The head of Western New York’s Labor Federation is retiring, after a decade in the job.
Unions certainly aren’t what they used to be, but the Labor Federation's sprawl across Western New York includes 145,000 members of constituent unions, public and private, from healthcare to grocery workers. A former Teamsters Local 449 official, Richard Lipsitz said the federation still does the traditional labor patterns, including supporting striking workers.
"Local strikes that we supported. The Catholic Health campaign we supported. The Verizon strike, which was national. The GM strike, which was a national strike. We helped the BTF and ATU achieve labor agreements, after more than a decade for the BTF and eight years for the ATU. We did organizing campaigns, including at Wendt industrial, Spot Coffee organizing campaign," Lipsitz said.
He said COVID-19 has made the year even harder.
"The COVID crisis has a double edge for us," Lipsitz said. "Of course, an awful lot of our membership worked when others were laid off and they kept working. They were also in the front lines and we’ve lost a number of our frontline members to COVID: teachers, healthcare workers and bus drivers, for sure."
There is a federation presidential election March 27, with Lipsitz backing Local 1199 SEIU Political Action Coordinator Peter DeJesus.
"Peter DeJesus from 1199-SEIU. He’s the political affairs coordinator for that organization, which is one of our largest affiliates," said Lipsitz, "and I expect he’s going to be elected on the 27th, but that election has to take place."
Lipsitz is now 71, so he is easing off running the federation, but will remain as president emeritus and probably do some work for his Teamsters local.