for a law regulating the sale of ammunition wanes as opponents
rally at a public hearing of the Albany County Legislature
Ten minutes before the public hearing of the Albany County
Legislature Tuesday night, the line of opponents to Local
Law A still filed outside the county courthouse and onto the
sidewalk. Inside, the courtroom was packed to standing room
only, and four Sheriff’s deputies stood at the doors monitoring
the people who came and went. The well-organized opponents
of the ammunition-registration legislation came out in National
Rifle Association baseball caps and jackets to quote Thomas
Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and even Woodrow Wilson, one
after another for nearly three hours.
Most of the guns-rights supporters said that they fear Local
Law A is just one more step toward a day when all guns will
be outlawed and the citizenry will be helpless to fight back
against their government. Loudonville Legislator Phil Steck,
one of the co-authors of the bill, dismissed this criticism
as hyperbole. “The NRA’s strategy all the time is to blow
things out of proportion,” he said.
The NRA has adopted as a front in an ideological war what
is arguably just a perfunctory bill requiring that ammunition
sellers abide by a decades-old state law, Steck said.
As it stands, state penal law asserts that ammunition dealers
and retailers are not permitted to sell ammunition for handguns
to anyone other than a licensed handgun owner. However, this
1965 law didn’t put in place a requirement that any proof
of legal handgun ownership be presented at the time of purchasing
ammunition. This created a loophole that essentially made
the law unenforceable. What Local Law A was written to do,
Steck said, is add the step of providing proof of legal ownership
during ammunition transactions.
What complicates matters is that there is ammunition that
can be used both in handguns, which must be licensed, and
long guns such as rifles, which do not require licenses. To
address this, Steck and his co-authors on the local law, Wanda
Willingham and Doug Bullock of Albany, worded the bill to
state that, in all transactions, identification must be presented
and the purchaser must state for what kind of gun the ammunition
will be used.
This information would basically be accepted on good faith,
Steck admitted. He pointed out that rifle owners, if they
hunt, already submit to licensing by the state.
Critics of the law detailed at length the protections in state
and federal law of their rights to privacy and gun ownership,
as well as the dangers that societies face when they surrender
those rights. Proponents of the law, of which there were only
seven, said that the possibility that Local Law A could keep
ammunition away from criminals or children made it justified.
At worst, the supporters said, it would just be a slight extra
layer of red tape.
Albany Common Councilwoman Barbara Smith (D-Ward 4), who represents
Arbor Hill, spoke in support of the legislation, as did Common
Council President Shawn Morris. Morris suggested that the
legislature might consider adding into the language of the
bill a three-year deadline, at which point the bill could
be revisited and the positive and negative effects of the
legislation could be considered.
However, it doesn’t appear that the legislation has the support
it will need to pass at the June meeting. Cohoes Democratic
legislators Gilbert Ethier and Shawn Morse both said that
they can’t support the bill, and believe that it will fail.
Both men pointed to the potential for economic losses if gun
owners in Albany County decide to simply travel to Saratoga
or Rensselaer counties to avoid new requirements. Albany lawmaker
Brian Scavo stood before the assembled and announced: “This
bill is D.O.A.: dead on arrival.”
to the Union
employees and union members show support for federal legislation
that they claim would help unite workers
Local unions and citizen acti vists staged a rally on May
21 at the Slingerlands Price Chopper to raise awareness for
the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). This legislation, which
is currently pending in Congress, would make it easier for
employees in all sectors to form and join unions. According
to local labor leaders, the current system is broken.
we have a Third World standard in regard to organizing,” said
Guillermo Perez, president of the Capital Region chapter of
the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement. According
to a report by Human Rights Watch titled “The Employee Free
Choice Act—A Human Rights Imperative,” illegal, anti-union
practices run rampant in the United States and are in violation
of International Labour Organization standards, an organization
to which the United States belongs.
According to Perez, this is how current attempts to unionize
typically work: An employee who wishes to start a union will
begin the process of organizing; when management catches wind
of this they use scare tactics to discourage the activity;
and often the issue ends with the employee being terminated.
Meanwhile, other employees at the place of business are subjected
to interrogations, surveillance and intimidation. Perez said
that employers tiptoe around the law in an effort to suppress
According to Perez, if an employee is fired for trying to
organize a union, it often takes years for that person to
regain back pay. When they do, any money that they made at
other jobs in the meantime will be deducted from their settlement.
The rigmarole of this process makes unionizing very unattractive
for workers who are thinking about doing so.
Employers would rather break the law and receive the penalty
than see union activity at their business, said Perez. “It’s
just the cost of doing business for employers.”
If the EFCA is passed, supporters say that it will bolster
the current legislation under the National Labor Relations
Act by imposing steeper penalties and sanctions on businesses
that violate the law, turning anti-union practices into something
that doesn’t make much business sense.
The reason Price Chopper was targeted is because CEO Neil
Golub is the most vocal and powerful opponent of the legislation
in the area, according to Martha Schultz, who is with the
Labor-Religion Coalition of the Capital Region. Schultz said
that Golub is leading a campaign against the EFCA by holding
court with various municipalities’ chambers of commerce and
telling them that the legislation would be bad for business.
While Schultz tipped her cap to Golub’s considerable charity
efforts, she said it has nothing to do with workers’ rights.
know that Neil Golub is a philanthropist, but justice is different
from charity,” she said. “His policies need to change because
they are anti-worker. His opposition to [the EFCA] is in his
best interest, but he’s convincing other people it wouldn’t
be in their best interest when it would improve workers’ quality
of life and stimulate the local economy.”
Detractors of the bill say that its passage would enable union
organizers to coerce employees into joining unions. They also
say that the bill would obliterate an employee’s right to
a private vote because under the EFCA, unionization is voted
upon by way of a public ballot.
Calls to Golub Corp. were not returned.
Becky Wallace used to work at the Holiday Inn in Latham. She
would get up early for the morning breakfast shift and sometimes
stay later to do some housekeeping. On April 23, she was fired.
A couple days earlier, she said, she was coming out of a union
meeting at a local sandwich shop when her manager saw her.
let me work the whole day,” said Wallace with a wry laugh.
Wallace said the next morning she was cleaning a room when
her manager told her that she was being fired. A couple of
hours later, another union committee member was fired. Only
three of the original seven union committee members remain
employed at the Holiday Inn.
like they were whittling us down,” she said. “I never thought
I would lose my job, but I did. I’m not going anywhere, though.
I’m still going to fight to get a union.”
A recent study done by a Cornell University professor found
that in 34 percent of union-organizing elections, employers
fired pro-union workers. The study, which was based on 1,004
election records from the National Labor Relations Board,
also revealed that employers threatened to shut down plants
in 57 percent of the elections and threatened to cut wages
and benefits in 47 percent of the elections.
The author of the study, Kate Bronfenbrenner, is director
of labor education research at Cornell University. She said
it is impossible to be neutral on this issue, but her research
methods were of the highest methodological standards. The
study, “No Holds Barred—The Intensification of Employer Opposition
to Organizing,” is likely to be a centerpiece in the fight
to get the legislation passed through Congress.
Perez and others anticipate surges in union membership if
the EFCA is passed. According to Bronfenbrenner, the majority
of U.S. workers want to join unions but are scared off by
aggressive anti-union practices by employers.
law is gaining traction now,” said Perez, “because there is
an understanding that we need to restore the middle class.”
loose ends this week-