Saturday, August 28, 2010

PARADE COMMITTEE FINALIZING DETAILS FOR SEPTEMBER 6

Mott's workers join the Rochester Labor Council Parade Committee to help organize this year's event.  Left to Right are:  John Walsh, RWDSU Local 220, Anthony Cuchiarale, Margaret Sargent, Mike LeBerth (President RWDSU Local 220), Jon Garlock and Rick Sanchez.  Absent:  CSEA Local 828 parade committee chair Holly Gudonis.  (photo by Bess Watts) 

Rochester, N.Y.--  Monday, September 6, 2010 will mark the 25th Annual Rochester Labor Day Parade, hosted and coordinated by the Rochester Labor Council, AFL-CIO.

Rochester area CSEA workers and their families
gather before the 2009 Rochester Labor Day Parade. 
Click on image for a larger view.
(photo by Ove Overmyer)
This year's event will feature more than 40 unions with an expected participation by more than 5,000 marchers.  The Rochester Labor Day Parade is one of upstate New York's largest annual parades. This year's theme, "Walk with the workers who make Rochester run!" recognizes the hard work, time and dedication thousands of workers contribute to our local workforce.

As in past years, this year's parade will be lead by Rochester Labor Council, AFL-CIO President Jim Bertolone, members of the Rochester Labor Council, AFL-CIO Executive Committee as well as Rochester Labor Council, AFL-CIO staff and interns.

CSEA celebrates 100 year anniversary

CSEA Statewide President Danny Donohue will be one of the honorary Grand Marshall's this year.  To read President Donohue's Labor Day message, you can go here.  CSEA will be positioned second in line for the march, directly behind the Mott's workers (RWDSU) and the special dignitaries. Members who are willing to participate in this event will meet at the corner of Strathallan Park and East Aveune at 10:30 am the morning of the parade.  Click here for more parade details

Immediately preceding the parade will be a 10 am press conference and rally supporting the labor community's agenda and support of our brothers and sisters from RWDSU Local 220.  The Mott's workers have been on strike at Mott's in Williamson, NY. since May 23.  During the Labor Day press conference, President Bertolone will put forward our agenda while introducing local labor leaders and workers who are struggling to make ends meet in today's economic climate.

Press Conference:

*What: Labor's Annual Labor Day Press Conference and Rally

*Where: In front of the Boy Scouts of America Building, 474 East Avenue, Rochester, N.Y.

*When: Monday, September 6, 20010, 10 am

Parade:

*What: Labor Day Parade

*Where: Rochester, NY - Beginning at East Avenue and Alexander Streets, continuing west to the Liberty Pole, turning southwest down Main Street to Plymouth Avenue.

*When: Monday, September 6, 2010, Parade begins at 11am

*Who: 5,000 plus union members, activists and community leaders
Rochester area CSEA members gather at the home of Bess Watts
and Anne Tischer on August 29 to build this year's float
for the upcoming Rochester Labor Day Parade on September 6.
(photo by Val)

MOST AMERICANS WANT AN END TO BUSH TAX CUTS FOR THE WEALTHY

(Click on chart for larger view)

Note to lawmakers: It’s the economy, stupid.

Most Americans support ending Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. A new CBS News poll finds that a majority of Americans, 56 percent, say the tax cuts for the wealthy should expire for households earning more than $250,000 per year, as Democrats have proposed. Thirty-six percent of Americans say they should not be allowed to expire.

Lower GDP offers more reason for Congress to act. Jeff Bivens at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) outlines the ramifications behind today’s revisions to estimates of gross domestic product (GDP). The new data revised the GDP downward for the second quarter to 1.6 percent from an initial estimate of 2.4 percent.

Bivens says this downward revision shows without the stream of spending provided by the Recovery Act, the economy would have contracted outright. This is most troubling, as Recovery Act money is almost spent and will provide no boost to growth going forward. The case for more action from policymakers to support the recovery and return the job-market to health is now overwhelming.

And a final word (or two): Income inequality. Raghuram Rajan, professor of finance at Chicago’s Booth School, pinpoints the underlying symptom of the nation’s sputtering economic recovery. 

He says, "Many causes have been suggested for both the economic collapse and mediocre recovery, but one that is hardly ever mentioned is income inequality. This is a mistake. Growing income inequality in the United States and the policy responses it has spawned have done tremendous damage to our economy. And because we continue to ignore this underlying problem, the risks of our policies leading to another calamity will not go away, no matter what we do to reform the financial sector."

Image at left explains what has happened since the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy were inacted. According to the Levy Institute, the bottom 80 percent of the U.S. population own approximately 12.3 percent of the total assets.


-AFL-CIO Blog  reporting by Tula Connell

Thursday, August 26, 2010

CSEA JOINS ONE NATION WORKING TOGETHER; GET ON THE BUS OCTOBER 2


Rochester, N.Y.--  Today, CSEA joined forces with other progressive coalitions to advocate for jobs, justice and education for all in a call to action that is designed to shake up the status quo.


WHO WE ARE

We are young people, frustrated that society seems willing to spend more locking up our bodies than educating our minds, yet still we find ways to succeed and shine.  We are students and newly returned veterans persevering in the face of mounting debt determined not to be the first generation to end up worse off than our parents.

We are baby boomers and seniors who saw hope killed in 1968 and will not let the dream of a united America be taken from us again.  We are conservatives and moderates, progressives and liberals, non-believers and people of deep faith, united by escalating assaults on our reason, our environment, and our rights.

We are workers of every age, faith, race, sex, nationality, gender identity, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and ability who have suffered discrimination but never stopped loving our neighbors, or our nation.

We are American Indians and Alaska Natives-- citizens of Native nations-- who maintain our cultures, protect our sovereignty, and strength America economy.

We are the new immigrants, raising our children in the torchlight of the Statue of Liberty, while confronting the shadows that are bigotry and mass deportations.  We are the native born. We inherited the divided legacies of settlers and American Indians, black slaves and white and Asian indentured servants. And yet, in this moment of shared suffering, we rejoice in newfound friendships and new alliances.

