Unionists, Community, Civil Rights & Student Activists Rally In Buffalo Against New York State Budget Cuts/All Collectively Call On Governor Cuomo & State Elected Officials To Restore Funding For Education And To Extend The “Millionaire’s Tax”
WNYLaborToday.com Editor’s Note: A couple hundred Union Members and Community, Civil Rights and Student Activists (pictured above) gathered in Downtown Buffalo late Tuesday (March 29th) to hold a rally in protest against a myriad of New York State budget cuts. A number of area speakers addressed the crowd in support of Workers’ Rights and Collective Bargaining. They also called on Governor Andrew Cuomo and State Elected Officials to extend the so-called “Millionaire’s Tax” in order to restore funding after cuts were made to education and public services to deal with a $10 billion budget deficit. (WNYLaborToday.com Photo)
(BUFFALO) – Rallying in very cold Downtown Buffalo late Tuesday (March 29th), a couple of hundred Union Members and Community, Civil Rights and Student Activists protested against a myriad of New York State budget cuts – with a number of leaders speaking out in favor of Workers’ Rights and Collective Bargaining and demanding Governor Andrew Cuomo and State Elected Officials extend the so-called “Millionaires’ Tax” to help close a $10 billion deficit.
The rally precedes a major “Wisconsin-style” protest that will be held in Albany tomorrow (Wednesday, March 30th), which has been organized by a number of Labor Groups and Community Organizations from across New York State and will be much like the protests that have been held in the Wisconsin’s State Capitol after Republican Governor Scott Walker began his assault on Workers’ Rights and Collective Bargaining. More than 1,000 New Yorkers are expected to sit in and stay overnight in the State Capitol to protest the proposed budget cuts, as well as call for the restoration of education funding and the Millionaire’s Tax to be renewed.
“It’s more than disturbing what’s being done to Unions,” Buffalo NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) Branch President Frank Messiah told those at the rally. “It was because of Unions that we have the kind of worker benefits that we have today. I’m here to say that we are with you and will continue to be there with you during this fight.” Messiah also asked that a moment of silence be observed to commemorate the upcoming anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. - who was assassinated on April 4th, 1968. Messiah said the Civil Rights Movement and the Labor Movement are both based on the values of “Human Rights and the inherent dignity of all Working Men and Women.”
Buffalo-area New York State United Teachers Union Representative Michelle Pancoe, who also serves as president of the Williamsville Teachers Association, said: “In tough economic times, there are difficult decisions to be made - at the Federal Level, at the State Level, at the Local Level and at our dinner tables. Our governor decided that the best decision he could make was to cut one-point-five-billion dollars from education while cutting taxes on the richest New Yorkers. He wants to lay off ten-thousand State Employees so some people can more gas in their luxury boats. I don’t want to sacrifice our kids’ education to cut taxes on the rich.”
American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 264 President Bill Travis told those attending the rally: “There’s a lot of misinformation in the media about workers’ wages, benefits and pensions. Our members’ average yearly pension is around eighteen-thousand dollars and they contribute to their Health Care. We are not the ‘economic problem.’ (Republicans and the wealthy) want to break Labor Unions. We must stand together as one and send that message that we are one.”
The Western New York AFL-CIO Area Labor Federation, the Buffalo-headquartered Coalition for Economic Justice (CEJ) and Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA) Local 859 co-sponsored the Downtown Buffalo rally. Among those speakers who also addressed the rally were: Painters District Council 4 Business Manager Dan Boody; Buffalo AFL-CIO Central Labor Council President Michael Hoffert; Cayden Mak of the Graduate Student Union at the University at Buffalo; CSEA Western New York Representative Courtney Brunelle; and CEJ Organizer Micaela Shapiro-Shellaby.
WNYLaborToday.com Editor’s Note: Additional information contained in this Labor News Story was received from the Coalition for Economic Justice in Buffalo.