Erie County legislature passes anti-Janus resolution to protect workers’ privacy
Screen shot from video of press conference, West NY Area Labor Federation Facebook.

BUFFALO, N.Y. (PAI)—The Erie County, N.Y., legislature passed an anti-Janus resolution to protect the privacy of the county’s public workforce, even as rich and right-wing anti-worker foundations launch a multi-million-dollar campaign to get public union members to dump their unions.

And the county legislature isn’t the only body to do so. The city of Niagara Falls also stood up against the anti-worker Supreme Court ruling and supported workers impacted by it.

The Janus case, pushed by the venal and vicious National Right to Work Committee, its legal defense fund and its right-wing corporate backers, makes every state and local government worker nationwide a potential “free rider,” able to use union services without paying one red cent for them.

Janus case backers intend to “defund the left” and destroy opposition to their retrograde agenda. Immediately afterward, one of the groups, the so-called Freedom Foundation, already launched a campaign in West Coast states get unionists to tear up their cards and dump their dues. Another, the Michigan-based Mackinac Foundation launched a similar campaign targeting New York state teachers.

One weapon the rightists use is to get contact information, including names and home addresses of state and local government union members, and then hit them with door knocks, mass mailings and phone calls. The Niagara Falls and Erie County resolutions slam that “contact info” door in the rightists’ faces.

Several members of the county legislature’s Democratic Caucus joined with area labor representatives in downtown Buffalo on July 16 to announce the passage, 8-3, of a bipartisan resolution to bar such outside groups from obtaining county workers’ personal information.

Banned from distribution to the private political groups: Employee home addresses, personal e-mail addresses, personal telephone numbers, and some other information. The only exception: If the county receives a subpoena or other court order to do so. Also exempt: Employee organizations as defined by New York Civil Service Law, they said. In other words, unions.

Western New York AFL-CIO Area Labor Federation President Richard Lipsitz said labor “understands what’s at stake.”

“We’ve been preparing for this for the past 18 to 20 months,” he added. “There is a good chance labor will grow our own strength” in the face of the Janus decision. “But it is very difficult to negotiate successfully when there are people in the organization who are not participating and are allowed to stand outside and reap the benefits.”

Lipsitz, appearing with county legislature Majority Leader April Baskin and fellow lawmakers Pat Burke and John Bruso, thanked the legislature’s Democratic Caucus “for taking the initiative to pass this resolution and encourage other municipalities to follow their lead.” A multitude of other unions joined the press conference.

“Public employees should understand the risks they are assuming in order to save a few dollars,” Baskin said. “While public sector employees are entitled to make their own decisions, ending union membership can leave them vulnerable to a loss of union representation in situations such as grievances, arbitrations, discipline or discharge. I urge them to weigh the costs and consequences.”

“There is a clear correlation between the decline in union membership and the decline of the American middle class,” Burke said.

“Stagnant wages, job insecurity and the erosion of our quality of life can all be traced back to the sustained attack on labor the right has been engaged in for almost 40 years. I am proud to stand with the hard-working men and women in organized labor and pledge no taxpayer dollars will be used to fund efforts to encourage employees of Erie County to resign their (union) membership.”

“We are not going to allow the hard-working employees of Erie County to be tossed around like footballs between rival political teams,” Bruso said. “This resolution will help protect their privacy and avoid a needless politicization of the County Workforce due to outside partisan groups.”

In Niagara Falls, the City Council’s resolution decried the Janus decision, which Niagara-Orleans AFL-CIO Central Labor Council President James Briggs told he is “pleased with.”

Briggs, who is also Steelworkers District 4’s sub-district director, called Janus “an anti-union ruling and not a ruling to protect workers’ 1st Amendment rights,” as Mark Janus and his backers claimed—and as the 5-man GOP-named High Court majority agreed. “Unions are being forced to represent people to don’t pay their fair share – and that is simply unfair.”


Tom Campbell
Tom Campbell

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