We are people who got thrown out of our jobs, schools, houses, farms and small businesses while Wall Street's wrongdoers got bailed out. We are families who pray every day for peace and prosperity; for deliverance from foreclosures; for good jobs to come back to urban and rural America.

We are unemployed workers forced to watch hopes for bold action dashed because some Senators threaten filibusters, and other would-be champions fold in fear.  And yet, we are the majority fueled by hope, not hate. We have the pride, power and determination to keep ourselves and our country moving up and out of the valley greed created.

And most importantly from ensuring women are treated fairly at work, to expanding health care coverage for millions we have been victorious whenever we worked together. We have proven the only thing we need to succeed is each other.  And so, on October 2, 2010, we will come together to march.

As of August 26, here is a short list of local organizations that have signed on to join their brothers and sisters in Washingtion, D.C. on October 2:

Rochester and Genesee Valley Area Labor Federation, AFL-CIO
Rochester and Vicinity Labor Council, AFL-CIO
Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA), AFL-CIO
Steuben Livingston Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO
Coalition of Black Trade Unionists - Rochester, NY Chapter
Next Generation United – Rochester, NY
Pride-at-Work - Rochester Finger Lakes Chapter
1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East - Upstate NY Division
American Postal Workers Union - Rochester Area Local 215
Monroe County Federation of Social Workers - IUE/CWA Local 81381
Workers United SEIU - Rochester Regional Joint Board
Greater Rochester Community of Churches
Green Party of Monroe County
Metro-Justice of Rochester - Citizen Action of New York
Social Justice Council - First Unitarian Church of Rochester


(Photo of Rochester labor folk by Annette Lein.  Click on image for larger view.)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

WALK WITH CSEA WORKERS ON LABOR DAY


CSEA- New York's leading union – is marking Labor Day 2010 with an important recognition of its Centennial Anniversary. CSEA was the first known organization of state employees when it was founded at the state Capitol in 1910. Since then it has grown to represent every kind of worker in every part of New York, including a growing private sector division.

"A benchmark event like a centennial anniversary provides an opportunity to look back at where we've come from and how we got to where we are today," said CSEA president Danny Donohue. "More importantly, it provides a chance to look forward and try to become better."

"CSEA has never been bigger, better, stronger at any point in our history but the challenges we face today have never been greater," Donohue said. "We wouldn't be here one hundred years if not for the ability to grow, change and adapt to new circumstances and that must shape our future moving forward."

"People who bash CSEA don't know CSEA," Donohue said. " The vast majority of our members are dedicated to doing the best work possible and adding value to their communities on and off the job. The strength of CSEA is in our members and they are some of the greatest resources in all New York – no one should take that for granted."

Donohue has issued a Op-Ed article about CSEA's history for Labor Day 2010 use. It complements a CSEA book released earlier this year. A Century of Service: The Story of CSEA's First 100 years chronicles the history of CSEA and growth of New York decade by decade through the 20th century and into the present day. The limited edition book can be ordered online through the CSEA e-store. There is a link from the home page of the CSEA website. Soft cover editions are $20.99, while hardcover editions are $34.99 plus tax. The prices include shipping and handling. Order yours today while they last!

Please Note: Danny Donohue's Op-Ed article about CSEA's Centennial can be accessed here along with a timeline of the union's first one hundred years. Photos and other graphic materials from throughout CSEA's Century of Service are also available via the CSEA Communications Department at 518 257-1270.

FOR DETAILS ABOUT THE PARADE IN ROCHESTER, YOU CAN GO HERE.  CSEA members will congregate at the corner of East Aveune and Strathallan Park at 10:00 am, Monday, September 6 rain or shine.

ENDA UPDATE: CONTACT YOUR SENATORS TODAY

Commentary by Ove Overmyer
President, CSEA City of Rochester Library Workers 7420
VP, CSEA Local 828

Rochester, N.Y.-- First of all, let me tell you some good news: The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would ban discrimination against LGBT workers, has a record number of cosponsors in the House. That means the pro-civil rights community has a very real chance to get ENDA passed soon.

Now, the bad news: Despite its broad support, our allies in Congress are refusing to even put ENDA on the agenda.

Midterm elections are just around the corner, and the next Congress is expected to be more hostile to workplace rights legislation. We must act now before we lose this window of opportunity to pass ENDA.

Until gay and lesbian workers in America, until Black people in America, until Latino and Asian-Pacific Islander people in America, until every under-represented community in America has equal access to the protections and rights in the workplace afforded to the majority and to the privileged, we fall short of Dr. King’s dream-- that we each be judged by the content of our character, not race, not religion, not gender identity, and not sexual orientation.

Years from now, we will look back on ENDA, California's Proposition 8 and other civil rights legislation and we will think that opposition to job discrimination and marriage equality seemed backwards, perhaps even unimaginable in the way that the abject racism of the Civil Rights Movement now seems barbaric and absurd.

As labor activists, you should know the LGBT community is the only group in the country that it’s legal to discriminate against. In 29 states, it is still legal to fire a worker for being lesbian, gay or bisexual. In 38 states, a person can be fired just for being transgender.

ENDA is a jobs bill, period. The current recession only compounds the devastating financial insecurity LGBT people live with all the time. ENDA offers economic justice—and economic security.

And I repeat, ENDA has broad support. We've secured more cosponsors for ENDA than any other LGBT legislation in U.S. history with 202 in the House and 45 in the Senate. There is no excuse for Congress to delay this sensible and necessary legislation any longer.

Each of us must ask ourselves whether we will choose to stand on the right side of history. Will we stand for our gay brothers and sisters by ending the discrimination and torment they endure when we attempt to participate in every day opportunities that so many of us take for granted? I'm referring to simple but meaningful opportunities like hearing "you're hired" or saying "I do."

Ask yourself this question-- Which side of history you will be on? If you believe in social and economic justice, make your voice heard today. Contact U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer as soon as humanly possible.

Monday, August 23, 2010

CSEA IS GETTING OUT THE VOTE

Rochester, N.Y-- For this year’s election cycle, CSEA has teamed up with several BOE’s in Western New York counties to get out the vote. For the general election on Tuesday, November 2, residents must register by mail by Friday, October 8, with forms postmarked by midnight and received by October 13.

