Standing united is key to PEF’s future
Reflecting on our victories, recognizing our challenges
As we celebrate this holiday season, I want to wish all members and their families a joyous time. This is a special time of year for many reasons. We keep traditions, create new memories and reflect on the past year.
The strength of the PEF membership and how so many of you proved what we can accomplish when we work together is most impressive.
I am truly humbled and proud to be president of this union, when I see, day after day, how members address workplace issues and injustices, and take an active role to find solutions.
I am also grateful to be working with a new team of elected leaders who, within a few months, have already demonstrated their outstanding commitment to not only maintain PEF as one of New York’s top labor unions, but to enhance PEF’s stability during changing times.
This is what unity, commitment and strength accomplished in 2018.
PEF retained and even increased its dues-paying members, despite the U.S. Supreme Court decision on the Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees case.
Our legislative victories included the passage of the Cost-Benefit Analysis Bill by the Legislature; deducting a percentage of your union dues on your state income taxes, effective this year; restoring $78.6 million into SUNY hospitals; adding language to the state budget that helps to protect public-employee unions; and, having all negative budget proposals we worked to defeat removed from the final state budget.
A major win, after a long and persistent fight, was the decision to keep the Western New York Children’s Psychiatric Center at its West Seneca location. The coalition of PEF leaders, members, retirees and the community remains a shining example of what can be accomplished, when you know you are doing the right thing.
Members who work at the state Department of Labor (DOL) in Manhattan had a successful sticker campaign, which led to talks with DOL Commissioner Roberta Reardon and the forming of a committee with PEF representatives and staff from the commissioner’s office to address the workplace issues and find solutions.
A suggestion about the value of labor-management meetings that I made to state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) Acting Commissioner Anthony Annucci came to fruition this year. PEF, the Civil Service Employees Association and DOCCS held joint labor-management training at 53 state prisons and parole offices. The training was a step to improve the talks at the table and to have an end result of a more cohesive and productive workforce.
Those working in DOCCS facilities know the problems associated with inmates who suffer from mental illness. Addressing this issue, I authored a United Nations resolution to prevent the criminalization of people with mental illness, and to advocate for quality, comprehensive, community-based public mental-health services, which the American Federation of Teachers voted to support.
During the last three years, PEF has built a stronger relationship with our partners at the Govenor’s Office of Employee Relations. One example of the value in that relationship occurred this summer when temperatures soared and members at the state Department of Labor and Information Technology Services at the Troy Atrium had no air conditioning. Local leaders, members, staff and GOER all worked together, and the decision was made to release the employees, until the HVAC unit was repaired.
By working with GOER and the Department of Civil Service, PEF was able, for the first time, to establish mandatory labor-management meetings, which will help remedy the erosion we have seen.
These are just a few of our victories. We need the same unity to address the challenges in 2019.
Contract negotiations will soon begin, and I urge every member to attend their local membership meeting. It is only through the support and input of every member that PEF’s bargaining team can bring your priority issues to the table. Just as in the last round of bargaining that won our current contract, the GOER negotiators must know the PEF team is backed by 53,000 members.
With added and highly knowledgeable staff in PEF’s Civil Service Enforcement Department, we will heighten our fight against civil service erosion. PEF will continue and increase its anti-privatization drumbeat, but we need your voice to alert us when state jobs are being given to consultants. Again, we will fight for safe staffing ratios in health care facilities, so our nurses can deliver the quality care patients deserve.
We must remain vigilant to the propaganda campaigns organized by anti-union groups backed by big business and billionaires who are driven to destroy public services. Currently, PEF is part of a Union Strong billboard and bus campaign (See page 4 for related story), an effort to publicly promote New York’s unions, and to show the opposition that New Yorkers appreciate the value associated with union membership.
Most importantly, we will focus on member engagement, because each of you contributes to “Winning the Future Together” and remaining Union Strong.