Friday, November 4, 2011

Now Let's Stand Up and Fight

The vote to ratify the giveback contract showed that PEF members were readily willing to pay an enormous ransom in order rescue 3,496 sisters and brothers from layoffs.

The ransom price, to be paid over four years, has a cost not only in lost wages and reduced benefits but represents a real sacrifice of our union pride and heritage. A majority chose this sacrifice so that PEF would "live to fight another day."

That day is today! We still face hard times, more layoff threats, immediate privatization schemes and continued demonization by the mainstream media.

The Governor yesterday ordered state Agencies to reduce their budgets next fiscal year by an additional 2.5 percent! This comes on top of the 10 percent across-the-board cuts of 2011 and on top of the impending SAGE Commission recommendations for consolidations that will be sent to the Legislature to approve or reject as a complete package.

Over the last 3 weeks the Brynien administration mounted an effort to reach out to every member. Good! But now is not the time to celebrate or pull back.

NOW is the time to intensify the outreach, to continue to provide every PEF member with the tools to fight every coming layoff, to recruit every PEF member to resist every effort to privatize public programs, to empower every PEF member to stand up in order to answer every attack, every smear against public service.

We live in a moment of growing resistance throughout the world to tyrants, bullies and corporate interests that exploit working people. Andrew Cuomo, committed to defending the interests of wealthiest 1 percent at the cost of the poorest 99 percent, has embarked on a campaign of cutbacks that will ruin New York.

The major issues that the Governor failed to address include the high cost of health care, contracting out and cutting public services and forfeiting public revenue through the continuation of the millionaire’s tax.

PEF members provided many ways to reduce costs and raise revenues while improving public health, education, public safety and our environment. The Governor ignored or rejected them all. We need to use our union power to force him to deal with these common-sense proposals, NOW. Our union power means all of the PEF members.

For the sake of all public employees and all unions in New York, PEF members must let the world know that we will not let Cuomo get away with the further ruin of our state.

Of course we here at PROUD remain disappointed that the PEF administration accepted the Governor's false choice of givebacks vs. layoffs. We wish our union would never have had to endure a campaign to scare up YES votes for concessions, givebacks that will set us back years in terms of fair wages and benefits for our professional, scientific and technical bargaining unit.

Yet we hope and pray that an active and informed membership will prove the saving grace. A divisive and demoralizing struggle was inflicted on the PEF membership by the Governor and his paid outside contract negotiators. On a positive note, we are encouraged that PEF members get engaged, thought the issues through and joined in the debate.

Any objective person can see that those who voted to ratify the contract basically held their noses when they marked their ballot. The only people rejoicing over this vote are the Governor, his hired guns and political lackeys desperately betting on personal reward when Cuomo runs for higher office.

Back in the real world, where public employees serve the public with honesty and integrity, we will continue to count on PEF members to exercise their rights as union members. We believe the enormous turnout in the election is a sign of the health and vigor of PEF as a democratic union – of, by and for PEF members.


Please contact us!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

For a Campaign to Push Back "Governor 1 Percent"

The following op-ed appeared November 1, 2011 in The Chief-Leader, a New York City-based weekly civil service newspaper since 1897 that focuses on municipal government and its labor unions while also covering issues affecting New York State and Federal employees.

Our Version of Wisconsin
State Contract Terms Part of Anti-Worker Offensive


A bid to kettle New York’s public-employee unions crowns Andrew Cuomo’s larger program of austerity.

A state-by-state anti-public-employee-union offensive this year has been topped infamously by union-busting legislation in Wisconsin and Ohio. Here in New York the same task requires some sophistication.

Governor Cuomo thinks he has the juice. In strong-arm negotiations he landed PEF just where he wanted: damned if we do and damned if we don’t. His layoff threats forced PEF into classic concession bargaining, negotiating against our own interests.

The Governor launched his term with a promise to downsize the state’s agencies by 20 percent. In addition, he issued a demand for $450 million in total annual givebacks from public-employee-union members. He threatened to lay off up to 9,800 state workers if unions failed to ratify concession contracts. And the Legislature followed suit by including the union givebacks in the state budget assumptions.

Even while PEF members vote on a new tentative agreement, Cuomo continues to assert that it will not prohibit layoffs connected with his aim to downsize the workforce, only those he threatened as part of his negotiations. SAGE Commission “determinations,” his vehicle to agency downsizing, consolidations and privatization, are excluded.

Third Time No Charm

Meanwhile PEF members have suffered three rounds of layoff threats. In the summer nearly 1,000 PEF layoffs were threatened just after CSEA reached a tentative agreement. These were rescinded when PEF accepted a tentative agreement substantially similar to the CSEA deal. The second came immediately after PEF members rejected that contract and 3,496 PEF members were “targeted.” The third round have been put on hold until Nov. 4, the day after the ballot on a revised tentative agreement will be counted.

