Sunday, July 31, 2011


Rochester, N.Y.--  This is what I would say if I had more than two minutes to speak at the public forum before the monthly full session meetings of the Monroe County Legislature.  It would go something like this:

Greetings, and please put down your ESPN magazines and blackberries for a moment and at least pretend to pay attention to the people you are supposed to be representing-- and I would like to overtly extend an open invitation to the County Executive to come out of the back room she is hiding in right now to hear what the heck is on the public's mind.  Her absence at this portion of these full session meetings speaks volumes about her governing concept of "accessibility" and "transparency."

In any event, to prevent one branch of County government from becoming supreme and autocratic, and to protect the "opulent minority" from the majority of average folk, and to induce the legislative chamber to cooperate, governance systems are set up to employ a separation of powers needed to balance each other out.  It's called democracy.  That's not what is going on here.  What is going on in our own County government is just a microcosm of a much bigger national problem.   

At the first sign of disagreement, more often than not, out come the accusations and name-calling. The Republican majority leader of the Legislature immediately comes to mind-- seems he can't keep from putting his foot in his mouth. 

Anyway, the  citizens of our great nation are not merely divided today, they have been divided deliberately.  The GOP would rather have the American people focus on what makes us different and divide us-- rather than accentuating our commonalities as a people.

 Now here is one more division. Not only do we have Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, rich and poor, black and white, gay and straight, rational and irrational, white collar and blue collar, three social classes with the middle disappearing, and all the subdivisions that go with it, such as poor white Democrats as well as poor black Republicans, now we also have the "polite" versus the "rude."

Politics and policy should be debated, vigorously and often. Being able to reasonably discuss the political issues of the day was considered a vital and essential part of a functioning government.  It's also part of being a well-rounded, informed public servant.  But not in here and certainly not in this chamber.  Indeed, one of the expressed purposes of educating ourselves on the issues of the day is to equip men and women to be able to hold their own in a political forum and share their knowledge.

These days rousing, yet respectful, meaningful political debate is practically non-existent-- especially in the 112th Congress and certainly in the Monroe County Legislature. The majority in the Legislature has become a rubber stamp for the County Executive’s office-- consistently regurgitating manufactured rationale of political spite, personal gain and one party rule. Civil debates between our lawmakers has been reduced to indignant shouting matches, where personal insults are substituted for rational arguments. Frankly my friends, I am extremely embarrassed to witness this body of government in action.

That’s not to say that the politicians before us were the paragons of respectful debating. They too would often let their passions get away from them and unleash holy hell on their opponent.  It occasionally happens to the best of us-- but our problem here is that there is no room to actually debate on any issue-- ever.  You object over rules of order  and never exchange workable ideas to bring us to a heightened sense of understanding on any given policy issue. I can’t remember the last time I heard a robust policy debate on the merits of what is in the best interest of the majority of people who live in Monroe County.

Unlike elected officials from the past, this body has become so unapologetic about your undisciplined, discourteous personal and political rants. And, none of it has any bearing on quality of life decisions that benefit the people of Monroe County.  I would like you to think about that for a moment. 

We need to learn how to bring back vigorous, yet civil political discourse to move the body politic forward and create a robust system of governance.  By one party simply rubber stamping every initiative of the County administration, you have removed democracy from governing.  You have also removed the citizens from participating in the process too-- the very citizens you were elected to serve and to protect.

In my recent travels and frequent conversations with my neighbors, friends and co-workers, there seems to be a local movement afoot.  One thing is for certain--  Americans from all political stripes and especially our very own Monroe County residents are fed up with lawmakers who behave like you.  Take my advice-- reach out to the other side of the aisle and think about the greater good once in a while before you lose your seat in this chamber.  All 29 seats are up this year.  Please put good government before petty party politics.  After all, we are the ones that put you into office and we are the ones that can take you out. 

How many minutes was that? 

-Ove Overmyer
This commentary does not reflect or express the views of CSEA as an organization.

Friday, July 29, 2011


Brighton Town Supervisor and
Democratic candidate for County
Executive Sandra Frankel.  
Rochester, N.Y. -- Town of Brighton Supervisor Sandra Frankel, a Democrat, gave up her chance to seek reelection to that office and is instead running for Monroe County Executive.  According to CSEA sources at the Region 6 office in Amherst, N.Y., the CSEA PAC committee made the recommendation to endorse the Frankel campaign earlier this week. 

Frankel was re-elected to her tenth term of office as Brighton Town Supervisor in 2009. She has consistently received support from Democrats as well as scores of Republicans, Independents and the Working Families Party voters who all enjoy a high standard of living in Brighton and appreciate her administration's style of open government. 

Frankel is running against incumbent Republican County Executive Maggie Brooks, a matchup that the Democratic challenger knows she can win.

In an email addressed to CSEA members on July 29, Frankel said, "I am proud to have received the endorsement of CSEA, which represents valued public employees who provide essential services and programs that our residents depend upon in their everyday lives. I look forward to working with CSEA to build a bright future for Monroe County."

Ove Overmyer, CSEA Monroe County Local 828 PAC Co-Chair said, “We are thrilled to support a candidate for Monroe County Executive that respects and understands the value of public employees and worker rights.  As Brighton Town Supervisor, Sandy Frankel has a proven track record of honoring collective bargaining agreements while at the same time efficiently delivering public services to her constituents.  There is every reason to believe that Sandy Frankel will once again restore confidence, credibility and dignity to the office of the Monroe County Executive.”

During a press conference on May 4, Frankel began her campaign by aggressively attacking Brooks over a series of county government scandals that happened during her time in office.  "We must restore the public trust and confidence in county government," she told enthusiastic supporters at the Monroe County Democratic headquarters on University Ave in downtown Rochester, N.Y.

Bess Watts, CSEA Local 828 President says, “Even though Sandy has very good name recognition, many people might be surprised to know that her administration has cut property taxes in five of the last 15 years, fixed a major inherited structural budget deficit, restored fiscal integrity and stability, and earned a high-level Moody's credit rating upgrade to Aa3.  Monroe County can't say that.” 

