BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — A new billboard in Buffalo is taking aim at Workers United, the union behind the organizing push at places like Starbucks. But, who put the billboard up, and why?
A green and yellow billboard reading “Welcome to Buffalo: Home of the Country’s Most Hypocritical Union,” now greets drivers as they drive 190 to downtown Buffalo.
The Virginia-based nonprofit behind the sign is the Center for Union Facts.
They have a history of railing against organized labor movements in the name of transparency.
This time they’ve zeroed in on workers united.
That’s the union affiliated with labor movements at local Starbucks and Buffalo’s Lexington Co-op market.
One local organizer thinks those at the Center for Union Facts are threatened by the organizing movement in Buffalo. But the center says it’s simply calling out Amalgamated Bank, which has close ties to Workers United.
The Center commissioned the billboard and a truck – labeling the bank and union as “Progressive Posers.”
“It’s sort of portraying similar messaging, the hypocrisy of the union, the nepotism that’s taken place at the union,” said Charlyce Bozzello, communications director, Center for Union Facts. “As well as this failure to invest in low-income communities.”
“Workers United is not the social justice warrior that it claims to be. it says that it has all of these progressive values, when we look at the actions of its bank, it’s not clear to me that it’s not living up to those values at all,” added Bozzello. “Workers United owes its members, workers, and the general public an explanation of why the union claims to stand for social justice, stand for economic justice and yet it’s the largest shareholder at a bank that’s really not living up to any of those values.”
Maxwell Bollman, a union organizer, said he wouldn’t be surprised if Starbucks had something to do with the billboard. When asked, the Center for Union Facts told us they don’t reveal their donors.
Starbucks says they have no association and haven’t donated to the organization.
“The truck is posted outside of Starbucks and people kind of just think it’s a joke for the most part,” said Maxwell Bollman, organizer, Lexington Co-op Workers United. “I don’t think that people take that too seriously. I think people know that we’re a strong union.”
“Buffalo is kind of like seeing this big boom of union membership and union creation. And seeing how effective we are at organizing workers and I think that they’re kind of afraid of that,” added Bollman. “I think if they want people to know the facts, I’ll give you guys the facts. I think Workers United is probably the most progressive union in the country. I mean, they put workers first. As a union, as a solidarity-based organization, we’re not afraid to take tough stances.”
The Center for Union Facts said the billboard will be up until next week. But, they do say more could be on the way.
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Patrick Ryan is an award-winning reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2020. See more of his work here and follow him on Twitter.