“When the membership rejected the leadership’s offer,” Cuomo said at a press conference, “I think they caught everyone by surprise.” (Everyone except the 19,629 who voted “no”?)

Like a spoiled child losing at checkers, he demanded that the union give him a do-over. He also patronized the PEF leadership, seeming to say that they owed him a “re-vote” because they had failed to do their job — delivering up the members’ ratification of concessions. PEF members, proud of their union’s democratic traditions, including many who voted for the contract, were infuriated.

But with 3,496 members held hostage, PEF’s leaders scrambled back to the table. A second tentative agreement, hastily reached in mid- October, again averted layoffs by days.

The tentative agreement remains a significant giveback contract — Cuomo dictated “revenue-neutral” renegotiating terms: the bottom line would be givebacks of an amount equivalent to those made by CSEA. Both Cuomo and CSEA have said the new agreement meets these criteria.

Adding Insult to Injury

Yet if the revised PEF contract is ratified, it seems difficult to imagine many PEF members savoring the moment when they paid the ransom to rescue the hostages.

The state workforce has been downsized steadily for two decades, while wages and benefits have remained flat. A recent large wave of retirements from state service, employees who have often not been replaced, has resulted in a further hardship for the remaining workers.

Not only have New York’s professional, technical and scientific public employees done “more with less” for a long time, public-sector wages and benefits, when matched for age, gender and education, remain significantly less than private-sector wages and benefits. (PEF members tend to be highly educated and/or with significant longevity, and many of the union’s best activists are women.)

Canards about “greedy state workers” and “too generous” benefits have particularly anguished public employees whose work experience has been a tale of year-in and year-out self-sacrifice on so many levels, including routine disrespect from incompetent agency leaders whose job credentials often boil down to political cronyism. Perhaps PEF members hoped that Andrew Cuomo might have some idea of these facts when the union endorsed his campaign for Governor.

On top of all this, the threatened layoffs have nothing to do with redundant services. Neither will they save the state money, for the privatization of essential services as a result of layoffs would end up costing the taxpayers much more.

Not only essential services but PEF leaders and activists were “targeted.” Union-minded public servants, whether inclined to ratify or defeat the contract, took profound offense.

Governor 1 Percent

Cuomo appears to want the leadership of PEF and other public-sector unions to help manage his austerity program. His formulation that “the membership rejected the leadership’s offer” was telling. He hopes to make the union leaders into deputy bullies who will bring their members to heel.

Cuomo aims not so much to break the unions but to house-break them. It’s the old company-union idea. If, for example, the SAGE Commission recommends mass layoffs due to agency consolidations, downsizing, speed-ups or privatization, the unions should be there to help the people lose their jobs smoothly, without strife or rebellion.

To resist being cast in this role, PEF and other unions will need to make a fundamental shift in strategy and tactics. “I’ve seen many instances where the unions refused to go along with anything they didn’t like,” PEF President Ken Brynien explained in a recent interview, “and the companies went out of business.”

By comparison, the rallying cry “We Are the 99 Percent!” pierces through. Here in Albany, protesters have renamed Cuomo “Governor 1 Percent.”

This is exactly how we should explain that Cuomo’s assertion that public employees “owed” New York givebacks equal to $450 million annually has been ridiculous all along. In the coming fiscal year, keeping the surcharge on New York millionaires’ incomes will increase state revenue by $5 billion—over 10 times the amount the Governor claimed public employees “owe” the state.

Mobilizing member-by-member throughout the whole union movement to win the fight to keep the Millionaires Tax could help change the whole game. As a counter-offensive it would provide a means to challenge the Governor’s entire program of austerity—and also to mobilize an increasingly restive rank and file.

Dr. Coates is a Steward and Council Leader of Division 231 of the Public Employees Federation in Albany.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Targeted for layoff and voting NO

PEF Proud has received an astonishing amount of mail.

The people we hear from are generally sympathetic to our stance and often provide good suggestions and also inform us of the initiative they have taken in their facilities and agencies, including downloading and distributing flyers.

We have also received some strongly worked emails critical of our positions and flyers but only one of them was signed.

Here is a story very much worth sharing. It is from a woman who asked that we post her story at the blog.

She gave us her name and her permission to publish her name. However, since she has already been "targeted" by the state we decided to withhold her name.

If you would like to reach out in solidarity to this PEF sister we will forward your email (even if anonymous).

I'm a PEF member.

I was called by PEF on the phone twice in the last 

Both times I was encouraged to vote YES to ratify the contract.

