Monday, February 28, 2011


Rochester, N.Y.--  Hundreds of local AFSCME/CSEA activists are boarding buses in the early morning hours on Tuesday, March 1st, bound for the state capital in Albany.  Our members are taking part in our annual AFSCME Lobby Day by meeting legislators and lobbying for budget sanity. 
Stay tuned to the Voice Reporter for up to minute Twitter updates on the happenings from the Empire State Plaza Convention Center and the Legislative Office Buildings and the State Capitol Building.  The program begins at 11:00 am in the Empire State Plaza Convention Center. 

Organizers expect a large inspired turnout in Albany tomorrow.  This is in part due to the recent attacks on public employees in Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana.  Labor unions are seeing unprecedented attendance at rallies and protests across the nation in support for working families.  And, with this lobbying trip in mind, The CSEA Voice Reporter spent a week in Arizona mid-February visiting the state capital and the very few progressive legislators that do exist in the southwestern United States.  We were reminded that some of the best messages in life are the simplest.  While touring the old state house, we came across a sign that adorned the entrance to the observation gallery to the old Arizona House of Representatives.  Even though it was originally posted in 1901, the language still resonates loudly today:

"As you enter these doors, contemplate the political philosophy that influenced many of our country's founders. 

People get the government they deserve.

Good moral people concerned about others get a good moral government that cares about the people.

People that are greedy, lazy, or apathetic, get a government that is greedy, immoral and unconcerned with the public's welfare.

In a democracy, each of us is responsible for the quality of our government."

This simple House gallery sign can serve as words of insipration for our activists, members and future voters as we venture into this next legislative session.  It emphasizes personal responsiblity and action when it comes to democracy and puts the onus on the voting public to engage in the process-- right where it should be.

Your CSEA Local 828 officers are also asking members to please visit the CSEA Truth Center to learn more about this year's budget plan, the truth about pensions, updates about the Wisconsin events, lobby and rally details, debunking myths, talking points and political action news alerts.


Rochester, N.Y.-- Thanks for all the emails and comments about our special commentary posted by Ove Overmyer last Friday, February 25. It appears he struck a nerve with the conservative republican contingent of our local labor movement. We believe his major point was that facts and data do matter, and should not be ignored. His posts always include plenty of citations and hyperlinks to provide substance to any conversation.  By interpreting these facts based on data, we hope we can come to logical conclusions and a promote a compelling argument for discussion. It should also be stated that disinformation is not unique to the right, of course.

The fact is that it's very hard for people to accept change or challenge their own identity, and we get that. Bill Moyers recently wrote, "While most of us like to believe that our opinions have been formed over time by careful, rational consideration of facts and ideas and that the decisions based on those opinions, therefore, have the ring of soundness and intelligence, the research found that actually we often base our opinions on our beliefs ... and rather than facts driving beliefs, our beliefs can dictate the facts we chose to accept."

Your present belief system can cause us to twist real facts so they fit better with our preconceived notions. These studies that Moyers talks about help us to explain why America seems more and more unable to deal with reality. So many people inhabit a closed belief system on whose door they have hung the "Do Not Disturb" sign, that they pick and choose only those facts that will serve as building blocks for walling them off from uncomfortable truths-- like, for example, we have a black President of the United States.

No wonder so many people still believe Obama was born in Kenya, not Hawaii, as his birth certificate shows; or that he is a Muslim, when in fact he is a Christian; or that he is a socialist when day by day he shows an eager solicitude for corporate capitalism.  It also helps explain why people do not believe in the American Labor Movement.  We are sure, once given correct and factual information on why we exist and who we are, that more reasonable people will finally understand our relevance.  Partisans in particular-- and the audiences for Murdoch's Fox News and talk radio-- are particularly susceptible to such scurrilous disinformation.

In a Harris survey last spring, 67 percent of Republicans said Obama is a socialist; 57 percent believed him to be a Muslim; 45 percent refused to believe he was born in America; and 24 percent said he "may be the antichrist."  This is almost laugh-out-loud funny if it wasn't so depressing.

Simply stated, if we can come to a higher order of understanding through the factual exchange of information and be open to learning from one another, we believe that our "voice" will have a rightful place in the democratization of our community. We thank you for your readership, even when you may disagree with our point of view from time to time.


Rochester, N.Y.-- 100 years ago, 146 workers died in the fire that sparked sweeping labor reform in New York City.

On March 25th, 1911, a deadly fire broke out in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York’s Greenwich Village. The blaze ripped through the congested loft as petrified workers -- mostly young immigrant women -- desperately tried to make their way downstairs. One door was blocked by fire and the other had been locked by the factory owners to prevent theft. Some workers managed to cram onto the elevator while others ran down an inadequate fire escape which soon pulled away from the masonry and sent them to their deaths. Hundreds of horrified onlookers arrived just in time to see young men and women jumping from the windows, framed by flames. By the time the fire burned itself out, 146 people were dead. All but 23 of the dead were women and nearly half were teenagers.

Tonight, you should not miss, Triangle Fire: American Experience, airing Monday, February 28 at 9:30 p.m. WXXI-TV/HD (DT21.1/cable 1011 and 11).  It tells the harrowing story of an event that changed labor laws forever.  CSEA Local 828 is proud to be a community partner with WXXI.  Our members understand that collaborating with community organizations and nonprofits that share our vision of a working world free from the exploitation of labor plays a crucial role in the overall success of our area and builds stronger communities.  We salute WXXI and PBS for airing this timely documentary once again. 

Spectators gather at the Triangle Building in NYC as the structure goes up in flames. 
146 people died and 71 were left injured.  The dead were mostly women garment
workers who jumped to their death to escape the smoke and fire.
 The workers in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory were among the more than 100,000 New Yorkers who toiled in the city’s garment factories at the time. They came from countries like Italy, Russia, and Poland for America’s promise of a better future and, all around them, they saw the riches promised by the American Dream. New York was at the peak of its Gilded Age, and the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory was just a short stroll from the limestone mansions of millionaires and the elegant shops of the famed Ladies Mile. Two men who had achieved the dream were the wealthy owners of the thriving Triangle factory, Isaac Harris and Max Blanck, tailors who had arrived from the shtetls of Eastern Europe only twenty years earlier.

