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The President’s Message

 By Wayne Spence

 

COVID Concerns Still Top PEF’s Agenda

Wayne Spence, PEF President

September 10, 2021 — Another Labor Day has come and gone and I hope you were able to enjoy some well-deserved time with your families.  As you’ll see in this issue, a couple PEF regions were able to get outside and celebrate in the traditional style, with a parade and a picnic in Regions 1 and 7.  I think all of us hoped this Labor Day would be much different than last September, but we are facing many of the same challenges today that we faced then.

For our members who are able to successfully work from home, PEF continues to advocate for telecommuting to the greatest extent possible.  You have proven that it works and reducing density in offices is crucial to stopping the spread of COVID-19.  But we also know that managers across the state are not always willing partners and we’ve featured some stories from the New York State Insurance Fund in this issue that show just how unreasonable management can be when it comes to “reasonable accommodations.”

Before the holiday, PEF conducted its first in-person Executive Board meeting since the pandemic began, gathering at a conference center in Albany to conduct the business of the union.  As you’ll read in our wrap from the meeting, the board voted to move forward with the 43rd annual PEF Convention in Niagara Falls from October 24-27.  PEF staff is busy organizing and planning the event, which will adhere to CDC, state and county health guidelines in effect at the time.  There are currently 48 E-Board seats open that we hope to fill this fall during our special election.  There are details about the vacancies and the petitioning process in this issue and I encourage anyone interested to consider running for elected office.  The strength of our union is in its numbers.  PEF is at its most vibrant and democratic when members step forward and choose to serve.

The other major issue confronting this union and its statewide workforce is vaccine and testing mandates.  Many of you have reached out to me to express your views on the matter and I just want to be clear where PEF stands.  As a union, we are encouraging vaccination as it is proven to prevent hospitalization and death.  But we understand some members do not want to be vaccinated. At this time, we have no plans to go to court over a vaccine mandate, as long as the State is willing to negotiate an agreement regarding the impact of any vaccine or testing mandates. We deserve a voice in the process.  Members shouldn’t be charged leave, for example, to get tested.  They shouldn’t jeopardize their own health in any way.  And they certainly shouldn’t be retaliated against by management for not getting vaccinated.  We should be finding ways to educate and incentivize members to get vaccinated rather than threatening to terminate essential workers.  These are the same essential workers who came to work every day during the height of the pandemic when there was no vaccine.  They risked their own lives and put their families’ health at risk in order to treat the sick and care for New York’s most vulnerable citizens.

It’s always good to end on a positive note, so for any of you who don’t already know, the retroactive raises secured by the 2019-2023 PS&T Contract you ratified in July will be paid in November. Those of you on the institutional payroll will receive payment in your November 4 check and those on the administrative payroll November 10.  You deserve it, and so much more.  And it’s that “more” that PEF fights for every day.  Thank you for everything you do.  Please stay healthy and safe.

In Unity,

Wayne Spence
PEF President


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