Watts also told The Voice Reporter, “While researching for our candidate interviews, we found out that since 1994, the annual growth in Town of Brighton property taxes was less than the average annual rate of inflation.  She proves that she is fiscally smart and knows how to manage public budgets with the best of them.”

Frankel said that if she's elected, she would freeze her salary and wouldn't take a county car, cell phone, or credit card. She wants an audit of all county spending.  In her campaign kickoff speech in May, Frankel also laid out several goals for her first six months in office, should she be elected.

They include:

*Establishing an office of integrity that has independent oversight.

*Working with young professionals to attract and retain young talent.

*Work closely with the City of Rochester and the Rochester City School District. She also wants the County Executive's office to help the city school district improve its results by laying the foundation for school success via restoring adequate funding for preschool daycare, family and child health services and after school programs.

*Working with the County Legislature to ban hydraulic fracturing in Monroe County and to prohibit the treatment of fracking wastewater at county treatment plants.

*Establishing a business roundtable.

CSEA members who live in Monroe County did request an endorsement interview with County Executive Brooks, but she declined to meet with us.  CSEA will be making an official public statement about this endorsement in the coming days.

The general election will be on Tuesday, November 8.

There are nearly ten thousand CSEA Monroe County represented voters who are employed by public municipalities and private companies, including the state of New York, County of Monroe, City of Rochester, several towns and villages plus the home health care industry.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


American middle-class families are the "whipping boy" of GOP Governors. What they fail to understand is that our government should work for it's people and not for profit.  Organized labor faces it's biggest challenge yet.  photo:  Ove Overmyer 

Rochester, N.Y. -- In the simplest terms possible, public workers and middle-class folk are not the cause of the global economic crisis that our nation’s governors would like you to believe-- but we are going to suffer anyway as the drama continues to play out on a daily basis in the statehouses across our great nation. And, I might add, this includes our very own likable New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Under the Cuomo administration, New York's public employee unions agreed to “givebacks” and found a way to compromise at the negotiating table while anti-labor forces continue to bash us incessantly in the court of public opinion. Unions and middle class families are still being attacked in every state of the nation-- and undeservedly so.

Texas Governor Rick Perry, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, New Jersey’s Chris Christie, Ohio’s John Kasich, Maine’s Paul LaPage, Nevada’s Brian Sandoval and Florida’s Rick Scott are just a few GOP anti-labor pols who are waging war against their own constituents.  You can add every GOP Governor to this list too-- and throw in the support of the Koch brothers and Karl Rove's GPS Crossroads for good measure.  

The national Republican master plan-- which is being implemented in every state with a Republican Governor is to lower wages for all working people-- union and non-union, get rid of pension plans, health care plans and all other benefits that all Americans currently receive thanks to union bargaining over the last 100 years.

Then, their vision includes to privatize everything under the sun.  This will allow various companies and corporations, the very ones that put these governors into office in the first place thanks to the Citizens United v. FEC court decision, can profit off of cheap labor and your hard earned tax dollars. You will no longer have to worry about companies and corporations hiring illegal immigrants because Republicans and the corporations they work for are creating their very own 3rd world workforce made up of what use to be America’s middle-class. 

Under GOP rule, your government will no longer be accountable to you the resident taxpayer-- you will have to suffer with the products and services delivered by a private company-- a private company only motivated by profit off of your tax dollars.  Think about that the next time you want a pothole filled on your street.

What is so perverse about this trend is just how vastly it misunderstands what went wrong with the American economy in the first place. And, what makes this go-around extraordinary is that national political leaders from both major parties have been pushing that same agenda.  You would think having a Democratic President, he would be setting the agenda and national debate in Washington.  But no, he seems to only respond to the ridiculous notions of the House GOP and plays right along with the "I can top your reduced spending idea and deficit reduction plan."

Cornel West recently said this about Obama:  "He should be the thermostat, not the thermometer."  

In contrast, the biggest global corporations and the richest citizens of New York were precisely the culprits and major players in the financial excesses and speculations that caused our financial meltdown in the first place. That's the truth-- no spin.

A genuinely progressive governor, like Mr. Cuomo professes to be, would begin work on the state budget by correcting unfairly low levels of taxation of huge global corporations, reducing regressive taxes, and increasing the progressivity of personal income taxes. Instead, Gov. Cuomo chooses not to raise taxes on those whose wealth insulated them from the worst effects of the economic crisis-- the same people who got most of the stimulus "recovery" spending since 2007.

Can you imagine New York State or America without a strong middle class? If you can, would our nation still be recognizable? What we would be left with is a plutocratic system rooted in state-corporate capitalism and the prioritization of never-ending accumulation of wealth over all other interests, such as public health, education, the environment or the common good of all people.  Crime, homelessness, poverty and host of other societial ills would plague us endlessly.  Haven't we learned anything from our nation's history?

Where are the jobs?

Today, one in five Americans is unemployed, underemployed or just plain out of work. One in nine families can't make the minimum payment on their credit cards. One in eight mortgages is in default or foreclosure. One in eight Americans is on food stamps. More than 120,000 families are filing for bankruptcy every month. The economic crisis has wiped more than $5 trillion from pensions and savings, has left family balance sheets upside down, and threatens to put ten million homeowners out on the street (see sources). Here is a wake-up call-- this is exactly what union households are going through as anti-labor forces continue to demonize us.

At the same time, the biggest global corporations seem to be doing just fine with the help of our bailed-out middle class tax dollars recording huge profits in 2010, shipping our jobs overseas (where the profits are) and giving out huge bonuses to a select few.

How would America's governors answer these questions?

Here are two basic questions for Governor Cuomo and the rest of America's governors: Where are the worries about the economic consequences that result when decimated family budgets cut short children's educations, reduce family members' visits to doctors, and shape a thousand other family decisions? And where are the worries about similar consequences from freezing public workers' wages and cutting state payrolls?

Neither economic efficiency nor the people's welfare motivates the current attack on New York's public workers. Rather, the pressure is on state budget policies to serve the biggest businesses and the richest citizens who own or manage those interests. Using the profits their workers make possible, they force our state government to meet their self-serving needs while placing the burden on others, especially the private and public employees who pay the personal income, sales and excise taxes that ultimately benefit the privileged minority.

