PEF members learn, network at annual legislators’ conference
Story and photos by SHERRY HALBROOK
Many PEF members turned out for the 2017 legislative conference weekend February 17-20 held annually by the NYS Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators at the Empire State Plaza in Albany.
The PEF Black Caucus held its annual reception February 17, and PEF sponsored a workshop titled “The School to Prison Pipeline,” February 18, that was followed by the union’s annual reception at this event. All of these events were well attended and appreciated by PEF members and many others.
PEF President Wayne Spence announced at the PEF Black Caucus reception the Bernard Fineson Developmental Disabilities Services Office in Queens will remain open. PEF has been working diligently with state legislators who represent that district and with other labor organizations to save these services for the community that depends on them. The residential treatment facility will now remain open until December 31, 2017, instead of the originally scheduled closing date of March 31.
Spence took the opportunity to update the attendees on the status of the PEF pay bill. PEF was able to secure a “message of necessity” from the governor, which will expedite the implementation of PEF members’ pay increases. (More recently, the bill was signed by the governor.)
Spence also told the crowd PEF has been proactive in engaging with members and because of this, he is absolutely convinced that members will support their union against any attacks that may be coming in the form of anti-labor laws or court decisions coming out of Washington.
Numerous state senators and Assembly members stopped by the PEF reception to talk with the union’s leaders and members to say they appreciate the support PEF and its activists have given them.
PEF Vice President Adreina Adams was one of five panelists who spoke at the PEF workshop about the problems children face in schools that have adopted “zero tolerance” policies and how the resulting confrontations and expulsions can send students into lives and behaviors that are more likely to end in jail or prison sentences and blight their hopes for happy, productive lives.
“Our youths are more vulnerable than ever,” declared panelist Shawn Francoise, a member of the NYC Board of Education and the president of Local 372 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
Adams said she thinks past programs such as home economics, music, gym and sports activities should be re-instated as a way to decrease the school to prison pipeline and she believes more alternative schools should be offered so that youngsters have options.
The panel also included: Janella Hinds, American Federation of Teachers vice president for academic high schools; the Rev. Regena Thomas, AFT director of civil rights advocacy; and Latino Leadership Institute President Jaime Estades. The Rev. Terrence Melvin, who is secretary-treasurer of the NYS AFL-CIO, moderated the program.
The panelists comments were very well received by audience members who had many questions and offered their own thoughts and insights into the issue.
THeCOMMUNICATOR – March 2017 Contents – PDF