Thursday, March 31, 2011


The local labor community came out in force this afternoon to rally in
support for Frontier workers from CWA Local 1170.  Hundreds of people
attended the rally at Washington Square Park, across the street from
Frontier corporate offices on Clinton Ave in downtown Rochester.
photo:  Ove Overmyer

Rochester, N.Y.--  Hundreds of people rallied today in support of Frontier Communications workers represented by the international union, the Communications Workers of America (CWA).  Workers have been working without a contract for several months with no agreement in sight.  After the rally, attendees marched in unison in front of their employers headquarters carrying a coffin that says "corporate greed" and chanted, "We want a contract now!"

One of the main concerns voiced by workers is keeping jobs in Rochester. Many CWA Local 1170 workers don't want to live in fear of losing their job after decades of dedicated service to Frontier. The workers’ fears are valid considering the numbers.  In in the last ten years,  Frontier CWA represented employees in the Rochester area have gone from 840 down to 450.

Speakers at the rally and march included Rochester Labor Council President Jim Bertolone and CWA International Vice-President Chris Shelton among others.  Bertolone reminded attendees that we are facing unprecedented times-- and encourged everyone to rally behind the WE ARE ONE initiative.

CWA, the largest telecommunications union in the world, represents over 700,000 men and women in both private and public sectors, including over half a million workers who are building the Information Highway.

CWA members work in telecommunications, broadcasting, cable TV, journalism, publishing, manufacturing, airlines, customer service, government service, health care, education and other fields.

CSEA Monroe County Local 828 officers Bess Watts and Ove Overmyer were in attendance.  To see a photo gallery of the rally today, you can go here.


Rochester, N.Y.--Forty-three years ago, a struggle by 1,300 AFSCME city sanitation workers who were being denied the fundamental right of collective bargaining brought Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to Memphis, Tennessee. After marching with these workers, Martin Luther King Jr. declared: "Work that serves humanity… It has dignity and it has worth." Dr. King was assassinated hours later on April 4, 1968.

On Monday, April 4, 2011 hundreds of thousands Americans will stand up, say "enough is enough," and fight for the same rights for which Dr. King fought. The theme for these nationwide events is "We Are One." We hope you will join us. 

Here in Rochester, we will assemble at 4:30 pm, at the Aenon Baptist Church, 175 Genesee Street and march south to Wilson High School Commencement Academy Auditroium for a rally and forum.  Wilson Academy is located at 501 Genesee Street.

Here in New York and across the country, well-funded, right-wing corporate politicians are trying to take away the rights Dr. King gave his life for: the freedom to bargain, to vote, to afford a college education and justice for all workers. Officials in Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Maine, and a series of other states want to balance the budget on the backs of working people, instead of creating good jobs and asking the wealthiest citizens and large corporations to pay their fair share:

•Ohio: Just last night, in a move opposed by the majority of Ohio voters, the Legislature pushed through a bill undermining collective bargaining for 42,000 state workers plus 19,500 college system workers—and ending it entirely for child care providers. It removes health care and other vital benefits completely from the negotiating process.

•Wisconsin: Gov. Scott Walker destroyed more than 50 years of labor-management cooperation with his attack on the collective bargaining rights of public employees. A contingent of state legislators met in secret to strip public employees of their rights to collectively bargain to maintain a middle class life.

•Michigan: The Legislature approved measures that allow unelected emergency managers to break union contracts in the name of saving struggling school districts. Gov. Snyder signed the bill while thousands of protestors have turned out at the capital in recent days to voice their opposition.

•Indiana: Republican leaders in the Legislature tried to pass a right-to-work for less bill—a cornerstone of the anti-worker agenda—as well as a bill making the state's ban on collective bargaining for public service workers (which Gov. Mitch Daniels enacted in 2005) permanent. While the battle for workers' dignity continues in Indiana, due to immense public outcry, the legislative leadership has scrapped both proposals for the time being.

•Maine: Gov. Paul LePage exempted himself from a $6.1 billion budget bill that requires state employees to increase their pension contributions from 7.65 percent of their salary to 9.65 percent. (He also removed a labor-themed mural from a state office building.)

•Florida: Severe cuts to public services, Medicaid, education and pensions are in the works. Meanwhile, state employees haven't received a raise in more than four years, but most agency heads that Gov. Rick Scott has appointed are making $20,000 a year more than their predecessors.

Area Labor Leaders Rally at City Hall
in Rochester, N.Y. on March 2, 2011.
CSEA's Courtney Brunelle at right.
photo:  Ove Overmyer
Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of attempts like the ones described above when he stood with working people throughout his life. As he said in 1961, "In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as 'right to work'…Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone.”

Next week, we hope you’ll join the WE ARE ONE  initiative and stand together as one for the American dream.

Visit our special We Are One/April 4 web page for information about Dr. King's support for working families and his final journey in support of the AFSCME sanitation workers in Memphis, as well as more about today's battles.


State Aid for libraries will be reduced
from 84.4 to 79 million for 2011-12.
photo:  Ove Overmyer
Rochester, N.Y.-- Last night, the NYS Legislature approved a $3 million restoration in Library Aid as well as language that would make permanent the supplemental system aid and the ability of the commissioner to grant waivers from local maintenance of effort requirements.  This will allow for Central Library systems to be more flexible in scheduling hours of operation.

In addition, the Governor’s proposal to merge School Library Materials Aid with Textbook/Software Aid was rejected.

According to NYLA Executive Director Michael Borges, given a $10 billion proposed deficit, these accomplishments are something to cheer about. The Senate had proposed a $4.2 million restoration of the $8.45 million cut recommended by the Governor, but the Assembly would only support a $3 million restoration. Total Library Aid would now be $79 million, down from $84.45 million last year.

The Legislature also restored approximately $230 million in school aid (of proposed $1.5 billion cut) and maintained flat funding of $4.3 million for Adult Literacy Education (ALE).

Locally, we are still not out of the woods.  There will be definite reductions in library services, but it is still too premature to speculate on those matters to date.

CSEA Monroe County Local 828 would like to thank everyone in our community who advocated for libraries this budget cycle. Stay tuned for updates on further developments on how the County and City budgets will affect library services in your neighborhood.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Families and Businesses will Benefit from a Sales Tax Exemption

Albany, N.Y.-- Beginning April 1 of this year, cash-strapped families and businesses in Monroe County will feel some much needed relief. All clothing, footwear or related item that is sold for less than $55 each will be exempt from the state's 4 percent sales tax.

Whether purchased in person, over the phone, by mail or online, the tax-free status will be applied to all pertinent items purchased on or after April 1.

