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.


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