Executive Board takes action on the Janus case decision
Story and photos By DEBORAH A. MILES
The PEF Executive Board flexed its policy-making muscle at its quarterly meeting at the end of June. It was a bold, unprecedented move to counter the conservative decision released by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Janus v. the American Federation of State, County, Municipal Employees case the day before.
Being informed about the attack on labor unions and how other public-employee unions in states such as Florida have lost members, PEF’s board went on the offence. They overwhelming passed a motion to let members know what they will lose if they decide to opt-out of paying union dues.
The new policy states: “Effectively immediately, PEF shall not provide representation to non-members, except as required by Civil Service Law, section 209-a, as amended. Namely, PEF shall not provide representation to non-members: 1.) During questioning by the employer; 2.) In statutory or administrative proceedings or to enforce statutory or regulatory rights; or 3.) In any stage of a grievance, arbitration or other contractual process concerning the evaluation or discipline of a public employee where the non-member is permitted to proceed without the employee organization and be represented by his or her own advocate.
“PEF will not provide representation in the above-referenced matters unless the individual is an active dues-paying PEF member at the time of the conduct which is the subject of the questioning, proceedings, conduct, evaluation or other action at issue, and remains an active dues-paying PEF member during the course of the representation.”
PEF President Wayne Spence said, “Every tool in the box has to come out now. We will be encouraging members to sign a new card in the event a massive anti-union campaign attempts to dissolve union membership.”
Associate Director of Field Services Organizing Dan Carpenter said, “We are not seeing droves of drops, as we anticipated. It’s just the opposite. Members are signing membership cards and signing to pay dues.”
As the Janus case decision led the tone of the meeting, the Executive Board also passed a motion to purchase a grievance-tracking system that will greatly enhance meeting the required deadlines for individuals who filed a grievance. The board reviewed three systems, and voted to purchase the Union Built PC for up to $65,000.
Chris Runge, American Federation of Teachers (AFT) director of public employees, addressed the board. She emphasized the importance of letting members know they should not buy into the arguments of the anti-union forces, and to focus on one-to-one conversations with members at their worksites.
“Tell them it’s about taking your choice and taking your voice, and not giving it to management,” Runge said. “Don’t count us out.”
The Janus case decision also left its mark on the upcoming PEF convention. The board received a report from convention chair, Barbara Corse Johnson, that detailed changes in times, transportation, meal stipends, social functions and activities. After discussion and debate, the board passed a motion to accept the 2018 convention agenda, with a savings of more than $60,000, and passed another motion to have convention delegates vote on amending the PEF Constitution from an annual convention to a triennial convention.
The Executive Board voted to approve two tentative agreements, one for the Canal Corporation and the other for members who work at the National Development and Research Institute (NDRI).
The Canal Corporation’s tentative agreement is for a 10-year term, from July 1, 2012, to June 30, 2022, and provides 2 percent increases for seven years starting in 2015 and ending in 2021, which will result in retroactive pay dating back to 2015, as well as a $1,000 lump sum payment for those on payroll as of January 2017.
Canal Corporation’s Council Leader Robert Bailey, and a contract team member Jeffrey Gritsavage, both told the board it was a “best possible agreement.”
The NDRI tentative agreement is for two years, April 1, 2018 through June 30, 2020, and includes a 3 percent increase in each year, with the option for employees to either use or cash out their vacation time. Blair Burroughs, PEF field representative who was on the contract team, said, “The most important thing was for members to keep their jobs during a time when the grants were reduced from 35 to 14, and for them to continue to conduct their research.”
PEF Secretary-Treasurer Kevin Hintz said the unaudited year-end financials for PEF’s recently concluded budget showed a $1.5 million increase to net assets and other year-end adjustments.
“This increase will likely shrink due to our post-retirement liability. The current $284,000 preliminary year-to-date results are positive, as membership revenue is higher than planned. As we account for the triennial election expenses, the 2018 convention and other expenses, this cushion will be absorbed as planned,” he said.
Hintz pointed out 83 PEF divisions were still not in good standing, and reminded the board that division audits were due at the end of July.
“With this outcome of the Janus case, it’s important to put political differences aside. If we do that, we can move mountains,” Hintz said. “The real heroes in my mind are all the volunteers.”
Spence added, “We will invite retirees to work with divisions that are not in good standing. If we don’t change as union leaders, then we won’t be around.”
Greg Amorosi, PEF legislative director, reiterated to board members that PEF’s legislative role is solely to promote legislation that will benefit members such as lobbying for the cost-benefit analysis bill, which passed both houses this legislative session. He said the Legislature has supported the bills that provide safe staffing ratios, and address the problems with the mandatory overtime law.
Amorosi was confident that legislation allowing certain members at Stony Brook Hospital to enter the state retirement system would be signed by the governor.
The board passed a motion to appoint Al DeMarco and Robin Browne to the Triennial Election Committee.
Committee Chair Karen Danish addressed an appeal from board member Kenneth Dischel regarding 12 signatures that were deemed invalid because the candidate’s petition identification number was not entered. The board voted to uphold the committee’s decision.
Spence appointed Amy DeMarco, Migdalia Ramos-Ensslin, Richard Fletcher, Paul Gendron, Bruce Jagroop, and alternates Ed Bellamy and Conrad Davis, to a hearing panel. The panel will review the findings of the PEF Ethics Committee which met in November 2017, and on January 15, 2018, and decided that Peter Banks was in violation of the PEF Code of Ethics with regard to purchase card violations.
A number of member items were referred to appropriate committees and other items were postponed until the next board meeting in late August.