The dream seemed a long way off for the young workers at the factory who worked 14 hour days for two dollars a day. Less than three years before the deadly fire, New York’s garment workers had begun agitating for shorter hours, better pay, safer shops and unions. To the horror of Harris and Blanck, the young women of the Triangle factory joined the crusade and called for a strike, becoming leaders in what was then the largest single work stoppage in the city’s history. Within 48 hours, 70 of the smallest factories gave in to their workers’ demands but the Triangle bosses organized other owners and refused to surrender, paying prostitutes and police to beat the strikers. Their terrible treatment brought the women an unexpected ally. Anne Morgan, the daughter of J.P. Morgan, and many of her powerful suffragist friends -- the so-called “mink brigade” -- took up their cause, and the press and public began to rally to the plight of the brave young seamstresses.

Realizing they had no choice but to negotiate, the Triangle owners finally agreed to higher wages and shorter hours. But they drew the line at a union. Back on the job, the Triangle workers still lacked real power to improve the worst conditions of the factory floor: inadequate ventilation, lack of safety precautions and fire drills -- and locked doors. It took the tragedy of the fire and the ensuing public outrage to force government action. The landmark legislation that followed gave New Yorkers the most comprehensive workplace safety laws in the country and became a model for the nation.

Sunday, February 27, 2011


CSEA WNY Region 6 members attend a town hall meeting
 in Cheektowaga, N.Y. to discuss the NYS budget with local lawmakers
and to show support for Wisconsin workers on February 26, 2011.
(photos:  Bess Watts)

Cheektowaga, N.Y.-- On Saturday, February 26, CSEA members attended a town hall style meeting at the Leonard Post VFW Hall on Walden Ave. in suburban Buffalo. Workers testified how Gov. Cuomo's budget cuts will impact public services in western New York and unfairly target workers who deliver those services.

Many Buffalo area state senators and assemblymembers attended, including Senators Maziarz, Kennedy, Gallivan, a Grisanti staffer, and Assemblymembers Hoyt and Gabryszak.

CSEA and the progressive community expect the Buffalo area delegation to stand with working families against these drastic cuts. Region 6 President Flo Tripi and Courtney Brunelle, Political Action Coordinator for Western New York Region 6, addressed the attendees and offered solutions to minimize the impact on workers and the citizens of our area.

Additionally, CSEA raised nearly $1,000.00 at the town hall meeting to help support the Wisconsin families who are being assaulted by the GOP legislature in that state.  The picture at right shows WNY Region 6 PAC Coordinator Courtney Brunelle making a plea to support the workers and families of Wisconsin.  Many workers have been docked without pay and have taken all their vacation time to attend the rallies at the state capitol building in Madison.  As a reminder, the Rochester area labor community will host a WE ARE ONE solidarity rally at Rochester City Hall on Wednesday, March 2 at 4:30 pm.

Saturday, February 26, 2011


CSEA president Danny Donohue speaks during a rally of unions and progressive groups to show solidarity with the working people of Wisconsin on Saturday, Feb. 26, 2011, at the State Capitol in Albany, N.Y.
 (Cindy Schultz / Albany Times Union)

Rochester, N.Y.-- The battle in Wisconsin came to Albany and nearly 36 other cities across the nation today as a show of labor solidarity attracted progressive types ranging from unions activists for teachers, state workers and trades, as well as local political figures and pro-equality groups.

With bullhorns, placards and even Green Bay Packer jerseys, hundreds of thousands of union members and their supporters festively rallied outside the state capitals Saturday, blasting Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's controversial plans to severely limit collective bargaining rights for public employees unions.  Solidarity rallies are scheduled to take place in all 50 states over the next couple of days.  Labor advocates are calling this newfound momentum "a watershed moment" in the American Labor Movement history timeline. 

Like we have said before here at the CSEA Voice Reporter, the issues of the day are not really about saving taxpayers money. It's about consolidating political power and union-busting plain and simple.

Wisconsin Governor Walker and such leading lights of the GOP leadership as Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, among others, have decided that public employee unions make great targets, effective scapegoats for an outraged electorate and a satisfactory diversion from the real culprits of this grim, economic melodrama. Walker's budgetary arguments are, of course, without merit, a cover-up for long-held ideological opposition to the union movement.

Instead of making the tough choices necessary to help their states weather the current crisis with some semblance of the social safety net and basic government services intact, Republican governors are instead using it as an opportunity to advance several longtime GOP projects: union-busting, draconian cuts to social programs, and massive corporate tax breaks. These misplaced priorities mean that the poor and middle-class will shoulder the burden of fiscal austerity, even as the rich and corporations are asked to contribute even less.

The rich get tax breaks and the middle-class get pink slips

In Arizona, a GOP dominated state the CSEA Voice Reporter visited last week, we learned that Republican Gov. Jan Brewer wants to kick some 280,000 off the state Medicaid rolls.  At the same time, two weeks ago she signed into law $538 million in corporate tax cuts. Florida Gov. Rick Scott's new budget calls for billions of dollars in cuts to essential programs and services to pay for corporate and property tax cuts of at least $4 billion. Rick Snyder, newly elected governor of Michigan, has asked for $180 million in concessions from public employees and more than a billion to be taken from schools, universities, local governments, and others, most of which could be avoided if he wasn't so deeply dedicated to giving business $1.8 billion in tax breaks.

While there are legitimate and critical public policy issues about education reform, spiraling health costs, and pension liabilities at a time of state and municipal budget deficits, why is the fault laid at the feet of teachers, librarians, police and firefighters? Today's pension obligations are the product of massive investment losses, not excessively generous public pensions that, in fact, average about $16,000 to $19,000 a year. For that matter, a 2010 Economic Policy Institute study showed that public sector workers actually earn less than their private sector counterparts.

