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PEF members stand up?

September 29, 2011 - John Stack
I was shocked to find out tuesday that the union I belong to (PEF) rejected the contract proposal formulated between the union and the governor. As a recap, the proposal was painful. Furloughs of 5 days ( to be made up in less than 4 months) in the first year, 4 days in the second. Major increases to health insurance premiums. As the rest of the country has been has been hammered, laid off and cut back on everything from wages to benefits, I thought it appropriate that we state workers also share in the sacrifice. Personally I didn’t stand to lose my job as I will hit 20 years next month. But, I would be paying another 100 bucks a month in health insurance and to make up for the pro-rated furlough, about 400 dollars a month until April, then 100 bucks a month for the next year. Not chump change. I had really assumed the contract would pass easily as usual, especially since CSEA passed a near identical contract 2 months ago.

I learned a lot though today reading blog posts on the Times Union article on this. Union members seem to be extreme in their views. Lots are calling the ‘No’ voters ‘Scabs’ ‘scum of the earth’ and the like. Many of the ‘No’ voter sympathizers are saying its about time the union membership stood up and didn’t roll over like dogs. Truly, I voted yes because I felt we needed to share the sacrifice with the rest of America (as Union leaders refused to open contracts at all over the last few years, which made this contract even worse than it could have been) as well as not wanting to see a lot of good people out in the streets. Who is right? Were the No voters standing up to an unfair contract? Or were they only looking out for themselves and not caring about ‘throwing their union brethren’

Was the contract voted down solely by the ‘old guard’ not caring if the new people got laid off? I don’t think so. I think lots of us ‘long timers’ voted YES. But also, many ‘long timers’ most likely did vote ‘No’ – as evidenced by 55% of all voters voted no. I think many truly thought it was an unfair contract, they didn’t feel keeping a job with such serious cuts was worth it, and many thought union leadership sold them out and capitulated to a popular governor. I also don’t believe all the YES votes were newcomers. Many ‘newcomers’ are young, and actually have many more options than ‘old timers’. Many do not have homes, mortgages, kids in college. Many see working at the state wasn’t worth it to take the contract. I had a guy who I was supervisor for back in Newburgh. He decided to leave the state after 2 years (he was a great worker, and a great loss) because he didn’t want the ‘golden handcuffs’ which I currently wear (mostly 20 years in on a good pension). He would have voted the contract down.

Regardless if you voted, yes no, or didn’t even have a stake in the vote, Cuomo and his office have really shown their thuggery brand of politics. He tells how the legislature passed the budget last year relying upon savings by the state work force. So, because Cuomo held a gun to PEF members heads PEF members should have voted this way because Cuomo convinced the legislature that state workers were just pawns? Just like his 2% cap on levies is being claimed to be some great panacea where locals are being blamed for any increases, when it is cuts in state funding and unfunded mandates which are causing localities to make major cuts just to be able to only increase their levies 2%? What a con job. How about chief droogie Howard Glaser (otherwise known as State operation director) ‘“Today’s vote represents a failure by PEF’s leadership to effectively communicate the benefits of the contract to its members as CSEA’s leadership did.’ What? This isn’t Tammany Hall (although the higher echelons of government seem to be returning to that). I can make decisions for myself. 19,000 well educated men and women made this choice. To try to make political hay by degrading PEF leadership doesn’t mean it is OK to degrade tens of thousands of professional state workers who know how to think for themselves. The Cuomo administration made it clear the CSEA contract would not be changed for PEF. Glaser was less than honest saying that the governor and PEF spent months on a deal. No. The governor and CSEA spent months on a deal. Then they told PEF ‘Take it or leave it’. Again, Cuomo put an ugly proposition out there, and was able to blame someone else when his dirty plans weren’t accepted widely.

There is the possibility of a revote. I sure hope there is a revote. But, with Cuomo’s insipid and malicious ‘Prince Andrew’ stance towards PEF members and leadership, I have a feeling MORE people could vote against the contract than before.


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