Executive Board addresses timely issues
Protecting PEF’s Future
Story and photos by DEBORAH A. MILES
Accomplishing a full agenda of union business with a few passionate debates, PEF’s Executive Board members voted on items to benefit the membership at its quarterly meeting held November 30 and December 1 in Albany.
Among the most immediate issues requiring attention, the board approved two tentative contract agreements for members who work at Albany County Probation and at the National Development Research Institutes (NDRI). Council leaders and representatives said members at both worksites overwhelmingly supported their tentative pacts, and appreciate the support of PEF’s Executive Board, so members may now vote to ratify their agreements.
PEF President Wayne Spence highlighted the victory of the labor movement to defeat a constitutional convention in New York state.
“What we do is relevant. It was member engagement that got us this win,” Spence said. (See related story page 4.)
Spence and PEF Director of Finance Valerie O’Dell explained the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) stipend procedures each PEF president, who sits on the SEIU Executive Board, receives. Following a discussion, the PEF Executive Board voted overwhelmingly to continue past PEF practices with regard to the SEIU stipends for PEF presidents.
A presentation of a state Paid Family Leave Program offered by the Governor’s Office of Employee Relations (GOER) was discussed. The Executive Board and Spence agreed to continue to listen to GOER’s proposals and remain strategic in all negotiations.
In light of the upcoming U.S. Supreme Court Janus v. AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees) case, the outcome of which could immediately cripple union membership, Spence announced new appointments to the PEF Budget Advisory Committee.
Spence said, “PEF needs people who have a passion to get things done, especially those with a fiduciary background and strong personalities.”
The committee includes PEF Executive Board members Jodi Nettleton, Danielle Freeman, Gina Fanelli, Colleen Williams and David Dubofsky.
“Members, PEF directors and the United Steel Workers staff union will also have a role, so everyone can work together and have a voice, as we follow the issues that may arise from the Janus case,” Spence said.
Membership Benefits Program (MBP) Administrator Scott Harms reported the MBP move to 10 Airline Drive went smoothly, citing the new consolidated office is 2.8 miles away from PEF headquarters and provides PEF no-cost training and conference rooms for non-political member meetings. He added the new office has generated almost equal walk-in business compared to last year and suggested members should follow its Facebook page for popular seasonal discount tickets before being sold out.
Spence elaborated on representing PEF at the Public Service International (PSI) convention held every five years by AFT. He reported that privatization is a worldwide issue, describing how the control of water in Brazil and health care in the United Kingdom have greatly experienced the erosion of public-sector services.
The PSI convention was held in Geneva with 700 unions in attendance and also focused on worldwide whistleblower protection. Its theme was “People Over Profits.”
In his report, Spence commented on the erosion of human rights in New York state,explaining a vast number of state prisons house people suffering from mental illness and special needs because they are being artificially released from OMH and OPWDD facilities too quickly.
Spence also reported on two bills vetoed by the governor, the Parole Parity Bill which passed both houses, and the bill that would keep the Western New York Children’s Psychiatric Center (WNYCPC) from being consolidated with the Buffalo Psychiatric Center.
“More than 16,000 people signed petitions to keep WYNCPC at its current location in West Seneca and there was overwhelming legislative support,” Spence said. “We will keep fighting it again and again. We can’t get knocked down.”
Upcoming public relations campaign
The Executive Board overwhelming approved funding to launch a $150,000 major media/organizing campaign to address the dire situation of PEF-represented nurses who work at SUNY Upstate Medical Center, along with health care workers at the state Office of Mental health, Children and Family Services, Office For People With Developmental Disabilities and correctional facilities.
The goal is to significantly highlight the outstanding work of PEF members during a time of short-staffing, mistreatment by management, disregard for the mandatory overtime law, the state’s privatization push, and to reinforce PEF’s support for its health-care workers.
The campaign will include a major member organizing effort, plus utilization of all media and billboards.
