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Labor federation re-elects top officers to 3-year terms

A labor federation encompassing 165 affiliated local and regional unions has re-elected its top officers to three-year terms.

Richard Lipsitz Jr. of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters will continue to serve as president of the Western New York Area Labor Federation, AFL-CIO. His new term runs until March 2018; Lipsitz and the three other officers ran unopposed. The federation is an umbrella group that covers unions with about 125,000 dues-paying members, stretching as far east as Batavia and as far south as Jamestown.

About 175 people attended the labor federation’s annual meeting Saturday. Lipsitz said the group is focusing on issues such as the push for a $15-per-hour minimum wage; a support center to help protect workers rights; and “just transitions,” which involve helping workers displaced by a shift to clean-energy industries.

Lipsitz and the group’s executive board earlier this year released an economic “blueprint” covering those issues, as well as advocating for “high road” economic development that promotes creating good-paying jobs with benefits.

The labor federation also heard from Bill Fletcher Jr., a labor activist who is an author and public speaker. In an interview before the meeting, Fletcher said unions need to build coalitions with community groups to broaden support for their goals. “Our movement cannot just be about union members,” he said. “It’s got to be about workers.”

Fletcher said he views “right-wing populism,” such as the tea party, as “probably the major internal threat to the workers movement, and a represents a movement that is competing with the trade union movement.”

The other labor federation officers re-elected were: Flo Tripi, Civil Service Employees Association, vice president; Jim Wagner, Communications Workers of America, treasurer; and Mike Deely, New York State United Teachers, recording secretary.