Tuesday, April 27, 2010


Mirror Lake, Lake Placid, N.Y., site of the 2010 biennial
CSEA Occupational, Safety and Health Conference

CSEA – New York's Leading Union – will renew its commitment to on-the-job safety and health in two important events this week. The union will first join the other unions of the AFL-CIO and mark Workers Memorial Day on Wednesday, April 28 in ceremonies all across New York. Workers Memorial Day is the date that unions of the AFL-CIO and others around the world honor workers who have lost their lives or have been injured on the job. The date is the anniversary of legislation establishing the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Later this week, more than one thousand CSEA safety and health activists will gather in Lake Placid, April 30 - May 2, for the union's biennial Occupational Safety and Health conference. A belated Workers Memorial Day program will be held on Friday afternoon April 30 at 4:30 outside the Lake Placid Crowne Plaza Hotel.

Five CSEA members lost their lives due to on-the-job incidents or illness in the past two years. More than one hundred and seventy CSEA members have lost their lives on the job or from illness linked to job related hazards since CSEA began tracking these circumstances in 1983.

The recent CSEA members whose lives will be honored at Workers Memorial Day events are:

• Nicole Gaulin, an Orleans County Social Services worker, in the Town of Kendall. Fatal car crash while on the job, April 21, 2010;

• Nancy Lou Dell-Olio, 62, Amityville School District, School Monitor. Fell down a flight of stairs while accompanying a group of students, Nov. 5, 2009;

• Gary L. Farrell, 48, NYS DOT, Alder Creek Sub-Residency, Highway Maintenance Worker I. Struck by a vehicle while flagging in a work zone, Nov. 2, 2009;

• Sharon M. LaDuke, 57, Village of Potsdam, Sr. Clerk/Registrar. Mesothelioma, May 29, 2009;

• Kevin Forsyth, 46, NYS DOT, Niagara County, Highway Maintenance Supervisor 1. Struck by a motorist while setting up cones in a work zone, July 23, 2008.

"Workers Memorial Day is an opportunity to 'mourn for the dead and fight for the living' to paraphrase the words of the great labor organizer Mother Jones," said CSEA President Danny Donohue. "On-the job deaths and injuries can be avoided with better understanding, preparation, training, equipment, procedures and a stronger commitment to addressing workplace safety and health.

"The fact that more than a thousand CSEA activists will be focused on safety and health issues this weekend should send a message about its importance in CSEA and the need for constant vigilance," Donohue said.

CSEA, which is marking its Centennial Anniversary in 2010, has long made safety and health a priority. The union was instrumental in the 1980 passage of the landmark Public Employee Safety and Health Act, extending OSHA protections to public employees. More than 20 states still do not have similar protections for public employees today.

Friday, April 23, 2010


Washington, D.C. and New York, N.Y.-- If the Local Jobs for America Act (H.R. 4812) becomes law, it will create or save more than 675,000 local community jobs and more than 250,000 education jobs, according to the latest estimates from the House Education and Labor Committee.

In a letter from a coalition of more than 300 groups that have endorsed the bill, including the AFL-CIO, the groups write:

"We need bold congressional action in order to put Americans back to work and prevent more layoffs and cuts in crucial services. The Local Jobs for America Act will not only provide employment for hundreds of thousands of jobless workers, it will create and save jobs for workers who are providing services that our communities badly need."

Communities across the nation are dealing with serious budget shortfalls that are forcing layoffs and cuts in vital human services, actions which committee Chairman Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) says “threaten to derail our nation’s economic recovery.”

Meanwhile, the SEC is bringing a civil suit against Goldman Sachs for fraud.

Why? In a nutshell, Goldman slapped a "Grade A" label on investments that they had specifically designed to fail, and then sold them to unwitting investors and made billions of dollars.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) was created during the Great Depression, in the wake of hearings that exposed a multitude of ways in which big investors had taken advantage of small customers or had taken on too much debt. Now, after the Wall Street meltdown of 2008 triggered a global financial slowdown, the agency is trying to reinvigorate itself — and ensure that it remains a major player as Congress considers large-scale financial regulatory reform.

It's good to see regulators finally starting to hold Goldman accountable with a civil suit—but what they did could be criminal and if so, they should go to jail.