So, instead of screaming about the advances public employee and other unions have made to preserve health care, job security and economic justice, angry voters should be asking what or who has been keeping them from obtaining the same. Nor does Wall Street's pillaging of private 401 (k) retirement plans justify the eye-for-an-eye acts of covetous revenge against union pensions.

The race to the bottom

A generation ago, non-union workers often welcomed news of improved wages and benefits for unionized employees, recognizing that a rising tide lifts all boats.  However, at a time of sacrifice and insecurity, many would prefer to sink their neighbor's slightly bigger boat while wistfully hoping for a glance at a yacht in a gated marina.  So much for the 21st century human condition.  We affectionately call this phenomenon "the race to the bottom."  It's exactly the conquer and divide strategy global corporations implement and hope for.

The American middle class largely exists because of unions; it would be a tragedy of Greek proportions if, in frustration, resentment and fear, members of that class were to turn on labor and bring about their mutual destruction. 

Don't reward corporate greed and malfeasance with yet more tax breaks and a blind eye to windfall bonuses. And don't punish unions for whatever success they've had protecting members and holding on to an ever-dwindling power base of American workers. That's just plain evil and anti-democratic.

Friday, February 25, 2011


Rochester, N.Y.--  The recent assault on all working people in Wisconsin is but the tip of the iceberg. It is imperative that we stand together in solidarity to protect the middle class and stop our race to the bottom. Join us Wednesday, March 2nd at 4:30 at City Hall in Rochester to stand in support of working people and our right to have a voice on the job.

President Watts would like to invite all union members and the community at large to attend this rally to support worker rights and more specifically, the ability and importance to collectively bargain in good faith.  Please link to our CSEA Local 828 facebook events page to let us know you will be there. 


By Ove Overmyer

Rochester, N.Y. -- It's time we have this conversation.  Every generation has to answer to the next. 

After the horrific assault on working people in Wisconsin, for the life of me I cannot understand why any union member or those who do not have disposable incomes would keep their Republican registration. I know you are out there-- I can here you breathing.  I'm talking directly to the people who are rolling their eyes right now.

You pretend to care about workplace rights, your membership and your pension-- then every year you give your vote, your money and support to GOP candidates who turn around and oppress us as working people. They revel in the notion that you are gullible, foolish and trustworthy.  Union folk are a diverse group, and that is our strength.  But we can no longer afford to support those who do not have our best interest at heart.

Yes, you were raised as a third-generation conservative Republican by nature and nurture. Well, you must remember that there has been a massive ideological fundementalist shift in American politics in the past few decades.  Ronald Reagan couldn't even get elected as a Republican today.  It’s high time we re-evaluate your place on the political continuum. The GOP center has radically moved so far right that it is exclusively pro-business, extreme, anti-worker and anti-equality.

Last election cycle, I personally objected to supporting one candidate for New York State Senate who happened to be Republican. I listed no more than 7 votes on his legislative scorecard that were anti-labor, yet we turn around as a union voice and endorsed him anyway.

The fact remains that there are probably less than a handful of elected officials in the New York State legislature that are pro-active on our issues. Assemblyman Harry Bronson, (D-131), is one of those people. It’s time we stop giving away our support “hoping” that they will be there for us when the going gets tough. Well, where are they now?

And don't think for two minutes those senate GOP members have individual voices-- when push comes to shove, the caucus votes as one. That next vote just might be the one that will eliminate the services you provide and the job you do every day.  Or, their next move just might be to completely dismantle the Triborough Amendment-- one of most important aspects of collective bargaining. 

Citizens United and the fight in Wisconsin

For those union members who still support GOP lawmakers, maybe now you'll finally understand that there has been an orchestrated, long-term effort over many years to get rid of union power in national politics-- and now the proverbial cat is out of the bag. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's embarrassingly inane confessional over the phone to who he thought was one of the richest oil barons of the world proves this point.

The story of the year since Citizens United v. FEC may be perfectly crystallized in this fight at the statehouse in Madison, Wisconsin (see related article in the Voice Reporter).  Organizations like Americans for Prosperity spent millions of dollars in 2010 running misleading ads bashing health care reform, labor unions, progressives, immigrants, and American Muslims in order to elect Republican politicians who would stand up for the interests of big business. Now those interests are working hard, and spending a little extra money, to make sure they collect on their investments.

According to, out of the top 10 donors that contributed to political campaigns in 2010, 7 out of 10 donated to the Republican cause. The remaining 3 entities are worker unions, including your AFSCME dollars, which tend to support Democrats. If this isn't enough evidence to suggest that the new crop of Republican lawmakers want to destroy unions as a means to shift the political landscape, I don't know what would convince you.

The GOP could care less about private-sector unions, public policy and good government; it’s all about ideological political power favoring business and “who rules.” They also love the fact that the public-sector and private-sector don't exactly see eye to eye on all things, and they exploit that in a conquer and divide strategy.  The new wave of GOP lawmakers was handpicked by big business—they are just puppets to the rich corporations who got them elected at the expense of the middle-class working family.

Day of reckoning has come

Our day of reckoning has come-- worker rights are starting to crumble and we need every free-thinking union member, independent and right-minded patriot on the same page. There should be no more nuisanced posturing-- things could not be more clear.  Solidarity is not just a slogan or a word in a song, it should be our way of life.  And, let the "Wisconsin 14" state legislators be a lesson of courage for our local lawmakers.

Union folk and middle-class families should not give one dime to any political candidate regardless of party who doesn't champion middle-class values. That should eliminate 90 percent of the politicians we gave money to last year. Ask yourself this question, where are they now? Have you heard any Rochester area elected official speak up on behalf of working people in the past two weeks?  Shouldn't we be working harder to get more pro-labor candidates in office and holding the lawmakers we got elected more accountable? 

