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• Deduct union dues from your NYS income taxes
• Good legislative news for vets and union members
• Union nurse out to unseat Iowa governor
NYS civil service must study flex time at agencies, and new career ladder for nurse practitioners
By SHERRY HALBROOK
The state Civil Service Commission is now required by law to report every two years on the feasibility of allowing state employees to work flexible hours. That’s thanks to a bill signed in late November by the governor.
The bill, which PEF supported, was introduced by state Assemblywoman Nily Rozic of Queens and state Sen. Daniel Squadron of Brooklyn. It requires the Civil Service Commission to look at every state agency to determine which of their programs allow for flexible hours.
“This law will greatly benefit many PEF members whose professional positions require them to work outside of a normal nine-to-five schedule to provide needed services to New Yorkers,” said PEF President Wayne Spence. “For example, PEF members who work at the state Office of Children and Family Services often can reach their consumers only in the early morning or after 5 p.m. This new law is a great first step in recognizing that alternative work schedules allow PEF members to provide extended services to New Yorkers, as well as allowing them to be there to take care of the needs of their own families.”
Flex hours had been allowed for PEF members at OCFS for many years, but that option was abruptly disallowed by management.
The governor also signed a bill sponsored by Assemblywoman Aileen Gunter of Middletown and state Sen. Kemp Hannon of Nassau County. That new law requires the president of the state Civil Service Commission to study and publish a report on the job title of nurse practitioner.
PEF members in that title have been pressing for the state to more fully recognize the very serious responsibilities their jobs entail and to establish a specific career ladder for them, separate from the nursing title series.
The legislation notes, “The lack of a career ladder for NPs in the civil service system must be studied to determine its effect on the state’s ability to recruit and retain NPs. Having various classifications for the NPs would reflect the complexity of the duties they undertake. Additionally, it would put the NP profession on the same footing with other professions, such as pharmacists, social workers, psychologists and doctors, all of whom have career ladders based on certification, education and job duties.”
Not all of the legislative news was positive, however. The governor vetoed legislation long sought by PEF that would have improved pay and medical benefits for state parole officers who are injured or assaulted while on duty.
In addition, the governor vetoed a bill that would have allowed the beneficiaries of deceased parole officers to receive in a lump sum payment the value of the officer’s pension reserve that would have been established if the officer had retired on the date of his or her death.
Another big disappointment for PEF members was the veto of legislation to save Western NY Children’s Psychiatric Center in West Seneca.
State Sen. Patrick Gallivan and Assemblyman Michael Kearns, whose districts include West Seneca, immediately responded, saying they will ask their colleagues to override the veto. If the Legislature agrees to take such a vote, it will be the first time since Cuomo took office in 2011. The Legislature would need to return to the Capitol and hold a special session before December 31 to hold such a vote.
Gallivan and Kearns sponsored the bill to save the center, and it passed unanimously in both houses.
The governor said construction of a new site for the services will not be completed for two years.
“All children being served at the West Seneca facility will continue to receive services at the facility until they are discharged,” Cuomo said in a written statement issued after the veto. He also said no staff will be laid off because of the move.
PEF Region 1 members have been fighting the change for many years, contending the current site is much more therapeutic and appropriate for children than adding them to a facility that already treats adults. For more information about this effort, go to the website they and other supporters of the center have established at http://www.saveourwnycpc.org/.
Great news for union members:
Deduct union dues from your NYS income taxes
By SHERRY HALBROOK
Starting with your 2018 state income taxes (that you file in 2019) you will be allowed to deduct your union dues or agency shop fees for members who itemize their deductions.
That is the result of new legislation for New Yorkers passed and signed into law in 2017.
“This new benefit will put an estimated $35 million back into the pockets of union members in the private sector, public sector and building trades unions throughout the state,” said NYS AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento.
“We owe our legislators and Gov. Andrew Cuomo a round of applause for recognizing the value and importance of union membership,” said PEF President Wayne Spence.
“Aside from the economic benefit provided to our members, this demonstrates the state’s commitment to collective bargaining,” Cilento said. “At a time when other states are attacking unions, Gov. Cuomo and the leaders of the Legislature are enacting smart policy that recognizes the importance of unions to the overall health of the state and strengthens the voice of workers on the job.”
Cilento credited Spence and the PEF legislative staff as instrumental in securing the introduction and adoption of the tax benefit.
Speaking to the PEF Executive Board after the bill was signed, Cilento said Spence was one of the first labor leaders he turned to for support of this bill.
“Wayne immediately said to me, ‘Yes. This is something we should be able to do.’ I cannot tell you how helpful that was to me in speaking to the governor and everyone else.
“Wayne and I know that two years from now when this all takes effect, and every year from that point forward, it’s going to put $35 million back into the pockets of union members,” Cilento continued. “And the real intent of getting that done is to allow us to say to members, ‘Be sure to pay your dues, and when you itemize your state tax deductions you can deduct those dues.’
“Every single thing we can do to keep our members active and continuing to pay those dues allows us to overcome what they are trying to do to unions in Washington. And what we are saying in New York is: ‘We’re not going to have any of that!”
Good legislative news for vets and union members
Sometimes it take years to make even very small progress on getting a law enacted or amended to resolve an issue important to you. It’s rare to see several such efforts all pay off at one time, but this fall that is what has happened for military veterans.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a group of bills into law that support and increase benefits to New York state veterans. These bills passed by the state Assembly and the Senate and now signed by the governor include legislation that will:
• Provide eight days of paid leave to combat veterans employed by the state to use any health care services related to their military duty;
• Waive the civil service exam application fee for veterans; and
• Direct the state Office of General Services to set aside a publicly accessible location within the State Capitol building for a POW/MIA (Prisoner of War/Missing in Action) chair and plaque to memorialize the thousands of service members who remain unaccounted for since World War I.
“I want to thank PEF members and our legislative staff for their continued advocacy on legislation important to our veterans. This action by the governor proves that your tireless efforts have paid off and that “We Are Stronger Together!” said PEF President Wayne Spence. — Sherry Halbrook
Union nurse out to unseat Iowa governor
In Iowa, SEIU member Cathy Glasson, a nurse, is running for governor..
“Working people have been getting beaten up for too long, and our elected officials have done too little to stand up and fight for them,” Glasson said. “Iowans are working, but too many are earning too little to build a middle class life for themselves and their families.”
Glasson is president of Local 199 of the Service Employees International Union, which represents health care workers at the University of Iowa hospitals and clinics, and elsewhere.
Vowing to kick corporate control out of the governor’s office, Glasson said, Iowans who support her are “unrelenting” in their shared desire to “finally give working Iowans a seat at the table and a voice in the government of our state again.”
Glasson said her many years as an intensive care nurse strengthened her belief that health care is a basic human right. “If the politicians in Washington don’t get it done, we’ll do it ourselves. We’ll work to create a universal, single-payer health care system right here. Iowa will lead the way.”
She is also calling for a $15 hourly minimum wage and safe drinking water for all Iowans. — Sherry Halbrook