This push has a real shot at succeeding. More and more congressional representatives are demanding a criminal investigation each day. The whole country is pissed at Wall Street. But a slap on the wrist isn't going to change their behavior, especially with Republican lawmakers overtly declaring that they will not support reform for the finance industry.  Wall Street executives and the top bankers in America no doubt live in an insular bubble, and could care less about the economic wealth of the poor and middle class.

The plain truth is that too often, Wall Street's business plan relies on screwing over regular American working families and getting rich off of our misfortunes.

Just look at what's happened over the last year—people have lost their homes, their savings, their pensions. Meanwhile firms like Goldman are handing out billions of our tax dollars in bonuses while working families are left to struggle to make ends meet.

It's time to stand up and say "Enough!" What they're doing could be a crime and if it is, they need to go to jail.

Next Thursday on April 29, about 10,000 labor activists will march and rally in the heart of New York's financial district, calling for commonsense rules to hold Wall Street accountable and restore our jobs. For more info on this rally, go the GOOD JOBS NOW! website.

Photo below:  The Goldman Sachs Building in NYC.  It promised thousands of staff executives, including over 5,500 in the UK, a 33 % pay increase with additional bonuses after turning a profit back in 2009.  No wonder Wall Street and the banking industry oppose regulation.

Monday, April 19, 2010


The New York State Capitol Building, Albany, N.Y.
photo by Ove Overmyer

Loudonville, N.Y.--  In the latest research polls released today (4/19/10) by Siena College Research Institute, public employees and communities across New York State might not be shocked by the fact that most citizens disapprove of Governor Paterson withholding negotiated cost of living increases for state workers.  “When it comes to the Governor’s proposal to withhold the contractually agreed upon pay raises for stateworkers, 47 percent oppose the idea, while only 38 percent support it,” said poll spokesperson Steven Greenberg. “A plurality of upstate and independent voters support the idea and voters over 55 are evenly divided. A majority or plurality of all other groups of voters – including Republicans and conservatives – thinks it’s a bad idea.” 

Can we fix Albany?  Voters say "Yes!"

Other interesting tidbits of info coming out of the Siena College research today suggest that New Yorkers might be more optimistic than one would think.  “An overwhelming 83 percent of voters – including at least three-quarters of every demographic group – say ‘Albany can be fixed if New Yorkers elect the right people to state office.’ Only 13 percent feel that ‘Albany cannot be fixed irrespective of who’s elected to office.’ While voters are very down on the current leadership of New York and strongly feel the state is headed in the wrong direction, there is a very real and very strong sense of optimism that Albany can improve,” Greenberg said. “Now it’s up to the voters to choose among the candidates that they believe can fix Albany.”

Who is to blame for New York State's budget mess?  It's the Legislature, stupid.

“Asked to assess blame for the state’s budget deficit and budget crisis, 41 percent of voters give that distinction to the State Legislature. Twenty-six percent place the blame on the national economy, while only 15 percent blame Governor David Paterson,” Greenberg said. “Although voters continue to view Paterson very unfavorably (his approval rating jumped 4 points from 21 to 25 this month), and a record high 49 percent now rate the job he is doing as governor as ‘poor,’ when it comes to the budget crisis, voters see the Legislature as a bigger villain than the Governor.”

To read more information about the public opinion polls, click here. 

Members of CSEA, New York's leading union,  rally in
downtown Buffalo for worker's rights in September 2009.
(photo Ove Overmyer)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


ALBANY, N.Y. -- CSEA - New York's leading union - has taken the first formal steps in challenging Gov. David Paterson's decision to delay contractual pay raises for nearly 70,000 CSEA-represented state Executive branch employees.

CSEA has filed a formal contract grievance with the Governor's Office of Employee Relations under the provisions of the CSEA-NYS collective bargaining agreement. The action is the appropriate starting place to challenge the governor's delaying action and does not preclude additional legal response.

As the governor's action affects all members of the bargaining units on a statewide basis, CSEA filed the grievance at Step 3 of the grievance process. GOER has 15 working days to respond to the CSEA grievance. Should GOER not respond favorably to CSEA, the union would have the option of moving the grievance to triage and then arbitration.

CSEA has every expectation of prevailing against the governor's arbitrary and unilateral action.

Monday, April 12, 2010


What exactly are conservatives afraid of?

