PEF meets with members at OGS events
By SHERRY HALBROOK
Hundreds of PEF members attended design and construction conferences held in April and May by the state Office of General Services. And, for the first time, they had an opportunity at these events to hear from PEF and the Membership Benefits Program.
PEF Region 8 Coordinator Michael Blue led the discussion as the April conference in Albany about what it means to be a PEF member, and how the advantages of being part of the union is threatened by several court cases challenging the right of unions to collect fees in lieu of dues from employees they represent, but who choose not to join. PEF Retirees Director Bill Wurster also talked about why it is so important this November to vote against a referendum on holding a state constitutional convention.
PEF field representative Heidi Warwick spoke at the May conference that was held in Syracuse.
Both Warwick and Blue said it was challenging to cover all of the information they wanted to share and to answer the many questions members wanted to ask.
“I think our members understood the problems associated with holding a constitutional convention,” Warwick said, “but the court cases raise more complex issues. Members had lots of great questions about how the union could collect dues if it lost the right to have them automatically deducted from members’ paychecks. They also wanted to know about how things would be different for them if they did not have a union.”
Warwick told them the union would have to spend resources collecting dues that it now spends on services to members. And if the union could not remain viable, many things would be lost — from the opportunity to collectively bargain for raises and to avoid increased health care costs, to the members’ due process rights and protections in disciplinary matters.
Blue said he is very grateful to PEF member April Marsh who planned the conferences for OGS and made time in the busy schedule for the union presentations.
Both Blue and Warwick said some members lingered after the presentations to seek more answers to their questions.
“It’s very important to get the chance to speak to every member about these issues and to hear their comments and answer their questions,” Blue said. “We are grateful for every opportunity to do that. Most of all, members need to understand how the union serves their needs and how they can help make it more effective.”