Loud & Clear – Iannece Hopes To Be Labor’s Voice In The NYS Assembly
August 31, 2012
By Joe Maniscalco
When you collect the endorsement of over 10 major labor unions in your run for New York State Assembly representing the 25th District, it’s naturally follows that people are going to start calling you “the labor candidate.”
But when Jerry Iannece, an attorney out of St. John’s University School of Law and former chair of Community Board 11 in Queens gets tagged with the union label, he doesn’t balk.
“People say, ‘Well, you’re the labor candidate.’ “Okay, so I am,” Iannece shrugs. That’s a good thing.”
If he gets elected to the New York State Assembly in November, Iannece says he wants to be the “voice” of labor, and fight hard against those seeking to wipe out the kinds of union gains that made his late father’s life just a little bit easier at the end.
“I’m a first generation American,” Iannece says. “Initially, my dad was a waiter and was in the waiters and bartenders union. Mom was a seamstress with the International Ladies Garment Workers Union. As time went on, dad pursued his education and became a member of the New York State Department of State where he became a CSEA member. When he retired, he received incredible benefits. In many ways, when he retired, my dad lived more comfortably than when he was working.”
Growing up and attending public school in Astoria and later New York University where he majored both in history and political science, Iannece says that his family never had to worry about what might happen if one of them fell sick and the medical bills started piling up.
“If it wasn’t for labor, I wouldn’t have been able to do the things I’ve done or have the lifestyle I had growing up and going to college,” Iannece says. “The union is always in my heart. I understand what the union movement means to ordinary people. I understand that it’s their safety net.”
When an important Waldbaum’s supermarket closed its doors in Douglaston a little more than a year ago, Iannece says that in his role as a community advocate he resisted incursions from non-union shops like Best Buy and instead “paved the way” for the more labor-friendly Fairway Market to debut on the site.
“There’s a trend nationally in union bashing and its wrong,” Iannece says. “The job of people like me is to get out there and change the dialogue. I was a history major, and just about every progressive movement we’ve ever had, every advancement in the workforce, has come via labor. So we can’t forget that.”
The roll call of unions supporting Iannece’s run for the 25th District Assembly seat includes DC37, UFT, CSEA, NYSUT, 1199SEIU, RWDSU, Local 338, 32BJSEIU, DC1707, The Uniformed Fire Officers Association and the Uniformed Firefighters Association.
“I’ve worked hard, and I’ve been out there a long time,” the married father of two says. “Unions are incredible things. They really help people, and they really need help from us. They’re something I want to encourage and I want to help. There aren’t a lot of labor advocates out there, but I want to be one of them.”
As Iannece sees it, helping unions is really all about helping the people living in his district.
“My district is a working class district,” Iannece says. “When I’m helping unions, I’m helping them.”
Elected president and chair of the Board of the Bayside Civic Association back in 1996, and chair of Community Board 11 in 2002, Iannece is well aware how far the entire New York State Legislature has fallen in the public’s esteem – likening it to the head of the household who gambles away the family’s income, and then announces that the food budget must be cut.
“Well, if you squandered the money why are you now cutting the essentials?” Iannece says. “In this case many of our elected officials did the wrong thing. They gave all these tax breaks to the rich and all of these entitlement programs to corporate welfare. Now that we’re in difficult times, they’re turning around and railing against the unions, when the unions didn’t do anything wrong. Had they managed the state better, they wouldn’t be looking for givebacks.”