AFL-CIO’s President Shuler offers aid to Buffalo after racist shooting
A makeshift memorial near the scene of the shooting at Tops Supermarket, Buffalo, N.Y., May 19, 2022. Matt Rourke/AP

BUFFALO —Even before Democratic President Joe Biden came to Buffalo to talk privately with families of victims of the racist shooting there, AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler stepped forward to offer them, and the traumatized city organized labor’s aid.

Western New York Area Labor Federation President Peter DeJesus reported Shuler “reached out to me and told me we have the full weight” of the federation “behind us…She wanted to let us know she was thinking about us in the wake of what happened and” the labor movement “was ready and on hand for whatever support we needed.” She called him May 15.

“We’re discussing a mass mobilization to let people know they are not fighting this alone.  We want our members to go home (safe and sound) every night and they must have that opportunity,” DeJesus added.

Peyton Gendron, 18,  drove three hours from the Binghamton area to the Jefferson Avenue Tops Supermarket in a predominantly Black neighborhood. Dressed in military garb with bullet-proof armor, he carried out a murder spree on May 14 with a Bushmaster XM-15 semiautomatic rifle. Gendron killed 10—nine shoppers and a retired Buffalo police officer, serving as a security guard, who tried to stop him—and injured three. Almost all were Black.

Gendron posted a 180-page manifesto of hate against Blacks and Jews on social media, citing white supremacist “great replacement” theories about an immigrants’ takeover. Gendron live streamed his massacre before Buffalo police talked him into surrendering.

DeJesus told the day after the shooting that United Food and Commercial Workers District 1 Director Mark Manna informed him no Tops workers, whom the union represents, were killed. Manna told DeJesus “some” had been injured. UFCW is offering aid to the families of the victims, including counseling.

“Thank you to everyone that reached out to assist UFCW members employed by Tops markets on Jefferson Ave today,” Manna posted on his Facebook page. “I spoke with many of the workers today and they also appreciate all the support they are receiving from the community. Our condolences go out to the victims of this senseless tragedy.”

District 1 added on its Facebook page: “We are deeply saddened and outraged by the ruthless killings at the Tops store on Jefferson Avenue in Buffalo. This senseless attack, motivated by hate, was pure evil.”

Standing outside the supermarket, a tearful Manna told a WKBW-TV interviewer the Tops workers “are essential workers who just want to serve their community and get a paycheck…As union representatives, we want to make sure we do everything for them.” He quoted one surviving uninjured worker as saying the scene “was like something out of a war movie…It appears the shooter came here on a mission.”

“This is a dark day for every single worker and things have got to change,” said Manna. His YouTube interview is here:


Tom Campbell
Tom Campbell

Tom Campbell is the editor of Western New York Labor Today.