5th and final in the series
By SHERRY HALBROOK
Maddie Shannon-Roberts is now in her second three-year term as a PEF trustee and has found it is a great opportunity “to see and learn the internal workings of the union from both a policy and financial perspective. It also allows me to understand how PEF policies and decisions affect the membership and why they should not be taken lightly.
“As a PEF trustee, I take my fiduciary responsibilities seriously and I work at being an independent watchdog for PEF members, ensuring that all PEF policies and rules are followed and that fiscal discipline, sound judgment, and compliance are exercised at all times,” Shannon-Roberts said. “Working with other elected PEF trustees and PEF’s internal auditor, I’ve served PEF members through internal-control, monitoring of fiscal records, review of policies, timely reporting to the Executive Board, PEF officers and the PEF annual convention delegates, and by providing them with policy recommendations on specific matters.”
As a member of the PEF Financial Compliance Committee, she assisted in developing purchase card application policies.
“Being a PEF trustee allows me to hone my skills at investigating fiscal complaints and providing recommendations to the appropriate union officer. I strive to stay abreast of all of the nuances of both my duties and PEF operations.“
Shannon-Roberts, who holds a master’s degree in public administration, said she appreciates the training and expertise she has received as a trustee, such as the opportunity to attend finance training in 2017 that was provided by a PEF international affiliate, the Service Employees International Union, in preparation for changes that might result from the June 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Janus v. AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees).
“I’ve also learned a lot from other sources, such as my fellow trustees, and PEF staff, but I still want to receive more training on some financial technicalities,” she said.
Shannon-Roberts has worked as a disability analyst 2 at the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance for the past 16 years. Previously, she worked for the state Office of Children and Family Services at the state Central Register for 9 ½ years and before that, she was a daycare licensor in Essex County for a year.
In addition to her master’s degree in public administration, Shannon-Roberts has a bachelor’s degree in social work, and a certificate in ministry from Northeast Seminary.
By SHERRY HALBROOK
Now in his second three-year term at PEF Region 5 coordinator, David Dubofsky said he is building and expanding on the foundation of work he has already begun. Heading his “To Do” list is helping all of the PEF divisions and their steward councils in Region 5 to establish membership databases and communication systems.
“Building strong divisions and a strong union depends on knowing our members, where they work and how to communicate with them quickly and effectively,” Dubofsky said. “The better we can do that, the more effective we will be in understanding and meeting their needs.”
“I want to cultivate our members’ solidarity and pride in PEF and in organized labor,” .Dubofsky said. “I am doing that by working with PEF leaders and staff, and all local steward councils to improve unionism in Region 5. That’s how we expand the power of our members’ voices.”
Dubofsky added, “We have some bright new council leaders that I hope will help me build these divisions to be much stronger. It takes a long time to build members’ confidence that the union is there for them when they need it.”
Region 5 members have been helping him get committees started such as a new regional sub-committee on civil service, Dubofsky said. “The members leading these committees need to take ownership of them. I facilitate, but I let the committee chair run their meeting,” Dubofsky said.
A claims representative at the state Insurance Fund in Endicott and the former council leader of PEF Division 240 there, Dubofsky has been active 18 years in PEF, including a stint representing the members on the PEF Executive Board. He also has been active on both the PEF Region 5 Political Action Committee and PEF’s statewide PAC.
“I’ve seen the value firsthand of knowing and working with our state legislators on issues important to our members and to their communities.” Dubofsky said.
President Spence appointed Dubofsky to the Article 18 (Workers Compensation), Budget Advisory and the Article 22 (Employment Security) committees.
In his first term as Region 5 coordinator, Dubofsky started an annual charitable golf tournament and became heavily involved with the Region 5 Veterans Committee in supporting the Twin Tiers Honor Flights that take senior veterans to Washington for a day to visit the memorials that honor their service. In fact, Dubofsky made it an early priority to help re-establish both the region’s veterans and nurses committees.
“Our members really love to support the Twin Tiers Honor Flights, and I get more than 100 volunteers every year. That makes a big impression on community and political leaders, and it makes our members happy to work through PEF to do something good for these veterans,” Dubofsky said.
Recognizing the importance of training and building strong ties among the region’s various divisions and constituencies, Dubofsky also has began holding periodic Region 5 Leadership Retreats.
“I was able to achieve these successes because of the outstanding dedication, skills and support of our PEF Region 5 members and our regional field staff,” Dubofsky said. “With their strong, continued support and energy I know we can set and reach even bigger goals in the future. It’s very empowering to know that PEF can count on them.”
By DEBORAH A. MILES
For the past eight years, Jeanette St. Mary has been the PEF Region 6 Coordinator, addressing the needs and concerns of 1,500 members who work in 26 state agencies that are sprawled throughout seven counties.
Her members work in correctional facilities, psychiatric centers, satellite clinics, and at the Department of Motor Vehicles, Office of General Services, Office of Mental Health and Office for People With Developmental Disabilities.
