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Our “PEF Through the Years” mural in PEF HQ depicts the history of PEF in photographs, from its founding in 1979 to today. It is these memorable moments and remarkable activists that make us Union Strong.

1979-1982

President John Kraemer
Secretary-Treasurer Connie Cabell
Vice Presidents Angelo Massa, Salvatore Monaco and Jim Sheedy

In a 19-hour session at PEF’s founding convention, PEF adopts a constitution and elects officers who then begin laying the foundation for PEF’s organization and services.

After PEF declares an impasse in negotiating its first contract with the state, a tentative agreement is reached and ratified. However, Gov. Hugh Carey vetoes the $21 million pay bill for raises in the second and third years of the contract, vetoes supplements to state pensions and announces the layoff of 5,000 state employees.

PEF’s first officers lead rallies of nurses that in 1981 result in pay upgrades for nurse 1 and nurse 2 titles.

President Kraemer calls an emergency meeting of PEF labor-management committees after PEF nurse Vera Singh is beaten to death at Kingsboro Psychiatric Center.

PEF begins establishing a relationship with members of the state Legislature and New York’s congressional delegation.

1982-1985

President Betty Hoke
Secretary-Treasurer Jim Sheedy
Vice Presidents Maggie Litzenberger, Richard Doucette and Peter Galante

PEF surveys its members before PS&T contract negotiations begin.

The union continues building out its regional field services and organizing PEF’s regions and divisions, while focusing on contract negotiation and enforcement.

Delegates to the union’s 1982 convention pass an interim dues increase of $1.50 per pay period to end March 31, 1984.

President Hoke leads a budget fight when Gov. Mario Cuomo, who was endorsed by PEF, announces plans to lay off 14,000 state employees. The Legislature saves more than 4,000 positions, but another 3,400 layoffs are set for May 5, 1983. An early retirement incentive helps to reduce that number.

The union passes another dues increase and balks at paying full per-capita dues to its two parent unions, the American Federation of Teachers and the Service Employees International Union. PEF hires its first in-house legal counsel.
Four months into contract talks, the state declares an impasse and the negotiations go to mediation. A contract agreement is reached June 1, 1985, that provides three years of 5% raises. ​

1985-1988

President Rand Condell
Secretary-Treasurer Jim Sheedy
Vice Presidents Barry Markman, Richard Doucette and Maggie Litzenberger

Trustees Jack Marsch, Sister Mary Frances Welch and William Allmendinger

PEF organizes two bargaining units of non-state employees at a private drug research firm in New York City.

In 1986, PEF sues the city of Albany over parking restrictions.
Delegates to the union’s eighth convention defeat another dues increase, but then vote to approve a different one.

PEF, which has been operating out of space at NYSUT headquarters on Wolf Road in Colonie, breaks ground on construction of a new headquarters of its own in nearby Latham and moves into its new building January 4, 1988.

In March 1988, PEF holds the largest state-employee rally ever held in Albany at that time with 3,500 members marching for a new contract. PEF negotiates pay upgrades for 4,800 members and hazardous duty pay for another 6,000 members, all of which is paid for through the PS&T contract. The new three-year pact provides annual raises of 5%, 5% and 5.5%. A separate agreement provides another $6.6 million in pay increases and accelerated longevity pay. ​

1988-1991

President Rand Condell
Secretary-Treasurer Jim Sheedy
Vice Presidents Barry Markman, Howard Shafer and Maggie Litzenberger
Trustees Jack Marsch, Sister Mary Frances Welch and Joan Brewster

In October 1988, the union fights off hundreds of layoffs, but 35 members still lose their jobs.

PEF welcomes two more non-state bargaining units in April 1990, They are the City of Albany Housing Authority and the Albany County Probation Department.
Membership Benefits creates the nation’s first insurance program that covers PEF members for death, injury or being taken hostage on the job. It is free and automatic for all members.

