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PS&T Contract UpdateSurvey now online
PEF contract team gets to work

Meet Your Contract Team – 2nd in a series

contractteamworkBy DEBORAH A. MILES

Many PEF members are aware that the current PS&T Agreement with the state expires on April 1, 2019. PEF President Wayne Spence appointed a contract team in August, chaired by Darlene Williams. Since then, the team has been training for negotiations and studying the contract language for all the articles.

Williams is in the final stage of scheduling and confirming contract membership meetings around the state, as the team depends on member input to negotiate a pact that the members will be eager to ratify.

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“The membership meetings will take place in each PEF region, and will begin in December and run through January,” Williams said. “For our members who are unable to attend a meeting, we encourage you to complete a brief online contract survey, so we know your concerns and priorities.”

The contract survey was launched at PEF’s 40th Annual Convention in Lake Placid, October 21-24, and is now available on the PEF website at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/2018PEFContract

Meet Your Contract Team – 2nd in a series

By Deborah A. Miles 

RITARita Strauss PEF Deputy General Counsel, brings 20 years of experience advocating for labor unions and workers associations to achieve the goals of their campaigns.

Strauss, along with AFT’s Mark Richard, worked together as lead negotiators for the 2015-2016 agreement with the state that provided members with a 2 percent retroactive raise, and then the three-year successor agreement that completed the one-year pact.

They were instrumental in negotiating a breakthrough deal that included across-the-board raises. And in a world of soaring health-care costs, they were successful in negotiating no increases for members in the PS&T Unit, and for those who work at the Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Schools for the Deaf and Blind.

“I have represented unions and individual union members at the bargaining table in legal and administrative forms, and have advised union leadership on strategic, legal and bargaining issues.

“I have represented nurses, teachers, school employees, residential and building service workers, and day laborers,” Strauss said.

She has worked at PEF for 11 years, previously as a staff attorney in the Legal and Contract Administration Departments, and as Director of Contract Administration.

Strauss knows first-hand that PEF member involvement is crucial to the negotiating process, to show the state the PEF team is backed by member support.“The memberships’ level of engagement makes all the difference at the bargaining table. The contract team needs PEF members’ input and support in order to negotiate a contract that members will be proud to ratify.

“PEF’s contract teams have brought exceptional analytical skills and relentless advocacy to each and every bargaining session. The new team has trained, studied the articles, and learned the art of striving to reach agreement on issues, where there is some degree of difference in interests, goals, values or beliefs,” Strauss said.

“PEF teams are always professional, but fierce, at the bargaining table.”

RENEERenee Delgado PEF Director of Contract Administration, has played a principal role at the bargaining table and beyond. As an employee of PEF for more than 10 years, Delgado worked for three years in the Office of General Counsel.

She assisted in drafting the language for PEF’s 2011-2015 Agreement with the state, and also for the current PS&T contract.

“I successfully arbitrated contract grievances that arose from those negotiations. I see the importance of the contract because each day I speak with members and become aware of the real-life effects it has on them.

“It is money in their pockets. It is their time off when they are sick. It is their ability to advance their careers with educational opportunities. And, it’s their ability to fight back when they’re wronged.

“But, the contract is also a living, breathing document which requires our constant attention and care,” Delgado said.

With her experience participating in the last three rounds of negotiations, Delgado brings a lot of savvy insight to the table. As the manager of the Contract Administration Department that administers the contract on a day-to-day basis, she and her staff routinely negotiate settlements and agreements with the state.

“I am well aware of the issues of PEF members, and know the protections the contract provides helps them at their jobs, which in turn, helps improve their quality of life.

“At the table, it is our responsibility to bring forth the issues that are important to the membership. That is why the contract team is only as strong as the solidarity of the more than 50,000 PS&T unit members. It is critical members speak with one voice through the union, and actively engage in both internal PEF activities and meetings, and at local labor-management meetings.”

And if you ever wondered what it’s like to actually sit across from the negotiators from the Governor’s Office of Employee Relations, Delgado will tell you, “The discussions are professional and respectful, but passionate.”

DEMARCOAmy DeMarco is no stranger to PEF’s PS&T contract team. This research scientist and PEF Executive Board member for Wadsworth Center is honored to be, once again, appointed to the team.

DeMarco’s role in the last round of negotiations with the state helped secure the current pact that provided raises and no givebacks. She credits the members for their involvement and activism, and said they fueled the contract team’s efforts and its ability to be successful.

“In addition to our members, we had a tremendous staff. The negotiations were professional and our team was cohesive and engaged. We never wavered,” DeMarco said.

“I have a knack for policies. The political climate may shape how we make decisions during negotiations. I like to find areas where we can obtain gains. I base my discussions on the wants and needs of our long-standing and newest members. I think about their issues and concerns, such as tuition assistance or the productivity enhancement program, and bring them into play at the table.”

DeMarco appreciates all the benefits associated with union membership. She learned as a young woman working without union representation how an employer spontaneously announced the elimination of the company’s prescription drug plan. Or another time when an employer decided to reduce the number of personal days for his staff, and revealed his new policy late in the afternoon, just prior to a holiday.

“Although working environments change, having the ability to bargain collectively is an immeasurable benefit. It protects and enhances your quality of life, and I want to work to keep it that way.

“My message to all our members is that I value their service to the public, and the jobs they perform to make New York a vibrant and vital state.

“Sometimes our members are not treated well for the excellent work they do. When that happens, stand up and be heard. We need to support each other.

“The contract team wants your input,” DeMarco said. “Be involved, attend meetings, vote and fill out a contract survey and send the team your feedback. This is our contract, and we are the union together.”

Table of Contents – November 2018