With the rising cost of living along with an economic downturn, this relief couldn't come soon enough. It is estimated that a family of four will be able to save roughly $90-$100 per year with this tax cut allowing them to buy the necessary clothing they need.

This tax exemption will also help energize our economy and allow families to keep more of their hard earned money in their pocket where it belongs. However, there is much more work to do in order to get the state back on the right track. That's why I'll continue to fight for hardworking families and make Monroe County a place for businesses to grow.

Starting April 1, 2012, the tax-free status will include all clothing and footwear costing less than $110. For more information, visit the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance's website at If you have any questions about this, or any other issue, feel free to call my office at (585)244-5255.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Activists from the Rochester labor community, faith groups and the
Civil Rights Front march for passage of a NYS equal marriage
 bill on Aug. 4, 2010.
photo:  Ove Overmyer

Rochester, N.Y.-- For labor activists who support equal marriage rights for their co-workers, the tipping point has finally arrived.

Back in September of 2009 at the CSEA Annual Delegates Meeting in Buffalo, N.Y., several fair-minded CSEA activists introduced a resolution to once and for all ask our own members if they support a bill to end discrimination for same-sex couples. They voted yes. And for the record, the NYS AFL-CIO has been supporting the the NYS Marriage Equality Bill initiative since 2006.

So, the tipping-point came on March 18 when equality advocates found out  that statistically, the arc of justice is bending in their direction.  A poll and a comprehensive study reveals that for the first time ever, a majority of Americans support marriage equality and other workplace benefits for same-sex couples.

The poll, conducted for ABC News and The Washington Post, indicates that 53 percent of Americans support marriage equality for same-sex couples, a 21 percent increase from 2004.

The biggest increases are among Christians, who saw gains among white and Hispanic Catholic Americans and white nonevangelical Protestants. While support from evangelical Protestants increased, especially among younger members, they still overwhelmingly oppose marriage equality and other benefits for same-sex couples.

The poll came on the heels of a study released by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) that indicates, like the poll, that a majority of Catholic Americans support marriage equality and allowing same-sex couples to adopt children, as well as the ability of lesbian and gay military service members to serve openly.

"The study makes clear what we have known for quite some time," said CSEA Monroe County Local 828 president Bess Watts. Watts also serves as the president of the Rochester and Finger Lakes chapter of Pride At Work, AFL-CIO.

Watts told the Voice Reporter, "It has been my experience that people of faith who are driven by a desire for justice are at the forefront of efforts to make our country's marriage laws more equitable, and to extend the legal benefits of civil marriage to same-gender couples and their children."

When the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was signed in 1996, a majority of Americans opposed marriage equality for same-sex couples. Now, with the change in numbers, experts say that not only do more individuals understand the legal struggles that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) workers face, but also, more people now separate religious teachings from societal norms.

To marriage equality supporters, the change in support comes from the fact that people are seeing the difference between the civil and the religious definition of marriage. "I think the significant increase for marriage equality in the religious community is tied to the fact we've flushed out the differences between the civil and the religious parts of marriage," said Watts.

Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of the LGBT Catholic group DignityUSA told Truthout that as LGBT Catholics come out, "more people will see what they are taught is not true [because] the most important indicator of supporting LGBT rights is whether or not someone knows an LGBT person," she said.

And Pride At Work member and marriage activist Anne Tischer agrees with Duddy-Burke. Tischer thinks visibility is key to gaining workplace rights for same-sex couples, domestic partners and their families.

Pride At Work member Anne Tischer
takes to the streets of Rochester in Aug. 2010
 to oppose California's Prop 8 initiative.
photo:  Ove Overmyer
Tischer says, "As Americans hear more about the lives and families of their gay and lesbian neighbors, co-workers, and family members, these personal conversations about why marriage matters and stories of loving and committed couples harmed by the denial of marriage and the safety-net it brings has opened hearts and has opened minds.  It's a dilemma of fairness."

What's on the legislative horizon

Despite the polling results, federal Congressional support for full marriage equality still wanes. Even with the reintroduction of the Respect for Marriage Act, which is viewed as a legislative first step in guaranteeing full marriage equality by repealing DOMA, it is unlikely the bill will see momentum in a GOP House and divided Congress. Many marriage activists believe it's critical to focus this battle in the state legislatures across the nation, and not in the courts.  In a majority of states, a union contract is the only protection that LGBT workers have.  For all workers, the power of standing together as a union is the most effective way to win fair working conditions.

Many labor activists believe that a marriage bill can pass in New York State this legislative session. Tischer, who has been working for several years to end discrimination in the workplace, said this year feels a little bit different than years past. “We feel like we’re developing really good momentum-- there is real energy out there,” she said. “So far, we’ve never had that kind of direct, unequivocal, explicit commitment from key decision-makers before.”

Marriage advocates told The Voice Reporter that they are convinced that a vote in the Senate will happen by the end of the legislative year, if not sooner. The New York State Assembly has passed the bill in the last three straight legislative sessions. Manhattan State Sen. Tom Duane promised a senate bill “within weeks,” and his spokesman confirmed to media sources on Feb. 8 that they’re still working on specific language of the legislation.

Over 350 activists from SEIU, PEF, CSEA, FSW and CWA
cross the Genesee River in downtown Rochester, N.Y. on
Sept. 26, 2010. Workers were marching to advocate
for marriage rights protections for all New Yorkers.  The
march was sponsored by MENY.
photo:  Ove Overmyer
“I think we’re getting really, really close,” added Tischer. “Our most recent trip to talk to lawmakers did not go unnoticed. I think we have their attention. The votes aren’t completely there yet but we are working on it.”

At its core, the push for marriage equality is simply about making the day-to-day lives of same-sex couples and their families manageable and secure. All families deserve the ability to protect themselves with basic legal rights and safeguards such as Social Security, health insurance and unquestioned hospital visitation.

Watts says only marriage can provide families with true equality and has been arguing that this initiative has always been labor's fight. Watts adds, "When we say we advocate for all our members, we mean it.  All means all.  However, this should not diminish our work to include language in our collective bargaining agreements to honor domestic partnerships and other forms of relationship recognition, though limited, which provides important first steps and tangible protections for all our working families."


The local Pride At Work, AFL-CIO chapter hails Rep. Barney Frank for his leadership;  Frank will introduce ENDA bill in the 112th Congress

Washington, D.C.-- Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) plans to introduce the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) in the House tomorrow, according to two LGBT equality advocates with direct knowledge of the congressman's plans. Frank's communications director, Harry Gural, confirmed that the plans are "to formally announce ENDA this week," although he added over the weekend that specifics are not yet nailed down and were expected to be so by this afternoon.

