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County union rejects Democrat Poloncarz, endorses Dixon

A key municipal union says it is unhappy with County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz, will disregard its past support for him, and turn instead to Republican-endorsed Lynne M. Dixon in this year’s election.

AFSCME Local 1095, which represents about 1,500 members of the county’s blue-collar workforce, this week announced support for Dixon, an Independence Party member running on the GOP line. Though she remains the underdog against the well-financed incumbent, the union endorsement marks the kind of defection by normally Democratic constituencies that she needs in order to harbor any chance of victory in November.

“Over time our relationship with Mark has soured to the point where it is nonexistent,” said Rich Canazzi, Local 1095 president.

Canazzi, an electrician with 24 years of experience, said he seldom meets with the county executive to discuss union issues and has endured an erosion of benefits during each round of negotiations. He added the administration is hurting its own “big picture” efforts as the county becomes less and less attractive compared to private sector employment.

In addition, he said Dixon has become a solid ally in the County Legislature as administration officials paid less attention to the union and its contract needs.

“Lynne has always been there for a lot of unions,” he said. “So I thought it would be a good fit.”

Canazzi said the union's past support ends after contracts with zero percent pay hikes and give-backs in health insurance, describing the Poloncarz approach as “my way or the highway.”

“Unions normally go with Democrats, but with this administration and their lack of commitment to blue-collar workers,” he said, “we can go years without settling contracts.

“It has not been a good relationship with Mark Poloncarz during his time in office,” he added.

Jennifer L. Hibit, the county executive’s chief of staff, said the union has in the past supported Donald Trump for president and other Republicans for local office.

“This local is hook, line and sinker Republican,” she said, “I don’t put that much into it.”

She called the endorsement “very odd,” noting that Canazzi had emailed Poloncarz as recently as March 26 to talk privately about an endorsement. She said such one-on-one meetings are not part of the endorsement process, and that Canazzi then never pursued even scheduling an interview with union officials.

Hibit said Poloncarz has already gained significant labor backing and will continue to do so.

“I’m confident the majority of unions will support the county executive,” she said.

Canazzi said Dixon can expect union support with door-to-door campaigning, phone banks and money. He also thinks the union’s relationship with the county executive will continue to deteriorate.

“I can’t even fathom the backlash I will receive from him and his office,” he said. “I just don’t think the membership has anything to gain by endorsing him.”

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