CWA District One is mourning the loss of our great friend and ally, former Assemblymember Richard Brodsky, who died suddenly on Wednesday morning, apparently from complications of the Covid-19 virus. His death has left all who knew him deeply shocked and saddened.
Our union has never had a better friend in Albany than Richard Brodsky. As the Chair of the Assembly’s Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions from 2002 to 2010, Richard fought relentlessly to ensure that the phone company provided high quality service to consumers, and that telephone workers were guaranteed good jobs in the process. He sponsored legislation, held public hearings during which he brilliantly cross-examined company officials, helped us fight off the sale of the upstate network, walked on our picket lines and spoke at our rallies.
But Richard was not just an incredibly effective legislative ally. He was our Albany Sherpa and mentor. Nobody knew better how to navigate the arcane and often hidden pathways of legislative power. Nobody believed more deeply in the Legislature’s capacity to do good things for ordinary citizens, and nobody was more effective in advancing the public interest in the halls of the Capitol. Richard was always bluntly honest with us—sometimes painfully so—about what was really going on behind the scenes, and generous with perceptive, often humorous, advice about tactics and strategy.
Richard retired from the Legislature to run for Attorney General in 2010, and we supported his campaign, which sadly, fell short. But in the ensuing years, if anything, we worked even more closely with him on a range of issues. Starting with the campaign to stop the deployment of VoiceLink on Fire Island and elsewhere after Superstorm Sandy in 2012, Richard was the lead attorney in our campaign to pressure the Public Service Commission to acknowledge the failures of telecom deregulation and take a more aggressive posture towards Verizon’s service quality performance. He led the filing of our Service Quality petition at the PSC in 2014, and worked closely with us to pressure the PSC to hold public hearings on service quality around the state in 2015, and ultimately to reverse their historic embrace of sweeping deregulation in 2016. Ultimately, this led to the “Plant Pride” and FiOS buildout settlement in 2018. And as recently as a few months ago, we had asked Richard to look into Voice Connect, and whether it met the PSC’s definition of “basic service.” Richard also helped us on health care issues, in particular the lack of enforcement of staffing reporting requirements that were enacted in 2010.
But more than all of this, Richard was a good and loyal friend. He wasn’t always the easiest friend. He was opinionated and brilliant—and never reluctant to let you know about the latter. He had strong views on pretty much everything and phone conversations with him sometimes resembled a boxing match more than a friendly exchange of information. But he was always funny, insightful, entertaining and informative. His views about politics, culture, food and religion—and most especially, state politics—were always provocative. He believed that most of the world’s foibles could be explained by reference to Mel Brooks’ “Blazing Saddles.” Talking to him was never, ever, dull.
Despite his obvious intelligence, Richard never stood on ceremony in dealing with our members. As Mike Gendron of Local 1108 recalled in a text on Wednesday, “He was very approachable and friendly, always available for advice and kind words.” Those qualities reflected the core of who Richard was—a deeply moral person fiercely committed to the cause of working women and men. He repeatedly counseled us that the union did its best, for its members and for the world, when it aligned the interests of the members with those of the public. To him, that alliance was the winning formula in fighting against corporate power.
Richard’s combination of intelligence, institutional knowledge, strategic insight and creativity, and commitment to the cause of working people, makes him irreplaceable. We are lucky to have benefited so greatly from his skills over the last quarter-century. We will miss him deeply.