If you need more information about our voter registration drive, please contact CSEA Region 6 Political Action Coordinator Courtney Brunelle at 1.716.691.6555 or contact your local Board of Elections. For Monroe County Board of Elections, you can go here or call 585.753.1550.

Additionally, there will be several volunteer opportunities for CSEA members before Election Day.  You can contact Local 828 Co-Chairs Cris Zaffuto or Ove Overmyer at 585.328.5250 if you have any PAC questions or concerns.  Please stay tuned to the CSEA Voice Reporter for continuous coverage on the 2010 election. 

Sunday, August 22, 2010

CSEA MAKES PAC ENDORSEMENTS; COMMITTEE CHOOSES TO SUPPORT FEWER CANDIDATES THIS YEAR


















Monroe County Legislator and NYS Assembly candidate Harry Bronson talks with constituients outside the Monroe County Office Building on August 10.  Bronson is one of five out of 20 NYS Assembly candidates to get the CSEA Statewide/WNY Region 6 PAC endorsement.  Bronson is headed to a primary on September 14, facing two challengers on the Democratic ballot for the 131 District, which includes the towns of Chili, Wheatland, Riga, Rush and portions of the City of Rochester.
(photo by Evelyn Evans)

Albany, N.Y.--  On Friday August 20, the statewide CSEA Political Action Committee released the details of their endorsements for the 2010 election cycle.  The statewide CSEA PAC, after receiving recommendations from members in 6 different regions across New York State, have endorsed candidates running for U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives, NYS Senate and NYS Assembly.

This year, CSEA has tightened their endorsement criteria and have made less endorsements than year's past.  PAC committee members cited an overt unwillingness on the part of some lawmakers to champion or move on labor issues that are important to our members.  In a Albany climate that has been downright hostile to public employees, we saw many of our lawmaker allies not standing up for our members when we needed them the most.  Well, today is their day of reckoning.

Of local importance, CSEA has endorsed incumbent U.S. Senators Schumer and Gillibrand.  Additionally, Rep. Bill Owens (D-23th), Rep. Michael Arcuri (D-24th), Rep. Dan Maffei (D-25th), Brian Higgins (D-27th), Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-28th) were all endorsed.  CSEA did not make endorsements in the 26th District (Rep. Chris Lee, incumbent) and for Eric Massa's vacated seat in the 29th District.  There are two candidates officially on the November 2 ballot in that race, contested by Democrat and Iraqi war vet Matt Zeller and Corning, N.Y. Republican Tom Reed.

Including Harry Bronson (D-131st), other WNY Region 6 NYS Assembly candidates who were endorsed by CSEA include Chris Barons (D-139th), Crystal Peoples-Stokes (D-141st), Mark Schroeder (D-145th) and Brad Rybczynski (D-146th).  To learn more about these candidates, click on the name hyperlink.

Bronson, who is presently the Minority Leader in the Monroe County Legislature, was the only local Assembly candidate who received the NYS AFL-CIO endorsement earlier this month.

On the Senate side of the aisle, local endorsements went to incumbents Michael Nozzolio (R-54th), Joe Robach (R-56th), Cathrine Young (D-57th), Antoine Thompson (D-60th),  Challenger Mark Coppola (D-61st) and George Maziarz (R-62nd). 

The 59th Senate District endorsement, which is now represented by retiring Republican Dale Volker, is still on hold.

Notables who did not receive our endorsement or did not pursue the PAC process this year include Senate Democrat Bill Stachowski (58th District) and Senate Republican Jim Alesi (55th District).  Other Rochester and Buffalo area lawmakers who received no endorsement include Assembly Democrats Joe Morelle (132nd), David Gantt (133rd), David Koon (135th) and Sam Hoyt (144th).  Other Assembly Republicans who did not recieve our endorsement include Bill Reilich (134th) and Steve Hawley (139th).

Stay tuned for a complete list of CSEA NYS Senate and Assembly endorsed candidates to be posted in a day or two.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

GOP DISPLAYS RADICAL PRIORITIES; CONTINUES ASSAULT ON SOCIAL SECURITY

Rochester, N.Y.--  In George W. Bush's second term, one of his biggest lies to evoke fear in the hearts of the vulnerable was suggesting that Social Security will be completely bankrupt by the year 2042. In fact, Bush 43 devoted his State of the Union speech trying to stampede the nation into a phony sense of crisis over Social Security.

The truth is that the Social Security Adminstration is not in trouble-- it never was and still isn't. According to the Congressional Budget Office, even if nothing is done to change Social Security benefits, we will still be able to take care of seniors and the disabled well beyond 2042.

Well, here we go again.  The battle over the future of Social Security rages on in 2010. Last week, the labor movement and our progressive coalition partners responded by sending more than 30,000 faxes to Congress asking representatives to sign the coalition's Social Security Promise, which commits them to:

•Oppose any cuts to Social Security benefits

•Oppose increases to the retirement age

•Oppose any effort to privatize Social Security

The working class should not stand for politicians who want to screw around with Social Security. A new poll shows that 65 percent of voters reject raising the retirement age to 70, 52 percent of them strongly. Why all this attention now? This is in reaction to a huge campaign by those who want to cut Social Security to scare voters into thinking the Social Security Administration is in some sort of crisis.  The bottom line is they want all that money on Wall Street and in the pockets of people who are already the wealthiest in the nation.

Shockingly, the real threat to Social Security is still growing. Radical Republicans like Rep. Paul Ryan recently said he wants to privatize Social Security. Others, like Majority Leader John Boehner want to raise the retirement age-- the equivalent of an across-the-board benefit cut-- to pay for tax giveaways for millionaires.

Under the most likely version of the GOP privatization proposal, a 20-year old worker joining the labor force today would see his/her guaranteed Social Security benefits reduced by 46 percent. Bush's own Social Security commission admitted that private accounts are unlikely to make up for this drop in guaranteed benefits.

The brokerage firm Goldman Sachs estimates that even with private accounts, retirement income of younger workers would be reduced by 42 percent compared to what they would receive if no changes are made to Social Security.  On top of that, necessary borrowing to start up the accounts would add at least $2 Trillion to our already stratospheric federal deficit.

