Green candidate ready to rise
GLENS FALLS – Matt Funiciello, a candidate for Congress, started his Thursday waking up in the middle of the night to begin making bread at around 3 a.m.
He cooks the bread with two massive ovens that can make 250 loaves an hour. The bread is then packaged and shipped from his Glens Falls bakery to the places it’s sold, mainly in Vermont, Massachusetts and upstate New York.
The 46-year-old Green Party member is also running for New York’s 21st Congressional District. He recently raised $5,000 and held a campaign kick-off party last week, hiring his first paid campaign staffer. He hopes to capitalize on the “disgust” he sees growing against the Democratic and Republican parties.
Funiciello does not believe the other candidates in this race will break from party politics. Those candidates are Republican Elise Stefanik of Willsboro, Republican Matt Doheny of Watertown and Democrat Aaron Woolf of Elizabethtown. He believes Republican candidates’ talk about pledges – against raising taxes, for instance, or against gun control – are unimportant, saying the only pledge that is really important is not taking money from corporations.
“Let’s stop playing the game that these parties are working for us,” Funiciello said. “Greens, Libertarians and independents need to be elected to office to change Congress.”
He supports a $15 minimum wage, is against the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and is in favor of a single-payer health care system.
“Forcing people to buy overpriced health care is barbaric,” he said of the Affordable Care Act.
Born in Saratoga Springs. His mother and father divorced early in his life. He later moved with his mother to Canada, where she remarried. His father, a Times Union reporter, stayed in Saratoga County, in Wilton.
“I was 6 years old at that point,” he said. “It was fairly informative for me to grow up in the capital city in Canada (Ottawa) and also this very idyllic setting here at the bottom of the (Adirondack) Park, on a farm. It really gave me a different perspective than if I would have had only one of those experiences.”
Funiciello moved back to the North Country full-time when he was 20 years old, after graduating from the private Lisgar Collegiate Institute in Ottawa.
“There was a very acute awareness that what the U.S. was doing in the world was being the empire,” Funiciello said. “It was the United States that was dictating things that were working elsewhere, economically and militarily. … I realized when I moved back down here that most of my fellow Americans seemed unaware, to a large degree, of that kind of insidious corporate manipulation that was going on – using our government as a tool.”
Funiciello said he was “pretty cynical” about the political process in his 20s and early 30s. Later, that would change when he learned of Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader.
“It inspired me to be a registered and enrolled member of the Green Party, and to support them,” Funiciello said. “My support of him has led me to having a friendship with him and knowing Ralph well enough to call him on the phone, or head down to his house in Connecticut and spend time with him in (Washington) D.C., which I’ve done a number of times.”
Funiciello’s friendship with Nader has turned into an endorsement, Funiciello said. The two plan to campaign in Glens Falls, Plattsburgh and Albany soon.
Rock Hill bread
Bread, like politics, is something Funiciello is very passionate about. He makes his hand-made loaves with only organic ingredients, also using unbleached and unbromated wheat for his bread. Funiciello said as time passed he has begun to pay more attention to the ingredients and less attention to the spreadsheet.
“Fell into it,” Funiciello said of the baking business. “I’ve worked for the food business since I was 14.”
Funiciello got his start working as a butcher’s apprentice, but later took over Rock Hill Bakehouse along with his brother and a friend. The business was previously owned by a couple that wanted to sell.
“We bought their business through sweat equity,” Funiciello said.
The three young men worked for three years, making very little, before they could afford to buy the bakery outright, he said.
“There were weeks we collectively made $380,” he said.
He is now the sole owner of Rock Hill Bakehouse in Glens Falls, a business he has owned for over 20 years. The bakery is also the home of the Glens Falls Co-op, where people buy organic foods. Funiciello also has owned a cafe, about 8 miles down the road in Glens Falls, for 12 years. Above his cafe is where his political campaign headquarters is located.
Together, both businesses employee 36 people, something Funiciello is proud of. Funiciello pays his employees above the minimum wage, $8 for his wait staff (they also get tips) and a starting wage of $10 to $12 in his bakery. A loaf of bread starts at $4 a loaf.
“I wouldn’t call my business successful,” he said. “I’d call it struggling.”
Funiciello said he could afford to pay his employees $15 (the amount he believes the minimum wage should be) if he and other Americans weren’t subsidizing corporations like Walmart.
Funiciello’s girlfriend Amber Lannutti also works with him at the bakery. The couple was having lunch and coffee Sunday at the cafe. He has one 20-year-old son, John, with his former wife. His son attends college at SUNY Canton.