Buffalo, NY –( release) With politicians in Albany calling for record budget cuts to education and other public services, community and student groups, labor unions and civil rights organizations gathered in Lafayette Square in downtown Buffalo, NY on Tuesday afternoon to demand that elected officials protect essential services and jobs. Following hundreds of large rallies in the past month across the country expressing solidarity with working people in Wisconsin and dozens of other states where workers’ rights and the public sector are under attack, hundreds of area residents participated in the event in Buffalo.
“In tough economic times, there are difficult decisions to be made—at the federal level, at the state level, at the local level and at our dinner tables,” said Michelle Pancoe with NYS United Teachers. “Our governor decided that the best decision he could make was to cut $1.5 billion from education while cutting taxes on the richest New Yorkers. I don’t want to sacrifice our kids’ education to cut taxes on the rich.”
Speakers at the rally, which included leaders from labor unions, community groups, and civil rights organizations, focused on protecting jobs and workers’ rights, as well as public services.
Flo Trippi, CSEA Western Region President, said labor unions protect the rights of all workers, not just union members.
“CSEA continues to stand with workers from all across the country whose rights are being attacked, Trippi said. The labor movement doesn’t just protect union workers; our work is on behalf of all working men and women. It’s the labor movement that created the middle class, and it will be the labor movement that protects the middle class from being crushed by corporate greed.”
Frank Messiah, president of the NAACP Buffalo Branch, observed a moment of silence to commemorate the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s death, which was on April 4, 1968. Messiah said that the work of Dr. King, the civil rights movement, and the labor movement are based on the values human rights and the inherent dignity of all working men and women.
The Coalition for Economic Justice, CSEA Local 859, and the WNY Area Labor Federation cosponsored the rally.
Speakers and organizations represented at the rally included: Dan Boody, president of the Painters Union, District 4, Frank Messiah, NAACP Buffalo Branch president, Mike Hoffert, Buffalo Central Labor Council president, Bill Travis, AFSCME Council 35 president, Cayden Mak with the Graduate Student Union at the University at Buffalo, Michelle Pancoe with the NYS United Teachers, Courtney Brunelle with CSEA, and Micaela Shapiro-Shellaby, organizer with the Coalition for Economic Justice.
The event in Buffalo precedes a protest in Albany tomorrow organized by groups from across the state. Similar to the protests in the Wisconsin state capitol, more than 1,000 New Yorkers are expected to sit in and stay overnight in the state capitol in Albany to protest the proposed budget cuts and call for education funding to be restored and the millionaire’s tax to be renewed.