 Both times I explained that I am a single mother and I only make 40 thousand 
a year.

I cannot afford to cover my kids under the health insurance increase 
in the contract.
I told them am voting NO.

One of the two callers advocating that I vote "Yes" described the contract. She told me about the three years of zero pay increase with two percent 
in the fourth year.

She told me about the reduction in pay to cover the furloughs. She volunteered that the loss of four percent of my pay in the next ten weeks 
might be offset by my husband’s income.

I was like, Huh? But I just told her I was a single mother?!

So I told her again.

I am a single mother.

I am voting NO.

She said she didn't understand that when it was such a good 
agreement. I should read the information on the PEF website, she told me.

I told her that I know all about the agreement.

For example the layoff 
language is the same as the agreement that got voted down.

But my issue is the increase in family health insurance, which I simply cannot afford. That is why I 
will vote NO again.

I also told her that I received a layoff notice and that I believe I 
will be better off on unemployment than working under this agreement.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Flyers to print and share

Thank you to everyone who requested printable versions!

(Click on the titles below for a link to pdf's.)

The Best Way to Save Jobs is To Vote NO

What's the Millionaire's Tax Got to Do With It?

PROUD Congratulates Our Fellow Members
Who Voted to Reject the Contract for the First Time in PEF's History

The Best Way to Save Jobs is to Vote NO

The best way to reject layoffs is to vote against the tentative agreement.

Governor Cuomo has threatened to lay off 3,496 PEF members. He has shown that he has no respect for us as public employees and no regard for the plight of our families.

The threatened layoffs are as disgusting and outrageous as they are unnecessary. The threatened layoffs carry a personally vicious intent. And each one belongs exclusively to Gov. Cuomo.

Only Cuomo has the power to order these layoffs. PEF does not hire for the state and PEF does not fire for the state.

Remember the old hockey chant? If you don't, it goes like this: "IT'S ALL HIS FAULT! ALL CUOMO'S FAULT!" (We need to explain this to everyone!)

Cuomo ordered the layoffs for reasons that have NOTHING to do with fiscal necessity. Cuomo ordered layoffs of people who provide essential services, not because their functions were redundant. Cuomo ordered the layoffs entirely and totally for a wooden-headed political ploy.

Stupid as the day is long, Cuomo's layoffs came down like a corporate campaign in which the ends justified the means. The means lacked any semblance of responsible governance. The ends were to terrorize PEF members into giving up huge contract concessions.

For an added measure of spite against us, the Governor insisted upon contract protection for himself to order more layoffs!

The Governor ordered layoffs of "targeted titles" (ah, that apt hunting metaphor) that were exclusively PEF members. The 3,496 individuals were chosen hastily, over a few hours. The number of people "targeted" was derived from a political calculation about the names and numbers needed to swing the vote that defeated the first tentative agreement.

Taking up the cause of official bullying, some agencies deliberately targeted PEF activists and prominent PEF leaders. Some agencies used the layoffs to hurry along privatization schemes already in the works. Some agencies simply picked titles, willy-nilly, where the least senior person could not "bump" (displace) a worker who belonged to another union. No effort was made to preserve essential public services. The point of the layoffs was to terrorize PEF.

The best way to stand up against the Governor's bullying is to vote NO again. If we vote NO again, despite his latest threats, Cuomo will have to continue to negotiate. And we will continue working under our present contract thanks to the Triborough Amendment. (If we vote YES he will have no reason to negotiate with us for four years.)

We must fight the Governor's plans to privatize and downsize essential public services. Concessions won't save jobs. Voting NO again will make us even stronger in this fight. In addition we must work to put our entire bargaining unit in the strongest possible position for all future negotiations.

Negotiations with Cuomo remain underway right now. Just turn on the TV and watch him tell us what our union must do -- TV is where he negotiates with us. If we ratify this contract we will concede that we can be terrorized, bamboozled and set up to be broken.

The whole world is watching, particularly our sisters and brothers in New York's unions. Let's stand up for ourselves and give them a reason to join us against the outrageous, unnecessary actions of the Governor.

Vote NO to reject the Governor's abuse and to show our union strength. WE SHALL NOT BE MOVED!!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

What's the Millionaire's Tax Got to Do With It?

What's the Millionaire's Tax Got to Do With It?

Governor Andrew Cuomo once again this week took pains to promise to protect New York's billionaires and millionaires from a small surcharge on the income tax they pay. It would be OK with the Gov. if Obama pushes for a millionaire's tax, but Cuomo said he will watch the back of his wealthy friends here in New York.

The top state tax bracket in New York pays 6.85 percent of income. To enter this bracket and pay the same rate as the millionaires and billionaires a single New Yorker needs to make only $20,001 and a married couple only $40,001 in a year. This means that you and I are in the same income tax bracket as David Koch, Donald Trump, Michael Bloomberg and Sandra Lee.