On a personal note, some may say that I am just finger pointing and directing blame-- well, you are right.  Let set the record straight here.  The reason why our economy is so fragile right now is because we are depleting the spending power of the American consumer.  And, there is plenty of wrongdoing and blame to go around.  But if we want to fix the problem, we have to investigate the facts and find out whose is responsible and how to recover.  My determinations are based on reasoned facts, data and statistics not conjecture-- all of which most sane nonpartisan economists agree with. 

So, please-- enough already of the spin and insults about how our so-called "big government" and public sector workers are responsible for our budget woes and the national deficit. Government salaries, the goods and services we provide and our pensions are not killing federal, state and local government budgets-- crazy GOP lawmakers, Tea Party nut-jobs and the corporate lobbyists plus the big donors who put these extreme bureaucrats into public office are to blame for wreaking havoc on our economy-- not working families. 

-Ove Overmyer
Rochester, New York

The opinons expressed here do not represent the views of CSEA as an organization.


Washington, D.C.-- There are no other words for it. They are reckless and irresponsible. In the negotiations to avoid a government default, Speaker John Boehner and Republican leaders insist on severe cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — while refusing to eliminate tax loopholes and subsidies for millionaires and prosperous corporations. Under the Boehner plan, Congress would be forced to agree to cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid within six months.

You don't think this is your fight?  Well, guess again.  There is no shared sacrifice in Boehner’s plan. Instead, they reserve all of the pain for working families, seniors, and children, the disabled and even veterans. And they are recklessly holding our economy hostage to these demands.

With our political leaders foolishly insistent on focusing on the issue of long term deficits at a time of high unemployment, it would be nice if they at least acknowledged that regular Americans basically support the President's approach and Democratic ideas to bring down the debt.

Check out this chart from Pew:

The GOP is engaging in political brinkmanship that threatens to force the nation into default, kill jobs and drive up interest rates on our mortgages, credit cards and student loans.

Send a message to Congress now. Tell your representative and your senators to oppose the Boehner plan and to leave Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid alone.

What is troublesome is the President has already conceded to painful spending cuts. He insists on a balanced plan that does not put the entire burden of deficit reduction on working families. And the American people overwhelmingly support a plan that asks millionaires and prosperous corporations to pay their fair share.

Have you had enough? Please take action now to make sure your elected officials oppose the Boehner plan.

We cannot let John Boehner and House Republican leaders hold our economy hostage so they can protect the wealthiest CEOs while forcing working families to bear the entire burden.

Monday, July 25, 2011


The House GOP is attacking worker rights
one more time.  It's time to stop this
runaway train to nowhere.
Washington, D.C.--  House Republicans are attacking workers' rights again, and this time they've shut down the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), stopping hundreds of thousands of construction and IT jobs for airport modernization and forcing the layoff of thousands of working Americans.

At 12:01 am Saturday morning, FAA funding was shut down. This attack is led by Representatives John Mica (R-Fla.) and Eric Cantor (R-Va.), and Speaker John Boehner, who, with House Republicans, are demanding that the democratic election standard for airline workers in a union representation election be stripped from the FAA Reauthorization Bill.

That's right. This anti-democratic, extremist campaign to stop workers from joining a union has grown so strong that House Republicans think it's more important than creating and keeping good American jobs.

These Members of Congress want to impose an election standard on airline workers that doesn't apply anywhere else in our democracy. They even want to count non-voters as NO votes. Under this standard, not a single current Member of Congress would have won election to the House of Representatives.

We can't allow this attack on workers' rights and democracy to go forward. Send an email to your representative today and urge him or her to put politics aside and put democracy and good jobs first.

It's a sad day when extremists would rather shut down the FAA and force the layoff of thousands of workers than allow airline workers to vote in a union election under the same standards used in every other American election. That democratic standard sent Rep. Mica and other representatives to Washington, but if they were subject to the rules they're trying to force on airline workers for union elections, none of them would have been elected.

But that's happening right now. State and local airport officials now must stop vital airport construction and improvement projects and fewer jobs will be created, all because Republicans don't want airline workers to have the same democratic voting rights as Americans enjoy in every election in our country.

Take a moment to tell to your member of Congress to drop the politics. It's time to do the right thing for America's working families and taxpayers and keep democracy in our country.


Assemblymember Harry Bronson addresses thousands of New Yorkers in the Empire State Plaza Convention Center at Equality & Justice Day in Albany, N.Y. on May 9, 2011.  photo:  Ove Overmyer

 Albany, N.Y. -- Here is a press release from the office of Rochester area NYS Assembly member Harry Bronson (D-131) dated July 24, 2011, the first day that same-sex couples could legally marry in New York State.

“Today is a historic day for New York. Today, we recognize the legitimate union of two loving adults without discrimination. Today, all New Yorkers will be able to share the same rights and responsibilities when they enter into a state-sanctioned marriage. Gay and lesbian couples can now publicly declare their love, respect and devotion to each other before their families, friends and communities. With the passage of marriage equality, we will no longer be treated as second class citizens.

Although this issue is mostly about love and committed relationships, it is also about providing legal rights to same-sex couples currently enjoyed by opposite sex couples. For years, many of us have fought to have our love, our commitments and our relationships treated with the respect and dignity opposite sex couples already enjoy. We have fought to assure full equality with the benefits and responsibilities that flow from that equality."

He added, “One of the many new rights included with the passage of marriage equality is the right for same-sex couples to file their state income taxes jointly as well as other state personal income tax implications. These tax implications exemplifies the many areas that left same-sex couples behind, and that is why I fought against this inequity introducing legislation to make sure couples, whether gay or straight, had this option (A.4454). This bill specifically addressed inequalities for same-sex couples married outside of New York because of the reliance on Federal Law for personal income tax purposes. I am pleased that with marriage equality effective on this historic day this tax law inequality can now be addressed administratively through the implementation of the Marriage Equality Act.