The bill, which Gural says will be the same exact bill as that introduced in the 111th Congress. As it was introduced then, ENDA would prohibit job discrimination against LGBT workers in most situations in the public and private workforce. In 2007, a version of ENDA passed the U.S. House that contained protections only on the basis of sexual orientation. This bill would prohibit most employers from discriminating in hiring and promotions on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

The Rochester and Finger Lakes Chapter of Pride At Work, AFL-CIO, lead by president Bess Watts, lauds Franks' effort.  "Barney Frank is showing true leadership here.  We know that ENDA has no chance of passing the GOP-controlled House this session, but this can be an organizing tool, particularly with regard to the transgender issue. Our chapter of Pride At Work, AFL-CIO are urging people to spend their time talking to those Representatives who have voted in the past for ENDA and are supportive of ENDA.  We also want to impart on our Representatives that we advocate for transgender inclusion. Having a bill before you makes it easier to organize people to support it.  And, when we say, an injury to one is an injury to all, we really mean it.”

The bill is not expected to move forward in the House under the leadership of Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).  Frank told reporters, "Obviously, with the Republicans in power, you're not going to get the bill even considered."

Rep. Barney Frank
Additionally, Frank notes, "We got hate crimes done, and we got 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' repealed, and you can't do everything at once. And that, in fact, the problem was ... there was a fall-off-- a significant one on the Republican side and some on the Democratic side-- because the votes may not be there for an inclusive ENDA."

Of concerns that Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) repeal will take priority over ENDA's passage as legislative efforts move forward, Frank says the premise is "inaccurate," noting, "I believe that, with regard to DOMA, the goal is to win it in court. I do not think there is a good likelihood of getting DOMA repealed through the Congress. I think there is a good likelihood, in a Democratic Congress, of getting an inclusive ENDA."

He added, "And that's the lobbying job for the whole community.  People who identify as transgender, lesbian and gay and bisexual people, our straight friends-- the focal point should be to make sure that everyone who's supportive of ENDA supports the transgender inclusion."

Monday, March 28, 2011


Vermont Senator
Bernie Sanders-I
Washington, D.C.-- With federal income taxes due in a few weeks, Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont Independent who caucuses with the Democrats, released on March 27 a list of ten big profitable U.S. companies who pay little or no taxes.  Some even get rebates! 

Sen. Sanders wants to close the loopholes that make this tax avoidance legal.  For more than a decade, the income tax system has provided generous loopholes for big companies-- the income generated by the working class has become one giant corporate entitlement for these multi-national companies.

As Congress returns to work this week, they will no doubt negotiate over big cuts in spending, including social safety net programs like Social Security and Medicare.  Sanders, who has a 100 percent legislative scorecard with the AFL-CIO, hopes if more Americans realize how much multi-billion dollar corporations skip out on any tax responsibility an irate public may advocate for change.

The Bernie Sanders Ten:

1) Exxon Mobil made $19 billion in profits in 2009. Exxon not only paid no federal income taxes, it actually received a $156 million rebate from the IRS, according to its SEC filings.

2) Bank of America received a $1.9 billion tax refund from the IRS last year, although it made $4.4 billion in profits and received a bailout from the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department of nearly $1 trillion.

3) Over the past five years, while General Electric made $26 billion in profits in the United States, it received a $4.1 billion refund from the IRS.

4) Chevron received a $19 million refund from the IRS last year after it made $10 billion in profits in 2009.

5) Boeing, which received a $30 billion contract from the Pentagon to build 179 airborne tankers, got a $124 million refund from the IRS last year.

6) Valero Energy, the 25th largest company in America with $68 billion in sales last year received a $157 million tax refund check from the IRS and, over the past three years, it received a $134 million tax break from the oil and gas manufacturing tax deduction.

7) Goldman Sachs in 2008 only paid 1.1 percent of its income in taxes even though it earned a profit of $2.3 billion and received an almost $800 billion from the Federal Reserve and U.S. Treasury Department.

8) Citigroup last year made more than $4 billion in profits but paid no federal income taxes. It received a $2.5 trillion bailout from the Federal Reserve and U.S. Treasury.

9) ConocoPhillips, the fifth largest oil company in the United States, made $16 billion in profits from 2007 through 2009, but received $451 million in tax breaks through the oil and gas manufacturing deduction.

10) Over the past five years, Carnival Cruise Lines made more than $11 billion in profits, but its federal income tax rate during those years was just 1.1 percent.


Rochester, N.Y.-- Change we can believe in is not the same thing as progress. In fact, change can be the exact opposite. It can be regressive, as we are now learning from the freshman dolts in Congress.

As we see it, a bevy of tea party-infused Republicans has certainly changed the political dynamic in the House, and exultant GOP leaders are now claiming that they are the voice of "The People." However, we at the Voice Reporter are pretty sure most people won't find themselves represented by this change, much less see it as progress. We are pretty sure some of our fellow moderate tax-paying, middle-class Republican friends from upstate New York wish they could get a 2010 vote do-over right about now.

This is because the newcomers in Congress, whether Republican or Democrat, tend to live high up the economic ladder, way out of touch with the people they're representing. Indeed, 40 percent of newly elected house members are  wealthy millionaires, as are 60 percent of new senators.

While the great majority of every day Americans are struggling to make it on about $30,000 a year or less -- and having, at best, puny pensions and iffy health coverage -- these incoming lawmakers tend to be sitting pretty on hundreds of thousands of dollars each in accumulated tax breaks, wealth and investments.  While over half of all American families are living paycheck-to-paycheck, the financial reports of our freshman congressional delegation show them holding extensive personal investments in such outfits as Wall Street banks, oil giants and drug makers.

Photo taken at One Nation Working
Together rally, National Mall, D.C.
on October 2, 2010.
photo:  Ove Overmyer
Their wealth and financial ties might help explain the rush by the new Republican House majority to coddle these very same corporate powers. From gutting EPA's anti-pollution restrictions on Big Oil to undoing the restraints on Wall Street greed, they're pushing for a return to the same laissez-fairyland ideology of the past 20 years that got our country where it is today.

At the same time, they're out to kill a green-jobs program, bust our unions, gut Social Security, defund Head Start and generally stomp on the fingers of working families trying to hold onto the middle class rungs of the economic ladder.

The change in Congress is taking America backward, not forward. The new majority that was created in the House is literally now the voice of just millionaires. That's not progress-- and that's not representation.

Workers in our country have been dramatically increasing their productivity since the highly ballyhooed economic recovery began about 20 months ago, generating billions of dollars in new wealth. Yet wages have stayed stagnant. Practically none of the increased wealth from worker productivity gains has gone to the workers.