Washington, D.C.--  Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens was unanimously confirmed by the Senate in 1975 just 19 days after he was nominated. His successor can expect a far more arduous confirmation process.  The nomination and appointment of our next Supreme Court Justice will no doubt dominate the news cycles for the remainder of 2010. 

President Obama's choice to replace Stevens will be one of the most important decisions he'll ever make in our lifetime. That's because right now, the current Supreme Court is packed with right-wing Republican appointments. The Court is threatening our democracy by dramatically expanding the power of big corporations and conservatives can now feel the status quo slipping away.

For instance, earlier this year in the case known as Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, they decided that corporations have the right to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections. If corporations have more influence, they're going to continue to rig the system to create even larger profits for their CEOs at the expense of taxpayers, labor unions, environmentalists and civil rights advocates.

President Obama should be looking for a Supreme Court nominee who will affect the Court in a very strategic way. He previously talked about how the Court is out of touch with everyday Americans. We saw him take that swipe at the Supreme Court in the State of the Union address back in January. Remembering this sort of thing gives me some hope.  Remember that thing, hope?

While Mr. Obama's first nominee Justice Sonia Sotomayor was largely seen as a political appointment, the president should still think about how this new nominee and the new justice would affect the social balance and dynamics of tomorrow's Supreme Court.

While Stevens retirement has been expected for several months, the timing of his announcement was somewhat premature. It set off a firestorm of right-wing rhetoric about what is to come.

Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, voted against Sotomayor. In a statement, he warned the president of the lessons learned from Sotomayor's confirmation.

Sessions called Sotomayor's confirmation "The rejection of President Obama's empathy standard, the flawed notion that judges should allow personal feelings, political opinions, and social views to guide judicial decision-making." What the hell is Sessions talking about? In case he hasn't heard, Sotomayor was confirmed by a 61 to 38 vote, that's hardly rejection of Obama’s selection process.

Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, another senior Republican on the Judiciary Committee, warned in a statement that "someone who would be an activist judge, who would substitute their own views for what the law requires, is not qualified to serve on the federal bench." But true to the Republican spirit, that is exactly what happened when Dubya appointed Judge Samuel Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts.

Mitch McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader from Kentucky said in a statement, "As we await the president's nominee to replace Justice Stevens at the end of his term, Americans can expect Senate Republicans to make a sustained and vigorous case for judicial restraint and the fundamental importance of an even-handed reading of the law." Other Republican gasbags have weighed in with similar warnings as well.

Some observers say no matter whom the candidate is, the party of "NO" will give Obama a hard time. However, various news reports are also suggesting the president may choose one of two women to replace Justice Stevens. The names of Seventh Circuit Federal Judge Diane Wood and Solicitor General Elena Kagan are the names of the candidates, while Washington, D.C. Circuit Judge Merrick Garland is a strong candidate as well.

Kagan is former dean of Harvard Law School. She has represented the United States in the Supreme Court. She's a very qualified candidate with sparkling credentials. And, some conservatives may support her because she hired a lot of conservatives at Harvard. Could this be an easy out for Obama?

But maybe, just maybe, Obama might want to duke it out with congressional Republicans one more time and go for a more progressive nominee. After all, he seems to have a renewed sense of vigor coming off the healthcare bill being signed into law.  How does Justice Hillary Rodham Clinton sound?  Wouldn't that be eventful?  I guess us liberals will just have to sit tight for a while and keep our fingers crossed. Between you and me, I’m still waiting for that change I can believe in.

Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens

Written by Ove Overmyer.  The opinions expressed here are the authors only, and does not reflect the views of CSEA.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


CSEA President Danny Donohue
(photo by Ove Overmyer)

ALBANY, NY -- CSEA President Danny Donohue has just issued the following statement:

Gov. David Paterson's unilateral delay of a fairly negotiated raise for CSEA represented state employees is wrong and the governor knows it. It will leave CSEA with little choice in our course of action moving forward.

"What makes it even worse is that the governor met with CSEA and PEF officials yesterday and has now immediately moved forward.  The Paterson administration continues to careen from crisis to crisis without any comprehensive plan to address the state's financial mess with a coordinated strategy. It is more evidence of his administration's incompetence."

"CSEA members continue to do their best to serve the people of New York under deteriorating conditions and they deserve better than what the governor is putting forward."