I am proud to stand with my family, friends and colleagues, both straight and gay, as we continue to move our state forward. I am honored and privileged to have been part of making this landmark law, marriage equality, a reality that validates our ideals that all people should be treated as equals.

I look forward to continuing to make sure that every New Yorker is able to have equal opportunities and is treated with respect that each of us deserve.”

Thursday, July 21, 2011


Albany, N.Y.--  This year's theme of the 101st CSEA Annual Delegates Meeting in New York City summarizes our efforts to lift all working people. It also emphasizes that off the job, we are part of our community.  Delegates are scheduled for a week of programs and workshops beginning October 3 through the 7th.

Titled, "People First! Working Together for Strong Communities, Quality Services and Good Jobs," our theme highlights that we care about quality services and good jobs because we are family, friends and neighbors. This is certainly no easy task in these difficult economic times.

The key is hard work and the lesson we have learned for more than a century is that nothing comes easy. To reshape the future we must learn from the past and also be willing to grasp change.

Our 101st ADM takes place during a time of unprecedented challenges. We have said many times before, and will continue to say into the future, CSEA is often at its best when times are toughest. With that in mind, we have crafted an agenda designed to toughen us to turn bad times into good times.

For more information about the 2011 CSEA ADM, you can go here.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Albany, N.Y.--  New York State’s Regents Advisory Council for Libraries (RAC) is asking New York working families to tell them what library services they will need in their local communities by 2020. Libraries and library systems are being asked to engage their customers and the general public by August 5 in discussing and answering the question "What’s Your Vision for New York’s Libraries in 2020?" Input and ideas will help inform the development of state policies and a new statewide plan for library services. All comments, suggestions, insights, ideas and recommendations are welcome.

Jeffrey W. Cannell, Deputy Commissioner for Cultural Education, New York State Education Department, encourages libraries and library systems of all types to actively engage their respective communities in this second and critical phase of information gathering about future library service needs for all New Yorkers.

CSEA represents tens of thousands of library employees in more than 77 library worksites throughout New York state.  A link to the brief survey is located on the right side of this page.

"I am asking that all types of libraries and library systems reach out into their communities and actively engage New Yorkers from all walks of life in this unique opportunity to discuss improving library services as we move toward 2020," said Cannell. "It’s important that library users and non-users alike identify what services they will want from their neighborhood, school, college or special library in the future."

The New York State Board of Regents has asked RAC to take a visionary look at the future of library services and to develop a set of innovative policy recommendations to improve library services to the people of New York State. Comments from the some 95 individuals and library and education organizations that responded in Phase One of the information gathering process are now posted on the RAC here. RAC encourages members of the library and education communities that were unable to participate during Phase One to send their thoughts on the ten questions posted on the RAC webpage by August 5.

Any questions about the RAC 2020 Vision Process and this second call for input may be sent to John Hammond, Chair, RAC 2020 Vision Planning Taskforce or to Bridget Quinn-Carey, Chair, Regents Advisory Council on Libraries.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Monroe County residents call on Congressman Tom Reed to preserve and strengthen Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security

Pittsford, N.Y.-- With the August 2nd deadline to raise the national debt ceiling fast approaching, and the adoption of a radical, federal budget in the House of Representatives last April, a large coalition of community, labor, senior, and consumer groups, along with concerned New Yorkers, are embarking on a statewide caravan to call on New York’s elected representatives to protect, preserve and strengthen America’s “social safety net,” including Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. The caravan will stop in Pittsford on Wednesday, July 20th at 1 pm.

The federal "debt ceiling" must be raised by August 2nd, but Congressional leaders are threatening to take no action unless radical cuts are made to historic social programs that have provided security and a better life to tens of millions of working American families for many decades.

Special guests at the event include FDR and his wife Eleanor.

WHO: Community, Labor, Senior, and Consumer Groups and Other Pittsford Residents

WHAT: Statewide “Restore the American Promise” Caravan to Protect Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security Stops in Pittsford, with special appearance by President Franklin D. Roosevelt & Eleanor Roosevelt

WHERE: Office of Congressman Tom Reed, 672 Pittsford-Victor Road, Pittsford, NY 14534

WHEN: 1pm, Wednesday, July 20, 2011

More information about the caravan stops can be found here or just contact:  Larry Knox 585-500-5634 or Colin O’Malley 716-400-4287

Event Sponsored by: Citizen Action NY; 1199SEIU; Rochester Labor Council, AFL-CIO

Friday, July 15, 2011


Albany, N.Y.--  CSEA President Danny Donohue today recognized union members across the state working in probation services by declaring July 17 - 23 "Probation, Parole and Community Supervision Week."

"On behalf of the 300,000 CSEA members who work in every kind of job in every part of the state, I am pleased to recognize our 2,500 members who work as probation professionals," Donohue said. "Probation, Parole and Community Supervision Week is meant to honor a segment of the work force that deserves great respect."

Probation professionals are a vital part of every New York state county work force and play an important duel role in the public safety field. Not only do they work with the justice system to protect the public against crime, violence and abuse, but they also aid in prevention, helping rehabilitate law offenders to rejoin society in a positive way.

Unfortunately, as with all public safety work, these professionals often put their own well being at risk in effort to keep people and their communities safe. CSEA recognizes the high level of commitment and the special dedication these workers have to the public they serve.

Donohue said crime rates have increased in recent years due to the poor economy, causing an increase in the number of cases probation professionals must handle to keep the public secure. "When the economy is at its worst is when the public needs government services the most," he said.

"I urge one and all across the state to join with me and thank the men and women who work in probation," Donohue said. "Their dedication to their jobs and to the public makes our communities safer for all of us."

CSEA is New York state's leading union, representing employees of the state and its counties, towns, villages, school districts, library systems, authorities and public benefit corporations. Together with a growing population of private sector members and retirees, CSEA is the largest affiliate of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), which is one of the largest affiliates of the AFL-CIO.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


Rochester, N.Y.--  As public employees, we see a lot of workplaces in dire straits, where tempers flare easily and interpersonal problems have been allowed to flourish unchecked. Helping workers innovate while saving their employer frequently involves confronting a bully or bullying regime.  As officers of CSEA, we've learned the differences between hard-charging bosses and managers who push for positive organizational results aggressively, and bullies who calculate patterns of fear to manipulate self-serving outcomes.