Instead, 94 percent of the money has been siphoned off by the corporate powers for such things as fattening profits at a record pace and jacking up CEO pay to exorbitant levels. Also, nearly $2 trillion of the gains have simply been stashed in the corporate vaults, rather than using it for wage hikes or new job creation.  Could it be they are waiting for the coast to clear in 2012?

And even the little bit of job creation that is taking place is "bottom heavy." According to the Department of Labor, 40 percent of the jobs lost in the recent economic crash were higher-paying positions, but 49 percent of the new jobs are low-paying.

PEF members listen intently at "We Are One"
rally on March 2 at City Hall.
photo:  Ove Overmyer
So now, we see corporations and billionaires wallowing in fabulous new wealth, while productive workers fall out of the middle class. And, our newly elected representatives like Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (R, NY-25) and Rep. Tom Reed (R, NY-29) are just fine with that.

They both are pushing a program of more tax breaks and subsidies for the corporate elite, while vehemently opposing efforts to create jobs and advance the middle class. The result is making the richest people even richer at the expense of your family.  In any event, this is not the recovery or change we were looking for-- it's plain ol' highway robbery.

Sunday, March 27, 2011


The following is the official press release distributed just minutes ago from Governor Cuomo

NYS Gov. Andrew Cuomo
photo:  Ove Overmyer
Albany, N.Y.--  The agreement includes historic reforms that redesign state government, create efficiencies through consolidation, cap spending increases for education and Medicaid, and transform the future budgeting process.

The approximately $132.5 billion budget will reduce spending overall by over 2 percent from the current year, eliminate 3,700 prison beds, establish regional economic development councils, bring performance funding to education, redesign Medicaid, and cap next year's education and Medicaid spending.

This budget reaches its financial goals with no new taxes and no borrowing, and will also cut next year's projected budget deficit from $15 billion to about $2 billion.

Recent changes to the budget include an additional $272 million in education which includes restoration of funding for schools for the blind and deaf (4201) and summer school special education. Human services funding of $91 million was added and $86 million for higher education including SUNY hospitals, SUNY and CUNY community colleges. There are also miscellaneous program additions of $33 million including aid to localities and agriculture programs. The budget proposal requires the Office of Court Administration (OCA) to reduce its budget by $170 million to reflect a more proportionate share of the state's reductions. There were also $54 million in miscellaneous cuts. As a result, the net add spending to this budget is approximately $250 million. In addition, there are no new member items.

"I have said that New York is at a crossroads – one road leading to further dysfunction and decline, the other towards fiscal responsibility and government efficiency. I believe this budget puts us on the right path," Governor Cuomo said. "This budget makes tough choices, which is what you sent me to Albany to do. It closes a $10 billion dollar deficit with no new taxes or borrowing, redesigns government to force it to cut waste and inefficiency, and finally delivers real results for hard-working families across New York State. I applaud and thank Majority Leader Skelos and Speaker Silver for working together to reach this agreement."

Senate Majority Leader Dean G. Skelos said, "This budget agreement keeps our Senate Republican commitment to reduce spending, cut taxes and empower the private sector to create jobs, and will begin to put New York on the path to fiscal recovery. By working together to reach consensus on a responsible spending plan that eliminates a $10 billion deficit without raising taxes, we have tightened our belt and protected middle-class families in every region of this State. I am particularly pleased with Governor Cuomo's commitment to making UB2020 a reality, which will bring jobs and hope to Western New York, as well as improvements to the other university centers, which are important priorities of our Senate Republican conference. Today's developments ensure we are moving full speed ahead to an on-time budget."

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said, "Speaking for the Assembly Majority, I commend Governor Cuomo for his leadership in bringing about this agreement and for providing the Legislature with an executive budget that was strong and firmly grounded in reality. Government had to tighten its belt with the same sense of urgency that working families have been tightening their belts since the economy went into freefall in 2008. The sole consolation is that working with the Governor, we were able to achieve critical restorations which will soften the cuts affecting working families, our senior citizens, our most vulnerable populations and the children in our classrooms."

The 2011-2012 budget agreement contains critical components first proposed in Governor Cuomo's executive budget, including redesigning Medicaid and recalibrating the cost of state government, in part, by merging and consolidating agencies as well as curbing spending growth to sustainable and affordable levels.

Policy reforms in the 2011-2012 budget include:

•Changing Permanent Law and Provides 2-Year Appropriations and Caps for Education and Medicaid: Education will be increased at a rate of personal income growth next year – roughly 4 percent. Medicaid will be increased at a rate tied to healthcare CPI which is roughly 4 percent. Together, these actions reduce next year's deficit from about $15 billion to about $2 billion and change decades-old practice of overspending.

•Redesigning the Medicaid System: The budget includes a global cap on State Medicaid expenditures of approximately $15 billion and implementation of the majority of recommendations by the Medicaid Redesign Team (MRT) to redesign and restructure the Medicaid program to be more efficient and get better results for patients. There are reallocations within the MRT cap that reduce some areas while targeting increases to others. Among the notable changes: the cap on medical malpractice is not included and EPIC is increased by $22 million. The MRT reduction of $2.8 billion and the overall spending cap to the state will be enforced by the Department of Health's "superpower" provision, whereby the commissioner has authority to make reductions during the year to enforce the cap.

•Creating Regional Economic Development Councils: The budget establishes 10 Regional Economic Development Councils, chaired by Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy. These councils will create a region-based approach to allocate economic development funds to speed up the creation of jobs. They will act as one-stop shop for all State-supported economic development and business assistance programs in each region, and will be supported with $130 million in capital that is reprogrammed from existing resources.

•Creating the Recharge NY Power Program: Recharge New York will enhance and make permanent the current Power for Jobs Program that will significantly boost the state's economy by creating and maintaining hundreds of thousands of jobs. Recharge New York will improve upon the existing program by opening it to new participants and allocating a blend of stable, low-cost hydropower and market power for use by businesses that seek to grow and create jobs in New York state.

•Authorizing the SAGE Commission: The budget authorizes Governor Cuomo's Spending and Government Efficiency (SAGE) Commission to reduce the number of agencies, authorities, and commissions by 20 percent. Currently, the consolidation of Parole and Corrections will save $16.8 million, the merging of NYSTAR into Department of Economic Development will save $1.9 million, and the merging of Consumer Protection into the Department of State will save $500,000.

•Creating the Department of Financial Services: The budget merges the state's Banking and Insurance Departments into a new Department of Financial Services.

•Authorizing Governor to Close Prisons: The state will eliminate 3,700 prison beds throughout New York at the sole discretion of the administration in consultation with the Legislature.

