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The Value of Being a Union Member

It’s all about saving jobs, benefits, protection

PEF represents 51,000 members who work in all facets of state government. When you talk to a current member or someone who has recently retired, almost inevitably they will tell you a story or two about how union intervention saved jobs.

“In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the state Department of Transportation focused on laying off its employees and started hiring outside contractors and consultants to do the same work,” said Louis Ferrone Jr., a retired civil engineer 1.

“The union went to battle and used various avenues. It did research that showed the cost-effectiveness in having identical work done by state employees. PEF accomplished this by testifying at state transportation committee hearings and explaining this issue to elected officials. The union’s professional approach and diligence was helpful in deterring more layoffs,” Ferrone said.


John Steele, a former social worker assistant 3 who worked at the Taconic Developmental Disabilities Services Office for 27 years, also credits PEF for saving jobs.

“For a while, my title was Medicaid Service Coordinator. The state decided to abolish that title, but because of direct union intervention, we were able to keep our jobs. We got into new roles. Management has a lot of leeway and

prerogative. Without union support, I can’t imagine what the results would have been. Being in a union is the only way to fight these kinds of situations.”

On a smaller scale but equally significant, Steele spoke about a co-worker who felt she was a target for harassment and bullying.

“The union grieved the issue, she won and was treated with more respect after that,” Steele said.

Lou Ferrone Jr quote

Ferrone said union membership offers benefits such as health insurance, sick leave, raises, assistance with child and elderly care issues, navigating the discipline process, and providing fair representation.

“I could go on and on. Everything we have in the workplace is a result of the contract won by union leaders and activists. Unions brought us the 8-hour workday, weekends and stopped child labor. If it were up to employers, we would not have benefits or opportunities.”

Ferrone said fee payers have the advantage of all the benefits garnered from contract negotiations plus union representation, even though their contribution to the union is minimal.

“The fee payer setup is part of a union busting system created by management. In the long run, there could be the demise of the union and that would eliminate contract negotiations, salary increases and benefits. We all want our children to have a better life than we have, so we all need to support our union,” Ferrone said.

Steele agreed, “People should not take the union for granted. They need to get involved and know what is going on. I started to do that when I was new at my job. I was under attack by a team leader and turned to the union. Then I started going to conventions. Folks should know how their union works and understand democracy is a complicated process. In the end, it works out for employees.”

Story By DEBORAH A. MILES — Preview of The Communicator March 2016 edition

communicator url linkSee previous THE VALUE OF THE UNION stories:
Activists push for unionism, protection at private college
Having a union made all the difference