The Democratic ones that have been emailing me of late, seem to be trying to take advantage of the outrage that is emerging on the left.  Call me skeptical, but it feels opportunistic and doesn't feel genuine.  This is not just a Wisconsin dilemma either; this is a fight for the soul of America.  We need to "act up" now to give us the best shot at maintaining our middle-class quality of life.

My intent here is to get you to think outside of your comfort zone.  If for some reason you find fault with my logic, I would invite you to email the Voice Reporter. I would love a good go-around right now. My dander is up.

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

Thursday, February 24, 2011


Rochester, N.Y.-- As the country slowly emerges from the recession, cash-strapped states and public employees are on somewhat of a collision course. The prolonged, targeted assault on middle class workers by the rich and the corporations they own are now being played out in the statehouses and main streets across our great nation.

Inspired by the events in Wisconsin, thousands of Americans all over the country are taking action to battle legislation that would attack their labor rights, defund their schools, threaten their health and safety, and decimate the American middle class.  Protests and rallies to support middle class workers are cropping up all over the United States.

New York union leaders are closely watching events in Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio — where Republican governors are seeking not just drastic cuts in benefits and pay, but also a reshaping of the historic relationship between management and public-sector labor.

The noisy protests in Wisconsin have been in response to Gov. Scott Walker's attempts to scale back collective bargaining rights for public workers.

Such drastic measures are not expected in New York, but the Wisconsin protests have helped re-ignite a flame in the heart of labor activists from Buffalo to Montauk Point.

Media folk and those who have a vested interest are stirring up debate over the role of a highly unionized New York State work force and its impact on the state's budget and tax burden. Lost in the sauce here is how we got where we are in the first place-- greedy bankers, a bursting housing bubble, deregulation, corporate tax welfare for the rich and shipping our American jobs overseas.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo's $132.9 billion budget, released Feb. 1, calls for $450 million in concessions from state workers and holds out the possibility of 9,800 layoffs if that savings can't be met.

The mood right now in local labor-management circles is one of caution, and the realization that public workers will eventually be the scapegoats to balance the state budget are legitimate. And, if Wisconsin officials were successful in peeling back union agreements, labor leaders agree that a domino effect could take place in other states.

Cuomo said Wednesday that he was taking a very different approach from Wisconsin's Walker.

"It's all the difference in the world between what we're proposing here and what he's proposing," Cuomo told reporters at a Suffolk County event.

He pointed to his committees on mandate relief and Medicaid redesign, which include union officials.

"We're handling it different ways both programmatically and stylistically," Cuomo said. "We have the task forces, we have labor at the table and my approach has been we're in a tough place, we're in a tough time, let's all work this out together."

The contracts for most state workers in New York are due to expire at the end of the 2010-11 fiscal year.  The year ends March 31.  And even though Cuomo is seeking to freeze wages, about 50,000 workers are due automatic pay increases later this year because of longevity and cost-of-living raises that were fairly negotiated some time ago.

But Danny Donohue, president of CSEA, expressed doubts that Cuomo's proposed cost concessions — including a wage freeze and possible furlough of state workers — could be met.

"I don't know if we can come to $450 million and bite the bullet on some things," Donohue said.

New York has the highest percentage of union members in its workforce of any state in the nation, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Cuomo went to pains Wednesday to say he was a "long-term supporter of the labor movement."

President Watts responds

Bess Watts
Cuomo's most recent comments are little comfort to workers who say that the services they provide and the jobs they do might disappear in a couple months.  The idea that there is a movement in New York to revisit collective bargaining rights and to eliminate the Triborough Amendment are unthinkable.

Bess Watts, president of CSEA Monroe County Local 828 says, "With collective bargaining we have a voice, without that voice our future security is at risk." She added, "Members need to be invested in their communities, their jobs and their family's future. I am asking members to get involved, get active and speak out against those who want to silence our right to bargain in good faith."

A USA Today/Gallup Poll survey released Tuesday found 61 percent of voters nationwide support keeping collective-bargaining rights for unionized workers.

But a Quinnipiac University poll of New York voters released Wednesday found 72 percent support a wage freeze for state workers. Fifty-six percent said they supported furloughs for state workers.

Watts says she understood that taxpayers were growing increasingly wary of public-sector benefits. But she said most people don't understand that the average salary of a public worker is about $43,000 and average pensions run $16,000 to $18,000 annually.

Watts is encouraging everyone, people from all walks of life, to attend the AFL-CIO sponsored "WE ARE ONE" rally at Rochester City Hall, Wednesday, March 2 at 4:30 pm. She adds, "If the community has questions about this budget debate or issues about collective bargaining rights of workers, I'm sure we can provide fact-based information to help them understand what is actually going on."


CSEA President Danny Donohue, left, is interviewed by a reporter at a rally outside New York City Hall Feb. 23. Looking on is Mark Maierle of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 317 in Wisconsin.

Editorial by Danny Donohue
Published on Feb. 23, 2011

So nurses, snow plow operators and school lunch ladies are now enemies of the state while we write off the real culprits who created the Great Recession: Wall Street and the bonus culture of the banking and finance industries?

Our priorities are certainly wrong when we vilify the victims and excuse the perpetrators.

It's time for a reality check.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is stretching credibility when he says he respects his state's public service workers while seeking to eradicate their right to collective bargaining, now and forever. He says he's not a union buster but his actions speak volumes more than his words.

The fact that he's not interested in any compromise should tell you a lot about his extremism.

Collective bargaining provides workers a chance to have a voice in the workplace. It means both labor and management go to the bargaining table in good faith to find common ground. Debate and compromise is fundamental to problem solving and generating creative solutions to everyday and long-term challenges. 

Collective bargaining is never perfect but the alternative is ugly — management running roughshod and political cronyism. No one should expect that eliminating collective bargaining will provide better management or better government.

Working people in Wisconsin didn't cause the fiscal mess there any more than workers here in New York are responsible for our state's fiscal circumstances. Attacking your DMV clerk, bad-mouthing the emergency room technician and taking away the rights of your librarian won't solve anything, but it will undermine the services you depend on and hurt a lot of people.