As a response to the recession of 2008 a temporary surcharge was added in 2009, 2010 and 2011. Two new top tax brackets were created. One was a 7.85% income tax for single people making over $200,000 and married taxpayers making $300,000. The top bracket of 8.97% was added for those with over $500,000 in annual income.

This temporary surcharge will expire at the end of 2011, three quarters of the way through fiscal year 2011-2012. To allow it to expire will mean that New York will have nearly a flat tax on income, far from a fair tax structure.

Even with the income tax surcharge, New York's wealthiest 1 percent pay the smallest taxes as a percentage of total income. The top 1 percent pays 8.4 percent of household income in New York, while the most heavily taxed in our state pay 11.6 percent of income in taxes! The most heavily taxed are those of us in the middle, with household incomes between $33,000 and $56,000 a year.

The Governor's decision to embrace an unjust, upside-down tax policy is vapid enough. What's truly sick is that by defending his millionaires and billionaires from a continuance of this tax in 2012, the Governor will deprive the state of $1 billion in fiscal year 2011-2012 and $5 billion in fiscal year 2012-2013.

$1 billion is more than twice as much money as Cuomo demanded from the public employee unions in contract givebacks!

$5 billion is more than ten times as much money as Cuomo demanded from public employees!

There is absolutely NO fiscal excuse for Cuomo's demand for concessions and NO responsible excuse for his layoffs of New York's public employees. We are middle class public servants who have been unjustly demonized. Now we've been abused by the Governor.

Will protecting a tiny splinter of the wealth of New York's billionaires and millionaires really help launch Cuomo into the White House? Or might sound fiscal policy perhaps do it better? The Governor has made his choice and he has chosen the millionaires.

A NO vote on our contract means that we reject the Governor's lifeless embrace of the old Reagan-Bush-Pataki agenda of tax breaks for the wealthiest.

A NO vote means we are prepared to continue to stand up, to fight for fairness, for ourselves and for all New Yorkers.

Tax the rich. Make them pay their share. NO to givebacks and NO to layoffs!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

PROUD Congratulates The PEF Members Who Voted to Reject the First Tentative Agreement (TA) in PEF’s History

You thought for yourselves, stood up to a bully who wants to weaken NYS labor and gave strong encouragement to other NYS bargaining units and the labor movement.

We Voted “No” on the New TA And Urge You To Do The Same.

This TA includes no stronger layoff protection, the same health care increases, the same forced salary reductions this year and next and now eliminates all tuition voucher/reimbursement under Article 15.3 for all four years of the TA. When you evaluate this contract proposal and learn all the facts, we believe you will join us in casting you ballot based on the merits of this TA, not based on the bullying tactics of the Governor who is holding 3,496 PEF members hostage.

All PEF members must unite against the Governor’s bullying. His bullying tactic is layoffs. He is using 3,496 of our PEF brothers and sisters, including PEF leaders, as a bargaining chip to bully over 50,000 PEF members into ratifying a total concessionary TA. His actions include targeting our professional jobs that are supported by federal funds which will not result in a savings to the State. In fact, his actions may violate agreements with the federal government with regard to providing specific services to the citizens of New York and may also put agencies in a position to have to return federally allocated funds. In a 132.5 billion dollar budget, the Governor is willing to destroy the lives of 3,496 PEF members, their families and communities to realize 75 million in savings.

While some of our members and leaders believe that we have to give him anything he wants, we agree with members and leaders who say we must not allow him to terrorize our Union. Budget solutions are many and none of them involve layoffs. Two major solutions the Governor can implement immediately are to eliminate wasteful State contracts and to reverse course on his decision to reduce State tax revenue by lowering the tax rate on the wealthiest New Yorkers.

Instead of acting on these common sense solutions, the Governor has ordered the layoff of 3,496 professional, scientific and technical public employees at a time when he should be ensuring job retention and economic growth in our State. The number one issue facing our Country is JOBS, JOBS, JOBS!

Ratifying this new TA is not in the interest of the public and private sector unions of New York and elsewhere. It’s not in the interest of a viable middle class and it’s definitely not in the interest of the 99 percent of New Yorkers who work for a living. How we fare as a union in the future may depend on the decision we collectively make on this TA.

We urge you to separate the two issues- a fair contract and unnecessary layoffs. The PEF administration has been urged by many members to pursue legal action to stop the layoffs. PEF has not even tried to do so, nor have they implemented any other strategy to fight for our jobs.

We believe that when you read and consider this contract proposal carefully, and prepare to vote on the merits of the contract, you will conclude that this tentative agreement is, once again, not in the best interests of our union’s members or PEF’s future.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

New York State is not an employee-owned company!