And unfortunately, it's not just Republicans who are pushing cuts. Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer recently said that, "We could and should consider a higher retirement age.  And sadly, Rep. James Clyburn, another member of the Democratic leadership, has indicated that he, too, is open to "adjusting" Social Security. 

However, there are some in Washington who are listening to their constituents.  Representatives across the country-- from Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona to Earl Pomeroy in North Dakota to Alan Grayson in Florida-- all have pledged to protect Social Security from cuts and privatization.  These people are our working class champions, not just our allies.

It must be stated that Social Security should not be framed or considered an entitlement program. Anyone who has worked thirty or forty years and has been paying into this system should be reinbursed later in their lifetime.  It has been our only sure-fire safety net for the elderly and disabled community post World War II.

We need to keep up the pressure on our local Congressional delegation too, including Rep. Louise Slaughter (28th District) until she commits to all three parts of the promise.

If you live in the 28th Congressional District, you can call Louise's office at 202.225.3615 or 585.232.4850. As for Congressman Chris Lee (26th District), good luck with that. He's a first term Republican who votes and thinks in lockstep with Party leaders and basically does what he is told.

Commentary by Ove Overmyer
President, CSEA City of Rochester Library Workers 7420
VP, CSEA Local 828

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

SENATOR GILLIBRAND MAKES A STOP IN ROCHESTER

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand meets with CSEA members at Workers United on East Ave., Rochester, N.Y. for a lunchtime informational meeting.  Left to right are:  Sean M. Lyman Sr., Debbie Lee, Senator Gillibrand and Ove Overmyer.
(photos by Bess Watts)

Rochester, N.Y.--  Senator Kirsten Gillibrand made the rounds today in Rochester, taking scheduled time to meet and greet with local labor leaders from the Rochester area.  Members and delegates from the Rochester and Genesee Valley Area Labor Federation, AFL-CIO introduced themselves and particpated in a Q and A with Senator Gillibrand. 

Just yesterday, Gillibrand was officially endorsed by the NYS AFL-CIO for championing many labor and human rights issues that are important to the working families of our area.  At the meeting today, Senator Gillibrand also called for the owners of the Mott's plant in Williamson, N.Y. to get back to the bargaining table.  Strikers have been on the picket line since May 23.  Additionally, union leaders from NYSUT and RTA gave kudos to Gillibrand who helped lead the fight to save education jobs in New York.

After months of Republican obstruction in the U.S. Senate, vital aid will now be delivered to states facing massive budget shortfalls and layoffs of hundreds of thousands of teachers, public employees, police officers and firefighters, in part thanks to Senator Gillibrand.

The legislation provides $10 billion to school districts to rehire laid-off teachers or to ensure that more teachers won't be let go before the new school year begins. The Education Department estimates that could save 160,000 jobs.  The same bill President Obama signed will also deliver an extra $16 billion in sorely needed Medicaid funding.  Now, all we have to do is get our dysfunctional state legislature back to Albany to officially appropriate the funds.

Last month, the House passed legislation to stop abusive mail, telemarketing and Internet fraud against seniors and educate them about financial fraud. Senator Gillibrand introduced similar legislation in the Senate.   Her bill, which is called, The Senior Financial Empowerment Act would:

*Direct the FTC to establish a one-stop-shop for consumer education on mail, telemarketing and Internet fraud against seniors;

*Establish a grant program to give states and local organizations resources they need to initiate local mail, telemarketing and Internet fraud prevention and education programs for seniors;

*Declare a "National Senior Fraud Awareness Week" in May – coordinated with Elder Abuse Awareness Month – to increase public awareness of the enormous impact that mail, telemarketing and Internet fraud have on senior citizens in the U.S.

In western New York all day, Senator Gillibrand also called for increased penalties for people who commit fraud against seniors and said, "We must crack down on “Senior Advisor” scams."

Monday, August 16, 2010

NYS AFL-CIO ANNOUNCE 2010 ENDORSEMENTS; BRONSON IS ONLY LOCAL ASSEMBLY CANDIDATE PICKED

Albany, N.Y.--The 2.5 million-member New York State AFL-CIO is out with this year's highest-profiled endorsements following their convention at the Desmond Hotel in Albany.

They're backing Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand for re-election and AG Andrew Cuomo for governor, as well as a slate of candidates for Congress, the state Senate and the Assembly. The umbrella union has already endorsed incumbent state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

Interestingly enough, Harry Bronson, the Democratic candidate for the Assembly in the 131 District,who is presently the Minority Leader in the Monroe County Legislature, was the only local Assembly candidate who received the AFL-CIO endorsement.

On the State Senate side, the AFL-CIO endorsed 17 Republicans, 24 Democrats, held three endorsements until after Primary Day and chose not to endorse anyone in 17 out of the 62 districts.

"New York's organized labor movement has long enjoyed a close working relationship with Andrew Cuomo" said NYS AFL-CIO President Denis Hughes.  He added, "As Attorney General, he fought for the middle class and against the financial interests of Wall Street. We look forward to those principles following him to the Governor's Mansion.  Most important, the New York State AFL-CIO looks forward to the opportunity for an open, honest and substantive dialogue with a Cuomo administration on the issues of shared concern to all New Yorkers."

So far, CSEA and NYSUT will chose to remain neutral in the governor's race.

“Today’s endorsement is a major step forward in building our broad coalition to bring change and reform to state government," Cuomo said in a statement. "I deeply appreciate the support of the hard working union members of the state of New York. We share the goal of creating good jobs in all regions of the state and across a diverse range of fields. While NYSUT declined to endorse based on my positions with respect to a property tax cap and state spending issues, we will agree to disagree on those issues.”

To read a full list of federal and state legislature endorsements, you can go here.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

SOCIAL SECURITY UNDER ATTACK

Commentary by
Pat Gooden, President, CSEA Retirees Local 912

Rochester, N.Y.-- In February 2010, President Obama established the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. Their charge is to reduce the federal budget three percent by 2015. One might ask how they plan to do this. The answer: do not raise taxes but cut entitlement programs. The NCFR sees Social Security as an entitlement program.

