Finding strength, beauty in this dark night
By KAY ALISON WILKIE
“When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.” Charles A. Beard
My last S-T column, penned at the end of 2019, seems a world away. Few of us imagined then that the global pandemic would transform every facet of our personal, union, and work lives, and place many members in life or death situations.
As your finance team prepared the PEF Budget for 2020-21, little did we know that the still unnamed virus spreading in China would, by March, turn New York City and the entire state into a hot spot, with transmission so fearful and intense that we could not safely congregate, nor convene our upcoming March Executive Board meeting in person.
Please rest assured that the 2020-21 budget and other time sensitive matters were implemented in time, following our March 26 eboard conference call, to be ratified in a subsequent meeting permitting deliberations and voting.
The budget provides resources and flexibility for accomplishing strategic goals, such as:
• Negotiations and activities for a fair contract;
• Membership engagement and organizing initiatives;
• Civil service enforcement;
• Activism to expand public services and oppose privatization; and
• Opposition to workplace discrimination and bigotry.
Given New York state mandates regarding social distancing during this pandemic, most of us at PEF are working primarily from home. Of course, NYS directives have also resulted in the halting of our infrastructure repair and improvements construction project at Albany headquarters. Still, much work has been accomplished supporting PEF members, and more is underway, such as:
• Special Events outreach to hotels and members, to arrange for hotel stays for nurses and other frontline direct-care professionals in order to protect their health and safety and families.
• Purchasing PPE (personal protective equipment) to protect our members.
• Teamwork to launch PEF’s ability to accept donations to offset our expenses related to providing hotel stays and PPE, both to PEF Relief Fund and through a new GoFundMe site – promoted on PEF website and social media.
• MIS arranged for PEF staff to be equipped to work remotely within 48 hours. Note that this rapid action was possible due to IT infrastructure upgrades made in 2019.
• IT infrastructure upgrades continuing.
• Team planning for contingencies and additional virtual meetings with greater functionality, due to uncertainties surrounding future PEF meetings and gatherings.
• Finance management for check issuance and reporting functions.
• Team support for essential functions and activities of divisions and committees.
• Orientation and training for the new PEF internal auditor.
The stress and insecurity of our present “Twilight Zone” existence impacts all of us. Our many members in direct contact with those infected by COVID-19 have demonstrated amazing courage while facing unfathomable risks. All of our members are adapting to unprecedented stress and anxiety related to the coronavirus, and many face significantly altered working assignments and conditions.
Please remember that PEF resources are in place to help us all cope: Questions & Answers about the coronavirus on the PEF website are updated regularly; there is a new benefit from our affiliate the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) to assist members with the trauma; and PEF welcomes your requests for support.
In closing, let us all please take care of one another with kindness amidst this new reality. We will survive and eventually thrive to the extent we work together as a union movement. Please know that PEF members are outstanding and inspiring. We express our solidarity and gratitude for being #UnionStrong, especially during a crisis, because this is how #PEFDOESIT!
“Even from a dark night songs of beauty may be born.” Maryanne Radmacker-Hershey
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