Most National Union Leaders Back Buffalo Native & Former U.S. Secretary Of Labor Thomas Perez, The New Democratic National Committee Chair
WNY Labor Federation President Lipsitz Says Perez’s Background With Unions Is ‘Viewed As A Positive’ For Organized Labor, As Well As Locally With His Buffalo Roots
(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - Though most - if not all - Union Leaders on the Democratic National Committee (DNC) supported the runner-up in the Committee Chair Race, they quickly fell into line once former U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez (pictured above/WNYLaborToday.com File Photo), a Buffalo native, won the job.
And Western New York AFL-CIO Area Labor Federation President Richard Lipsitz tells WNYLaborToday.com that Perez’s background working on a multitude of Labor Issues while serving as Labor Secretary, including his personal involvement in helping end last year’s Strike at Verizon that involved the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), bodes well for Organized Labor.
“I’ve met him twice and he’s ‘very easy to talk to.’ He’s ‘paid attention to the issues’ of Labor and Working People and ‘he played a role in bringing the Verizon Strike to an end,’” Lipsitz told Your On-Line Labor Newspaper. “Speaking for myself, ‘it was also important for him to name’ (U.S. Representative) Keith Ellison as his co-chair, ‘which reflects party unity.’ His election ‘cannot hurt (Labor) at all.’ And with his Buffalo roots - growing up here, attending school and still having friends here, as chairman of the National Democratic Party ‘it is our hope he and the party will also pay attention to what is happening in Buffalo.’”
Perez, the candidate of most of the Democratic “establishment,” including 2016 Presidential Nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton, narrowly defeated U.S. Representative Keith Ellison on the second ballot at the DNC meeting in Atlanta that took place over the weekend (on Saturday, February 25th).
Perez promptly named Ellison, the progressive lawmaker from Minneapolis, as Deputy Chair.
DNC Members also elected three vice chairs, including UNITE HERE Vice President for Civil Rights Maria Elena Durazo, who won a second term in that post. She’s also the former Executive Secretary, and leader, of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor.
New York U.S. Representative Grace Meng also won a vice chair position.
Union Leadership, notably Mary Kay Henry of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Randi Weingarten of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), Lee Saunders of the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and J. David Cox of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), supported Ellison - the candidate of the party wing led by U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders (Independent) Vermont, who was runner-up to Clinton in the Democratic primaries - and Elizabeth Warren. So did the National AFL-CIO, whose president, Richard Trumka, hosted a pro-Sanders reception in Baltimore earlier in the race for the party leadership, and National Nurses United (NUU).
Hundreds of NNU Members traveled to Atlanta for pro-Ellison rallies in the days before the vote, emphasizing the Minnesotan’s grass-roots organizing prowess.
Trumka and NNU did not comment after the vote.
NNU has no leaders on the DNC, and Trumka does not sit on it.
Henry, Weingarten, Saunders and Cox all hailed the unification symbolized by Perez’ naming of Ellison as Deputy Chair, a move that kept almost all of the pro-Sanders, pro-Ellison delegates in the meeting - and they all stressed a commitment to party-building, from the grass roots up.
AFGE’s Cox said Perez and Ellison will "build a party focused on the struggles of Working and Middle Class Americans whose security and economic well-being must be at the center of all we do.”
"The Democratic Party cannot succeed if it minimizes its historic commitment to economic justice and shared prosperity,” Cox said. “The vast majority of Americans, including the Federal and District of Columbia Employees represented by my Union, ‘want political leaders to focus on their bread and butter issues:’ ‘Higher’ wages, ‘affordable’ health care; retirement income security,’ ‘good’ public schools, ‘good’ roads and public transportation, ‘clean’ air and water, and ‘safe’ communities. We ‘cannot cater to every desire’ of Wall Street and our corporate donors and ‘simultaneously meet the needs of the majority’ of American Workers. ‘It doesn’t work like that.’”
Unity, Cox added “cannot occur ‘if leaders ignore the pain that Working and Middle Class Americans are experiencing with the assumption the other guy will always be worse.’”
The AFT’s Weingarten said Perez and Ellison will “heal, unify, and activate Democrats and Americans across the country.
“We must ‘pierce the division and polarization that engulfs America today’ and ‘harness the incredible energy in the streets to fight for the aspirations Americans have for themselves, their families and our nation.’ The Democratic Party ‘is the party to do that.’ ‘We are the party that fights to give people a fair shot, and for economic and educational opportunity and inclusion,’” said Weingarten, a New York City High School Civics Teacher.
“That ‘requires rebuilding our party county by county, state by state - and winning elections,’” she added.
AFSCME’s Saunders, a Cleveland native and New York City Democratic Convention Delegate - who also chairs the National AFL-CIO’s Political Committee - said Democrats must seize the moment and the momentum, produced by grass-roots advocacy against Republican President Donald Trump and his policies.
“The ‘heart and soul of our democracy are on the line’ - from Voting Rights to Civil Rights to Workers’ Rights. Meanwhile, ‘you can look outside your window on any given weekend and see grass roots energy and engagement are at an all-time high.’ ‘As a party, we do not have a moment to lose.’ The Democratic Party ‘must present a bold vision that lifts up Working People from all walks of life and pursue strategies that turn that vision into reality,’” he said.
“Tom Perez is a ‘tenacious champion for all’ Working Families. As DNC Chair, ‘I know he will bring the same passion for economic and social justice that made him such a remarkably effective Labor Secretary, and I am confident that the entire Democratic Party will move forward together in unity,’” he said.
With Perez, who is a Latino-American, and Ellison, who is a Muslim-American, the Democratic leadership represents the diversity of the country, the SEIU’s Henry said.
“For Working Families ‘demanding a say’ in America’s economic and political systems ‘at this pivotal time in our democracy,’ Perez and Ellison ‘will unite the Democratic National Party and get to the important work of rebuilding a party in which the needs of America’s Working Families lead,’” she said.
And the AFGE’s Cox reminded colleagues – as did Western New York Area Labor Federation President Lipsitz - that Perez was a very Pro-Union Labor Secretary.
“And ‘growing and strengthening’ the Labor Movement ‘should be the Democratic Party’s top priority,’ because Union Members ‘are the Party’s most reliable progressive voters,’ and Inions ‘are the most effective means of raising up the standard of living of all Americans,’" he said.