Unionism and the big picture
By DEBORAH A. MILES
PEF has one outspoken member who believes the union should lock arms with workers in the private sector, to promote the value of unionism.
“I don’t think we should scapegoat workers that are not in unions,” said Matthew Corsaro. “That only serves the divide-and-conquer strategy and has hurt working people across the board. We should work to show them the benefits of unions, to inspire them to organize at their own workplaces. Making the general public aware that strong unions can benefit non-union workers is an example of how to get support.”
Corsaro is a rehabilitation counselor at an outpatient clinic operated by the Rockland Psychiatric Center, where a team of eight PEF members work with three Civil Service Employees Association members, who address the mental health needs in the Kingston area.
He also is an invested and informed PEF member, one who visits the official PEF website on a regular basis, is aware of PEF’s campaigns, and attends workshops such as one about the state’s constitutional convention.
“One of the obvious values of being in a union is higher wages, a pension and some job security. I’ve worked for a non-profit in the mental health field. The health care workers who are not in unions are advocating for more funding for their agencies, so they can pay their staff more money. I am in favor of that. If those folks start getting better wages, we most likely won’t have our jobs privatized. We know for a fact the state wants to get rid of union workers because it comes down to money and pensions,” Corsaro said.
“If I saw an Assembly member introduce a bill that said all behavioral health care workers are going to have a minimum wage of $15, just as all fast food workers, I would be happy to call my state representative and urge him to vote yes on that bill. We should have solidarity with people, because what benefits them, benefits us. The worst thing we can possibly do is take the position that the folks who are not in a union are our enemy.”
Corsaro said he applauds PEF for its current anti-privatization campaign that features the statewide digital billboards with the slogan, “Invest in public employees.”
“That is money well spent, a good use of our resources,” he said.
“It’s important to get union members more engaged and active. The action alerts we receive are good, and I hope people call their representatives when PEF asks for support. I would like to see more PEF members run for office, and to get more people to support the candidates who would help the labor movement. If we want change, we have to create a movement around these things. When we get a few thousand union members who fight for their own jobs, that is not enough. It’s all about the big picture.”