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Erie County Executive-Elect Mark Poloncarz Takes Time To ‘Thank’ Organized Labor/Tells Union Leaders At WNY Labor Federation PAC Meeting: “I’ll Never Forget What You All Did. Now Its Time To Move The County In The Right Direction.”

Published Tuesday, November 22, 2011 3:00 pm
by Tom Campbell/Editor-Publisher

(AMHERST) – Looking back on his successful campaign for Erie County Executive, Mark Poloncarz met with more than two dozen Labor Leaders today (Tuesday, November 22nd) at the monthly Western New York AFL-CIO Area Labor Federation’s (WNYALF) Political Action Committee (PAC) meeting - telling them: “Not everyone was there at the beginning (of the race against incumbent Republican County Executive Chris Collins), but Labor was.”

Democrat and Labor-endorsed Poloncarz registered an underdog victory over Collins, who was branded by Organized Labor as the most anti-Worker/anti-Union Elected Leader this side of Wisconsin.  Joking that he “no longer has a life,” Poloncarz took time out of an extremely hectic schedule to meet with Labor Leaders, thank them for their and their Members’ support and to make them aware of the many challenges he faces as the new Erie County Executive.

“I would not be here without your support,” Poloncarz told a variety of Labor Leaders representing the Communications Workers of America (CWA), Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA), International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA), IUPAT Painters District Council 4, Public Employees Federation (PEF), Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 1199 Healthcare Workers East, the United Auto Workers (UAW), the United Steelworkers (USW), the Teamsters and the United University Professions (UUP), to name just a few. 

“There were a lot of people with me at the end, but everyone wasn’t there in the beginning… but Labor was.  If we didn’t have your support, we would have not defeated the ‘Goliath.’  But with the support of Labor, we were able to get our message out to the voters.  I will never forget all you did.  Now we’re ready to move the County in the right direction,” said Poloncarz, who was greeted by a standing ovation and a hearty round of applause when he walked into the WNYALF PAC meeting that was held at UAW 9’s Union Hall in Amherst.

Poloncarz, who has served as Erie County’s Comptroller, defeated Collins on November 8th by a surprising 53% to 47% margin to become only the second Democrat to hold the seat of Erie County Executive.  His victory came just months after an intense Labor-led victory by U.S. Congresswoman Kathy Hochul – a Democrat – over Collins protégé and New York State Assemblywoman Jane Corwin, another extremely well-funded Republican candidate, in the heavily-weighted GOP 26th Congressional District that literally sent political shock waves across the United States. 

Poloncarz’s victory over Collins and his “I’ll run Erie County like a business” mantra showed that despite not having an astronomical campaign war chest that bought Collins tons of airtime on both radio and TV, the message crafted by the Poloncarz Campaign - in the end - resonated with Erie County voters.  In addition, it helped that Collins’ polarizing personality worked to alienate a number of individuals, groups and organizations over the course of time. 

Much was made of Collins refusing to extend pleasantries or offer any round of congratulations to Poloncarz after the votes were tabulated.  When asked by CSEA Local 815 President Joan Bender at today’s meeting if he has yet to speak with Collins now that three weeks have passed since Election Day, Poloncarz answered: “No.”

“Of course we talked over the past four years (Collins has been in office), but his ‘dream world’ ended on November eighth.  Collins still doesn’t know why (he lost).  We won big.  I’ve had people tell me that Collins didn’t lose, ‘you won it and you earned it.’  Collins thought he could just show up at a couple of events and win.   But finally, at the end, they knew they were in a dogfight and (when they realized it), it was too late.  Business Leaders have told me that they were shocked Collins lost.  Even Collins’ high-level people have told us that (the Poloncarz Campaign) out-worked and out-messaged theirs,” Poloncarz said.

“You are polar opposites.  Government should make the lives of Working People better,” WNYALF Interim President Richard Lipsitz told Poloncarz, adding that “you can see we are a happy and proud group today.”  

With that said, Poloncarz added: “As the County’s Financial Officer, I don’t have to learn about what County Government is.  Things are going well (with the transition), but we’ll have to clean up Collins’ mess.  Now that the election is over, County Commissioners are now opening up and admitting there are problems.  Many believed they faced difficult times ahead with the cuts (Collins projected and wanted to make).  It won’t be easy, but we won’t be ‘running Erie County like a business.’  I was just on (WBEN-AM’s Hardline Show on Sunday) when a caller said, ‘You have to run Erie County like a business.’  That you ‘have to lay people off.’  I said to him: ‘How about we lay off snow plow drivers and we plow your street once a week?’  We’re not here to make a ‘profit’ and run the County like a business.  My job is to serve the community and we’re here to provide services (to Erie County Residents/Taxpayers).”

Poloncarz, meanwhile, took time to single out SEIU 1199’s Jennifer Hibit, who had served as his campaign manager, for a job more than well done.  He also “thanked” WNYALF Field Representative Patty DeVinney for agreeing to serve on his just-announced Transition Team.

On that note, Poloncarz made the Labor Leaders in the room aware of a number of sub-committees he will be creating and encouraged Organized Labor to submit the names of those in their Union Organizations who might be interested in becoming members.  In addition, Poloncarz took time to personally invite those in Organized Labor to attend his swearing in ceremony, which will be held at the Buffalo Convention Center in January.

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