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WEB EXTRA: A Labor Day Conversation with Peter De Jesus

Peter DeJesus sits before a microphone at WBFO, smiling and wearing a T-shirt that depicts a group of people holding signs, organizing
Dave Debo
Peter DeJesus , WNY Area Labor Federation President

On Labor Day, the president of the region's large umbrella group of unions predicts a contentious year of negotiations at area hospitals, and reflects on their — and other unions — struggles this past year under COVID-19.

"It's been challenging, to say the least. We face a number of unprecedented struggles, you know, as a labor movement," said Peter DeJesus, president of the WNY Area Labor Federation.

"A number of our affiliates are deemed essential and had to carry out their duties and tasks regardless of their individual burdens or fears that they might have had. So it's been a challenging year. We're happy to get some reprieve from it, yet with a complete understanding, and we're still battling a pandemic here," he said.

DeJesus sat for an extended version of the WBFO Brief podcast in advance of Labor Day and talked with WBFO's Dave Debo about organizing during a pandemic, health care contract fights on the horizon, the Buffalo mayor's race, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, President Biden and Monday's parade and celebration in Cazenovia Park.

Hear that conversation at the top of this page. A few highlights are below.

On health care and the talks with CWA at Catholic Health now and later this year at Kaleida:
"Unfortunately, this is going to be a fight that's going to be dragged out, because, you know, I don't believe in a time to where these employers are still continuing to deal with a pandemic, where they're still looking at severe shortages, when we're having an issue of bringing in workers into the field that, you know, you put across the table a concessionary bargain. It's just, it doesn't make sense at a time to where, again, there are so many difficulties44.

On the Buffalo mayor's race:
"So in the primary elections, we supported unanimously Mr. Brown. What has happened since the primary is that we have asked our affiliates to kind of review, or there was a lot of concerns about the candidacy of Byron Brown and/or the lack of any type of campaign during the primaries. So we haven't made a determination in the mayor's race as to what we're going to do. We are going to convene a meeting of our affiliates on Sept. 13 to discuss this and they will receive a ballot that will question whether we want to continue the endorsement of the mayor. I want to be very clear that India Walton is not on that discussion. Again, this was a unanimous decision on the primary to endorse Byron (Brown) and the only question that we have now is that we continue to endorse him or do we refrain."

On former Gov. Andrew Cuomo:
"Cuomo, for all his downfalls, I believe was the right person at the right time to lead us out of the pandemic. And, you know, there was a number of decisions that we can play Monday (morning) quarterback and just kind of rethink, but I think he, at the moment we needed him, he was the right person. But I am happy too it is Gov. Kathy Hochul now.

Dave Debo's journalism career runs the gamut from public radio to commercial radio, from digital projects to newspapers. With over 30 years of experience, he's produced national television news programs and has worked as both a daily and weekly print journalist and web editor.