By DEBORAH A. MILES
PEF President Wayne Spence opened his state of the union address to the delegates by saying, “This body is the highest policy-making body in the union, and together we will be making policy that will guide our union for the coming year, the start of PEF’s next decade.”
He spoke about the birth of PEF, and how it took two years for the founding fathers to hold the first PEF convention.
“Forty years ago, PEF began with one-on-one membership conversations, and 40 years later, we are still using the proven methods of our founders to communicate with each other, and fight off the attacks against unions.
“It was unity that created PEF, and we are living proof that we are stronger together. PEF has remained strong because of the sacrifices and commitments you make every day. We have more in common than we have differences. I am proud and humbled to be your president,” Spence said.
He described 2018 as a year of change and strength, pointing out how teachers across the nation went on strike, and how union leaders and members anticipated the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on the Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees case.
“We are actually stronger now, then before the Janus decision was announced. Our collective voices have not and will not be silenced. The family of PEF is stronger as we are at 98 percent in good standing,” Spence said. “We have more members now than we did before the Janus decision, due to members who were once fee-payers. They realized the value of the union and came back as full members.”
He guaranteed the delegates that PEF will operate during the next three years with fiscal responsibility and as a transparent organization. He cited the Manhattan field office as an example, saying how the merger of PEF Regions 10 and 11 into one office is saving the union $1 million per-year for the next 10 years, and how it has attracted more members.
The erosion of the Civil Service system has been on PEF’s front burner, and Spence was passionate as he spoke about the profusely widespread cases of nepotism and the problems associated with the Merit Promotion and Fitness Principle system.
“The PEF membership and state workforce is aging. Some young managers think it is time for us to go. That is unacceptable to discriminate against us because of our age. We are not going to let these things continue.
“After speaking with the governor and explaining the many issues created by the Department of Civil Service, he mandated that Civil Service meet with PEF in a labor-management forum,” Spence said. “This is something that has never been accomplished before.”
During his address to the delegates, the PEF contract team was introduced and PEF Vice President Randi DiAntonio spoke about the union’s priority, membership engagement.
DiAntonio cautioned the delegates that anti-union organizations, such as New Choice NY, have already started a campaign to persuade members to stop paying union dues.
“This is just the beginning. We are in a pivotal time. It’s swim or sink. Plain and simple, it is union busting. When they ask you to give up your dues, they don’t tell you that your dues pay for job security, educational training for career advancement, pay raises, pensions, sick leave, holiday and vacation days, workplace safety and protections, and a legislative voice. And why do they care if someone pays union dues?
“We are reminded every day how workers in other states lost the things we value because of union busting. We need to take ownership and fight back by making a commitment,” DiAntonio said.
Spence echoed her remarks about the necessity for more member engagement, and the importance of keeping PEF empowered with one loud collective voice.