We have to start by defining the problem. Workplace bullying is defined commonly as individuals or groups who use aggressive or unreasonable tactics against co-workers or subordinates persistently. Bullying is not conflict, a personality clash, or being chewed out by a boss. It's not getting handed work you don't want to do. And it's important to remember that not every workplace-bullying claim is true — just because employees are upset, imbalanced, or overworked does not mean bullying is taking place.

But whether it's an entrenched dinosaur or extreme ladder-climber, anyone who manipulates selfish outcomes or seeks unfair advantage must be confronted expediently. Bullies are tremendously expensive for public employers in terms of productivity and human resource talents lost. When supervisors overlook blatant bullying, work is sabotaged, progress is blocked, and public services will deteriorate.

According to RedBaron Consulting, they coined an acronym "CAPE" to provide workplaces with a framework to distinguish more fairly between well-meaning hard chargers and sinister bullies. CAPE empowers heroic workplace leaders to eliminate bullying more effectively.

1. Confront. Addressing the problem is a key first step toward breaking the bully's hold over officemates. Research suggests the longer bullying persists, the more likely co-workers will align with them and enable bullying patterns. Impromptu meetings with a round table of diverse professionals — suspected bullies, enablers, and victims — allows those far-removed and close to the situation to gather truthful evidence quickly.

An out-of-the-blue intervention catches potential bullies off guard, initiates witnessing, and gives hard chargers a fair chance — for once.

2. Analyze. Once granular evidence is gathered, the roundtable should employ contemporary bullying frameworks and literature for thorough analysis and fair deliberation.

At this point, if the suspected bully responds positively to the roundtable's deliberation — via 180-degree change and public apology — these first two steps may prevent over-eager hard chargers from being falsely labeled workplace bullies. However, if a suspected bully responds negatively to the process, these next steps become exceptionally critical.

3. Present. Documented proof of bullying, presented in writing after steps one and two, is a giant leap towards engaging leadership with tangible evidence and roundtable witnesses. Don't rely on hearsay. Well-presented documentations have teeth. Dr. Namie of The Workplace Bullying Institute fervently argues one cannot negotiate, mediate, or engage in conflict resolution with bullies.

4. Expose. Outing bullies and their enablers courageously is the most important tool for eliminating bullying. Corporate bullies use fear of consequence as a main weapon to keeping victims and enablers silent. Once exposed, bullying regimes vaporize.

Once bullying is exposed, we recommend a full audit and evaluation of your workplace. Some bullies are reacting to their own insecurity or incompetence, but others may be using the irrational claims, false evaluations, humiliation, fear, and other instruments of a bully's trade to cover up malfeasance, embezzlement or other illegal actions.

Confronting bullies isn't easy.  Job expectations are more challenging and competitive than ever. And tough assignments can hurt. But bullying has no place in any workplace. Honorable opponents shake hands and even applaud each other at the end of the day. Leaders owe it to the people on their team to Confront, Analyze, Present, and Expose bullies fully.

If you or someone you know is a victim of bullying in the workplace, please contact your union officer or visit this CSEA webpage for safer and healthier workplaces.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Liars, lunatics or both?
Rochester, N.Y.-- The melodramatic lunacy in Washington has reduced the Voice Reporter to namecalling.  Yesterday, on the third consecutive day of meetings on raising the nation's debt ceiling, Republican leaders signaled increasing pessimism about the likelihood of a deal and laid the blame for deteriorating negotiations squarely on President Obama's shoulders. What else is new?

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a floor speech, "But in my view, the president has presented us with three choices: smoke and mirrors, tax hikes, or default. Republicans choose none of the above."

He went on to link his assertion that a tax increase on the wealthy kills jobs—which has never been proven by the facts.  Frankly speaking, it's insulting that he and the GOP continue to consciously mislead the American public with these soundbites-- or, it's inexcusable because the only other answer is that they are too dumb and out-of-touch to know any better.

Essentially, the on-again off-again McConnell plan to deal with the deficit would allow the president to raise the debt ceiling by $2.5 trillion in three increments during the election season. Congress could veto the president's actions with a resolution of disapproval. The president could then veto the disapproval, meaning Congress would have to override the veto with a two-thirds vote. Therefore, it would only take one-third of Congress to support raising the debt ceiling.

On top of this, critical budget negotiations at the White House have left Speaker Boehner refusing to give up even one penny of tax breaks for Big Oil and billionaires.

Boehner and the GOP are irresponsibly putting the entire American economy at risk because of their insistence that millionaires, billionaires, and Big Oil companies should keep getting tax breaks while seniors lose the health care benefits they have earned.

The political thinking is that the GOP could voice its disapproval, the president would look like a tax-and-spend such and such, and economic catastrophe would be avoided. Plus this would all happen later. And "later" isn't now. That's the great thing about later. Whether this is all part of some protracted bout of mind-gaming, a set-up for some political long con, or a genuine fear of the U.S. defaulting on its obligations, this is getting very weird.

Mitch McConnell is either a complete lunatic or fiendishly conniving when he spouts this "job-killing tax hike" idea. How stupid does he think we are? Frankly speaking, let’s end this big fat lie once and for all. Making large corporations and the richest Americans pay their fair share of taxes has nothing to do with job creation or unemployment—period.  Just because you say these things do not make it so-- they are complete lies and fabrications and this political nonsense has got to stop.

Most sane economists agree that the top 2 percent of the richest Americans do not spend their money by creating jobs. It means we are only creating windfall bonuses by not holding them to the same tax standard as the rest of America's citizens.

Giving an unnecessary tax give-away to the rich also causes an erosion of vital public services-- this has become the devil in the details when local governments try to balance local budgets. By not adequately having a fair and equitable tax system, we deny all our residents, rich and poor, the necessary services they have come to rely upon.

