PEF’s 40th Annual Convention held in Lake Placid, October 21-24, will go down in history as a landmark event where the strength of the delegates and union leaders strongly prevailed during a time when the labor movement is being attacked.
Nearly 800 delegates stood in powerful solidarity, wearing “Union Strong” shirts, waving #Union Strong signs, and energizing the plenary sessions as guest speakers and elected officers reiterated the necessity to remain committed to the labor movement. They spoke about the importance of engaging and educating all rank-and-file members, as the future of our world as we know it,
depends on member participation, activism and loyalty to unionism.
Unlike the gray skies and cold-snowy drizzle that dampened Lake Placid, the delegates lit the convention hall with enthusiasm, as they discussed and debated nine resolutions.
The delegates voted to adopt three resolutions. Those included keeping the PEF convention on an annual basis; providing an actual template for PEF members to document circumvention of Civil Service promotion and hiring rules; and, forming a delegate committee to investigate means of generating income for the union, such as hotlink advertising for the online Communicator, or selling T-shirts that promote nationwide union slogans and issues.
The other resolutions either were defeated, ruled out of order, postponed, or referred to the Constitution and Bylaws Committee.
PEF Vice President Randi DiAntonio, who gave a rousing welcoming speech on the first day about the importance of member engagement, also reiterated the reasons why the Committee On Political Education (COPE) is important to the future of the union.
“I need your energy and I need your attention,” DiAntonio said, who is also the PEF statewide Political Action Committee chair.
“Union survival is on the line, and we need to have an influence on the federal level, to get the right people elected. No one likes to ask members for more money, but I am challenging you to donate to COPE, so we can have a political voice in Washington, D.C.
“Ninety percent of funding for state agencies comes from the federal government. A lot of people tell me, ‘I’m not political.’ If you are a government employee, you are political. We need to keep the funding, so we can keep services running, so we can keep our jobs. This is an all-hands-on-deck moment.”
DiAntonio inspired more than 100 delegates to enroll or increase their contributions to COPE. PEF Regions 3 and 11 had the most COPE contributors, and won a raffle to receive the striking 40th anniversary banners, that were displayed at the convention, for their regional offices.
PEF Legislative Director Gregory Amorosi spoke about PEF’s state and federal legislative agendas for the coming year.
He noted the important work and accomplishments the union achieved since its last convention, including several legislative and civil service wins. Among those were an increase in the state subsidy for SUNY hospitals, stopping the closure of the Ella McQueen Reception Center for Boys and Girls, protecting union rights at the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, and halting the proposal to close 400 beds at the state Office of Mental Health (OMH).
Amorosi discussed the PEF-endorsed bills passed by both houses of the state Legislature, issues that have long-pressed the union that are now getting the legislative attention they deserve. Those included a cost-benefit analysis before a state agency hires a consultant (See page 10 for related story), advance closure notice of OMH facilities, and the transfer of membership for certain SUNY Stony Brook employees.
“We have worked hard to get full support for these bills and others such as making your union dues deductible on your New York income taxes beginning in 2018. And, for the first time ever, the Department of Civil Service has agreed to hold quarterly executive labor-management meetings with PEF leadership to discuss the timely promotion of exams, fair scoring and selective certification safeguards,” Amorosi said.
PEF President Wayne Spence added, “I want to thank every PEF leader that helped in our legislative engagement and anti-privatization campaigns, and those that encouraged members to write letters to their legislators, make phone calls and office visits.
“Our level of success is directly related to our level of member engagement. I want to give a special shout out to Assemblyman Harry Bronson and state Sen. Joe Robach who sponsored the cost-benefit analysis legislation, and fought tirelessly with PEF’s staff and members for this victory.”
Legislation for the future
For the upcoming year, Amorosi explained PEF’s state legislative agenda will focus on maintaining a stable public workforce, ensuring quality services, protecting employee rights, improving working conditions and benefits, and providing for a well-deserved retirement.
The federal legislative agenda supports federal funding for state positions, and the landmark legislation, Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, that is designed to strengthen and improve the nation’s public workforce system.
PEF also succeeded in its lobbying efforts to secure increased federal funding for transportation through the passage of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act. Amorosi also touched on several federal proposals including Social Security and Medicare privatization, environmental protection, veterans’ benefits, safe nursing and patient care, and opposition to the federal government from preventing employees of the Department of Homeland Security from joining a union.
Delegates attended one of nine workshops, ranging from member engagement to a contract focus group. Guest speakers (See page 8) delivered inspiring and educational information, as well as new innovations such as a grievance tracking system presented by Peter Marchese.
Various committees had an opportunity to meet, and PEF nurses and veterans each networked and discussed their ideas and concerns at their annual luncheons.
Spence and Secretary-Treasurer Kay Alison Wilkie spoke at the luncheons, complimenting the delegates for their union work, and encouraging them to continue to empower the union through more member engagement and member commitment.
- CONVENTION VIDEO OPEN – Celebrating 40 Years
- CONVENTION – Politicians greetings to delegates.
- CONVENTION RECAP
- CONVENTION DAY 3
- CONVENTION DAY 2
- CONVENTION DAY 1