The Social Security program contributes absolutely nothing to the national debt. It is self sustaining and currently has a surplus of 2.4 trillion dollars with no shortfall until 2037-- which will then correct it with employee contributions.

Alan Simpson, Co-Chair of the Commission, called recipients of Social Security “greedy geezers” and “the lesser people.” The fact is, fifteen percent of all Social Security recipients are under 65. Former Sen. Simpson also led a campaign in 1995 to cut the Social Security cost of living increase (COLA). He is set firmly against any entitlement programs and sees them as being handouts. Interestingly enough, Simpson's own lucrative federal pension and his preferred treatment as a former US Senator seem to be exempt from this category.

Other members of the commission come from various backgrounds, including co-chair and Chief of Staff to President Obama Erskine Bowles; and Bruce Reed, who is the Executive Director and holds the position of Chief of Domestic Policy to the President. Of the other eighteen members, 6 were appointed by the President, 6 by Democrats and 6 by Republicans. The Commission must come to a consensus of opinion with 14 of the members. It will take five votes to block changes to Social Security. Once the final report is completed, it will go to Congress for an up or down vote.

Some of the ideas being discussed are decreasing the yearly cost of living raise and extending the retirement age to 70. Just imagine being a prison guard at age 70, a snow plow operator or a Mental Health Aide. To retire earlier would significantly reduce one’s benefits by as much as 50 percent.

Willie Sutton, the notorious bank robber, when asked why he robbed banks stated, “Because that’s where the money is.” It appears now that SS is one big bank with tons of cash and ready to be plucked by big business interests.

Politicians who believe that if the rich get richer, they will take care of everyone. This theory hasn’t worked and we all know it. The economically defined wealthy class had significantly increased over the past years while the working class has seen drastic decreases.

It is unclear at this time what other measures are being considered, but it is clear that Social Security may very well be in jeopardy.

It is extremely important that all people who pay into the Social Security system understand that this commission has the power to affect all present and future retirees futures as well as other recipients. The final report will go before a possibly lame duck congress, depending the on the November election results. We need to be vigilant in finding out where the candidates and present members of Congress stand on this issue.

This is not a Republican or Democrat issue. It is not a union, gender or racial issue. It is a quality of life issue for all.

We cannot idly stand by and expect someone else to care for this problem. Everyone should call their representatives now and continue to let them know that all Americans are opposed to any reduction in benefits.

Friday, August 13, 2010

PERB UPHOLDS DECISION AGAINST MONROE COUNTY; CALLS COUNTY CONDUCT "DESTRUCTIVE"


Rochester, N.Y.--
In August of 2009, CSEA employees of Monroe County received a victory when Monroe County was ordered to destroy the results of a poll it conducted to determine union interest among part-time employees. The County immediately filed an appeal which cost the taxpayers an enormous sum of money. Today, we received language that details the PERB's decision on that appeal. This is what it said in part:

Based upon our review of the record, we conclude the County's conduct in this case of soliciting, polling and surveying of unit members regarding whether they wish to continue to be represented by CSEA constitutes conduct inherently destructive of the rights of organization granted by §202 of the Act. Furthermore, the record reveals no evidence that the County had a legitimate purpose under the Act and our Rules to engage in such conduct. Therefore we affirm the ALJs finding that the County violated §209-a. 1 (a) of the Act.

The County has been directed to issue a Notice to all Part-Time employees of this decision. Additionally, the Monroe County employees of CSEA want to publicly thank CSEA attorney Paul Bamberger for his outstanding leadership and commitment to our member's cause.

Without a doubt, the County will try to appeal this decision as well. However, CSEA will meet any appeal they make with truth and transparency. It has been proven in courts of law that the County has continuously acted in bad faith. This has been documented so far by the Administrative Law Judge, The PERB Board and the NYS Supreme Court (by granting injunctive relief).

CSEA has a simple "ask" on behalf of the thousands of county workers who deliver the high level of services our citizens expect each day-- to meet at the bargaining table in good faith so we can compromise on a fair agreement for all the parties involved.

As you might remember, in her 24-page decision released on August 12 of 2009, Administrative Law Judge Jean Doerr determined that the poll issued on May 19, 2009 was an improper attempt to undermine union support.

After all of these rulings, County administrators and the outsourced county attorneys who are working on the taxpayer dime continue to say the surveys were lawfully conducted.
The County's poll was designed not to ascertain majority support but to reveal the union sympathies of part-time employees, and, as such was improper. PERB required the County to cease and desist from interfering with part-time employees' union activities, destroy the results of the poll and post a public notice to employees announcing the PERB decision.

At that time, Robert Leonard, the Labor Relations Specialist for the CSEA Monroe County workers, said he was pleased but not surprised by the 2009 ruling and today's remarks. He called the county action a blatant violation of the Taylor Law.

Nearly 2,200 full and part time county employees represented by CSEA have been working without a contract since December 2008. Negotiations for full-time employees reached an impasse and are still in mediation. Negotiations are in the "fact finding" stage for about 230 part-time employees as well.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

LABOR DAY PARADE IS SEPTEMBER 6

(click on image for a larger view)

CSEA AND FSW RALLY AT MONROE COUNTY OFFICE BUILDING


CSEA and FSW members walk the walk in front of the Monroe County Office Building on August 10.
Rochester, N.Y. -- Many Monroe County employees have been working without a contract for more than a year and a half, approximately 587 days. Enough is enough.

CSEA joined with the Monroe County Federation of Social Workers to send a message to administrators that the unions want no more delays in settling union contracts. True, CSEA members have not accepted the County's previous offers. Members reiterate that what the county proposed was unrealistic--it went way too deep into the pockets of employees and high jacked the weekly budgets of our working families. Members said the rally was important because they felt it necessary they defend what is "ours" and educate the community on the importance of collective bargaining agreements and the role of unions in the workplace.

CSEA and FSW members work in positions such as child protective and elderly abuse investigators, probation officers, DOT, clerical positions at County Office buildings, employees at the Monroe County Hospital and assist the community with Medicaid and food stamp programs.