“It is a large region to cover, sometimes taking almost three hours to reach one location. I am grateful PEF President Spence was able to negotiate more Employee Organizational Leave time,” she said.
St. Mary works as an intensive case manager at Mohawk Valley Psychiatric Center where an on-call workplace issue motivated her union involvement roughly 10 years ago.
“I became an activist to try to fight for my rights. We were being asked to be on-call, and there was no compensation, except to collect time off when we worked. Half the time, we never received it,” St. Mary said. “A field representative helped, and in about a year, we started to get paid when we worked an on-call shift.”
That union success further inspired St. Mary to take on various union roles, such as steward, council leader for Division 183, and serving on committees that address mental health, health and safety and workplace violence prevention. She is an Executive Board and Executive Council member, and recently resigned from being a Political Action Committee chair, a position she held for many years.
St. Mary is also active in her community, serving as secretary for the Oriskany American Legion Post 1448 and sergeant-of-arms for the Utica Women’s 600 Bowling Club. No matter what role she plays, St. Mary inspires camaraderie and union involvement.
“I try to encourage younger members to get involved and remain active in our union. A lot of PEF leaders wear many different hats, and when we retire, we want to make sure someone will pick up the ball, and participate in the various committees and activities.
“Everyone has a voice and everyone should be heard,” St. Mary said. “The more we can collectively hold hands and move forward, the stronger we are as a union. It is true a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Members, especially young ones, need to understand how important it is to keep the labor movement, and our union, alive and strong.”
By DEBORAH A. MILES
Virginia (Gini) Davey took over the PEF Region 7 regional coordinator position in August, with a passionate mission to bring forth the best that the North Country has to offer.
“I hope to create greater awareness of the strength, wisdom and positive energy that flows from the 1,100 Region 7 members. Our major employers are the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, Office of Mental Health (OMH) and Office for People With Developmental Disabilities, plus 20 smaller agencies spread throughout four very large counties,” Davey said.
“The vast geographical area and the remote locations in Region 7 present significant challenges when it comes to mobilizing members. I hope to make greater use of technology and to develop mini PEF Community Hubs to bring more members into active membership.”
With more than 30 years of state service as a teacher 4 at OMH, Davey still enjoys teaching at the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center Children/Youth Unit. During her professional career, she has climbed the union ladder from shop steward to council leader and Executive Board member.
“I view my involvement in the union as service to the community. I quickly learned that helping others to navigate troubled waters is a way to bring calmness and harmony during a time when it is most needed and most appreciated,’ she said.
For her members, Davey hopes to assist with ensuring greater PEF benefits by expanding the offerings through the Membership Benefits Program’s linkages to North Country businesses, as this will help solidify the value of union membership.
“Recruitment and retention of PEF members is increasingly challenging in the North Country, where job security is based on state employment, the driving economic engine of the North Country. Finding ways to level the playing field is one of the biggest challenges.”
Davey also believes now is the time to teach others about the history and formation of the labor movement.
“During this decade where anti-union organizations are determined to break unions, we must lift the labor movement, recall the struggles of our past and understand that today we are again approaching the same struggles that created great unions.
“May adversity be the glue that holds us together,” Davey said. “It is time to talk together, walk together and fight for our survival in a spirit of unity.”
By DEBORAH A. MILES
“Just imagine if there were no unions.”
That’s one of the messages PEF Region 8 Coordinator Michael Blue wants to send not only to the 19,000 members in his region, but to the entire PEF membership.
“Together we can accomplish so much more, than when we fight alone,” Blue said. “Although we may not be able to instantaneously solve issues and concerns of our membership, we work tirelessly to seek solutions to those issues. It may seem daunting at times, but in the end we accomplish so much when we work together. When we fight together, we usually do win. That’s what union participation accomplishes.”
Blue became an active union man because of his knowledge and desire to be a part of PEF’s Political Action Committee, noting how positive changes for the working class can be gained through political influence. That passion impelled him to become a steward, delegate, Executive Board member, a 2011 contract team member, co-chair of the statewide Health and Safety Committee, and PEF chair of the state’s Parking Committee that oversees the Capital Region.
Blue attends a “tremendous amount” of membership meetings across eight counties, with every state agency located in his region.
“I want to get a better understanding of what is important at each individual agency. From what I have learned from my members, it all boils down to equity and fairness. The issues vary according to each agency’s priorities. The priorities vary but the issues really don’t. Some focus on parking and others are concerned with health and safety concerns such as air quality, cleanliness or even elevator safety.
“At the end of the day, our members feel the rules should be fairly applied in all cases. My primary focus is to advocate for this fairness.”
Blue said Region 8 members have stood strong in the face of attacks by anti-labor forces.
“Most of my members understand the value in being a dues-paying member. They see the rewards in their contract, knowing they will get a pay raise, a pension, good health insurance for their families, time off and job security.
“These are the things, among many others, that prove we have to be in it together in order to succeed.”