WNYLaborToday.com Editor’s Note: Hamburg Town Clerk Cathy Rybczynski (pictured above/WNYLaborToday.com Photo) is running unopposed in 2015 for yet another term and has received endorsements and support from a number of area Labor Unions and Organizations. With a deep Union History on her family’s side and a deep commitment to Organized Labor across Erie County, Rybczynski tells WNYLaborToday.com that she doesn’t “believe people understand ‘all the good’ Union People do in our communities.” Several photos that appear with this Labor News Story are courtesy of Cathy Rybczynski.
(HAMBURG, NEW YORK) – From major Labor events like the Buffalo AFL-CIO Labor Council’s Annual Labor Day Parade to a variety of Union actions that involve Rallies, Picketing and Strikes, it always seems that you can find Hamburg Town Clerk Cathy Rybczynski in attendance or walking the line with an array of Unions and their Members here in Erie County.
So - why does Rybczynski talk the talk and literally walk the walk when it comes to carving out time in her busy schedule to do so?
Because, Rybczynski - a Hamburg Democrat who’s been consistently endorsed over the years by a variety of Labor Unions, tells WNYLaborToday.com that she grew up in a Union Family and personally knows the worth of what a Union Membership means to not only her family, but tens of thousands of Union Families who live across the County and in her Town.
“My Dad was a Teamster and was a member of the National Association of Letter Carriers, and my Mom was a Steward with the Civil Service Employees Association,” said Rybczynski, the youngest of five children in the family that lived in South Buffalo. “There were people who lived in our neighborhood who were Steelworkers, Grain Millers, who worked on the Railroad. They were the ‘salt of the earth.’ It was ‘this is what you see and this is what you get.’ (My parents) worked ‘Union Jobs’ that taught us the ‘value of hard work.’”
Rybczynski - whose husband, Julian, also Worked Union as a Teamster at Tops Supermarket’s Warehouse and at South Buffalo’s Republic Steel when it was in operation - is currently running unopposed for yet another term as Town Clerk in Hamburg.
She’s been endorsed by a number of area Unions, including the Buffalo Building & Construction Trades Council and many of its individual Member Unions (Such as Cement Masons Local 111, Ironworkers Local 6, Painters District Council 4, and Sheet Metal Workers Local 71), the Teamsters’ Western New York Joint Council, United Auto Workers (UAW) Region 9 and the Western New York AFL-CIO Area Labor Federation.
It’s almost a sure bet that you can find the Hamburg Town Clerk shaking hands and walking with Union Members at a variety of major Labor events during the course of the year – like the Buffalo AFL-CIO Labor Council’s Annual Labor Day Parade in South Buffalo and a variety of Union actions that involve Rallies, Informational Picketing and Strikes.
Rybczynski says she’s there because she’s “appreciative” of Labor’s support over the years and likes to return the favor.
“I’ve always gone out there (parades, on picket and strike lines) - and ‘yes,’ they ‘do see me all the time.’ I learned that from (former State Assemblyman) Dick Smith (from Hamburg). And (Labor’s) very appreciative of that support,” she told Your On-Line Labor Newspaper during a recent sit-down interview at Hamburg Town Hall.
Her commitment to Organized Labor was also underscored back in 2000 when she was working at Seneca Manor, a Union-Represented Nursing Homes in the Buffalo area. At that time, 1199 Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Employees at the facility were locked out in a contract dispute. Employed as an accounts payable manager, Rybczynski recounts she was told by management to “cross the picket line and do ‘any kind of job’ inside the home that was done by the Union Workers.” In short, Rybczynski replied: “No,” which she adds, “Didn’t go over very big.” “So, I quit. I ‘couldn’t do’ what they were asking. My ‘Teamster’ Father would have ‘rolled over in his grave,’” she said. “Look, I ‘believe’ in Unions. My phone (landline) service is with (Communications Workers of America-Represented) Verizon, Teamsters-Represented Workers pick up my garbage and I ‘don’t go’ to Walmart.”
But what most irks Rybczynski is the fact that more in the Western New York Community don’t realize the importance and worth of those who are Working Union.
“I ‘really don’t believe’ people understand ‘all the good’ Union People do in our communities,” continued Rybczynski, noting Hamburg employs 200 full-time Union-Represented Workers who are represented by several Labor Organizations, most notably Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA) Local 815. “They and their Members donate ‘lots of money’ to the United Way and Veterans Groups. They’re your ‘next door neighbors’ - hard-working people.”
In fact, Rybczynski so believes in what she says that she’s ingrained the Union Brand into the minds of her own family. For example, she told WNYLaborToday.com of recently attending a hockey game at the new, Union-Built HarborCenter in Downtown Buffalo. That’s when one of her six grandchildren noticed the UAW Region 9 logo on the jerseys of one team they were watching play. “My grandson realizes ‘all’ that Unions do,” she proudly said.
Rybczynski –who has two sons: Brad, the former executive director of the Buffalo Building Trades Council; and Craig, who is the voice of the National Lacrosse League’s (NLL) Rochester Nighthawks - moved from South Buffalo to Hamburg in 1985. She got involved in local politics after being approached and agreeing to become an Elections Inspector. From there it was on to the Hamburg Women’s Democratic Club and the Town Zoning Board in 1988. While she ran for the Clerk’s Office in 1999 against an incumbent and lost, Rybczynski was appointed Town Clerk when the incumbent retired in 2001 to fill out the remainder of the term. She subsequently ran for a full-term and won and – for the past 13 years - has been there ever since.
For those who support Rybczynski, but might not know, the office she oversees is responsible for issuing a variety of licenses – including marriage, hunting/fishing and for dog owners. It also keeps track of the Town’s vital statistics, including births and death, and issues certificates for them as well. In addition, her office serves as a tax collector too, collecting $123 million in Town, County and School Taxes, including $66 million alone concerning the latter.
On top of her demanding publicly-elected position, Rybczynski has also made a personal decision to involve herself in a number of local Community Organizations – from the Rotary Club to the Veterans of Foreign Affairs (VFW) Ladies Auxiliary. She’s also active in her church and recently agreed to become the treasurer for Hamburg’s famous and annual Burgerfest event.
With all the recent and national media coverage provided by another elected Clerk – Kim Davis in Kentucky – who cited her personal religious decision for not agreeing to provide marriage certificate to gay couples and subsequently being jailed by a judge for not carrying out her elected duties, Rybczynski fielded the question from WNYLabortoday.com and answered simply: “I have not refused ‘anyone.’ I’ve ‘taken an oath’ to uphold the law and ‘I will.’ It is ‘not for me’ to judge.”