PEF again endorses Mario Cuomo for governor in August 1990. Following his election in November, Cuomo announces his plan to lay off 18,000 employees over the next 16 months, and he demands that state workers take five days of unpaid leave. Cuomo lays off hundreds of PEF members the day after Christmas and targets 1,000 more for layoff including President Condell.

PEF and other state-employee unions convince the Legislature to reject unpaid leave, but the union is forced to accept one week of lagged pay to be repaid when the employees leave state service.

On February 5, 1991, 20,000 PEF members and other state employees flood Albany in the biggest political rally in the city’s history, declaring, “We’re sick of being targets and we won’t take it any more!” Less than a month later, the state Office of Mental Health lays off 700 employees and the Division for Youth plans to lay off 500 PEF members – more than half of its professional staff. PEF fights back with every weapon it has.

1991-1994

President Howard Shafer
Secretary-Treasurer Jim Sheedy
Vice Presidents Tonee Chilles, Maggie Litzenberger and Calvin Thayer
Trustees Booker Ingram, William Kelsey and Jack Marsch

The new officers arrive amidst a bitterly contested contract negotiation with the state as Gov. Mario Cuomo withholds PEF members’ prescription drug benefits and health benefits to force the union to accept his contract offer. After three tempestuous Executive Board meetings, the board votes to send a tentative agreement on managed mental health benefits, which Cuomo is demanding, to members for ratification. Members vote 10:1 to accept it in exchange for $18 million to get their drug benefit reinstated.

In 1992, members follow and confront the governor wherever he goes to demand a contract and their health benefits that he is still holding hostage. In January 1993, President Shafer replaces the union’s contract committee chair and chief negotiator.
A tentative agreement is reached in March after two years of negotiations, and it is ratified May 11, 1993. The four-year pact has zero raises for the first two years, followed by annual raises of 4 percent in each of the final two years, plus another 1.25% late in the final year. It also includes givebacks such as a slower progression to job rate.

In June 1993, PEF adds another private-sector bargaining unit that includes 153 employees of Lockport Hospital in western New York.

In October 1993, PEF convention delegates turn down Shafer’s offer of a small dues reduction.

1994-1997

President Jim Sheedy
Secretary-Treasurer Pat Ford
Vice Presidents Ken Robertson, Phil DelPiano and Maggie Litzenberger
Trustees Mike Darcy, Sara Mack and Haydee Montenegro

PEF makes no gubernatorial endorsement in 1994, and Mario Cuomo is defeated by George Pataki. PEF fights Pataki’s efforts to cut and move state jobs downstate. PEF saves the jobs, only to face new job threats resulting from federal budget cuts.

In 1995, PEF settles contract talks and ratifies a contract after five months of bargaining. It provides no raises for the first two years, followed by raises of 3.5% in the two final years of the four-year pact.

Delegates to the 1995 convention turn down proposals to combine PEF Regions 10 and 11, and eliminate Region 2, as cost-saving measures. The union battles through 1995 and ’96 to block state layoffs, the move of 600 employees from New York City to Binghamton, and a SUNY plan to privatize its three teaching hospitals.

The union uses a new 12-month notice law to block the closing of state psychiatric centers and it persuades the state Department of Civil Service to reopen Employee Health Nursing Stations.

In 1996, the union makes an all-out effort to head off the privatization of Roswell Park Cancer Institute. ​

1997-2000

President Roger Benson
Secretary-Treasurer Jane Hallum
Vice Presidents Jean DeBow, Kenneth Brynien and Joe Fox
Trustees Glendore Ulerie, Arlea Igoe and Robert Reynolds

Privatization of the state Insurance Fund is thwarted, but Gov. Pataki vetoes the Legislature’s budget restorations.

PEF’s Lockport Hospital members get a better deal after they reject a contract and authorize a strike.

On January 5, 2000, 20,000 angry PEF members and other state employees pour into Albany despite frigid temperatures to drown out Gov. Pataki’s State of the State message and demand a fair contract.

Thousands of members and retirees rally May 9, 2000, for an automatic pension COLA, and after years of trying to get one, on July 11, it’s signed into law.

