April 23, 2013

UFCW Members Lobby New York Legislators

UFCW members from local unions all across New York descended upon the Capitol in Albany today to lobby their elected officials about important bills pending in the Assembly and the Senate.

UFCW members lobbied in support of the New York DREAM Act, the Fair Elections Act, the Farmworker Fair Labor Practices Act, medical marijuana, and conveyed their strong opposition to the Walmart tax credit that was structured into the recently passed minimum wage deal.

For Isha Matko, a UFCW Local 1500 member who works at Gristedes in New York City, this was her first lobbying experience.

“We’re here to help bring a voice to more workers. This helps to ensure that Assemblymembers and Senators are seeing and hearing from real people. It’s a powerful experience being able to talk with people who have the ability to make a difference in all our lives.”

The real impact in lobbying comes from elected officials being able to attach a personal face to the bills that they vote on. Having a lobby day sends a strong reminder that they work for real people–not just the wealthy or big corporations. Juan Guardado, a UFCW Local 1500 member who works at Stop & Shop in West Islip, had a very personal reason for lobbying.

“I’m happy to be here because I really support the DREAM Act. I have a family member who is undocumented and despite getting straight A’s wasn’t eligible for any financial aid. He had to stop going to school because he couldn’t afford it. It’s important for working people to talk to their elected officials because they need to see firsthand that we care, we’re informed and we’re struggling.”

As the lobby day came to a close, UFCW Local One union representative Mark Manna of Buffalo hit on the true importance of the day.

“We’re working people. We don’t have $1,000 suits or a big checkbook, but we have a right to let our elected officials know what we’re concerned about. At the end of the day we keep score with votes, not with how much money is raised.”

Too often, when the word “lobby” is tossed around people immediately think “wealthy” and “special interest.” Yesterday in New York, UFCW members made sure their elected officials associated “lobby” with “workers.”