PEF office updates
As the former MBP space at PEF HQ has been vacated, the Executive Board learned of plans for the space from PEF Statewide Facility Manager Joel Briggs. He said that area will be transformed into a “Member Engagement Command Center,” a new PEF Retirees’ Office with a welcoming reception area and a multi-cultural space for PEF committees. He also stated the roof at PEF’s headquarters building needs to be replaced.
Briggs has visited the Poughkeepsie office and will also attend to the building needs at all regional offices.
Spence also introduced board members through a video presentation to Cathy Glasson, a union activist and nurse in Iowa, running for governor. (See related story page 8.)
“Cathy’s goal is to bring back collective bargaining in a state that was stripped of union rights and has policies to wipe out middle-class workers. This is a big deal in the union movement,” Spence said. “I ask you to privately consider supporting Cathy and to follow her example to step up and be a part of the election process in New York.”
Throughout the meeting, Spence and board members reflected upon the effects the Janus case will have on union membership. They emphasized the need to educate members about the ramifications of the court’s decision and to be active, just as they did in the “Vote No Constitutional Convention” campaign.
PEF Secretary-Treasurer Kevin Hintz told the Executive Board the union’s net income is just over $2 million with dues from approximately 55,000 members and fee-payers. But that figure is anticipated to possibly shrink with the looming Janus case.
Hintz said PEF’s 39th Annual Convention, which took place in late October, was not reflected in his April to September 2017 financial statement, but did include the union’s cash balances, net, current and fixed assets, liabilities, contingency fund campaigns, officers’ and regional expenses, expenditures, committees’ expenses, political action contributions and charitable contributions.
Hintz’s main point, which was echoed by Spence, was the need for all PEF divisions to keep proper records, especially original receipts.
“PEF must become responsible in a fiduciary manner,” Hintz said. “All divisions not in good standing either need a treasurer or to submit quarterly reports and audits which include original receipts. Our paperwork must be in order. You must keep track of gift cards and giveaways in your reports.”
Spence added, “No receipts, No reimbursements. No exceptions. Due to a complaint, the federal Department of Labor is auditing PEF and we will all do things by the book, not only for that reason but for what our members expect us to do.”
Subsequently, the Executive Board overwhelmingly passed an amendment stating all members who request to use PEF funds will be required to complete a purchasing authority application form for purchase or credit card use, or double signatures on a PEF check. Members will receive an orientation and guidelines with instructions.
“From my SEIU training, I have learned it is ridiculous to have purchase or credit cards in place without a union policy,” Spence said.
Again, in light of the Janus case and how PEF can be more efficient with membership dues, the Executive Board discussed changing the frequency of PEF’s annual convention to a triennial meeting. The board voted to send a referendum to the entire PEF membership to vote on PEF holding its convention every three years. The mailing will be coupled with triennial election information, again to be more efficient.
Spence noted SEIU holds its convention every four years, AFT every two years.
The Executive Board members also offered suggestions to the convention chairs for improvements, ranging from the credential process, committee room space to resolution procedures.
Board members were informed that the triennial election debate will be held Thursday, May 24. Ballots will be mailed by the American Arbitration Association (AAA) Monday, June 4, to members and must be returned to the AAA by Monday, June 25. They will be counted Tuesday, June 26, in Manhattan by the AAA.
The board also voted to reject an appeal from PEF Vice President Nikki Brate regarding a decision made by a PEF ethics hearing panel. By a majority vote, the board upheld the committee’s decision to bar Brate from running for any elected PEF position in the 2018 triennial election cycle.
With a goal to strengthen PEF’s legislative power, the board voted to approve having a legislative agenda in place by January 1, including political endorsements and to have a collective-bargaining-agreement posting policy.
The board agreed to look into the possibility and legality of having credit and background checks for members dealing with PEF’s finances, and to investigate the best way to address legislation for pension system cost-of-living adjustments.
As always, complete minutes of the board meeting will be made available on the PEF website when they become available. Member’ Only Log In Section