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.