PEF mourns loss of a founding leader
By SHERRY HALBROOK
People who were present for the “birth” of PEF know the name “Ray Ferraro.” He was an early organizing and founding member of the union who played key roles through the early years. Now, the union is mourning Ferraro’s death January 30 of this year. He was 92.
Ferraro began his state service at the Labor Department in 1966 and continued there until his retirement 25 years later.
In October 1979, PEF held its organizing convention at the Concord Hotel in Kiamesha Lake where 500 delegates adopted the union’s first bylaws and elected its first officers, regional coordinators and Executive Board members. Ferraro chaired the Election Committee tasked with keeping the elections fair and productive.
The delegates haggled, conferred and voted long into the night, finally recessing at 3:30 a.m., only to return and vote on the by-laws again just hours later and finally adopting this key body of rules on which to organize their union’s structure and character.
Then they began nominating officers and board members, voted and held runoffs, all that afternoon and into the evening. When the weary delegates finally adjourned and headed home, Ferraro had been elected the first coordinator of PEF Region 5 (Binghamton).
Ferraro served in that role until he retired in the summer of 1991. But that did not end Ferraro’s service to PEF. He became President of the Binghamton Chapter of PEF Retirees and some years later he was elected its statewide president. Ferraro was always very active in the Region 5 Political Action Committee and used his years of experience and the relationships he had built with key state legislators and state comptrollers to push for enactment of an automatic annual cost-of-living adjustment to state pensions.
Always a force to be reckoned with, when Ferraro was elected president of PEF Retirees in 1995, he quickly set to work organizing a broad and ultimately successful campaign to pass a state law requiring annual cost-of-living adjustments to state pensions.
“Ray connected the PEF Retirees with other affected groups, especially the Alliance of Public Retiree Organizations of New York, and helped to develop the successful plan by which we achieved a permanent cost-of-living adjustment,” said Jim Carr, the current president of PEF Retirees. “Certainly the adjustment isn’t huge and it needs to be improved, but absent the hard work and effort of Ray, it would not even exist.”
PEF President Wayne Spence commended Ferraro and all of the founders of PEF. “It is sad to lose such a tireless and skillful activist as Ray Ferraro who gave so many years of service to the people of New York and to this union.
“One-by-one we are losing our founders whose vision and determination have made it possible for us to have this great union to bargain collectively for our compensation, benefits, safe workplaces, health care and so much more. We must show the same grit and passion in protecting and advancing PEF in facing the attacks on unions today that Ray and our founders showed in creating it decades ago. It is up to us to ensure that all they built for us will stand the tests of time.”