•UB 2020: The Governor has also agreed to hold a summit with stakeholders to discuss how to make UB 2020 a reality.

•Reforming the Juvenile Justice System: The budget includes significant reforms of the state's juvenile justice system by encouraging greater use of community-based alternatives, downsizing the state juvenile facilities system by more than 30 percent, and investing resources into enhanced services for juveniles that remain in OCFS custody.

•Creating New Education Performance and Efficiency Grants: The budget enacts initiatives Governor Cuomo proposed to make districts more efficient and improve student performance. Funds totaling $500 million will be awarded competitively to districts that demonstrate significant improvements in student performance and to districts that undertake long term structural changes to reduce costs and improve efficiency. The budget also restores $270 million in education related funding.

•Improving the Excelsior Jobs Program: As proposed in the executive budget, the budget strengthens the Excelsior Jobs Program, which was created in 2010 to provide job creation and investment tax credit incentives to businesses in targeted industries.

Saturday, March 26, 2011


Rochester, N.Y.--Working families and progressive forces are coming together to face down attacks on good jobs and the right to bargain for a middle-class way of life. Beginning with worship services over the April 1 weekend, and continuing through the week of April 4, unions, people of faith, civil and human rights activists, students and other progressive allies will host a range of community and workplace-focused actions.

We’ve seen the turmoil in Wisconsin, where more than 100,000 people flooded the state capital multiple times. We’ve seen it in Ohio and Indiana as well, where protests against anti-worker legislation have continued for over a month. As a result, progressive voices are winning on many issues and advocates say we must keep the momemtum moving in the right direction.

Bess Watts, who doubles as CSEA Local 828 president and is also president of the Rochester Finger Lakes Chapter of Pride At Work, says that whether you were directly involved in worker uprisings or not, you are a part of the movement. These huge efforts were made possible because of the solidarity of people like you, acting together.

Monroe County Legislator Dick
Beebe and his wife Tammy at
a recent rally on March 17.
photo:  Ove Overmyer
"GLBT workplace rights and benefits are inextricably linked with the strength of labor and unions," says Watts. She added, "The weakening of unions and collective bargaining could be devastating for those vulnerable minorities whose only workplace protections are offered by a contract. For all workers, the power of standing together is one of the most effective ways to ensure fair working conditions. For GLBT workers and their families that is particularly true. The "WE ARE ONE" national day of action will demonstrate that strength does in fact lie in unity among all workers regardless of minority status."

The workers of America are now combating these new threats with unprecedented solidarity. On April 4, and on the days surrounding it, the LGBT community, people of faith and middle-class families across the country will be organizing numerous solidarity actions. Together, they will stand with working people in Wisconsin and dozens of other states where corporate-bought politicians are trying to take away the rights for which Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his life.


The "WE ARE ONE" movement is seeking to turn this moment into a larger grassroots effort to refocus our national leadership's attention on jobs. It is worth noting that in the final year of his life, MLK was in the process of organizing a mass demonstration in Washington to protest unemployment and poverty conditions that were actually not as worse then as they are today.

And now, conservative economic policies are threatening to take us into a sustained period of high unemployment, continued stagnant wages and increased economic insecurity for both the poor and the middle class.

April 4 will be a day in which average folk will call out the people who are pushing this toxic agenda and present a different vision of an America that has a resurgent middle class standing on the foundation of a new economy of broad prosperity.

Please feel free to contact Pride At Work or CSEA Local 828 today about how you or your organization can get involved.

Friday, March 25, 2011


Budget Deadline Nears

The state budget deadline is one week away. Legislative leaders continue to negotiate with Governor Cuomo in hopes of getting an on time budget. Lawmakers held conference committees throughout the week. Education and health care are two key areas that remain unresolved.

There are mixed messages coming out of Albany of how close the leaders are to finalizing the budget. On one hand, Governor Cuomo said he was optimistic that a budget agreement could come as early as today, however he released a video that says he will not back down to lawmakers or special interest groups.

At this time it looks like the budget could even be passed early, but in Albany anything can happen.

No More Tax Cuts for the Wealthiest New Yorkers

As we hit the final stretch in budget negotiations, it is critical that you contact Governor Cuomo and your senator to tell them not to give a tax cut to millionaires. The pressure being placed on the State Senate is working. In addition to Senator Bonacic, Senator Maziarz and Senator McDonald have said they are open to opposing giving tax breaks to millionaires.

We still have time to call Governor Cuomo and your state senator.  Pick up your phone and call today, tomorrow and the next day at 1.877.255.9417. Ask them to protect jobs and vital public services by opposing a tax cut for millionaires.



NYS Assembly Marks the 100th Anniversary of Tragic Triangle Shirtwaist Fire

Albany, N.Y.--  This week, I joined my colleagues in commemorating the one-hundreth anniversary of the tragic Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. This event, which occurred one hundred years ago today, took the lives of 146 garment workers, all of whom were women. The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire marked the most vivid symbol of the need for workplace safety rules. It also started the movement to fight for safer working conditions.

The need for workplace safety and ending sweatshops continues today. As a people we must remain vigilant to ensure that a similar tragedy never happens again.

-The Honorable Harry B. Bronson, NYS Assembly, District 131 

To view the Assembly Resolution commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, please click here.

For an earlier Voice Reporter post on the PBS documentary of this tragic event, you can go here.



Rochester, N.Y.-- In more than a dozen states, working families are coming together to face down attacks on good jobs and the right to bargain for a middle-class life. We've seen it in Wisconsin, where more than 100,000 people flooded the Capitol in Madison multiple times. We've seen it in Ohio and Indiana, where protests against anti-worker legislation have continued for a month-- and as a result, we’re winning on many issues and standing up for the rights of working people.

photo:  Ove Overmyer
Whether you were directly involved in worker uprisings or not, you are a part of our movement. These huge efforts were made possible because of the solidarity of people like you, acting together.

We need your help to keep our movement going and growing. We’ll keep giving you opportunities to do it-- we hope you’ll take us up on those opportunities as much as you can, and also find ways to get involved in your own way.

As you know, the right to bargain collectively for a voice at work and a middle-class life are under attack as never before.

So we’re combating these new threats with unprecedented solidarity. On April 4, and on the days surrounding it, working families across the country will be organizing numerous solidarity actions. Together, we’ll stand with working people in Wisconsin and dozens of other states where corporate-bought politicians are trying to take away the rights for which Dr. King gave his life.

The legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

"We are determined to be people. We are saying that we are God's children. And that we don't have to live like we are forced to live."

—Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speech in Memphis, Tenn., April 3, 1968

photo:  Ove Overmyer
On April 4, we will be called on not to merely remember that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on that day in 1968, but to recall what he was about to do on the day he was shot-- and why the mission he was on that day very much matters to the struggle of poor and the working poor of this great nation.

King was in Memphis to support AFSCME sanitation workers who were caught in a struggle with the city's mayor. It is eerily similar to the battle that public employees in Wisconsin are now fighting with Gov. Scott Walker and Republicans in the state legislature.

At various times in his life, King said he was not opposed to people having wealth. What he disdained was people having wealth at the expense of other people not having wealth and ignoring the poor and disenfranchised.  Just like the 1960's, our tax dollars today are not being spent for the greater good. 

His “Poor People’s Campaign” was really about economic restructuring. His plan was to put pressure on Congress to shift its priorities from war and military spending to housing, health care, jobs and education, focusing especially on the people who were losing jobs because of automation of industry and outsourcing. His message in 1968 could not be more profound describing life in America today.

2011 is reminiscent of the 1920's and 1960's

King saw the emergence of a right-wing campaign to neutralize the power of workers, with the aim of keeping wages suppressed and minimizing business accountability for the safety or well-being of either workers or the communities in which they operated.

Over 100,000 fill the streets of Madison, Wisconsin
to fight back legislation that takes away the rights
of the working class. (photo provided)
 And today, the push-back against this campaign took full force in Madison, Wisconsin at the beginning of 2011 when thousands of citizens descended upon the state capitol building to object to Republican efforts to strip public workers of their bargaining rights. Part of their message was that they would not stand passively by while teachers and other public workers were being asked to "sacrifice" an average $8,000 in salary and benefits to balance the state budget and give up their ability to negotiate over working conditions while corporations were being given millions in state tax breaks.


The "We Are One" movement is seeking to turn that moment into a larger grassroots effort to refocus our national leadership's attention on jobs. It is worth mentioning that in the final year of his life, King was in the process of organizing a mass demonstration in Washington to protest unemployment and poverty conditions that were actually not as worse then as they are now.

The Voice Reporter urges you to go to the "We Are One" website created to be a hub of grassroots activities focusing on today's worker's rights and economic justice issues. The site has links to actions in your region, videos and much, much more. It is important for every right-minded organization to drop your label for the day and connect with the WE ARE ONE movement.

Today, conservative economic policies are threatening to take us into a sustained period of high unemployment, continued stagnant wages and increased economic insecurity for both the poor and the middle class.

April 4 has to be a day in which we call out the people who are pushing this toxic agenda and present a different vision of an America that has a resurgent middle class standing on the foundation of a new economy of broad prosperity.

Monday, April 4 is a day of teach-ins, vigils, rallies and faith events to call for a new era of economic justice. It's a day to be creative. And, it's day to shout: WE ARE ONE.

We’ll be in touch shortly about how you can get involved on April 4 in the Rochester area.

The Voice Reporter thanks you for your continued support. So far, we’ve seen the most inspiring series of uprisings working people have done during our lifetimes-- let’s keep that energy going. Your continued support today, on or around April 4, and in the days, months and years to come will help keep this movement strong.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


CSEA and FSW Monroe County workers have been without
 a contract since Dec.31, 2008.  CSEA and state officials recently
begun negotiations to agree on terms of a new collective
bargaining agreement for state workers on March 23.
photo:  Ove Overmyer

Albany, N.Y.-- CSEA, New York's leading union, and New York state have begun negotiations March 23 on a new contract to succeed the agreement that expires April 1, 2011.

"CSEA-represented state employees are on the front lines delivering essential services to New Yorkers every day under increasingly difficult working conditions," said CSEA President Danny Donohue. "Our expectation is to reach an agreement with the state that treats those rank and file workers with fairness and respect."

"CSEA is prepared for challenging discussions with the Cuomo administration," Donohue said. "CSEA members understand that these are not ordinary times, but collective bargaining requires both labor and management to come to the table in good faith to find common ground."

CSEA - New York state contracts cover about 66,000 state Executive Branch employees in the Administrative, Institutional and Operational Services units and the Division of Military and Naval Affairs.

Monroe County workers still in limbo

The negotiations team for Local 828 Unit 7400 met with management and three lawyers from the law firm Harris Beach on March 22. CSEA initiated this meeting in the hopes that through hard work and compromise, the County and CSEA can reach a fair agreement that we can all be proud of.

CSEA Unit President for the Monroe County workers Cris Zaffuto said, "We sat down with the County to work for an agreement. And, as of today, the hardworking employees of this county have been without a contract for 812 days.  To say that the session was productive would be an understatement."

CSEA Labor Relations Specialist Robert Leonard added, "Since the County has taken a hard and consistent stance against retroactive pay for any bargaining unit in Monroe County, it is imperative that we keep working for a settlement."

CSEA has worked hard to reach an agreement with the County and will continue those efforts. CSEA declared impasse in these negotiations and a mediator was appointed by the Public Employment Relations Board to work with the parties.

If additional attempts at negotiations fail, either party can make a request to PERB to go to fact-finding. CSEA sincerely hopes that the parties can reach an agreement and it will not be necessary to go to the fact-finding step in the negotiation process.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


CSEA members protest on the steps of the Erie County Office Building,
Buffalo, N.Y. on Sept. 16, 2009.
photo:  Ove Overmyer
 Rochester, N.Y.-- Our Labor Movement's righteous fight isn’t just about saving middle class values. When Congress enacted the Wagner Act and created the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in 1935, it acknowledged how plummeting wages during a similar corporate push against workers in the 1920s led to a drop in consumer power, unemployment, poverty and civil unrest which ultimately led to the Great Depression.

When there is no check on the steady growth of corporate power or political corruption, we lose the balance and equality necessary for a functional democracy to exist. The rise of the Labor Movement in the 20th century and it's very existence built America's middle class and transformed our economy and infrastructure.

The Wagner Act protected our economy

The Wagner Act was designed to protect workers’ rights to organize and bargain collectively. Moreover, the Wagner Act wasn’t just about protecting workers’ rights. It was about protecting the economy against another depression by providing a counterbalance to the greed and malfeasance of unscrupulous employers.

By Congress implementing the NLRB, it chipped away at irresponsible corporate power. And, Congress wanted to give unions power to act as a stabilizer to this corporate lawlessness and authority. It also must be stated that to this day, the House GOP has never given up the fight to weaken the NLRB's ability to affect change.  Unions give workers the right of due process and equal protection under employment law-- something all patriotic Americans should admire and value.  Collective bargaining is seen as an obstacle for lawmakers who want to privatize public services.

