fight that resulted in Buy American legislation in New York State that will stimulate manufacturing while creating new solid middle class jobs.

The labor movement secured several other legislative victories under President Cilento’s leadership including 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. Other accomplishments include:  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 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 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.

In March of 2019 the state federation launched the “Union Strong” podcast reaching more than 10,000 listeners within the first year. 

Prior to being elected president, Cilento served as Public Relations Director from 19921999. From 1999 through his election as president, he served as Chief of Staff, coordinating the day to day and longterm political, legislative, communications and grassroots strategies of the organization, as well as the overall policy and development of the organization’s staff departments.   

President Cilento has also served as a Commissioner of the New York State Insurance Fund. 

President Cilento graduated from Fordham University in 1990 with a Bachelor’s of Science Degree.