The ongoing contract dispute between the state Olympic Regional Development Authority and its workers' union, the Civil Service Employees Association, resurfaced recently when the CSEA organized workers to picket two big events: the opening day at Whiteface Mountain Ski Center and the Stars on Ice skating show.
The union is stepping up its media presence further with plans to hold more rallies. ORDA officials, meanwhile, have been tight-lipped about the matter.
Here's a message to both parties: Get a contract done.
It's time for ORDA to step back to the negotiating table. Having so much time go by without a contract for workers who make the Olympic venues operate like a well oiled machine only serves to lower worker morale. ORDA officials continuously praise the work force - and rightfully so - so now they should let actions speak as loud as words by aggressively working for a contract.
But the workers and their representatives must be realistic about their demands.
We certainly are sympathetic to local workers' needs during hard economic times, and we applaud the workers' efforts to champion their cause. But some issues need to be addressed.
Kathy Garrison, the regional CSEA president, has said ORDA workers make very little money here and that many must work two or three jobs. Well, that's life for many people who live in the Adirondack Park; it's nothing new, a reality of living here. Wages aren't as high here as in other parts of the state, and many Park residents must find secondary work just to make ends meet. People choose to live here because of the quality of life in the Adirondacks, but there's a trade-off.
Ms. Garrison has also said, "It's a bunch of millionaires who sit on the (ORDA) board, and they won't even come back and bring 50 cents to them." The financial status of board members has nothing to do with what the state can offer in regard to salaries. Residents of New York City don't expect any such concessions from billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
The CSEA says its workers haven't received raises in years. There are many workers throughout the country who can say the same thing. Some workers who have lost their jobs, including those in the 891 state jobs that Gov. David Paterson has decided to ax, would gladly forgo raises just to have a job.
It is still possible that the state jobs provided by ORDA might be put on the chopping block. When governor-elect Andrew Cuomo visited the state-run Sunmount developmental disabilities center in Tupper Lake in late November, he issued an ominous message of cuts to come.
The union, as a bargaining chip, has used Whiteface Mountain's recent accolades, such as being named the East's top resort by readers of SKI Magazine (for off-hill activities) and the East's favorite resort by SnowEast Magazine. The fact is that Whiteface was given those distinctions not just for the mountain but for the region as a whole, which is partially due to Lake Placid's private sector having such a plethora of activities, from shopping to a variety of attractions on Mirror Lake, and the outstanding job the visitors centers in Wilmington and Lake Placid do to market the region.
ORDA's workers may indeed deserve a raise - as do other workers throughout the nation - but in this economy that shouldn't be cause for an ultimatum. That said, the CSEA shouldn't stop fighting to help its members, and ORDA shouldn't stop praising its workers. But the seemingly never-ending story of a contract dispute must be resolved for the benefit of the entire region. It doesn't bode well when unhappy workers brave the elements to make their stand in public.
So get back to the table and work out a contract.
The union's beef that ORDA seems to be dragging its feet on getting a contract done might be justified, but the union should also face the hard realities that are prevalent in today's economic world.