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October 27, 2013

Union leaders demand change during rally on Old Falls Street

Tonawanda News — The message delivered by hundreds of labor union members and supporters Saturday was “change is needed.”

Led by leadership of the AFL-CIO Niagara-Orleans Labor Council, a large group of workers took to Old Falls Street to protest what they feel is poor decisions made by poor political leaders.

Jim Briggs, president of the AFL-CIO Niagara-Orleans Labor Council, said especially in Niagara County, the workers have been taken out of the equation, reduced to being considered the problem rather than the solution.

“We’ve got less teachers teaching our children, we’ve got less people cleaning our streets, we’ve got less people working in the parks, we’ve got less people making sure the water’s safe to go in the river,” he said. “We’ve got less people in patrol cars, in fire trucks. We’re fast-tracking to a third-world economy in Niagara County. It sucks and it ends today.

“Is it better today than it was 10 years ago? We’re not the problem. The problem is we don’t elect the right people who take an interest in community before political party. Rs and Ds are great, but this community is way more important and we should demand today that it ends.”

Much of the focus of Saturday’s speeches during the Rally For Niagara’s Future and Our Children’s Future focused on what attendees believe is misspent tax dollars on politically charged items.

Bill Rutland, president AFSCME Local 182, representing Niagara County blue-collar workers in public works, parks, office for the aging, jail maintenance and others, said he’s upset about recent decisions by the Republican majority in the county legislature concerning the records department storehouse and the legal fight against Chemical Waste Management in Lewiston.

He said the records housed in a bought-and-paid-for facility in Lockport will be moved when the building is closed, to a facility in Burt owned by a county Republican financial backer as part of a contract for records storage. He added a plan to build a new storehouse on county-owned land in Lockport made more sense but was overlooked.

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