"We want everybody to know that we're not here to beg, we're not here to ask for more than we're entitled to, we're just asking for a fair and reasonable negotiation process and we want them to bargain in good faith," said Evelyn Evans, president of the Federation of Social Workers.

CSEA and FSW only want county administrators to honor the Taylor Law and bargain in good faith. As of today, we know that county administration can remedy this if they truly wanted to. They have reasons to prolong the fight that are obvious to most observers-- and to the detriment of the taxpayers of our community. Workers deserve more respect and are demanding a fair and just contract that guarantees due process and a reasonable healthcare plan. Period. To see a photo gallery of yesterday's event, you can go here. To learn more from the negotiations team, you can go here to the Unit 7400 blogspot.

(Photos by Ove Overmyer.  Click on images for a larger view)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

OBAMA SIGNS JOBS BILL; KEEPS WORKING FAMILIES ABOVE WATER

Washington, D.C.--  After months of Republican obstruction in the Senate, vital aid will now be delivered to states facing massive budget shortfalls and layoffs of hundreds of thousands of teachers, public employees, police officers and firefighters.  Summoned back from summer break, the House earlier today pushed through an emergency $26 billion jobs bill that Democrats said would save 300,000 people from losing their jobs. President Barack Obama immediately signed it into law.

Lawmakers streamed back to Washington for a one-day session as Democrats declared a need to act before children return to classrooms minus teachers laid off because of budgetary crises in states that have been hard-hit by the recession.

The legislation was approved mainly along party lines by a vote of 247-161.  The aid for the states is to be paid for mostly by closing a tax loophole used by multinational corporations and by reducing food stamp benefits for the poor.

Obama, joined by teachers at a Rose Garden ceremony earlier in the day, said, "We can't stand by and do nothing while pink slips are given to the men and women who educate our children or keep our communities safe."

The Senate narrowly passed the measure last Thursday, after the House had begun its August break.

The legislation provides $10 billion to school districts to rehire laid-off teachers or to ensure that more teachers won't be let go before the new school year begins. The Education Department estimates that could save 160,000 jobs.

CSEA TO MAGGIE: WE WANT CONTRACTS NOW!


CSEA and FSW workers rally outside the Monroe County Office Building in August of 2009. County workers still do not have a contract, and are only asking the Brooks adminstration to honor the Taylor Law and bargain in good faith.Workers have been without a contract for 586 days.
(photos by Ove Overmyer)

Rochester, N.Y.-- Today please join your union brothers and sisters from CSEA and the Federation of Social Workers for a rally in front of the Monroe County Office Building. Together we will demand a settlement to fair contracts for all union represented county employees. Our objective is to send a message to Monroe County administrators that “we want and deserve justice now.”

WHAT: Rally for Social and Economic Justice in Monroe County

WHEN: 5:15 - 6:15 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 10

WHERE: County Office Building, 39 West Main St., Rochester, N.Y.

If time permits, we are asking members to stay for the County Legislature meeting immediately following the rally. And remember, Monroe County works because we do. Click on hyperlink title of this article or to go to the Monroe County Employees Unit 7400 blogspot for more information.














Monday, August 9, 2010

SAVE THE INTERNET

Two huge corporations, Google and Verizon, are making back room deals that will affect the future of the Internet and Net Neutrality.

Rochester, N.Y.--  The Internet was founded on the principle that all data is equal and that no corporation should be able to decide whose data goes faster or slower. It's this principle, called Net Neutrality, which has made the Internet such an amazing platform for individual speech, democratic action, and entrepreneurial creativity. Over the years, the Internet has become an indispensible tool in delivering efficient library services.

The concept of net neutrality states that if a given user pays for a certain level of Internet access, and another user pays for the same level of access, then the two users should be able to connect to each other at the subscribed level of access.

If you care at all about preserving this ideal, you might be shocked to know that search engine giant Google is about to cut a terrible deal with Verizon that would end the fair, open Internet as we know it. The deal would allow Google to buy up priority access on Verizon’s network that would eventually lead to tiered pricing for consumers.

This deal would also allow multi-national corporations to control which websites load quickly and easily on the Internet and dump everyone else onto an Internet slow lane. This is exactly the kind of unequal playing field that Google itself has opposed in the past.

Google is threatening to turn the Internet into closed, pay-to-play, cash cow for large corporations. Their agreement would also make wireless networks an unregulated space.

What defenders of Net Neutrality find troubling is that President Obama's new Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chair Julius Genachowski initially came out strong for Net Neutrality, in line with the President's campaign promises. However, the big telecom companies launched a lobbying frenzy, and soon the FCC was meeting with them behind closed doors.

Because Google and Verizon are two powerhouse corporations that have historically been on opposite sides of this issue, an agreement between them will put enormous pressure on the FCC to go along with their recommendations. Essentially, two giant corporations may be deciding the future of the Internet. If the Obama administration goes along with this, this could be another devastating blow to the preservation of first amendment rights and consumer freedoms.

Commentary by Ove Overmyer
CSEA President, City of Rochester Library Workers Unit 7420
CSEA Local 828 VP

Friday, August 6, 2010

125 DAYS LATE; NYS SENATE FINALLY PASSES BUDGET


Albany, N.Y.--
By a vote of 32-28 last Tuesday, strictly along party lines, the New York State Senate passed the revenue portion of the state budget. Passage of this bill finalizes the 2010-11 state budget.

The budget, which is over four months late, was held up for the past month due to State Sen. Bill Stachowski refusing to vote on it until issues surrounding SUNY and CUNY were resolved.

The bill that failed to pass was a bill that would have given the state university system far more autonomy to set its own tuition rates. The plan was being pushed by the chancellor, Nancy L. Zimpher, as a way to help turn around the ailing system.

But Democratic leaders pulled the bill twice after it was clear both times that it would not pass.  Many CSEA members work in the SUNY system.  CSEA leadership proposed many suggestions to lawmakers to protect our worker jobs from becoming outsourced or affected by this new reorganization.  CSEA was not completely satisfied with all the provisions of the SUNY Empowerment Bill  from the get-go so it wasn't such a huge disappointment to see nothing happen here.  However, in an interview with Capital Tonight's Liz Benjamin, Stachowski says he feels that the issue is not dead just yet and their is a "framework" in place to get it done.