2000-2003

President Roger Benson
Secretary-Treasurer Jane Hallum
Vice Presidents Jean DeBow, Pat Baker (elected mid-term to fill vacancy created by the death of Jean DeBow in 2000), Ken Brynien and Joe Fox
Trustees Glendore Ulerie, Olubiyi “Mr. B” Sehindemi (elected mid-term to fill a vacancy created by Ulerie’s retirement in 2001), Arlea Igoe and Bob Reynolds

Terrorists kill PEF members and thousands of others when September 11, 2001, when they hijack planes and attack the World Trade Center. One year later, PEF dedicates a memorial at its headquarters to all of its members who have died on the job.

In early 2003 an arbitrator orders the state to pay PEF members up to $1.75M in retroactive on-call and overtime meal allowance payments.

The state agrees to restore three days of annual sick leave for members hired after April 1, 1982.

PEF persuades state legislators to restore most of Gov. George Pataki’s budget cuts and then override 119 of his line-item vetoes, saving 11 state facilities and 5,000 members’ jobs.

2003-2006

President Roger Benson
Secretary-Treasurer Jane Hallum
Vice Presidents Pat Baker, Ken Brynien and Joe Fox
Trustees Glendore Ulerie, Olubiyi “Mr. B” Sehindemi, Arlea Igoe and Bob Reynolds

In April 2004, nearly 500 members turn out at the Capitol to protest a substandard contract offer, the first in more than a year of bargaining. Members shadow Gov. George Pataki and July 19, after 19 months at the table, the Governor’s Office of Employee Relations betters its offer, leading to a tentative contract that members ratify.

PEF’s intense lobbying and blitz of Go Public TV, radio and print ads persuade legislators to pass the union’s final accountability bill: Cost-Benefit Analysis that would require state agencies to assess whether it would cost less to use state employees for work before contracting it out. Gov. Pataki vetoes it.

PEF gets the governor to sign one of the three workplace violence prevention bills that it got passed in the Legislature.

2006-2009

President Kenneth Brynien
Secretary-Treasurer Arlea Igoe
Vice Presidents Pat Baker, Joe Fox and Lou Matrazzo
Trustees Bob Reynolds, Olubiyi “Mr. B” Sehindemi and Julio Munoz

As 2006 ends, members from throughout the state rally in Albany against a Berger Commission plan to privatize the SUNY teaching hospitals.

In 2007, PEF mitigates the downside of merging Upstate University Hospital with a private Syracuse facility.

In 2008 and 2009, PEF works to protect members’ jobs as the “Great Recession” takes hold of the country.

Approximately 7,000 PEF members and other state employees brave icy roads to rally at the Capitol January 7, 2009, as the union launches an intensive public relations and lobbying campaign to defend jobs and services.

The union refuses to reopen the contract as Gov. David Paterson threatens to lay off 250 members, lag employees’ pay for another five days and withhold their 3 percent raises due April 1.

2009-2012

President Kenneth Brynien
Secretary-Treasurer Arlea Igoe
Vice Presidents Pat Baker, Joe Fox and Tom Comanzo
Trustees Olubiyi “Mr. B” Sehindemi, Adam Sumlin and Gail Noble

PEF deflects many 2009 budget bullets and enters a written agreement with Gov. David Paterson not to oppose a new pension Tier 5, in exchange for his promise not to lay off any PS&T employees through the end of his term, December 31, 2010. Paterson later reneges and lays off 900 state employees.

When the state health commissioner orders all direct-care
hospital workers to be vaccinated against the new H1N1 flu or
lose their jobs, PEF goes to court and wins a permanent restraining order against it. The union urges members to receive the shots, but won’t allow the vaccinations to be a mandatory condition
of employment.

2010 budget battles and state deficits get so ugly the governor forces the Legislature to pass his plan to furlough state
workers one day every week without pay, or shut down state operations completely.

Gov. Paterson also withholds raises and other contractual benefits, saying the state has no money to pay them. PEF members across the state protest and the union gets the federal court to block the furloughs and order the raises to be paid.