The following comment appeared today as a letter to the editor in the Albany Times Union newspaper:
New York State is not an employee-owned company. State employees don't have any authority to hire, fire or lay off other state employees. The only way state employees fund themselves and their coworkers is as taxpayers. They have no control over the revenue decisions made by the governor and the Legislature.

The press, some editorials and some letters to the editor are doing PEF members who voted against the tentative contract a great injustice by implying that if there are layoffs, they are at fault. The implication puts the blame for layoffs on the wrong party.

It is clear from the "management rights" clause of every union contract that it is the governor who, limited only by the Civil Service Law and other laws, has the authority over the workforce listed in that clause.

Similarly, any state employee whom the governor lays off is mistaken to direct his or her frustration, disappointment and anger at fellow PEF members who voted against the tentative agreement in the belief that whatever layoff decisions the governor makes at any time should not be blamed on anyone but the governor and the Legislature's budgetary decisions.

From the list of agencies targeted for layoffs, one might question whether the governor has been in office long enough to appreciate the mission, purposes, objectives and policies of his responsibilities as governor or the talented civil servants who implement them even when the political process becomes dysfunctional.

Charles Klaer

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

PEF Members Stand Together

[We found the following anonymous comment at the Times Union "Capitol Confidential" blog. We agree! And we hope the leadership of PEF takes up the ideas this "proud PEF member" outlines here in the final paragraph. Please share this post.]

PEF Members Stand Together
September 27, 2011, 5:26 PM

As a proud PEF member, I am very happy with the outcome of our vote today. We sent a strong message to Governor Cuomo rejecting his bullying techniques.

Of course, we don’t expect a better contract tomorrow. We will patiently wait until things cool down. And while we wait, we all need to stand together to face whatever reactions the Governor chooses to do.

The people who berate PEF members for voting “NO” on this terrible contract proposal are sadly misguided. They have convinced themselves that we did this out of greed. In my view, they are absolutely wrong.

We voted “NO” because the governor refused to consider alternate solutions. He refused to make millionaires pay their fair share. He refused to limit contracting out, which is a huge fiscal waste. He refused to consider a stock transfer tax. And he refused to adjust the regressive tax structure of NYS. He seemed to want to punish state workers, who had no part in creating this fiscal nightmare we are all in, but who were being asked (with repeated threats) to pay a grossly disproportionate share of the pain in fixing it.

Only the Governor has the power to terminate or furlough employees. There are always alternatives for raising needed revenue. The Governor can choose to lay off employees, but he does not have to. I would suggest that people should place the blame where it properly rests.

Just today, in fact, the Governor proudly announced that NYS was giving $400 Million to high tech companies who are participating in Albany’s Nanotech Center. How hypocritical is that? High tech firms are getting tax breaks while state workers are getting laid off…

Let’s remember that the next time NYS faces another calamity. There are an awful lot of state workers who responded to the recent floods who are now threatened with layoffs. And let’s never forget that there were hundreds of PEF employees who rushed into the World Trade Center to help with the evacuation on 9/11, many of whom did not survive. From nurses to engineers to corrections officers, PEF members make a big difference to New York State, and all are better off for the work that PEF does.

If the Governor holds firm to his prior threats to lay of PEF members, I would ask all of my Union brothers and sisters to stand together. We need to form networks to help anyone who is laid off. We need to contribute to anyone who suffers as a result of the Governor’s petulence. We need to be bigger than the self-serving bums that many on this blog seem to think we are. PEF’s leadership and agency rep’s need to take the lead on this and to get out ahead of this issue right now. Let’s set up emergency response teams and communications networks, to identify exactly what is going on, who is affected, and what they need in terms of help. This is an all-hands effort, and everyone needs to participate, just as much as if the floods hit your neighborhood. PEF members are our family. It’s time we acted that way.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

4 handouts to print and share with others

(Links to pdf versions.)

1. Calling all PEF Members

2. Why I Voted "NO"

3. No Layoffs????? Think Again!!!

4. QUESTIONS & ANSWERS based upon discussions at contract meetings around the state.

QUESTIONS & ANSWERS based upon the contract forums around the state

Please consider these before you vote!
Link to leaflet version of this document here.

Q: Many seem resigned to the idea that this is “the best we can do.” They cite the poor economy, that the Democrats have joined the Republicans to embrace austerity measures across the nation, or they say “the Governor is such a bully. But sometimes you just have to run away and hope to fight another day.” What do you say?

A: Consider the recent fight back campaign by the Communication Workers of America (CWA) against Verizon. Their members were vocal and stood strong and united and have succeeded in getting Verizon back to the bargaining table. We can have that same opportunity by voting no to go back to negotiate with the State. We will never be treated with respect if we don’t speak up for ourselves.