The final revenue bill temporarily reinstates sales tax on clothing purchases valued at less than $110 and also limits tax deductions on charitable deductions for taxpayers who earn more than $10 million a year.
 
The state will increase its share of revenue from video gambling machines and will allow a number of casinos to stay open later. Lawmakers also voted to reduce charitable deductions for those who make $10 million or more.

But lawmakers rejected a plan to enact a tax change on earnings by hedge fund managers who work in New York but live outside the state. Much of their compensation comes in performance incentives that are considered capital gains and are taxed federally at 15 percent. The change would have made these earnings “ordinary” income, subject to New York State taxes.  The move came as hedge funds were being wooed to move out of the state.

Lawmakers also passed a controversial measure requiring that prisoners be counted as residents not of the mostly upstate prisons where they reside, but of the areas where they lived before they were incarcerated. This effort had been fiercely resisted by Republicans, because of the implications the move could have as legislative districts are redrawn by the Legislature.

The Assembly had earlier approved the budget, which is projected to be $136.5 billion. Spending will increase by 2.4 percent over the previous budget.

(photo of NYS Capitol Building by Ove Overmyer)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

NYS LIBRARY ADVOCATES TO HOLD LEGISLATURE MORE ACCOUNTABLE

More than ever, state legislators need to show the library community they mean business.  A state library advocacy committee is ramping up efforts and looking toward a renewed spirit of accountability and focus in the next legislative session.

By Ove Overmyer
CSEA President, City of Rochester Library Workers Local 828 Unit 7420

Rochester, N.Y. -- The New Yorkers for Better Libraries Political Action Committee (NYLIBS-PAC) was established in 2003 by library leaders who believe that there is a need to supplement the library community’s advocacy efforts with campaign contributions and other activities directed toward those in Albany who can legislate progressive and positive change.  Thousands of library workers throughout New York State are CSEA and AFSCME members.

Library advocates are extremely disappointed that libraries have received four cuts in state aid in the past 21 months, with a fifth cut hanging in the balance. These reductions have sent state aid for libraries back to the same level received in 1998 and underscores how woefully dysfunctional our legislature is.

We understand that New York State is experiencing budget woes and are aware that many vital services must sustain cuts. However, there has to be some equity in this process: libraries have been cut disproportionately when compared to other state services. The state budget has increased by 82% over the past ten years. Libraries have never benefited from the increase in spending. In the past six years, school aid has increased by 47% and aid to municipalities has increased by 62%, but library aid has reverted to the dollar amount received a dozen years ago. That is simply unacceptable.

State aid for our library systems serve all types of libraries and are the backbone for the collaborative efforts and resource sharing programs that make our libraries distinct and unique from others across the nation. Additionally, libraries remain one of the most cost-effective, “return on your investment” services available to the taxpayers of New York State.

NYLIBS-PAC has determined that there is a need for greater accountability concerning state legislators’ actions on issues of importance to the library community and to the millions of library users and voters throughout the state.

Effective this upcoming legislative session, the NYLIBS-PAC will begin to track library-related state legislation and will publish a report card/voters guide concerning each state legislator’s degree of support for libraries. Sponsorship and co-sponsorship of legislation, votes on library legislation and funding will be the primary indicators that the PAC will assess. This report card will benefit from a marketing campaign unlike any other in the library community.

Library advocates look forward to the new legislative session to address the needs of New York’s libraries and hold public officials accountable. For more information on our advocacy efforts, please visit New Yorkers for Better Libraries here.  


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

JOBS BILL OVERCOMES GOP FILIBUSTER; STATE AID ON THE WAY

Washington, N.Y.—Today Senate Democrats overcame Republican opposition and cleared the way for a $26 billion measure to help states ease their severe budget problems and save the jobs of tens of thousands of teachers and other public employees.
The bill advanced by a 61-38 tally that ensures the measure will pass the Senate on Wednesday or Thursday. The House may return early from its August recess for a final vote that would deliver the bill to President Obama, his larger jobs agenda curtailed by Republicans who argue against the spending it would entail.

Moderate Republican Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine cast the key votes to break the GOP filibuster. The bill would extend programs enacted in last year's stimulus bill to preserve the jobs of teachers, librarians, police officers, firefighters and other public employees.

The legislation is scaled back from versions that stalled earlier this summer as part of a larger tax-and-spend measure extending jobless benefits and a variety of expired tax breaks. The first piece is $16 billion to help states with their Medicaid budgets in the first six months of next year.The measure also contains $10 billion to help school boards hit with similar budget woes avoid teacher layoffs this fall.

Par for the course, most Republicans opposed the measure, calling it a payoff to public employee unions and warning that it would make the states ever-dependent on federal funds.  Both provisions were heavily backed by the AFL-CIO and unions who represent teachers and public employees.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) ran ads Wednesday in four Maine newspapers urging Collins and Snowe to vote to break the filibuster.

"It's important to be able to provide this support to the states at a very critical time," Snowe said afterward. "I think it also should be done with the understanding that the states are going to have to begin to make some tough decisions." Obama requested an extension of additional aid for the Medicaid program budget and has belatedly rallied behind the money for teachers as well. 


Message to Target & Best Buy: Make It Right!



UPDATE ON AUGUST 6:  According to the Associated Press, Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel has written to the company's employees to apologize for a $150,000 donation to MN Forward, an organization that supports an anti-gay Minnesota gubernatorial candidate. Steinhafel said the company would create a process for evaluating potential political contributions in the future.

ORIGINAL POST:  Target is one of the first corporations to take advantage of Citizens United. It donated over $150,000 to an anti-gay, anti-worker and anti-immigration candidate in Minnesota. We need to hold Target accountable—and show other corporations that they will pay a price if they follow Target's lead in hijacking our democracy.