Democracy and demand creates jobs, not the wealthy

The very idea that wealthy people and corporations create more jobs when paying less in taxes is a claim that has superficial appeal, premised on the idea that, because businesses employ workers, they would employ more workers if they had more money. However, this simple calculus fails to acknowledge that employment is driven by consumer demand, not the amount of money in an executive's pocket or on a business' balance sheet. A business or entrepreneur will not use profits to add more workers unless there is consumer or business demand for their product or service.

Regardless of your income, all Americans are supposed to contribute to our national productivity, expect equal opportunity and should demand equal rights at our workplaces. And there are social benefits we are all entitled to because we pay for them-- like health care, a living wage and Social Security when we get older. These are inalienable rights, not programs for the privileged few who can afford them. 

photo:  SEIU 1199
Taxes are the lifeblood of our democracy

According to Citizens for Tax Justice, overall taxes in the U.S. are the third lowest among industrialized countries (only Turkey and Mexico are lower). Corporate taxes are also lower than in most other industrial nations.

Additionally, there are huge inequities in our tax codes-- and they favor the rich. People at the bottom of the income ladder, the lowest 20 percent, pay almost twice as much of their income in state and local taxes as the top 1 percent. The poor pay 11 percent, the rich just 6 percent.

A functioning democracy should be designed to have a progressive tax structure that is in proportion to the means and ability to pay for the vital services we demand and cannot do by ourselves as individuals.

Conservatives and Republicans cast American tax-payers as victims. They moan that we are just taxpayers bearing up under the obligation to pay into federal and state coffers. Some are stoic in the face of the inevitability of “death and taxes,” while others burn with resentment like the Tea Party folks. We dread the task of hauling out that folder of receipts and calculating just how much of our income we have to hand over to Uncle Sam.

All of these GOP stories reflect a complete miscalculation to the reality of our tax paradigm. What is missing from this picture is any sense of a larger meaning in the act of paying taxes. Most other things that require effort and sacrifice-- family, service, charity, and volunteerism-- have virtuous, or at least redeeming, meaning associated with them. That meaning helps us face life’s challenges with a sense of a larger purpose that makes these acts worth the investment.

The GOP stories they tell about paying taxes reflect a chronic disconnection from our role as citizens; they are devoid of any civic meaning. The real meaning of taxes pays for the things that underpin our public life and connect us to one another through our communities, our states, our country and our collective future.

When we lose sight of this, taxes are seen as merely depriving us of our individual property. If, on the other hand, we see ourselves as stewards of a common good, as citizen managers of public systems and structures that secure the city, state and country we live in, then taxes are our contribution to something much more important than our individual being.

We all need to be telling a new and meaningful story about our tax responsibilities that celebrates the concrete opportunity it offers “we the people.” The problem is, without the public systems and structures that taxes pay for, the America we know and love would cease to exist.

The final analysis: no correlation between job creation and tax breaks for the wealthy

Looking at raw statistics, it is easy to see that there is no correlation between reducing personal income tax rates for the wealthy and employment levels. The marginal tax rate for the wealthiest members of society hovered above 90 percent for the twenty years between 1944 and 1963, with unemployment during this period as low as 1.2 percent and a high of 6.8 percent. From 1965 to 1981, taxes for the upper income bracket were lowered to 70 percent, with unemployment as low as 3.6 percent and as high as 7.7 percent; from 1982 to 1986, the wealthy were taxed at 50 percent, with unemployment only reaching a low of 7 percent and a high of 9.7 percent. Taxes continued dropping through the 1980s and 1990s, with the top tax rate dropping to 31 percent in 1992, but with very little positive impact on job growth.

In 1993, unemployment was at 6.9 percent, the tax rate for the wealthiest increased to 39.6 percent, and unemployment actually decreased to 4 percent by 2000. From 2003 through today, thanks to the Bush tax cuts, the rich have been taxed at 35 percent, and unemployment is now approaching 10 percent.

Jobs are created by supply and demand. When there is a demand for something and a middle-class that has the resources to pay for it-- jobs are created. Rich people and multi-national corporations only create new jobs when the demand for their goods or services increases. Supply and demand has nothing to do with how much taxes businesses and CEO's pay or don't pay-- neither does it change their ability to employ more people.

So, the next time you hear Cantor, McConnell and Boehner perpetrate this fraud on the American people, feel free to interject some truth into our public discourse where you see fit.

Simply put, 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.

This commentary is the expressed written opinion of the Voice Reporter and does not reflect the views of CSEA as an organization.

Monday, July 11, 2011


Ove Overmyer at work at the
Rochester Public Library
photo:  Lynn Miller
Rochester, N.Y. -- For the past decade, it's been rough-going for libraries and librarians. Nationwide, it's been hard to dismiss media narratives that reinforce the need for reduced spending, budget cuts, staff reductions, library closures, as well as the questions surrounding the necessity of libraries and librarians-- and yes, books-- in the digital age.

State and local government officials exclaim that we are broke—and that’s a big fat lie.  They also refuse to raise revenues on those who are insulated from any financial harm.  The truth is, Wall Street equity firms and Fortune 500 companies all enjoyed record profits in 2010-- the problem is that these companies refuse to pay the taxes owed to the American people to maintain our vital public services. They would rather invest their profits in emerging middle-class markets in Brazil, India and China.  Income inequality is wreaking havoc on the American economy.  The tax levy on American corporations and individuals is now the second lowest rate in the past sixty years and Congress doesn't want to piss off its rich donors.  On top of this, we have misplaced our priorities—and libraries are usually the first public service that goes on the chopping block.

You might be asking yourself, "Why are libraries and intellectual freedom so important?"  Well, intellectual freedom is the basis of our democratic system. We expect our people to be self-governors. But to do so responsibly, our citizenry must be well informed. Libraries provide the ideas and information, in a variety of formats, to allow people to inform themselves.  Libraries will always have the best return on investment for taxpayers compared to any other public service, bar none.

What’s a library advocate to do?

I've had my ear to the ground and my finger on speed dial for the past several years as a union officer, assistant reference librarian and library advocate for an urban public library system. The job is mostly thankless—with fewer and fewer success stories to report.