It may be convenient to scapegoat public service workers but it's wrong and undermines our society. Civil Service Employees Association members are those nurses, mental health workers, park attendants you know and trust. We've been around for more than 100 years now — we didn't survive for a century by being selfish and impractical.

Contrary to popular belief, CSEA members earn about $40,000 a year; most contribute to their health insurance costs; most also contribute toward their pensions, which are an average of $14,000 a year. 

CSEA members are dedicated to a better New York for all. 

Off the job, CSEA members live and contribute in every community in this state — coaching the Little League teams, supporting every conceivable charity and volunteering our time. 

These are facts and they should make all of us pause when we see this continued assault on our family, friends and neighbors.

Donohue is president of the Civil Service Employees Association of New York.


Rochester, N.Y.-- The disastrous 2010 Supreme Court Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (FEC) decision is now bearing fruit in the form of union-busting. Ironically, “Citizens United” is the hypocritical name of a conservative advocacy group which receives corporate funding and works to promote increased rights for corporations by influencing public policy.

The Citizens United v. FEC case originally dealt with the question of whether or not airing Citizens United’s documentary about Hillary Clinton was an advocacy ad, and therefore subject to existing restrictions on election ads under the McCain-Feingold law.

Whether your passion is workplace rights, protecting the environment or creating green jobs or improving public education-- or really any other issue on which corporate interests are blocking real solutions-- this is your campaign too.

In an eye-popping act of judicial activism, the court decided to consider the much broader issue of corporate spending to influence elections, which wasn’t even presented in the original case. This is how anti-labor business puppet and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker got elected, along with many other GOP governors in 2010.

In the decision that stunned democracy advocates and trampled a number of campaign finance laws, a slim five-Justice majority ruled that corporations-- including for-profit corporations-- do indeed have a right to spend as much money as they want to elect or defeat candidates in our elections. This decision effectively grants corporations the same First Amendment Free Speech protections granted to real live people. The catch is that corporations obviously are not people, are they?

Democracy: use it or lose it

photo:  Ove Overmyer
One reason corporations have been able to hijack our democracy is that many of us haven’t engaged much in it ourselves lately. If we want policy makers who prioritize public good, healthy jobs, and a sustainable environment, we need to get involved, hold them accountable, and engage as active citizens every day-- not just on voting day.

Join up with your Unit or Local organization today. Join a committee which works on an issues you care about, host a community event to share information, write letters to your congresspeople and local newspapers to share your opinion. There are an infinite number of ways to get involved and once enough of us do, we can make our government function so that it really is by the people, for the people. Then, we can refocus on getting back to working for our local communities. To solve today’s pressing problems, we need a government working for us, instead of big business. And, what CSEA is basically looking for are partners in good government.

-Ove Overmyer

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Protesters rally in the Wisconsin State Capitol rotunda.
(photo provided)

Wisconsin Update: A message from the front lines

Monday, February 21

We currently have four emissaries on the ground in Madison to ensure CSEA's support of workers in Wisconsin and in this national line-in-the-sand fight for worker rights. Mary Sullivan, Joe McMullen, Mike Sheldon and Jon Premo arrived in Madison after a difficult trip that included a canceled flight and busing for hours to their final destination on Sunday night. Luggage is missing but our troops march on.

They connected with leaders last night and attended a briefing this morning. Crowds of 100,000 are expected today and the statehouse and surrounding area is filling fast. They report things are very organized with AFL/AFSCME, Teachers and Students dividing up duties and assignments.

Mary Sullivan addressed the crowd in the rotunda this morning to wild cheers. Mike and Jon are acting as marshalls in and around the rotunda.

Will provide more as it comes in. Video and additional pictures expected if technology allows.

Tuesday, February 22

Just got a full report on the days activities. The main theme is the positive energy among the students, retirees and workers present. There are contingents from unions of all stripes and from all around the US. The energy does not wane... it just keeps thumping all day and night.

Joe McMullen also got the opportunity to speak in the Rotunda. Mary described the circle of student drummers who have been at this station in the center of the Rotunda since the beginning. In the center of the drumming circle is where speakers address the protestors.

Each morning there is a briefing at the Best Western across the street from the Capital building. There, assignments and the days activities are discussed. Mike and Jon have volunteered to act as Marshals. At the briefing this morning, one of the Wisconsin Democratic State Legislators, Mark Miller conferenced in to fire up leaders.

There were two rallies today. One outside the Statehouse and another inside. There was also a concert that could seat 5,000 which was reportedly quickly filled to capacity.

Rumors were flying that Gov Walker was going to offer a compromise, but at a press conference this afternoon he reiterated his position without change.

Another note from our Wisconsin Four is that police and troopers are especially cooperative and everyone has been respectful and events peaceful.

Finally, it is really cold there and 4-6 inches of snow are expected tonight.

Steve Alviene

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Troy, N.Y.--  Let see, do we have this right? New York isn’t Wisconsin when it comes to busting public sector unions, so said Senator Chuck Schumer in a visit to Troy just yesterday.  The Senator was also on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” earlier today, also talking about Wisconsin.  In any event, workers across America should take nothing for granted-- we are being attacked by both political parties and the big business donors who put them in office.

"I am not in favor of the idea we should just break unions,” Schumer said at Brown’s Brewing Company.

Looking at the situation in Wisconsin, where Republican Gov. Scott Walker wants to strip away bargaining guarantees, Schumer said the public employee unions are willing to deal with the financial pressures consuming that state and make concessions. Schumer said the governor has gone beyond what is necessary.

Talking more generally about labor conditions around the nation, Schumer pointed to the fact that the median annual income in the U.S. has dropped during the most recent recession by $2,000 to $46,000.

“The middle class is hurting,” said Schumer, who was promoting legislation to give microbreweries a tax break that would lead to job creation.

“The idea of just taking away workers’ right to collective bargaining is not going to happen: New York is not Wisconsin,” Schumer said.