RALLY FOR FAIR CONTRACTS ON AUGUST 10


CSEA Region 6 President Flo Tripi addresses county workers outside the Monroe County Office Building in August of 2009.  CSEA workers have been without a contract for 580 days.
(photos by Bess Watts and Ove Overmyer)

Rochester, N.Y.--  Please join your union brothers and sisters from CSEA and the Federation of Social Workers for a rally in front of the Monroe County Office Building on August 10. Together we will demand a settlement to fair contracts for all union represented county employees.  Our objective is to send a message to Monroe County administrators that “we want and deserve justice now.”

WHAT: Rally for Social and Economic Justice in Monroe County

WHEN: 5:15 - 6:15 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 10

WHERE: County Office Building, 39 West Main St., Rochester, N.Y.
 
If time permits, we are asking members to stay for the County Legislature meeting immediately following the rally.  And remember, Monroe County works because we do.  Click on hyperlink title of this article or to go to the Monroe County Employees Unit 7400 blogspot for more information.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

TARGET JUMPS ON CITIZENS UNITED BANDWAGON

Washington, D.C.-- Here is one more good reason union folk should not shop at big box retail outlets.  On Sunday August 1, we learned that The Human Rights Campaign placed a full-page ad in the Minneapolis Star Tribune asking Target and Best Buy to make it right, after both companies contributed a total of $250,000 to the Independent Expenditure Committee MN Forward.

MN Forward supports anti-equality gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer. Tom Emmer’s anti-equality views are clear and he is associated with a group that calls for death and violence toward gay people.  Target, the retail giant based in Minnesota, just became one of the very first companies to take advantage of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision allowing unlimited corporate cash in elections.  This is quite unexpected and perplexing because Target usually scores well on the HRC Corporate Equality Index survey each year. 

Tom Emmer, a far-right Republican who supports Arizona's draconian immigration law also wants to abolish the minimum wage. Are you listening all you Target salespeople?  Emmer is a hater and a divider plain and simple and has no business occupying the residence of a governor's mansion. Does Target think consumers are stupid? Does Target think customers and working families won't care? They're wrong: We do care, and we need to let them know that we want Target— and all corporations— out of our elections.

The stakes are much higher than one candidate and one company. Other CEOs are in "wait-and-see" mode following the Citizens United decision, according to a former Federal Trade Commission counsel quoted on NPR the other day.  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.

If common sense doesn't prevail here, this will just be the tip of the iceberg. Other corporations will learn that they can pour money into elections to buy the outcome they want— without paying a price with their customers or shareholders.  See related story posted yesterday.

We all knew Citizens United would benefit candidates who stand up for corporate CEOs instead of everyday working families. But you wouldn't expect a company like Target and Best Buy to jump in and try to buy an election so quickly. After all, Target made its name by being thought of as the more progressive store in the wake of numerous WalMart and Sam's Club scandals.

That's why union members should follow the lead of the progressive actions of groups like Human Rights Campaign and the Alliance for a Better Minnesota. This is one of those times when you should spend wisely and in your own best interest-- and that means no Target shopping until further notice.  Be union, buy union. 

Send a message to Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel telling him that you're not going to shop at Target unless they stop trying to buy elections. You can contact the retail giant here and tell them what you think.


Monday, August 2, 2010

CORPORATE INFLUENCE ON ELECTIONS IS A VIRUS TO DEMOCRACY

Washington, D.C.--  Late last week, Senate Republicans made a move to try and block the Lobbying Disclosure Enhancement Act— a bill that would have stopped big business from secretly funneling money into elections through fly-by-night front groups.

The bill requires corporations, plus unions and nonprofit groups to disclose their top five donors if they participate in political activity and to agree to other disclosures in connection with expenditures prior to elections. The bill and a similar measure in the Senate was aimed at countering a Supreme Court ruling that unleashed unlimited political spending by corporations.

The Lobbying Disclosure Enhancement Act is the first step towards knowing who's buying our election, and we need to do much more—including getting fair elections, overturning Citizens United, and curbing the overwhelming influence of corporate lobbyists in our nation's capital.

The bill is designed to:

*Prevent government contractors from spending money on elections
*Prevent corporate beneficiaries of TARP from spending money on elections
*Prevent foreign influence in U.S. elections
*Prevent organizations from coordinating their activties with specific candidates and political parties

However, it looks like it is going to die in the Senate.  The bill (H.R.5751) passed 219-206 in the House, receiving most of the opposition from guess who, the GOP. Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) called the Disclosure Act a violation of free speech.  The legislation would disclose suspected violators of the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA) for the first time to the public. The bill would also set up a Justice Department taskforce to investigate those cases, likely upping the law’s lax enforcement.

It’s unclear if the legislation will be approved by the Senate and reach President Obama’s desk, but the House vote sends a tough message to K Street that lawmakers are interested in being seen as cracking down on lobbyists.  The problem here folks, is that the Senate Dems do not have 60 votes to pass the measure.

According to Moveon.org, 11 of those Senators who oppose this bill are up for reelection this fall. If working class America is going to get a handle on our democracy and take it back from corporate interests, we need show them that siding with their corporate backers instead of with the American people has real and significant consequences.

This bill was pretty modest in scope. It wouldn't even have barred corporations from buying elections—it just would have told us when they did it, by requiring disclosure of corporate election spending.

The politicians who side with BP and AIG to block it need to see immediate repercussions. They need to be exposed for what they truly are-- lawmakers who put personal interest before the greater good of their consitituents.

If the Senators who blocked this effort get away with siding with big corporations, we'll never be able to pass the stronger reforms we need to truly fix our democracy. We've got to show them that if they won't expose corporations meddling in our elections, we'll expose them.

The Republicans who blocked this first step don't want big changes made because they have the most to gain from allowing unlimited secret corporate spending in this election cycle. Corporate interests will pay big bucks to keep their friends in office, especially if they can do it in secret so their political preferences don't risk angering their customers.

Corporate influence over a democracy is a virus that will prevent us from ever getting a just economy, a real energy policy, workplace rights and an equal voice with our elected officials.

Labor unions and working families should be prepared to go the distance and fight for the changes we need to really tackle this problem. But the fight starts here: with holding senators accountable who showed their true colors by standing with corporations and not with the American people.  Shame on them.

Commentary by Ove Overmyer