In 2010, the Violence Against Nurses Law takes effect, making it a felony to assault a nurse on the job.

In 2011, Gov. Andrew Cuomo pushes to close and consolidate many state services and threatens to layoff 9,800 state employees unless their unions give back $450M every year for four years. Cuomo forces PEF to choose between saving the jobs of 3,496 members or getting a pay raise for its remaining members. Members reject the contract deal to save jobs. When PEF sacrifices $75 million from other parts of the contract to both save the jobs and get the pay raises, and the resulting new agreement is ratified. ​

2012-2015

President Susan Kent
Secretary-Treasurer Carlos Garcia
Vice Presidents Barbara Ulmer, Wayne Bayer and Wayne Spence
Trustees Maureen Kellman, Ken Johnson and Ron Brown

PEF rushes to the aid of its members suffering the effects of Hurricane Sandy devastation in 2012.

In 2013, PEF begins a long, tough fight to save SUNY Downstate Hospital in Brooklyn.
The union launches an SOS (Save Our Services) campaign to protect members as the state moves to consolidate its 24 psychiatric centers into just 15, reduce services to the developmentally disabled and close some state correctional facilities.

Years of lobbying pay off with enactment of the Safe Patient Handling Law in 2014.

2015-2018

President Wayne Spence
Secretary-Treasurer Kevin Hintz
Vice Presidents Nikki Brate, Peter Banks and Adreina Adams
Trustees Maureen Kellman, Maddie Shannon-Roberts and Sarah Lauser

In early 2015, the Membership Benefits Program launches a new, free legal service to represent members facing state Justice Center charges of abuse or neglect of clients.
The union blocks a move to fingerprint employees at the state Office of Information Technology Services.

PEF fights the closing of Western NY Children’s Psychiatric Center.

PEF strengthens its internal organizing and begins to brace for an expected negative U.S. Supreme Court decision requiring public-sector unions to represent employees who refuse to join the union and pay dues or even pay agency fees to the union.

The union negotiates two contracts with the state, securing 2% annual raises for the years 2015-2018 and resulting in no changes to health benefits.

PEF launches a GoPublic campaign to counter privatization of state jobs and services.
The union’s vigorous campaign to defeat a referendum on holding a state constitutional convention is overwhelmingly successful.

PEF merges the Region 10 and 11 field offices in New York City
to save costs.

2018-2021

President Wayne Spence
Secretary-Treasurer Kay Alison Wilkie
Vice Presidents Randi DiAntonio, Sharon V. DeSilva and Adreina Adams
Trustees Maddie Shannon-Roberts, Jeanette Santos and Christopher Buman

PEF works with labor and political leaders to respond to the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Janus v. AFSCME that requires public-sector unions to represent employees who do not pay dues or agency fees.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state legislators quickly enact laws to help New York unions to operate effectively.

In 2020, PEF navigates monumental challenges and threats created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Leaders and staff strive to protect members from infection, expand telecommuting, and maintain safe and fair working conditions.

PEF holds a virtual convention for the first time in its history, allowing delegates to conduct the business of the union safely at home.

Members ratify a 2019-2023 contract that provides 2% annual raises retroactive to 2019 and increases in longevity pay.

2021-2024

President Wayne Spence
Secretary-Treasurer Joe Donahue
Vice Presidents Randi DiAntonio, Sharon V. DeSilva and Darlene Williams
Trustees Maddie Shannon-Roberts, Bruce Giddings and Muriel Hardy-Lee

PEF focuses on continuing to protect members’ health and safety as they transition back to their worksites from the 2020 pandemic shutdown.

The union negotiates to expand telecommuting opportunities and members’ rights to more flexible working conditions.

PEF joins with the Service Employees International Union (one of its two international affiliates) and other unions in launching a Fund Our Future campaign in 2021 to build public and political support for public services.

A comprehensive renovation of PEF headquarters that began in 2020 is completed and allows the union for the first time to conduct its Executive Board and other large meetings in the expanded conference space.