CSEA officials and rank-and-file members have gone to Wisconsin to join the protests at the state capitol in Madison. Our parent union, AFSCME, was founded in the state.  We will have on-scene reports from our CSEA representatives in the very near future.

“We’re glad to hear (Schumer) say that. We’re taking nothing for granted,” Stephen Madarasz, a CSEA spokesman, said regarding Schumer’s assertion that New York wouldn’t go the way of the Badger State.

Looking at Walker’s position in Wisconsin, Madarasz said, “The governor is clearly talking out of boths sides of his mouth.”


CSEA Executive Vice President Mary Sullivan and Statewide
Treasurer Joe McMullen (red shirt) are in Wisconsin supporting
public workers.  In this photo, Sullivan is addressing activists at a rally that
was held in Albany on February 18.
photo:  property of CSEA

Rochester, N.Y.-- Representatives of public employee unions in New York are supporting their fellow union members in Wisconsin.  But this isn't just about Wisconsin. In state capitals across the country, and in Washington, D.C., Republicans are using the wrecked economy as an excuse to slash vital programs and hurt workers. The American Dream itself is under attack. 

That's because Republican elected leaders in Wisconsin are pushing a bill that would end collective bargaining rights for government employees. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker defends his proposal, saying it's needed to bring down the high cost of government. That is a ginned-up notion that doesn't support the facts. His actions are nothing more than union busting plain and simple.

Executive Vice President Mary Sullivan and Statewide Treasurer Joe McMullen are in Wisconsin right now.  They are rallying alongside public workers to keep their collective bargaining rights intact.  CSEA held a solidarity rally on the steps of CSEA's Albany headquarters on February 18.  To see a video of the rally, you can go here

CSEA spokesman Steve Madarasz says what's happening in Wisconsin is an assault on American values.  "CSEA actually has a contingent in Wisconsin to express solidarity with the folks there," Madarasz said. "This is really a serious situation that does not bode well for our democracy."

A Pew Research Center Poll released last week found the public sympathetic to public employee unions -- 44 percent said their initial instinct is to side with workers in a disagreement versus 38 percent who would side with state and local governments. Madarasz says he's not surprised by that finding.

"We find the public becomes much more sympathetic to our point of view once they have the facts," Madarasz said. "There has been all kinds of mythology out there about what public sector workers earn."

What does this mean for New York?

Here in New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo is proposing thousands of layoffs of state workers. But union leaders here say they don't see any evidence that Cuomo is engaging in the union-busting activities they're seeing in Wisconsin.  However, don't think that the assault on workers won't continue in New Jersey, Ohio and also here in New York.

A rally in Rochester to support the rights of workers is in the preliminary stages, according to Voice Reporter sources.

"Wisconsin's newly elected governor is waging one of the most vicious attacks on working people our nation has seen in generations," said CSEA President Danny Donohue.The rally [Feb. 18] was intended to show solidarity with tens of thousands of middle class working people who have taken to the streets and statehouse in Madison, Wisconsin to protest legislation that would eliminate collective bargaining rights for state and local public employees there."

The contracts of the Public Employees Federation and CSEA expire March 31, the last day of the state's fiscal year. Mr. Cuomo has not included salary increases for workers in his budget plan and has warned of possible layoffs.  Contract negotiations between the unions and their employer have not yet begun.

Cuomo has spent the last two weeks traveling the state to build support for his budget, which he released Feb. 1. While the poll numbers suggest he is being favorably received—and that 72 percent like his budget versus only 25 percent who don't—the public's view of key components of his budget is mixed. Nearly two-thirds of voters polled said they want the three-year personal income tax surcharge to be extended into 2012, though Mr. Cuomo wants to let it expire in December.

Unlike the governor, voters apparently don't consider an extension of the tax to be an increase: 79 percent of them support the fact that Mr. Cuomo's budget has no new taxes or tax increases. The surcharge raises the usual 6.85 percent state income tax rate to 7.85 percent for individuals with adjusted gross incomes above $200,000 and households making $300,000, and to 8.97 percent for incomes of $500,000 or more. It is expected to raise $5 billion this year, about 3.7 percent of what the state will spend.

Although the governor and state Senate majority oppose extending the surcharge, lawmakers could increase Mr. Cuomo's $133 billion proposed budget by agreeing on a more optimistic revenue forecast, with the stock market rally and other positive economic indicators as justification. 

Let's remember, Wall Street private equity firms and hedge fund managers were doling out a record 44 billion in bonuses at the end of 2010.  Some estimates take that number as high as 90 billion as the biggest firms set aside more than the GDP of 13 entire countries

Does that sound reasonable to you? It's as if 2008 never even happened.  And public employees and collective bargaining are the problem? And let's not forget the lame duck tax deal at the end of the 111th Congress-- all those top end private sector executives will get a nifty federal tax bonus on top of all that earned income.

So we say: On Wisconsin!  Fight for future fame.

Friday, February 18, 2011


Rochester, N.Y.--  Cutting spending on government is not the same thing as cutting government spending -- it can even be the opposite.  Plus, tax cuts really end up costing us more when it is all said and done despite what the GOP says.

Ezra Klein
And this from Ezra Klein Let's be clear: Whatever fiscal problems Wisconsin is -- or is not -- facing at the moment, they're not caused by labor unions. That's also true for New Jersey, for Ohio and for the other states. There was no sharp rise in collective bargaining in 2006 and 2007, no major reforms of the country's labor laws, no dramatic change in how unions organize. And yet, state budgets collapsed. Revenues plummeted. Taxes had to go up, and spending had to go down, all across the country.

Blame the banks. Blame global capital flows. Blame lax regulation of Wall Street. Blame home buyers, or home sellers. But don't blame the unions. Not for this recession.

Just yesterday, 30,000 people  rallied at the state capital in Wisconsin for the second day in a row in solidarity with union workers and for the good-paying middle class jobs they protect.