What happens next? The governor has sent a budget extender bill to the state legislature, and the bill requires a yes or no vote. The legislature is not allowed to amend the bill, so they can’t add our raises back in.

So how can the state legislature help us? They can join our fight by telling the governor that THIS IS WRONG. Hurting the middle class while Wall St. continues to profit makes no sense and —Gov. Paterson’s incompetence is costing New York’s workers and families.

Call your State Legislators and let them know—we need them on our side!

Joe Robach
Albany Office:
608 Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247
(518) 455-2909

Rochester Office:
2300 W. Ridge Road
Rochester, NY 14626
(585) 225-3650

Jim Alesi
Albany Office:
Room 304 Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247
Phone: (518) 455-2015
Fax: (518) 426-6968

District Office:
220 Packetts Landing
Fairport, NY 14450
Phone: (585) 223-1800
Fax: (585) 223-3084

Mike Nozzolio
District Office
117-119 Fall Street
Seneca Falls, NY 13148
Tel: (315) 568-9816 / Fax: (315)568-2090
Toll-free 1-888-568-9816

Albany Office
413 Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247
Tel: (518) 455-2366 / Fax: (518)426-6953

George Maziarz
Albany Office:
Room 947, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247
(518) 455-2024

District Office:
2578 Niagara Falls Boulevard
Suite 600
Wheatfield, NY 14304
(716) 731-8740

Satellite Office:
SUNY College at Brockport
350 New Campus Drive
Brockport, NY, NY 14420
(585) 637-5800


(click on image for larger view)

Our local Rochester Finger Lakes Chapter of
Pride At Work has been leading the fight
to end workplace discrimination in both the
public and private sectors.
(photo taken at 2009 Labor Day Parade
by Ove Overmyer)

Rochester, N.Y.--  The House returns from its spring recess on April 12, and we're hearing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) could be up for a committee vote soon after. We're closer than ever to getting workplace discrimination protections for all LGBT people passed in the House.

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is a proposed bill in the United States Congress that would prohibit discrimination against employees on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity for civilian nonreligious employers with over 15 employees.

ENDA has been introduced in every Congress, except the 109th, since 1994, albeit without gender identity protections, but gained its best chance at passing after the Democratic Party broke twelve years of Republican Congressional rule in the 2006 midterm elections. However, some sponsors believed that even with a Democratic majority, ENDA did not have enough votes to pass the House of Representatives with transgender inclusion, and dropped it from the bill, which passed and subsequently died in the Senate. Labor and LGBT advocacy organizations were divided over support of the changed bill.

In 2009, on the heels of the 2008 elections that strengthened the Democratic majority, and after the debacle of the 2007 ENDA divisions, only a transgender-inclusive ENDA has been introduced by House representative Barney Frank. President Barack Obama supports the bill's passage unlike his Republican predecessor, who threatened to veto the measure.

Text "ENDA" to 69866 to be connected to your representative. Your calls will make a huge difference. Even if you think your representative is supportive or if you've called before, please call now.

Monday, April 5, 2010


Rochester, N.Y.--  In the April 4 Easter Sunday edition of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, WNY Region 6 President Flo Tripi argued to the editorial board that the labor community has been unfairly treated in the newspaper's attempt to rile the readership about the role of public employee unions in New York State. 

The D&C must of relented to her persuasion knowing full well that public employees are probably tired of getting bashed day after day.  After all, public employees are a core of their readership--  we are also the adverstisers as well as subscribers too.  We can and will affect their bottom line, if need be. 

And, as a matter of journalistic policy, the editorial board does not usually make exceptions to print recent letters from the same writer back to back--  but they did in this case.  Tripi and many contributors to this blog have also pointed out that the D&C's ongoing coverage of  our state's fiscal mess is not fueled by strident public employee unions as they would like readers to believe-- despite their relentless news reports and editorials slamming organized labor.

Despite these deceptive ploys, today we salute the D&C for publishing this guest essay with the full knowledge that the journalistic assault on public employees will continue to play out on the front page, local section, opinion pages and blogs of this newspaper.

We encourage the public debate about the role of New York's public employee unions-- but only when it is done with fairness, honesty and civility.  Here is the essay that was published on April 4:

Well, at least the Democrat & Chronicle Editorial Board got it half right in the March 21 editorial "Public workers must help" with New York state budget deficit.

