PEF members who work at the state Department of Labor (DOL) in the Asbestos Control Bureau, a unit in DOL’s Division of Safety and Health, were able to change a financial sticking point by uniting.
Michael Marquez, a PEF division 245 steward and safety health inspector, said the Asbestos Control Bureau inspects asbestos abatement sites and looks for hazardous conditions.
“One of their requirements is to wear a hazmat suit with a respirator when performing an inspection. If they wear a suit at a site, these members are entitled to hazardous duty differential pay, 75 cents per hour, according to Civil Service Law and the PS&T Agreement under Article 7,” Marquez said.
For several years, these payments have been late, anywhere from three months to six months, according to some members.
“This lag in pay has affected 22 PEF members who work in the Asbestos Control Bureau, yet they are the ones responsible as an agency to enforce state regulations and to ensure that private contractors at these sites are disposing the asbestos properly,” Marquez said.
“Several members and I complained to management, reached out to the program manager, and director of safety and health. DOL managers finally decided to make the quarterly payments on time. We raised the issue again at a PEF membership meeting at the DOL office in Manhattan November 1. Before that, management said it was working on it, but little or no action was ever taken.”
Marquez said what made the difference was the dozens of members who participated, united and stood in alliance in a cooperative effort with PEF Field Services.
“It’s not just one person who made the difference. I tell everyone, this union can be effective in getting certain things accomplished when we work together. I put up a poster in our office that says, ‘In unity there is strength.’”
PEF President Wayne Spence said the union’s message of ‘We Are Stronger Together’ continues to make a difference in the lives of public employees who are unionized.
“Along with PEF’s good contract due to overwhelming member support, to the win against a constitutional convention, I hear almost daily about locals achieving their rights when members band together. This victory at DOL is another example, and I am proud of our members who came forth and helped win this battle,” Spence said.
Council leaders and stewards who would like assistance in promoting member participation should contact the PEF Field Services Organizing Department.
— Story by DEBORAH A. MILES
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