I've experienced firsthand what it's like to come under fire on so many fronts-- personal attacks from lawmakers, patrons, and a uninformed public. My challenge has been to define this debate on our terms and remain stoic and professional-- and to explain how reduced funding to libraries not only affect our entire community, but a librarian's work, life and overall state of mind.

Have you ever put yourself in a library workers shoes?  Ask yourself what is it like to be a librarian today, when going to work means constantly trying to prove that your profession and skills are still relevant and that your place of employment is worthy of being kept open. Frankly speaking, it’s wearing a little thin.

Dealing with budget cuts is nothing new for librarians. We’ve been doing "more with less" for over a decade. The workforce at the Rochester Public Library is half of what it was in 2000—and conversely, patron services and demand for what we do have skyrocketed. 

According to the ALA's 2011 "State of America's Libraries Report," more than half the states report a decrease in funding over the past four years, "with cumulative cuts averaging greater than 10 percent." And the cuts don't stop at the state level, as local communities report decreases in local funding as well.

For many communities, library funding seems easy to cut precisely because of the widely accepted misperception that everything is now available online or doesn’t compare to other vital public services like fire and police. Well, I beg to differ.

Until our community understands that libraries are essential to public education and mandated as such, we will struggle with all the adverse societal affects that enhanced library services prevent.  Namely unemployment, poverty, high crime, homelessness and an uneducated and uncivil populace.  Carnegie said it best:  "I choose free libraries as the best agencies for improving the masses of the people, because they give nothing for nothing. They only help those who help themselves. They never pauperize. They reach the aspiring and open to these chief treasures of the world -- those stored up in books. A taste for reading drives out lower tastes."

Yes, its true-- on a recent lobbying trip to Albany, one lawmaker gave me the impression he truly believes that libraries are a quaint, outdated concept-- a dusty repository for books-- no longer necessary in the age of personal computers and Google. His inability to listen and learn from his constituents who were advocating for strong library services was appalling.

At the Rochester Public Library (RPL), where we serve a community of tens of thousands of Monroe County residents every day, our recent budget cuts, reduced hours in the form of reduced labor costs and collection development have been particularly painful. As of today, close to 14 full-time employees will be losing their jobs at RPL, and part-timers are not immune from layoffs either.  Like many libraries across the nation, we were forced to reduce staff and hours while we celebrate our centennial year of service— and we are still waiting for all the dust to settle. 

When it’s all said and done, as well as our workers, the real loser here in this equation are the Monroe County taxpayers-- the ones who just happen to be the most vulnerable in our society and the ones who need help the most-- they can’t apply for a job; can't connect with their loved ones; can't fix their car; can't read the newspaper; won't be able to write a cover letter or resume; find lifesaving information about a disease; find teenage pregnancy books; and so on.

River view of the Rundel Memorial Library Building
Central Library of Rochester & Monroe County
photo:  Ove Overmyer
Budgets shrink and demand goes up and up

Here are some ironic facts—the budget cuts I speak of did not come because demand for library service has decreased. In fact, demand is stronger than ever. The economic downturn that has our local governments slashing library funding is the same circumstance driving more and more customers to the library.

I would like to think the new legions of people who have never used or perhaps underutilized their local library have seen our services in a new light during this recession, including patrons seeking help with a job search or school work, those taking advantage of free entertainment, or, in some cases, people who are just looking for a comfortable place to escape from a cold, cruel world and be treated with respect and dignity.

The combination of cuts in service and staff, and a spike in demand, has left librarians and administrators scrambling to somehow fill in the gaps. This means working out of title and doing the job of three people. And this inevitably causes stress, not only on the job but outside the workplace too, as accommodating time off, illness or changes to any schedule can require some serious juggling and compromise from fellow library colleagues.

Our patrons, meanwhile, continue to expect the high level of library services they have been accustomed to receiving for over a century. They expect prompt reference desk service, someone to pick up the phone when they call, the latest bestselling books and popular DVDs and CDs in the collection, which requires both staff time to stay on top of journal reviews and new product release schedules, as well as difficult decisions to be made with limited funds.

Patrons also expect the library to be a technology hub, with ample computers, fast Internet service and free wireless access. And increasingly, techno-savvy readers expect e-books and downloadable audiobooks, as e-readers and mobile devices continue to rise in popularity.

photo:  Bess Watts
Putting a face on a public employee

It may be a much less discussed aspect of this latest recession, but doing more with less is taking a toll on the professional and personal lives of public employees, especially librarians at the point of service. In addition to being IT specialists, we are now expected to be career counselors, mindreaders, therapists, social workers, reference experts on all subject matter, babysitters, teachers and life transformers.

And, I often worry about the impact on the future of library workers as laid-off, underemployed, or fed-up clerks and librarians rethink their careers-- and the best and brightest students reconsider the cost of attaining a master's degree against their future prospects.  At the Rochester Public Library, we have twice as many part time staffers than full time employees-- that's nearly 165 library families who "go without" or have to rely on the Department of Social Services to get their other needs met because their employer will not pay a living wage or benefits.

Still, optimism in the library community still persists. Library Journal's annual budget survey revealed that 62 percent of librarians had a positive outlook for funding in the future, and only 18 percent saw negatives ahead. That's because librarians—even the overworked and burned-out ones—remain a fiercely devoted bunch.

We vent about the tough new realities we see on the job, because we are living them. But we do the job because we truly care about our communities. Let's face it, one does not choose a library career for a high salary. We choose the profession out of a dedication to the public library's most basic principle—to provide free and unfettered access to information for all people, regardless of their economic circumstances or walk of life.

Yet I wonder how much longer we can expect librarians to remain committed to a profession that, despite its obvious value, has become so marginialized. How much longer, when basic living expenses and student loan debts loom so large? How will we continue to entice new students of any age to enter the profession? And how can libraries maintain the high level of service expected of them when budget cuts force them to use underpaid, partially trained, never-ready nonprofessional staff in place of seasoned librarians?

Library work is noble and just

As a public employee, working for an ideal no matter how noble and just may not be enough to sustain the library profession or our industry.  Government institutions should work for the people-- not for profit.  Today’s misperception of the “state of libraries” is a curse that must be cured by all our community partners.

