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Unions Hope for Improved Relationship with New City Administration

By Eileen Buckley

Buffalo, NY – A number of unions supported and endorsed Byron Brown's successful mayoral campaign. That spawned a great deal of criticism and speculation that the unions will expect something in return.

City unions have been frustrated with the control board's wage freeze. It has prevented pay raises for all city employees, including police and fire.

But some union leaders are hoping Brown will offer them inclusion in future decisions. Buffalo firefighters' union president Joe Foley, who at times has been at odds with Mayor Anthony Masiello, says Brown has promised unions they would have a seat at the table.

"He promised we would have inclusiveness and that decisions would not be made behind our backs," Foley said.

But the control board has repeatedly stated that the unions must make concessions in order for the city to survive financially. Foley says Tuesday's election results indicate that the control board is not in power.

"The elected officials represent the people, not the control board," Foley said. "The elected offiials should have a say of what is going on. We will work with the mayor and not the control board to bring this city around."

The Buffalo firefighters' union donated $27,000 to Brown's campaign. WBFO News asked Foley if he expects anything in return. Foley says the union wants respect for the dangerous job firefighters perform.

AFSCME, the union that represents Buffalo's white and blue collar employees, also contributed to the Brown campaign. And like Foley, Local 264 President Bill Travis also believes Brown will include unions in future conversation. Travis says that's what he expects in return for supporting Brown.

"What I expect is an open door policy to his office and the building to go in and discuss the issues," Travis said. "That's what I expect."

But Brown could find himself caught in the middle of the unions and control board. AFSCME is working without a contract, the firefighters are suing over pay parity, and the police union has not given up on a lawsuit over the wage freeze.