Q: But how bad has the bullying really been? Didn’t PEF endorse Cuomo for Governor and doesn’t that count for something?

A: True, the Governor negotiated in bad faith. He extended one hand to demand $450 million in recurring annual givebacks by public employees while he put up his other hand to protect New York’s millionaires from paying their share of taxes. But it was worse than that. At a contract forum meeting in Albany led by the Contract Team Chair, a PEF Vice President, it was revealed that two PEF officers and a PEF staff member were threatened with targeted layoffs. (PEF’s Secretary Treasurer confirmed this report.) The implications are alarming – for everyone involved.

Q: If PEF members don’t approve the contract, some say we will be blamed for any future layoffs. If we approve the contract then, at least, the coming layoffs will sit in the Governor’s lap. If you look at it this way, why vote “No”?

A: A layoff is a layoff is a layoff. It doesn’t matter if you’re a “round 1 targeted layoff,” or a “programmatic layoff,” or a SAGE Commission layoff, or just the innocent victim of a bully. Every layoff is the Governor’s. Our Union must fight to protect every member at all times from layoffs. Our position is NO LAYOFFS! PEF members are not responsible for the decisions that management makes with respect to the deployment of the workforce. A “No” vote is a vote to return to the bargaining table, nothing more.

In addition, the austerity measures lack justification. Layoffs spell a reverse economic stimulus, worsening unemployment. Public sector layoffs cause private sector layoffs. Also, public service has been downsized for decades while privatization of public services, at a much greater cost to taxpayers, has expanded. Plus, the wealthy and the corporations have enjoyed 30 years of successive tax breaks, shifting taxes to the middle class and the poor.

Q: Why are the PEF contract team meetings so demoralizing? What can we really do?

A: PEF members should vote on the merit of the proposals contained in the contract. It is not surprising that the contract team members can’t point out reasons to vote for an agreement based on threats and intimidation. The contract is full of givebacks and concessions and inserts language that sanctions layoffs for any reason other than the $450 million gap identified by the Governor when the budget was passed in April 2011. And even though we can see that the contract team is doing the best that it can, they were forced to negotiate against their own interests. They evidently saw no alternatives. Asserting this is “the best we can do” can not change the fact that this contract, if passed, will set dangerous precedents in givebacks, retirement benefits and layoffs. Vote on the merits of the contract! Act not from weakness and demoralization, but from strength and courage: we can only win respect if we stand up together and make each of our voices heard.

Q: Are furloughs now a reality in the lives of union public employees across the country? Have we opened ourselves up to additional furlough days (even in between contracts) now that furloughs have been introduced as an article in our contract?

A: “Furloughs” are a simply a clever pay cut. The work still has to get done. For the employer, at best, “furloughs” amount to a work speed-up. But at worst, the money the State spends to allow “furloughs” will end up costing the State even more. In the facilities that run 24-7, for example, covering furlough days will require paying overtime. But there is more. “Furloughs” are a dangerous precedent. Similar to what happened in prior contracts, when PEF agreed to move steps to reach top of grade from 3 to 5 to 7, the State will most likely seek increases in the number of furlough days in future contracts. Also, Article 21 (Deficit Reduction Leave/Workforce Reduction Limitation) is a new Article in the contract which now makes the discussion of furlough days a mandatory subject of bargaining in the next contract if this proposal is approved. We have no evidence to support the need for furloughs. Negotiations should include a good faith effort from the State to explore the cost cutting measures PEF provided in PEF’s Fact Sheets on the PEF website at It is time for public employees to say NO FURLOUGHS!

Q: Will PEF members lose any benefits if the contract is defeated?

A: If PEF members reject the contract, we will maintain our current contract and the benefits in the 2007-2011 contract. This should protect us from the substantial losses we will suffer if the proposed contract ratifies.

Q: Doesn’t the state budget require givebacks and a 5-year contract?

A: New York State faced a $10 billion deficit at the start of 2011. The Governor used this to demand, through budget assumptions, that public employee union members owe givebacks totaling $450 million, recurring annually, so-called “workforce savings.” Now the state budget deficit is about $2 billion. Yet the Governor has not reduced his demand for “workforce savings.” If the Governor really thought the union members’ “share” of the deficit were less than 1/20th of the total, he would be now seeking under $100 million in givebacks.

PEF members have shared many ways in which the State can save money without reverting to layoffs. For example, this past year, the Tax department collected $600 million more than was budgeted. That amount alone can cover the Governor’s invention of “expected workforce savings.” And there is no reason for us to agree to 5 years, particularly an agreement that ignores cost of living increases. If the falling buying power of the dollar is considered, a “zero increase” is really a pay cut.