Sadly, I don't think I can ever really be totally happy doing a job that is constantly devalued, repeatedly attacked and defined as insignificant by the media, corporate elites and the government officials who continue to take our public funds and give them to the richest Americans in the form of tax breaks and subsidies.

A final note:  keep libraries public

I have often said that I found my true character when I lost myself in the service of others. Libraries are and will always be the cornerstones of every community and it’s a huge privilege to serve the people of Rochester and Monroe County. All we are asking for are the tools and resources necessary to improve the quality of life of our patrons, neighbors and friends.  Knowledge is free at the public library, we just ask you to bring your own container. Let's keep it that way.

Despite the ongoing, brutal attacks on unionized employees from a disillusioned public, the unscrupulous media types or the inept uncaring politicians who want to privatize public services— I get my revenge when I walk into my library every morning knowing full well that I have the opportunity to help someone in need.  It may sound corny to you, but that is my reward.  And when my library career finally comes to end, my only hope is that the Rochester Public Library will still be "public" and "free" in another one-hundred years.

-Ove Overmyer
Overmyer is CSEA president of the City of Rochester Library Workers Unit 7420 and CSEA V.P. Monroe County Local 828

This views expressed above do not reflect the opinion of CSEA as an organization.


Rochester, N.Y.--  In an email sent to constituents, Pride At Work (PAW) national executive director Peggy Shorey named Bess Watts and Stephen Dinion to serve on the national executive board representing small chapters.

Bess Watts
Shorey stated, "On behalf of co-presidents Donna Cartwright & Stan Kiino, this email is to let you know the mid-term vacancy election for Small Chapter Representatives has been concluded. The small chapters in good standing unanimously elected Hawaii Chapter president Stephen Dinion and Rochester, N.Y. Chapter president Bess Watts as their representatives. Please join us in welcoming them to the NEB."

The NEB drives national policy around LGBT workplace issues and is composed of seven executive officers; chapter representatives elected from the chapters; a member appointed by the president of the AFL-CIO; members from each recognized international union's LGBT union caucus (with a maximum one member per international); and a maximum of six diversity representatives appointed by the aforementioned members of the NEB. PAW's National Executive Board meets at least once a year.

Pride At Work was founded in 1994. It became a formal constituency group of the AFL-CIO in 1997. Today, Pride at Work is one of the leading labor organizations promoting healthier and more democratic workplaces in America. Primarily a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender group (LGBT) of labor union activists and their supportive allies, Pride At Work seeks full equality for LGBT workers in their workplaces and in their unions.

Local 828 officer to serve on national board

Bess Watts is a community leader in Rochester, New York and involved with many progressive organizations. She is employed at Monroe Community College at the Brighton Campus, serving student needs at the Leroy V. Good Library as an interlibrary loan specialist.

She has served as president since the creation of the Rochester-Finger Lakes Chapter of Pride At Work since 2007. In 2009, she was elected President of Civil Service Employees Association Local 828, representing 3,500 Monroe County workers in 21 bargaining units.

Bess is a delegate to the Rochester Labor Council. Her dedication to the labor and LGBT movements was recognized by the council in 2008, when the Rochester-Finger Lakes Chapter of Pride At Work won the Community Solidarity Award. In her workplace, she was instrumental in the "Safe Zone Project," for which her employer awarded Bess and her co-workers the League of Innovation in 2011.

Under Bess's leadership, Rochester Finger Lakes Chapter of Pride at Work has built unprecedented support for LGBT issues in the labor community. The chapter has led rallies for equal marriage, gave finanical and highly visible support to the Mott's workers when they went on strike in 2010, drawn attention to unfair taxation of same-sex couples at Tax Day protests and made award-winning Labor Day parade floats. The chapter also participated in One Nation Working Together rallies in Washington, D.C. and western New York state. Bess frequently speaks on behalf of labor and LGBT persons to the Rochester media and volunteers for the Gay Alliance of the Genesee Valley's Speakers Bureau program.

Bess married Anne Tischer in 2004. Having won marriage equality in New York, they are now planning a honeymoon and are contemplating different strategies on how to overturn DOMA and pass ENDA.

Friday, July 8, 2011


Attacks Against Public Employees

This week, CSEA’s Legislative and Political Action Department compiled a report detailing attacks by state elected officials against public employees. The report shows that attacks on public employees do not respect state boundaries, regions of the country, or political parties.

To review this document, please visit the CSEA website.

Special Elections Take Shape

As expected, Governor Andrew Cuomo set a date for special elections for six vacant Assembly seats and the 9th Congressional District, formerly held by Anthony Weiner, on September 13.

In addition to the 9th District, the current Assembly districts with vacancies to be filled are:

• 23rd Assembly District

• 27th Assembly District

• 54th Assembly District

• 73rd Assembly District

• 116th Assembly District

• 144th Assembly District

On Thursday, it was announced that Assemblyman David Weprin has been chosen as the Democratic candidate in the race to fill former Rep. Anthony Weiner’s seat in the 9th Congressional District. Weprin, a former New York City Councilman, also ran in 2009 in an unsuccessful bid for New York City Comptroller. The Republicans have yet to announce a candidate.

Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security Added to Debt Ceiling Negotiations

As federal government leaders try to reach a deal on a deficit reduction plan, one thing has become increasingly clear: No federal program is safe.

The Obama administration has raised its goal for targeted savings from $2.4 trillion to $4 trillion over the next ten years in an attempt to stave off a freeze on national borrowing authority and the first ever default on the nation’s debt.

The Obama administration is reportedly open to cutting Medicare and Medicaid by up to $400 billion, and to reforming the Social Security system, although details are not yet available regarding these reforms. The President appears to be using cuts to these so-called “entitlement programs” to gain support for other measures, such as eliminating tax loop holes for the wealthy.

The U.S. Treasury would be unable to meet about half of its obligations if the debt ceiling is not raised by August 2. The results would be “catastrophic” according to the Treasury Department. At risk would be everything from Social Security payments, aid to states, Medicaid assistance, and federal government employee and military salaries.