Wilkie: Improved financial, operational measures keep PEF Union Strong
BY SHERRY HALBROOK
On September 17, delegates to the 41st Annual PEF Convention at Albany’s Capital Center were treated to one of the most detailed and comprehensive reports on their union’s finances and, more to the point, how PEF has been using its resources to become stronger and more effective in the past year.
“It has been an intensely productive first year as PEF’s secretary-treasurer,” are the first words of Kay Alison Wilkie’s report that she presented verbally, online and in print to assure that everyone could access its scope and details.
But before she began her report of facts and figures, Wilkie – who grew up in a musical and active labor family – used her powerful voice to sing the old standard, “This Little Light of Mine” with words she had adapted to PEF, including: “We are strong and getting stronger …. This union light divine, let it shine. PEF’s contract is on the line!”
Crediting the active and loyal support of PEF members and leaders and the “brilliant teamwork” of staff for enabling the activity and progress, Wilkie went on to present the union’s strong and resilient response to the challenge of the June 2018 US Supreme Court decision in Janus v. AFSCME, which was meant to destroy public-employee unions’ membership and resources.
PEF’s members were not fooled by the anti-labor scam that promised something for nothing. Instead, they responded vigorously to their union’s member engagement efforts to reach out to them directly and involve them in the ongoing efforts to secure a fair contract and make their lives better at work and for their homes and families.
“Thanks to essential dues resources and assiduous financial management, we ended the April 1, 2018, to March 31, 2019, PEF fiscal year with a $1.38M increase in net assets to power us forward,” Wilkes said.
She outlined PEF’s six overall goals that those resources support:
- Sustain and expand membership through engagement and communication;
- Secure and enforce a great contract;
- Assist members confronting employment concerns and civil service erosion;
- Fight privatization and make the case for quality public services;
- Create workplaces free of bigotry and discrimination; and
- Empower PEF’s legislative agenda to advance PEF’s values and interests.
Advancing those goals requires PEF to strengthen its own infrastructure and technological resources, and it is focusing now on overdue repairs and maintenance of the union’s headquarters, Wilkie reported. Some of these improvements are already begun and include installing electronic key-scan door controls to improve building security, improvements to both the exterior and interior of the building, and new computer servers, systems and hardware.
And while these improvements at headquarters are important, the union has been focused day-in and day-out on strengthening its grassroots organization through member engagement and intensive efforts to develop and build PEF divisions with full complements of officers and stewards to directly serve and represent members at their worksites.
“In a dramatic reversal of past trends, PEF divisions ‘in good standing’ with leadership in place and sound, timely financial reporting, have surged to 68 percent, while another 11 percent are improving and only 21 percent remain not in good standing as of July 10,” Wilkie told the delegates.
She moved swiftly through a long and detailed summary of exactly how the union, and her office in particular, are working to build the most effective union possible for its members.
• Managing budgets, finances and infrastructure to “strengthen PEF members’ involvement, neutralize external threats and build PEF power to transcend challenges ahead;
• Improve financial management and provide consistent guidance to PEF’s statewide operations, its regions and its divisions, to ensure that it is coherent, ethical, transparent and effective.;
• Involve the PEF Budget Advisory and Financial Compliance Committee in reviewing and conferring on fiscal issues, policies and planning;
• Expanding the outreach and effectiveness of PEF’s membership and financial assistance to divisions;
• Providing financial guidance to regional coordinators;
• Upgrading financial systems and union operations;
• Updating PEF’s information technology systems;
• Launching a special events team approach;
• Improving ethics processes and other vital projects via paralegal services, which includes updating the PEF Code of Ethics and increasing staff and leadership training.
Wilkie also referenced PEF’s annual audit, performed this year by the certified public accounting firm Bonadio and Co., LLP. And she noted that PEF has implemented the auditor’s recommendations provided in its 2018 audit.
Looking forward, Wilkie said, “PEF’s financial position is resilient despite the threatened impact of the Janus ruling. While PEF is more capable than ever before of confronting threats and challenges that loom ahead, to retain our power we must strive to sign up as new PEF members 100 percent of new state PS&T and other bargaining unit employees we represent, while engaging and retaining existing members and inspiring future union leaders.”
Membership, engagement and activism along with strong union leadership and management are the key, Wilkie said, to “keeping PEF powerful, vigilant and union strong!”
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