Q: Shouldn’t PEF members accept the contract since CSEA members have already agreed to essentially the same proposal?

A: The negative fiscal impact of this contract proposal is greater for PEF members than CSEA members. Two-thirds of CSEA members are below a grade 10 and thus are less impacted by the health care proposals. And yes, it is further distressing to think that the actions of CSEA seemed designed to leave PEF out in the cold. But to those who complain about how lonely we will feel if only PEF stands up to the Governor, we reply: no one will stand up with you if you won’t stand up for yourself!

Link to leaflet version of this document here.

Friday, September 2, 2011

3 printable flyers to share

(Links to pdf versions.)

1. Calling all PEF Members

2. Why I Voted "NO"

3. No Layoffs????? Think Again!!!

No Contract is Better Than This Contract!

The following is the text of another flyer presently being distributed by a member of PEF. Click here for a pdf version.

What are the real costs for these concessions?

Summary of Givebacks for Top of Grade 18 with Family Insurance
For 2% inflation with 10% increase in health premiums
Does not include increased out-of-pocket medical expenses

(1) Current pay keeping up with 2% inflation – Proposed contract pay

For Grade 14: Total Loss for Proposed Contract - $19,223
For Grade 23: Total Loss for Proposed Contract - $27,987

What do we get from these concessions?
Not a guarantee against layoffs, but merely a layoff “pledge” that’s
Full of holes and exceptions (see Article 21 on other side) and incredibly
Binds PEF to agree to layoffs and not fight against layoffs!

Cuomo lied to the contract negotiating team about no layoffs during negotiations.
Cuomo is lying to us now about layoffs.
Cuomo’s only focus is to hurt state employees via
 SAGE Commission (only goal is to eliminate state employees), Tier 6, Pension Reform, . . .

This PROPOSED CONTRACT does nothing but lower our standard of living while providing meaningless layoff chatter

Is This Fair to Your Family?
Remember all this pain & extortion is because Cuomo doesn’t want to tax Millionaires!

Vote No Against The Proposed Contract

NO LAYOFFS?????? Think again!!!

Proposed Contract for PEF Members - Excerpts
NEW Article 21 – Workforce Reduction Limitation
 For Fiscal Years 2011-2012 and 2012-2013, employees shall be protected from layoffs resulting from the facts and circumstances that gave rise to the present need for $450 million in workforce savings.
 For the term of the agreement, only material or unanticipated changes in the State's fiscal circumstances, financial plan or revenue will result in potential layoffs.
 Workforce reductions due to the closure or restructuring of facilities, as authorized by legislation or Spending and Government Efficiency (SAGE) Commission determinations are excluded from these limitations.
{No authorization from Legislature needed}

Workforce Reduction Limitation Sideletter (For FY 2011-12 and FY 2012-13:)
 For layoffs resulting from facility closures and/or SAGE Commission actions announced subsequent to ratification of the Agreement, employees shall receive sixty (60) days notification prior to the effective date of the termination.
As a Commission, is the SAGE Commission unbiased/objective and the sole authority on proper or necessary consolidation? What actions are they limited to? Are they allowed to abolish smaller units such as Divisions, Bureaus and Sections?
 For layoffs resulting from other changes in circumstances (separate from facility closures and/or SAGE Commission actions), employees shall receive thirty (30) days notification prior to the effective date of the termination.
 The State will encourage agencies to utilize the Agency Reduction Transfer List (“ARTL”) process where appropriate and feasible?????. (PEF reserved right to challenge that ARTL currently is mandatory under Civil Service Law).

How enforceable are the words “encourage” or “appropriate” and “feasible” when defending your Civil Service job and rights to reappointment?

Could this affect you?
Posted on April 25, 2011 at 5:48 pm by Jimmy Vielkind, Capitol bureau
Which agencies are on the consolidation block?
At the first meeting of the Spending and Government Efficiency Commission, two Cuomo administration staffers presented members with areas of focus, which they hope will scrutinize and make recommendations that “range from either some shared services along certain functions up to and including a potentially full consolidation,” according to Derek Utter, deputy director of agency redesign and efficiency.
Some agencies look ripe for consolidation. Others could share services. Here are the groups that are being looked at, which have some overlap in their missions and people who are served.
1) Department of Transportation, Thruway Authority and Bridge Authority
2) Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation; Department of Environmental Conservation; coastal management at the Department of State
3) Office of Children and Family Services and Office of Temporary and Disability Services
4) Department of Economic Development and Empire State Development Corporation, which Utter said are already “functional merged.”
5) Department of Health, Office of Mental Health, Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, Office for People with Developmental Disabilities and the Office for the Aging. Oversight agencies include the Office of the Medicaid Inspector General and the Commission on Quality of Care and Advocacy for People with Disabilities
“When we look at whether there are any reorganization opportunities in the various areas, we’re trying to balance. There are some efficiencies that can be applied or some other form of cooperation, against the clear need to make sure that these very distinct core missions are not resolved,” Utter said, referencing OCFS and OTDA.