They're standing up because Wisconsin's Republican Governor Scott Walker is on the attack. His proposed state budget attempts to strangle workers' rights by eliminating the right for library clerks, cops, firefighters, teachers, or any other government employee to let their union negotiate their pay and benefits through collective bargaining.

To make it clear he's serious, Gov. Walker has even threatened to call out the National Guard on protesting marchers in an attempt to squash debate and demonize the hard-working Americans standing united in front of the state capital right now.

This is only the beginning of the Republican attack on unions and middle class families. Similar attacks on unions are expected by Republican Governors in Ohio and New Jersey very soon with other states to follow.  Unions in New York State, like CSEA and AFSCME are also gearing up efforts to fight these unrealistic proposed budget cuts.  Also, CSEA is working on solutions to minimize the pain for working families and to make sure a more equitable and fair budget process is followed. 

It's time for us to stand up -- all of us -- across America -- in solidarity with union workers and the good-paying middle class jobs they protect. Today we must all join in a nationwide effort to fight for the soul of America.  We must spread the message that we all stand together and that we will not be the scapegoats for anti-labor forces and the GOP puppets who are carrying out their agenda.

The GOP never expected American workers would stand united to defeat them, now they're seeing it first hand. If we keep the pressure up and keep growing the number of Americans standing together, we can win this and protect vital middle class jobs-- right here in Monroe County and New York State too. 

Unions built the middle class and we'll be damned if we are going to let political hacks destroy our American families.  This isn't just about union strength and the employed. This is about the very nature of how we define ourselves as a society and the America we want to live in.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Rochester, N.Y.--  The CSEA Voice Reporter will be back in business in just a few days.  We really appreciate all the recent emails and calls about our content and posting schedule.

As public-sector employees, we are experiencing some of the toughest times we have ever faced.  We wholeheartedly thank you for your readership, and  just like you, we are dedicated to speak truth to power and give a voice to the average American worker.  We are in this fight to win.  We'll be up and running in no time to share information, data, news articles and mobilization alerts to better serve our members.

 In Unionism,

CSEA Monroe County Local 828 Officers
CSEA Voice Reporter 

Sunday, February 13, 2011


Rochester, N.Y.--  As a pissed-off electorate waits anxiously for fiscal sanity and while Gov. Andrew Cuomo calls for a new era of spending restraint, both houses of the state Legislature are vowing to make cuts to their operating budgets, which have been steadily growing for several years.

The Republican-led Senate will submit a budget bill aimed at reducing spending from the current fiscal year by about 10 percent.

And the Democratic-ruled Assembly plans to re-submit a budget bill that includes a reduction in internal spending, but it remains unclear how much money will be cut.

Republicans, who regained a 32-to-30 majority in the Senate after Democrats held power for two years, plan to spend $91.9 million.

Spending in the Senate is expected to top $100 million by the end of the current 2010-11 fiscal year, which is March 31.

"Just like families are doing all across this state, we are going to do more with less," said Senate Republican spokesman Scott Reif. "We expect to spend 10 percent less than Democrats spent when they were in the majority."

The 150-member Assembly, which is on track to spend $102.3 million this fiscal year, anticipated spending the same amount in the coming 2011-12 fiscal year, according to budget documents.

But now Assembly officials said they plan to cut spending.

"After the governor made his budget presentation, we will be making additional reductions in the final budget," said Sisa Moyo, a spokeswoman for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan. "We had already come out with no increase and we're working additional reductions."

The legislative budgets for the Assembly and Senate cover expenses that includes staff salaries, official vehicle usage and office supplies.

Cuomo, a Democrat, submitted a $132.9 billion spending plan that cuts 2.3 percent from last year's budget. The proposal, which legislators have until April 1 to approve, relies on cuts to health care and education aid to close a $9 or $10 billion dollar deficit.

He is also seeking across-the-board cuts of 10 percent to state agencies and $450 million in concessions from public employees.

Republicans in the Senate claim the former Democratic majority overspent its budget by about $14 million. The Senate shed about 130 jobs in January, which were mostly Democratic hires.

Sen. Thomas Libous, R-Binghamton, said the Democratic conference needs to reduce its payroll by an additional 42 percent by March 3 to meet a $15.2 million budget for the Democratic conference.

"We've made significant payroll reductions to bring spending down to appropriate levels and further reductions are ongoing," said Austin Shafran, a spokesman for Senate Democrats.

The GOP already knocked down the total payroll of the Democrats this year from $41 million to $28 million.

Democrats have blamed the excess spending on the result of the leadership coup of 2009, when two lawmakers switched parties for one month and action in the chamber ground to a standstill.

After the legislators returned to the Democratic fold, they were given extra staff, raising the overall cost.

Republicans were also given an increase in their payroll budget as a result of the coup, from $18.5 million to $23 million.

New York has one of the most expensive legislatures in the country, trailing only California and Pennsylvania for overall cost.

Friday, February 11, 2011


by Rev. Al Sharpton

Rev. Al Sharpton joins labor and clergy
for a two-day conference Feb. 10-11. 
Repost from the Huffington Post, Feb. 9, 2011--  On April 4, 1968, the world lost a pinnacle in the fight for humanity when our preeminent civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was viciously murdered. Although we are all familiar with his immeasurable struggle for equality and justice, many do not realize that an essential platform for Dr. King's advocacy was a push for worker's rights and the necessity of decent livable wages. Today, as states and municipalities across the nation face devastating budget shortfalls, the labor unions and workers that provide necessary services for us all are once again under attack. The state of New Mexico is unfortunately no different, but together we can intervene and protect the ability of workers to peacefully assemble, organize and demand fair benefits.

On February 10th and 11th, I will be addressing union members, clergy, community organizers and everyday citizens from across New Mexico to discuss the integral relationship between labor movements and civil rights. Joining me at this pivotal two-day conference will be Lee Saunders, International Secretary-Treasurer for AFSCME (the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees). The two central themes of this vital event are: 'Civil Servants: Pillars of a Civil Society' and 'Faces of Public Service: Thanking Those Who Serve Our Community'.

