PEF ramps up member appreciation events
By KATE MOSTACCIO
March marks a year since COVID-19 completely changed our way of life. The governor put New York on “pause” and businesses were shutdown. Schools closed and shifted to remote learning. Face masks became the new normal.
Despite the pause and throughout the pandemic, PEF members continued to provide vital services to New Yorkers – from nursing care, to mental health services, to unemployment assistance. Some worked from home, but most continued to report to facilities.
The state has given these dedicated professionals little recognition, but PEF’s Organizing Department mobilized and is hard at work traveling the state and hosting member appreciation events to deliver the message that their work is important and appreciated.
“Membership appreciation events have been well-attended and well-received by our members,” said Director of Organizing Dan Carpenter. “One of the things we hear most from our members is ‘thank you for coming out and doing this.’ We remind them, while we appreciate their thanks, we are here to thank them for their sacrifices and their dedication to keeping New York State going while the governor put the rest of the state on pause.”
Carpenter said PEF has hosted 20 member appreciation events in the last two months – from Elmira out west, to Queens in the southern part of the state, to Albany in the north. There are plans for more events in the coming weeks and leaders are encouraged to reach out to the Organizing Department if they would like an event for their Region or Division. Click here for the member meeting request form.
In addition to showing PEF’s appreciation for the hard work of members, the Organizing Department teamed up with the Legislative and Political departments to collect budget priority letters. PEF is engaged in a fight-back campaign to oppose legislation that would have a detrimental impact on PEF members and retirees.
“The member appreciation events have given us the opportunity to engage with members on their important role during the budget season to help fight back against proposals that are harmful,” said PEF Vice President and Statewide Political Action Chair Randi DiAntonio. “Their speaking out is pivotal in beating back the budget proposals.
“These events are an opportunity for us to show our appreciation to our members, but also to educate them on their role as union members in helping advance the interests of the union,” she said. “It’s much easier to talk to members face to face, put letters in front of them and explain the importance.”
DiAntonio said as of March 25, PEF had collected 19,157 letters to legislators. Members are encouraged to send pre-written letters available here.
In the Bronx, PEF Contract Team Chair Darlene Williams said the member appreciation event was the best day she had in a long time – a sentiment echoed by a number of members who stopped by the PEF Organizing table.
“It is so important for the members to see how much the union appreciates them for coming into work, doing the job to protect the citizens of the state of New York,” Williams said. “I just had a nurse administrator say this is the best thing that has happened to them in a long time.”
The members have a chance to sit down with PEF staff to learn about the letters and the issues they are being asked to sign and advocate for and Williams said that has been well-received and appreciated as well.
“They appreciate that we are explaining everything to them,” she said. “It’s all smiles and thank you, we appreciate this. They are thanking us and we are trying to thank them.”
Division 301 Council Leader Gina Corona praised PEF staff for “a wonderful start to spring.”
“It was a little chilly, but we had about 100 members come out, grab some lunch, sign 400 letters to legislators supporting PEF’s agenda, and engage with us,” she said. “The members really expressed much appreciation for the recognition of their commitment to patient care during a very challenging time. It was a very successful event attended and appreciated by many.”
Division 301 is comprised of members at Hutchings Psychiatric Center and many members worked on site through the pandemic, putting their safety on the line for New Yorkers in need.
At Elmira Psychiatric Center, Region 2 Coordinator Andrew Puleo said around 30 members participated, braving the cold and rainy weather. He thanked PEF Executive Board member and Statewide Nursing Committee Chair Carolyn Cole and PEF staff for organizing the event. Attendees received T-shirts and sandwiches.
At the Greater Binghamton Health Center, the pouring rain certainly dampened the event, but couldn’t damper it, as more than 40 members came out.
“It poured rain the whole time,” Regional Coordinator David Dubofsky said. “The facility didn’t let us set up tents anywhere close to the entrance, so we were a hike for people to come out to see us. But the people that did come out really appreciated it.”
The following day at Glendale Technology Building, the weather was sunny and more members interacted with their leaders and PEF staff.
“This event was specifically for Division 399, the disability office, but we also opened it up to the State Insurance Fund and Department of Labor,” Dubofsky said. “We served over 100 lunches and we got a ton of letters signed that day. The members loved it.”