The D&C got it right stating public employees should not be made the scapegoats for Albany's ills. In addition to paying their fair share in taxes, public employees support the local economy through their purchase of goods and services from those in the private sector.

But the Democrat & Chronicle Editorial Board is absolutely wrong to call for a wage freeze for public employees and other cuts that would do little more than chip away further at the already damaged middle class.

Public employees continually take the blame in this paper because it's the easy way out. Rather than seek out the real problems, just kick the first public employee you see.

Professional sports teams throughout the state have received hundreds of millions in tax breaks and subsidies to build and improve stadiums.

Instead of pointing the finger at public workers, why doesn't the D&C call on those sports teams to give the subsidies back?  How about the rest of Wall Street? Our tax dollars have bailed them out, too. Have people on Wall Street sacrificed across the board? No. Instead, the banks took the tax money and awarded multi-million dollar bonuses to a few at the top.

What about other businesses that receive tax breaks and ship jobs overseas? Shouldn't we ask for that money back, especially since the jobs are no longer here?

Yet the D&C wants the snowplow driver, the nurse's aide, the corrections officer, the group home staffer and other state employees to give up a modest raise that they'll use to support their families and make ends meet?

Public employees have already made their share of sacrifices. They've been asked to do more and more with less and less for years. Their services are needed now more than ever, as more and more people reach out for a little help to get through tough times. Public employees often work short-staffed and in dirty and dangerous jobs. The state budget should not be balanced on their backs.

Tripi, of Rochester, is CSEA Western Region president.

Thursday, April 1, 2010


The NLRB has two new appointments
thanks to a renewed sense of
purpose from President Obama

Washington, D.C.--  The National Labor Relations Board will soon have three Democrats and one Republican, and anti-worker foes can do nothing about it but brace for a wave of pro-union rulings.

The National Labor Relations Board is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1935 to administer the National Labor Relations Act, the primary law governing relations between unions and employers in the private sector. The statute guarantees the right of employees to organize and to bargain collectively with their employers, and to engage in other protected concerted activity with or without a union, or to refrain from all such activity.

On March 25, all 41 Republican senators urged President Obama not to name a lawyer for the A.F.L.-C.I.O and the Service Employees International Union to the National Labor Relations Board during the Easter recess.

Last month, the Democrats fell eight votes short of the 60 needed to overcome a threatened filibuster of a vote for the lawyer, Craig Becker. Two Democrats, Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and Ben Nelson of Nebraska, joined Republicans in the 52-to-33 vote. In a letter to Mr. Obama, Republican senators said that because of his union work, Mr. Becker “could not be viewed as impartial, unbiased or objective” in labor board cases. Seven of the 10 members named by President George W. Bush were recess appointees.

Chambers of Commerce and business groups are totally freaking out.  They are warning that the panel will kick quickly into a pro-union gear after 26 months of near paralysis, when just two of its five seats were filled.  I'm sure the word "armageddon" and the phrase "end is near" will no doubt purse the lips of some fanatical Republican Senators in the days to come.

“Becker will bring a very strong, pro-union, anti-employer animus to decision-making at the board,” said Randel K. Johnson, an executive of the United States Chamber of Commerce. “Our view is he will resolve things almost invariably in favor of unions.”  And that's a bad thing?

Business organizations also worry that the board will revamp the rules for unionization elections by engaging more than ever before in broad rule-making while relying less on case-by-case decision-making.

Labor unions argue that the recess appointments of Mr. Becker and Mark Pearce, a Buffalo-based lawyer, will merely restore some balance after the board favored business under President George W. Bush for eight long years.  It's about freakin' time.


CSEA Western NY Region 6 President Flo Tripi 
(photo by Ove Overmyer)

Buffalo, N.Y.--New York Governor David Paterson is asking unions representing state workers to agree to a one-year wage freeze, or they could face massive layoffs in 2011, according to a source in the governor's office.

It is no secret that both parties have discussed the wage freeze during wide-ranging union negotiations dating back to the summer of 2009.  Any layoffs ordered by Governor Paterson would not be until 2011 because Paterson intends to honor the 2009 union agreement, which promised no layoffs in 2010 if state workers agreed to pension reforms.  Pension reform included the creation of a Tier V system for new hires among other concessions.

Buffalo 2 On Your Side spoke with our very own Flo Tripi, CSEA WNY Region 6 President.  The interview can be read here.