By DEBORAH A. MILES
At its last quarterly meeting of the year held in Albany, the PEF Executive Board focused on the challenges of the union, and put into place new policies that will strengthen PEF internally, help members rectify some workplace issues, and keep the union in good financial standing.
PEF President Wayne Spence addressed the board members saying PEF is stronger, as 600 former feepayers joined the union.
“That is a testament to everyone in this room,” Spence said.
He was able to obtain two days of Employee Organizational Leave (EOL) per week for each regional coordinator, so they can better serve the membership. Spence mentioned paid family leave will be discussed during the upcoming PS&T contract negotiations.
PEF Trustee and contract team member Christopher Buman said issues concerning PEF’s seasonal hourly employees will also be discussed at negotiations.
As discrimination has been an issue at state worksites, in regard to gender, race, culture and age, Spence said the union launched a discrimination workshop (See related story page 11.) that took place at the Manhattan Field Office in November, with plans to be held statewide. The next workshops will be held in PEF Region 8 and in Rochester.
“We want to give members the tools they need and the proper way to respond to any discrimination issue,” he said.
Spence and PEF Vice President Sharon V. DeSilva urged board members to use the local labor-management forum and to seek local remedies. Spence said if a remedy cannot be reached, provide a paper trail of proof before he brings the issue to the Governor’s Office of Employee Relations. The next quarterly meeting for labor-management chairs and regional coordinators will be held January 25 in Albany.
Spence said civil service erosion is at every state agency and PEF is working diligently to fix this professional inequity, ideally through future hearings and legislation.
“I really believe civil service has become so nefarious, a highly-qualified college graduate can’t get a job. If we make this issue about us, it’s inside baseball. We have to present our issues as affecting all constituents.
“PEF also has hired Scott DeFruscio, who worked at the Department of Civil Service for more than 30 years. He brings much knowledge of that department which will aid PEF in correcting the erosion. And for the first time, PEF and Civil Service will hold mandatory executive labor-management meetings, where we can provide documents and evidence of the erosion,” Spence said.
PEF Chief of Staff Chris Leo added that PEF is participating in a statewide billboard and bus campaign called Union Strong, initiated by the state AFL-CIO, and partnered with New York State United Teachers and United University Professions. (See related story page 4.)
Board members received an in-depth look at PEF’s finances for the last fiscal year, April 1, 2017, to March 31, 2018, from an external auditing firm, The Bonadio Group.
PEF Secretary-Treasurer Kay Alison Wilkie also distributed detailed reports of PEF’s results up to September 30, 2018, which included net income of $1.1 million on revenues of $19.5 million and expenses of $18.4 million, of which 47 percent were staff salaries, benefits and travel.
The board passed a budget amendment to restore per capita for divisions with more than 201 members. They also passed two policies, Rules for Divisions, Formation and Financial Management, and a Financial Guidance Policy for Committees: lodging, travel, meal expenses and EOL.
Wilkie said, “PEF divisions finance staff have been actively assisting divisions, resulting in 82 percent of divisions being in good standing or improving, and only 17 percent still not in good standing. Divisions are being provided best practices for their financial leadership, and will be offered beneficial assistance to manage division finances, per the newly approved policy.”
She stressed that each purchase card division should have a leader without a purchase card to oversee and authorize expenditures, serving as a virtual dual signature for oversight of division money.
PEF convention chair Barbara Corse-Johnson said the next convention will be held in Albany. After a long discussion about hotel rooms and transportation, the board passed a motion that all convention delegates have the choice of a double-occupancy hotel room or a stipend.
For all PEF titles with caseloads, such as nurses, social workers, and parole officers among others, the board learned that $20,000 from the AFT (American Federation of Teachers) Solidarity Fund will be used to purchase, customize and implement technology of a “protest of assignment” and mandatory overtime forms. The new technology will provide a more sophisticated document management system and industry-standard data security. The forms will be available on the PEF website, reviewed at PEF headquarters, and then sent to the appropriate person.
To curtail rising mailing and production costs, the board passed a motion to stop mailing out a print version of The Communicator, replacing it with a quarterly one-page newsletter to be mailed to all members with headline news, and a reminder to view the online edition. The savings to the union will be more than $44,000 annually. Members are encouraged to read the online edition, with The eCommunicator Plus coming out between issues. Improvements to the eCommunicator app are also planned.
PEF Vice President and Political Action Committee Chair Randi DiAntonio said the level of energy by PEF members during the mid-term election cycle was very powerful.
“We unseated a lot of people who opposed the labor movement. PEF was everywhere. We showed the candidates and the public that PEF is politically active. That we vote. They saw what we can do.
“We had 38 phone banks going. We won 81 percent of the U.S. House of Representatives. Another 83 percent of PEF-endorsed candidates won state Senate seats, and 89 percent in the state Assembly.
“The ticket for us winning political power is having our voices heard,” DiAntonio said.
The board approved a motion that any member item on the Executive Board agenda that is a policy change also contains a fiscal impact when appropriate.
Three members were elected to the Political Action Advisory Election Committee. They are Germaine Greco, Conrad Davis and Radhakrishna Mohan.