By Deborah A. Miles
The PS&T Contract Team has been preparing to meet the negotiators from the Governor’s Office of Employee Relations (GOER). Meetings are scheduled to kick-off in January to establish the ground rules.
The team, chaired by Darlene Williams, needs your input. Members are being asked to attend one of the contract team town hall meetings that are scheduled throughout the state. “PEF was very successful bargaining for the contract we now have. The team I chair is devoted to securing another contract, one that members will be eager to ratify,” Williams said.
To accomplish that, we need your input. Tell us, either through the survey or at a meeting, what is most important to you, so your team can plan strategies to accomplish your priorities at the bargaining table.”
Meet Your Contract Team – 3rd in a series
Buman is a new PEF trustee, and was appointed to the PEF PS&T negotiating team. He played an integral role during the last round of negotiations with the state.
“There are a lot of things members deserve and hopefully we can accomplish more in the upcoming talks. One matter near and dear to me involves the issues experienced by non-permanent employees, and we should be looking into the contract’s travel article. I don’t want to pigeonhole myself with a couple of issues, because there are a lot of important issues. Often, it comes down to the priorities of the group.
“Negotiating takes a team effort, and there is good unity within this team, as there was in the last team. For that reason, I believe we will be successful in negotiating an agreement members will overwhelmingly ratify.”
Buman works as a real property analyst at the state Department of Taxation and Finance. Prior to that, he was a disabled veteran’s outreach program specialist at the state Department of Labor. He started as an hourly temporary employee, became a PEF steward, and was later elected as PEF Division 221 council leader.
He has served on the Veterans’ Committee and the Non-permanent Employees Committee.
“Being a voice for our members is important to me. But the only way the team will succeed is if members take an active role in the negotiations process. Taking the online survey is a great first step.
“Only through our collective voice do we have a chance to maintain and improve our working conditions,” Buman said. “The union is here to fight discrimination and other injustices. It’s unrealistic for one person to go against the state. As a collective-bargaining group, we can take on those issues and others. For that reason alone, you should want to be a union member. There is no other mechanism to fight for worker justice.”
Conrad Davis, an 18-year tax auditor at the state Department of Taxation and Finance in New York City, brings experience from his many PEF leadership roles to the PS&T contract team, as well as 30 years as a trade union activist.
“I was motivated to be a part of this contract team because of our members’ desire to achieve a fair contract, and the dedication of PEF’s current leadership toward that goal.
“As a trade unionist, I successfully advocated for improved working conditions, and sought to enforce the contract and won redress for wronged members. It became clear that our contracts lacked equity, fairness and justice. I believe these imbalances, especially as they pertain to our working-class economic well-being, can be overcome through the proper application of strategic thinking and planning, across the range of bargaining challenges,” Davis said.
In prior negotiations at the agency level, Davis successfully bargained for telecommuting privileges in multiple jurisdictions, and advocated for supervisory training in leadership and management, which became a permanent agencywide program. He also promoted an alternate work schedule, which was adopted and implemented as a pilot program, and advocated for written language literacy for employees whose first language is not English.
Holding PEF positions from steward to Executive Board, and as a statewide co-chair of the agency’s labor-management committee, Davis understands the importance of union involvement.
“The winning of an acceptable contract begins with you, through your clearly defined aspirations, hopes and demands. That is the beginning, as there must be sustained interest in the process, an unwavering support for the team and rigid discipline in your commitment to all actions required to secure a fair contract. Be prepared to act boldly, and support the collective endeavor,” Davis said.
“Unions have built and sustained the middle class for the past 50 years. We have positively affected economic equity and influenced democracy in every jurisdiction across the country. It is a special privilege for each of us to continue being dedicated union members.”
Gloria Thomas is looking forward to the new experiences she will have as a PS&T Contract Team member. It is an opportunity for her to learn the intricacies involved with the fine art of negotiating. With this appointment, Thomas brings a fresh perspective coupled with knowledge of the many issues and concerns of the PEF membership.
As a union steward since 2016, Thomas gained insight into members who don’t always understand how the union can work for them.
“Many times, people have conversations with each other about certain procedures that are taking place at the worksite. Their rights may be violated, especially when certain things are subject to management’s interpretation,” Thomas said.
“I would like to encourage people to know and establish a relationship with their union representatives. If there is a work-related issue, you will have someone who can advocate on your behalf.”
Thomas works as an information technology specialist 3 in Rochester, and has been working for the state for 36 years.
“I thank the previous PEF contract teams that fought against privatization,” Thomas said. “Privatization is a threat to all of us, especially with anti-labor organizations eager to dismantle unions. I look forward to collaborating and accomplishing big things as part of this contract team. I am committed, reliable and motivated. I do not have a problem speaking up when the need arises.”
Thomas, along with the other team members, knew this commitment would be time consuming. Since September, the team has met frequently to be fully versed about the contract, and how to respond to the state’s negotiators.
“We are in the final days of completing our negotiating training. It has been very valuable as we gained a deeper understanding of each article. When we are at the table, we can be confident, knowledgeable and armed to bargain in a professional way.”
Thomas said members need to be more involved with their union.
“It is important to attend meetings, wear buttons or stickers, sign letters and contact your local legislators. Your voice matters, because we are stronger together.”