Eighty percent of NYS voters reject a constitutional convention
PEF played major role in con con defeat
By DEBORAH A. MILES
The vote for New Yorkers to hold a constitutional convention made statewide headlines in October and November and cited PEF as a major force opposing Proposition One.
But PEF’s leadership began its “vote no” constitutional convention campaign almost a year before New Yorkers gave a resounding thumbs down to Proposal One on the November 7 ballot.
Joining an eclectic coalition that included other state labor groups such as the AFL-CIO and New York State United Teachers, liberal stalwarts such as New Yorkers Against Corruption and the conservative National Rifle Association, PEF put a strong statewide punch in what became known as the “con con” campaign.
PEF President Wayne Spence, who spearheaded the union’s effort, called the campaign another “stronger together” victory. He credited PEF’s Executive Board members for having the foresight at its June 2017 meeting to approve a $100,000 contribution drawn from the union’s contingency fund to help support the coalition to educate the public.
“It clearly demonstrates what can be accomplished when we all work together and engage the membership with a clear message. Our membership, retirees and staff worked hand-in-hand to protect pensions, collective bargaining and other issues that affect the way we live and what we enjoy in this state,” Spence said.
The campaign first rolled out of PEF headquarters last March when Spence and Region 8 members participated in what has become known as the “blizzard blitz,” when groups trudged through a snow storm to engage and inform members about union issues such as the constitutional convention.
In April, a story appeared in The Communicator about “The time is now to start the buzz to vote no for a constitutional convention.” At the same time, the NYS Constitutional Convention Vote No Toolkit debuted on the PEF website. It contained comprehensive materials and facts about what may occur if a convention was held, plus flyers, informational handouts and posters for members to download and display at their worksites. PEF’s website and Toolkit were subsequently mentioned in Politico as an effective way to send the “no con con” message.”
The campaign gained speed during the summer and early fall when Spence visited worksites at membership meetings in every PEF region, and also spread the word at churches on Long Island.
And on every written correspondence and email that left PEF headquarters from all staff, a message was included not to vote for the constitutional convention.
Once the word got out about the potential effects a constitutional convention would have on public employees, members from Buffalo to Hauppauge were eager to display vote no constitutional convention lawn signs and car magnets, or to wear buttons and stickers. From rolling hills in rural areas of the state to tiny front yards in Brooklyn, the lawn signs appeared and the message was clear, loud and strong.
“PEF’s social media pages also had a huge impact on informing members and followers,” Spence said. “And at the PEF convention our retirees, who were instrumental in delivering the signs and materials, did solid days of phone banking.”
One of the last PEF efforts was the mailing of a “vote no” postcard to members just prior to Election Day.
“We were also pleased to see that Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the Republican leader of the state Senate John Flanagan, and the Democratic leader of the state Assembly Carl Heastie of the Bronx also opposed the convention.
“This campaign has been a victory on multiple levels, and those who benefit are public employees and all the taxpayers in this state,” Spence said.
The next time con con will be up for a vote is in 2037.