On Labor Day, I joined our union brothers and sisters at the Labor Day Parade at the New York State Fairgrounds outside Syracuse. We were loud and proud, and showed fairgoers from around our state that we’re staying strong.
We need to remind the public our Labor Movement is still active, that our work matters, and that we make people’s lives better.
But more importantly, I wanted to point out a small, but historic, change at this year’s parade.
Before our march began, I spoke with Republican Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon, who thanked me for our union’s endorsement in his upcoming election. He then marched with us, wearing a CSEA shirt.
Why is this important? A year ago, if anyone had told me that the Onondaga County Executive would march alongside our members, I would’ve laughed in their face. At the time, we were dealing with the previous county executive, an adversary to our workforce from the day she took office. She never tried to work cooperatively with our union. We fought many battles with her administration. No one from CSEA shed a tear when she left.
By the same token, when McMahon took office, it was like someone switched on a light. He immediately reached out to our union leaders, political and labor relations staff. He then began meeting with us on a regular basis, providing a direct pipeline to share our ideas and concerns. Have we solved all our issues? Of course not. But has morale improved and are we making things better by working cooperatively? I would argue the answer is yes.
I tell this story to make two important points. First, the people we elect to lead our local governments matter. If we can work together, we can make better workplaces and deliver better public services. The services our members provide really do improve the quality of life for all New Yorkers, and when our workers do better, New York does better.
Second, I want to dispel the myth that our union only supports Democratic candidates. County Executive McMahon is a Republican who we are proud to endorse. We don’t make our endorsements based on party. We provide our support to those who have earned it, regardless of political affiliation. When they take care of us, we take care of them. When they stand against us, we fight them as hard as we can. It really isn’t about our personal politics, which can divide us in our workplaces; it’s about our larger shared values as union members, and which elected officials support them.
So, my message as we head toward Election Day? YOUR vote matters. CSEA members are overwhelmingly registered to vote, but in local government elections, we can always do better with voter turnout. The people who run our counties, towns and villages, who help set our tax rates or decide which roads to pave, THEY are who we should work hard to elect; arguably more impactful to our daily lives than politicians at the state or national levels. As articles in this edition point out, when we DON’T vote, we LOSE. But more importantly, when we DO vote, we can certainly make important progress.
We will share our endorsements to ensure you know who we support, but the real job is up to you. We will let you know who we believe will do their best to hear our issues and act on our concerns. We hope you will take our recommendations to heart when, not if, you go to the polls.