As Congress saw it back then, public policy allowed employers to amass unchecked power as they wreaked havoc on American families. Workers, on the other hand, were mere individuals who lacked the collective influence to bargain as equals with their employers. The result was the rich got richer while wages and working conditions declined. Again-- it led to poverty, crime, lawlessness, economic collapse and social unrest.  Congress had to intervene to save the economy.  Looking back, haven't we learned anything from our own sordid history?

The greatest heist in history

No economy can function when the working class has been stripped of all its equity and spending power. The fact is that right now no less than 16 newly elected Republican Governors around the country are promoting anti-worker legislation disguised as budget deficit reduction plans. The fact is that our country is not broke-- the wealth that the working class generates has been transferred, in the greatest heist in history, from the workers and consumers to the banks and the portfolios of the uber-rich.

To illustrate this point that we are not broke, Wall Street's five biggest firms put aside nearly 90 billion dollars for executive pay raises or bonuses for 2010-- the GNP of 13 entire developing countries. Additionally, most of the top Fortune 500 companies saw record profits for 2010.  On top of all of this, the GOP continues to write legislation that makes it easier to send your hard earned tax dollars to multi-billion dollar corporations and individuals who are insulated from any harm regardless if we are in a recession or not. 

Interestingly enough, these companies are creating a few jobs-- just not in the USA and defintely not in your backyard.  They are investing your tax dollars in emerging middle class markets in China, Brazil and India.   How does that make you feel?

The Taylor Law is a stabilizing force

The same argument about stabilizing the economy can be made for why New York State passed the Taylor Law in 1967. It was Gov. Nelson Rockefeller who opened a whole new era for public workers at the stroke of his pen when he signed into law the Public Employees Fair Employment Act, also known as the Taylor Law. It was and still is, the most comprehensive law of its kind providing for formal collective bargaining that offers complex democratic solutions to labor-management relations.

We’re carrying the fight not just for all public employees and the contracts we have bargained for, but also for the vital public services we provide to our communities.  We are also fighting for every worker in America, even if they are not represented by a union.  What we care about is creating value so our neighborhoods are worth living in.  When working families have consumer spending power, unemployment dips and our economy becomes much healthier.  Also, our communities become much stronger.

CSEA members take to the streets in downtown Buffalo, N.Y.
in Sept. 2009 to protest against unfair treatment of public workers by
Erie County Executive Chris Collins.
photo:  Ove Overmyer
If the authors of the Wagner Act and the Taylor Law are correct, we’re also fighting to save the United States economy from self-destruction brought on by an out of control pathological greed by the top 2 percent of richest Americans. Today, the fight that corporations and Wall Street are waging against American workers is unprecedented and overwhelming-- but it can be addressed by fact-based reasoning, people-power and at the ballot box.

Workers who cannot say no to unjust actions are no more than slaves and not free people; they are not citizens of a civil democracy. That is what we are fighting about-- this is what anti-labor forces aren't telling you.

Now more than ever, everyday citizens need to know your public employee neighbors and friends who keep your streets safe and your drinking water clean, our parks open and our libraries humming should not be the scapegoats for our societal ills and budget woes.

The time-tested ability for workers to collectively bargain for a better future has lifted countless generations out of poverty.  It is a testimony to America's greatness.  Over several decades, America's labor unions have also provided stability in government and to our marketplace.

The American people are hungry for our leaders to restore a vision for a national future founded on the premise that social justice and material prosperity are not competing values--  that they can co-exist and are necessary to each other for a healthy, sustainable and growing economy.  The sooner we recognize that, the better.

To read a recent fact sheet about collective bargaining, please click here to an earlier post.

-Ove Overmyer
The opinions expressed here by Mr. Overmyer are the views of the author only and does not represent CSEA as an organization.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Rochester, N.Y.-- You would have to be living under a rock not to know that House Republicans have done ZERO to create jobs since claiming the Majority three months ago. Absolutley nothing. Nada. Zip. Nothing.

However, they’ve found time for votes to restrict access to reproductive health care for women, go after gay people, take teachers out of our classrooms, nurses out of our hospitals, and even to defund NPR. All told, if Republicans got their way, the proposed cuts would destroy 700,000 jobs.

We expect more from our elected officials. We need to hold them accountable. We at the Voice Reporter have had enough of our lawmaker's extremist anti-jobs, anti-labor agenda and we believe you have too.

An extreme Republican majority has launched an all out assault on middle class values. It began in Wisconsin, but has spread to Congress and state houses across the country.

Secretive groups like Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS are already up on the air running vicious attack ads against House Democrats who are standing up against the Republican assault and fighting for middle class working families.

To this point, our Union family counts on individual donors and volunteers like you for 100 percent of our political action efforts. Together, we can turn back this anti-labor attack on the middle class and move America forward with your help. All we need is a commitment from you. Please consider joining your Local Political Action Committee today.

We expect a busy 2011 political calendar for the local labor community.  Click here to find out more about CSEA Political Action.  All 29 seats in the Monroe County Legislature are up for grabs, as well as the County Executive and District Attorney races.  Plus, throw in one County Court judgeship and one City Court seat, added to several local town and village offerings, and we have more than enough work to go around for everyone. 

For more information on our Local 828 Politcal Action Committee efforts, you can contact Ove Overmyer or Cris Zaffuto. For more information about contributing to CSEA/AFSCME People Campaign, you can go here.

Monday, March 21, 2011


Rallies like this one on March 17 are cropping up all over the United States.  In Rochester, N.Y., hundreds of parents, teachers, students and union members gather at the downtown  Liberty Pole Square to voice their frustration over local and state government budgets and their lawmakers' overt, unapologetic attack on the middle-class. (photo:  Ove Overmyer)

Rochester, N.Y.--  It's been going for some time now. And, it's not like we didn't see it coming.

At the very start of this year, January 2, The New York Times warned us of the coming battle with a front-page story, "Public Workers Facing Outrage in Budget Crisis." The Economist, in its January 8 issue, gave us, "The battle ahead: confronting the public-sector unions." And the January Time Magazine, "Public Employees Become Public Enemy No. 1."  Or, as if we haven't addressed this topic before on this site, you can revisit any of the 104 previous posts from this year at the Voice Reporter.

So, nobody should have been surprised when public employees became enemy #1 in Wisconsin, whose governor and Republican-dominated legislature are pressing a bill that would eviscerate most of the unions representing that state's employees.

Oklahoma, Tennessee and Ohio are likewise all considering legislation to ban various types of collective bargaining, and in Indiana, almost every Democratic member of the state's House of Representative recently boycotted a legislative session to stop a bill that would weaken collective bargaining.