Click here for a pdf version of this flyer.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Why I Voted "No"

The following statement was provided to PEF members by an elected member of the PEF Executive Board, an explanation to his constituents. The author encourages people to share this document (pdf link here and at the bottom).

Why I Voted "No"

On Thursday, August 11, 2011, the PEF Executive Board decided by a vote of 85 to 38 to send the tentative contract to the membership for ratification. I voted “no” because I think that acceptance of this agreement is not in our best interest for the following reasons:

• While the current threatened layoffs may be cancelled if the contract is ratified, there is no guarantee against future layoffs.

• We are locked into a five year contract with no protection against future inflation.

• The five unpaid furlough days by the end of March 2012 would result in an approximately 4% pay cut spread over the remainder of the current fiscal year. For a Grade 18, there could be a decrease in pay of up to $1,300 by March 31, 2012.

• The change in the employee share of the cost of health insurance would increase your premium for family Empire Plan coverage by just under $1,000 per year, almost $5,000 over the term of the contract. For individual coverage, your premium would increase by around $425 per year, almost $2,000 over the contract.

• The Empire Plan out of network provider annual deductible would increase to $1,000 per person from the current $388. The maximum out of pocket would go from $1,069 to $3,000.

• Empire Plan prescription co-pays for a 90 day supply of a brand name drug would go from $30 to $50 and $70 to $90.

• Updated life expectancy tables would be used to determine the monthly value of unused sick leave for employees who retire on or after October 1, 2011. While the affect would vary based on your age, salary and amount of unused sick leave, for me it would increase my retiree health insurance cost by almost $40 per month or more than $8,000 over my life expectancy.

• According to a press release issued by the Governor’s Office, the proposed contract will result in almost $400 million in savings over the contract term. Based on 54,000 PEF members, this means that we are giving up over $7,000 a member.

While the majority of the Executive Board voted to send the contract to the membership, several Board members who voted “yes” have told me that they wanted to give their members a chance to vote but will campaign against it.

Ron Goldstein

The author represents members at the Department of Labor on the PEF Executive Board.

printable version available here

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Calling all PEF members!

If you're looking for an alternative to the tentative agreement - or even if you simply want to pause to evaluate the serious predicament we face - it is time to unite and work together.  Consider this:

The Public Employees Federation was founded to represent the professional, scientific and technical workers of New York State.  Our employment contract with the state ought to represent our interests. 
Soon you will receive a ballot asking for you to vote yes or no on a contract based upon the CSEA contract.

Please vote NO!  This contract is not in the best interest of PEF members!

"No layoffs" must mean NO LAYOFFS
(Proposed contract language in fact protects the governor's power to lay off PEF members.)

5 years is TOO LONG for this contract
(Economic and political circumstances will change.)

Dramatic increases in our health care costs amount to A PAY CUT, A GIVEBACK 
(All benefits amount to foregone wages.)

(To justify a proposed cut in retiree health benefits, we stand accused of living too long!)

The "furlough days" in fiscal year 2011-2012 are simply a GIVEBACK
(Biweekly compensation will be cut by nearly 4% for 13 pay periods to pay for the “furlough.”)

The givebacks in the contract have been presented as a trade-off, a way to prevent layoffs. But even if we ratify this contract, we will face the prospect of layoffs. Layoffs of PEF members are happening right now!

The Governor has given PEF and the other unions a false choice: givebacks or layoffs. To accept this false choice is to embrace concession bargaining at its worst.  If we accept this false choice, we negotiate against ourselves, against our own interests.  It is time to go back to the bargaining table.

In reality there is no reason to lay off New York's public servants in 2011 or 2012 or in the years to come. Decades of successive tax cuts for New York's millionaires and billionaires have trashed a once-progressive tax system and under-funded public service.  And as the tax burden has been shifted to the middle class and the working poor, essential services have been contracted out to private profiteers, to the further detriment of public welfare. We, the professional, scientific and technical workers of the State understand better than anyone the harm this has done the health and education, safety and environment of New York.  It is time for us to stand up and defend public service.

Join PEF Professionals Reclaiming Our Union Decisions: PEF PROUD.  We need to stand together to FIGHT EVERY LAYOFF while we demand a FAIR CONTRACT.

Email us:  Print and share: Link to PDF version here.