New Mexico, like so many states across the nation, is suffering from some of the largest budget deficits in modern times. Facing a shortfall of an estimated $400 million next year, New Mexico's legislature proposed slashing the state budget and consequentially slashing the basic benefits countless workers dedicated their lives securing. At a time when so many families are struggling to simply put food on their tables, Governor Martinez of New Mexico would like state workers to contribute even more into their own retirement plans. After decades of organizing and pushing for fair pay and decent benefits, those that provide many of the services all New Mexicans greatly rely on are once again being asked to pay for the crimes of others.

When the economic recession of 2008 struck the nation, virtually everyone agreed that Wall St. excesses and corporate greed created a dangerous scenario by which the rich continued to amass wealth, and the working-class/poor suffered increased financial hardship. And today, as unemployment remains disturbingly high, foreclosures continue at alarming rates and the average citizen has to stretch his/her dollars even further, why is the responsibility of rectifying our budgets being unfairly placed on workers? Why must unions be forced to resort back to the days when individuals had no rights and employers could systematically oppress and take advantage of whomever they pleased? And when workers were not the ones responsible for the worst financial calamity ever witnessed since the days of the Great Depression, why must they be the ones to continuously bear the brunt of sacrifice?

On the eve of the horrific murder of Dr. King in Memphis, Tennessee in '68, he addressed sanitation workers and public employees who were members of the local chapter of AFSCME. Fervently pushing for their ability, and the ability of all across the country to organize and demand livable wages, Dr. King gave his life in the struggle for human dignity for all peoples. As Lee Saunders and I gather with union workers and community organizers in New Mexico, let us keep Dr. King's vision and passion alive just as it was decades ago. When states and municipalities work to salvage their budgets, let's ensure that the burden isn't unjustly placed on those that are already suffering the most under these tumultuous times. Let us stand in unison once again.


Albany, N.Y.-- Congressional Republicans, who vowed to come to our nation's capital and focus like a laser on the economy, are instead focusing like a laser on social issues, including a bill that could let hospitals refuse to end life-threatening pregnancies and put the lives and health of women at risk. This comes at a time when CSEA members will convene in Albany on April 1-3 to discuss the important role of women in the workplace and women's issues in general.

This latest example of the Republicans’ agenda can only be defined as radical and extreme. While Democrats work to improve the economy and create good paying jobs for American families, the GOP is busy pandering to the right-wing fringe. First, Republican representatives tried to redefine rape. Now they’re telling women just how little they think their lives are worth.

If this proposal upsets you as much as it does some of our union brothers and sisters, we urge you to find out more about CSEA women's issues.  We should be telling the political fringe: "Not on our watch."  Start focusing on job creation and stay away from deciding the fate of women's health matters.

Chances are, the Democratic Senate will stop this bill from becoming law, but we need all members to stand up for the rights of all women. We must say: “Not on our watch.”

For more information about CSEA Women's Committees, you can go here.  Angela Muscianese from Unit 7400 is the Local 828 Women's Committee Chair. 

Here is a message from our President, Danny Donohue:

CSEA Statewide Secretary Denise
Berkley talks with President Danny
Donohue about issues of the day.
photo:  Ove Overmyer
Dear CSEA Sisters and Brothers,

As our second century begins, CSEA members are facing unprecedented challenges. Working women in particular are threatened by the loss of jobs, benefits and rights that have made it possible for them to support themselves and their families.

But "We've Got the Power" to fight back against attacks by politicians, corporate interests and the media, and CSEA's Women's Conference provides working women and men a chance to increase their knowledge and union leadership skills to face these tough times.

"CSEA Women, We've Got the Power" is the theme of this year's Women's Conference, and I urge all the women - and men - in this union to take this to heart as we prepare for what could the biggest fight of our lives.

The conference programs will not only build your union activism skills, but give you a stronger base to help cope with challenges you may face in and out of the workplace. You will also have a chance to network with CSEA sisters and brothers across the state. Learn from these programs and learn from each other.

"We've Got the Power." Your enthusiastic participation in this conference will help us better use it to fight back.

In solidarity,


Thursday, February 10, 2011


This is what we look like:  We are probation officers, social workers, librarians, office clerks, home health-aides and scientists.  Some local politicians are telling lies and are trying to take away the right of public workers to bargaining together over pay, benefits, job safety, working conditions and the best way to get the job done. That's just plain wrong.   (Photo:  Robert Leonard)

Rochester, N.Y.--  Social workers, firefighters, teachers, police officers, child care and home care workers—across the country we are being painted as Public Enemy #1 by politicians who want to balance budgets on our backs. State budget deficits are real but cutting jobs and essential state and local services isn't the answer.

The Fiscal Policy Institute estimates that for every 100 public-sector jobs that disappear in New York, the direct effect will mean that the private-sector will lose 30 jobs because of it.

Killing middle-class jobs will make it harder for states and communities to recover from the recession. Having fewer librarians, teachers and first responders puts our children and our quality of life at risk. Many of the newly elected Republican politicians are especially targeting public employee pensions—pensions we workers have paid into for years and earned at the bargaining table by forgoing pay increases.

States of Denial

Instead of creating jobs and solving the problems of middle-class working families, some state politicians are in a real state of denial. They're saying "Thank you" to the corporate CEOs who financed their 2010 election victories by pushing legislation to cut good jobs, lower wages, threaten job safety and weaken unions.

In state after state, including New York, newly elected Republican legislators and governors are playing politics as usual by launching a coordinated attack on working families designed to swell already-record-size corporate profits and keep those CEO bonuses coming. These politicians aren't offering up their own pay or pensions—they want working families to bear the burden.

Here is a AFL-CIO website dedicated to shine a light on what's happening in these States of Denial—and what you can do about it.  Please bookmark this site on your personal electronic device and visit often.  You can also visit the AFL-CIO Now youtube site for up to the minute video press conferences and testimonials.

Don't forget to also visit the STOP THE LIES campaign sponsored by AFSCME.