The bigger picture

What no one is talking about, however, despite the thousands of ink cartridges that have been emptied over this topic, is the underlying motive behind these attacks. Why, exactly, has the Wisconsin governor made destroying public sector unions his main priority? Why are similar efforts being made in numerous other states? Why target public sector workers and their unions? What put this on the top of the hard right's agenda?

Some of the reasons are obvious. For years, its been kind of the "perfect storm" brewing for anti-labor forces.  Class envy is everywhere, for sure. Public employees are, on average, better educated and better compensated than other workers; thus, resentment by the latter can always be ginned up against the former.

Tea Party-ish dislike of government in all of its forms, however irrational, can always be used by those with a motive to do so, into a passionate hostility against the government's agents and employees.  Plus, there are the conservative deficit hawks who always complain that we spend to much and cry about too many entitlements for poor people.  And finally, let's not forget the conscious effort on the part of anti-labor forces to just flat out lie and mislead the American people.  In response, the CSEA Voice Reporter joined the STOP THE LIES campaign (see icon on bottom right side of page) several  months ago to set the record straight.

On top of this, it's easy to see that the crop of 16 new GOP governors are carrying out the work they promised their big business donors-- you know, the guys who funded their election campaigns under the ludicrous Citizens United v. FEC fiasco.  It's painfully obvious that they want to privitize public services and give the bids and work to their cronies for their own financial gain.

But there is something more sophisticated at work here than merely the efforts of talk-show hosts, demagogues and right-wing politicians to stir up an angry, agitated and hostile populace. That is, there is a plan at work here.

According to Dmitri Iglitzin and Carson Glickman-Flora of, big business and their GOP puppets are in cahoots.  They explain it this way:

Defund the Democrats.  This is perhaps the most transparent of the goals of the plan, because Republicans have not been shy about pointing out how, in various states, labor union contributions of both time and money have supplied Democrats with critical support at election time. The actual numbers can be debated and most of the Republican claims of labor union dominance of the Democratic Party are overblown. The failure of Congress, even when Democrats controlled both the White House and both houses of Congress from 2008-2010, to enact any substantive federal labor law reform, is stark evidence of that. But labor generally comes back to the Democrats and Republicans, and other right-wingers recognize that disabling labor unions now will advance their legislative agenda in the long run.

Delegitimize Government.  Once public sector unions are destroyed or damaged and the wages and benefits of public employees are slashed, the ability of government to attract and retain qualified, dedicated employees-- whether teachers, bus drivers, fire fighters or police-- will deteriorate. The more that happens, the greater the pressure to turn over these and all other "public" services to for-profit private companies, a trend that is already in full swing.  Public employees should never apologize for what they earn or for negotiating a better life for themselves and their family.

photo:  Ove Overmyer
Race to the bottom.   The GOP wants to redefine the middle class downward. Above all else, the attack on public employees and their unions is an effort to eliminate the one sub-section of working people who still, to a large extent, maintain a truly "middle-class" existence.  This is a life where the rent or mortgage payments may be paid, health coverage is maintained and retirement savings socked away in defined benefit pension plans. We all hope it will actually still be available upon retirement. It is this last motive about which the proponents of the "plan" speak the least, but which is perhaps the most important. As long as some workers, those in the public sector, are still being paid decent salaries and benefits, there is an implicit message to all workers, including those in the private sector, that this type of compensation might be something which an adult worker could reasonably expect to attain.

If the goal of a middle class income for public employees can be painted as a mere utopian fantasy, workers in the private sector will lose that dream as well. You know, the ol' conquer and divide strategy. In the end, it is this race to the bottom on our standard of living that should have all of us worried.  It should inspire everyone to stand next to public employees, as we who make up the "98 percent of Americans," cling to whatever notion there is of a better life in the future for you and your family.

The sooner we recognize that there are radical, extreme lawmakers who want to eliminate the middle class and do average folk harm, the more capable we are of protecting our families. Remember, when push comes to shove on Election Day, there are more of us then there are of them-- one person one vote.  We have to be ready at the ballot box to save the middle class.  It's just that simple.


A student from Rochester City School District, School of the Arts (SOTA),
peers over a placard that says, "STOP THE CUTS CAUSE THEY HURT."
Students joined with teachers, parents and labor unions in a "Save Our Schools"
rally at the Liberty Pole in downtown Rochester, N.Y. on March 17.
(photo: Ove Overmyer)


Rochester, N.Y.-- Last December, when President Obama made a deal with Republicans to continue the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, we said there was no shared pain in the agreement. We called it the easy way out for everybody. And, we at the Voice Reporter emphasized it's not fiscally responsible in addressing the deficit, the biggest long-term threat to America.

Now, House Republicans are pushing for well over $50 billion in cuts to the budget, which would result in the loss of 700,000 jobs nationwide according to leading economists. They won't even consider cutting the $53 billion the Republicans have used to subsidize the oil industry or eliminating projects out of the defense budget that even the Pentagon says it doesn't need and doesn't want.

Instead, they want cuts on everything from local law enforcement to community health centers, libraries, food assistance to low-income women, infants, and children to rural development investment. And of course, they made it clear over and over again, that cutting Social Security benefits must be on the table.

Republicans have gone from being fiscally irresponsible to morally bankrupt in only a few short months of this legislative session.  In the words of Howard Dean, "Their goal appears to be the death of civil society by a 1,000 cuts."

It's time for Democrats to stand up and hold their ground. Republicans in Congress can't balance the budget on the backs of the poor and middle class-- there must be shared sacrifice.

Join us at CSEA Monroe County Local 828 and our coalition partners at Pride At Work, AFL-CIO, The Rochester Labor Council and other Rochester area union organizations in calling on Democrats in the state legislature and Congress to accept no new budget cuts.  At the same time, we oppose tax breaks to millionaires who are financially insulated from any harm.

ADD YOUR NAME NOW to a petition being circulated by Democracy For America.

This approach to shared sacrifice is backed up by the support of the American people. A recent Washington Post poll shows the vast majority of Americans believe the best way to reduce the deficit is through a combination of spending cuts and increased taxes on America's most wealthy.

But it's not about polling. It's about responsibility. If there is one thing we've learned from years and years of Republican misleadership, it's that you just can't trust Republicans with your money.

photo:  Bess Watts
Democrats and the labor movement can get the job done as long as we stand up for what we believe and never back down.  After all, we are the ones who brought working Americans the concept of the "weekend."

Make no mistake about it; the Republicans' obsession with cutting the federal budget at all costs may be good short-term politics, but it's bad public policy and not the best course for the country and our working families.

We need to send a message to all elected Democrats in office to stop the GOP insanity. And, it's up to us to make sure Democrats know where we stand as working people.