Wednesday, August 31, 2011


Rochester, N.Y.--  Today, the GOP is leading an all-out assault on worker rights, Medicare, Social Security and education.  It's time hard working middle-class folk get the proper representation they thought they were getting at the ballot box.  It's time we take our message to the streets.  It's time to peacefully yell and shout to anyone who will listen-- we're not going to take it anymore.  Take a peek at this video, "Don't Kill the Dream," and find out how you can be your own best advocate.


Hurricane Irene's aftermath is part of the
job for public employees.  photo provided
Albany, N.Y.--  CSEA - New York's Leading Union - is urging that safety come first whether New Yorkers are responding to the aftermath of Hurricane Irene on the job or in their homes.

CSEA President Danny Donohue said union members should follow all appropriate safety guidelines as they recover from the storm, which caused widespread flooding, damage to homes, businesses and infrastructure and downed trees and power lines. The union has important resources available to provide guidance.

"As we pull together in this time of crisis, our spirit remains strong, but much of our work has just begun," Donohue said. "It is vital that we remain vigilant in ensuring the safety and health of all New Yorkers as we recover from the storm."

CSEA members, many of whom served as first responders during the storm, will continue to play a key role in storm recovery at homes, in their communities and at their work sites. CSEA members and other public workers have been working around the clock to remove debris, contain flooding, restore infrastructure and restore water and sewer and other essential services.

On the job, the safety and health of workers cannot be compromised. Employers are required to protect workers from the anticipated hazards associated with the flood response and recovery operations by ensuring they have the appropriate training and equipment to do the work safely and are not placed in harm's way.

CSEA has many resources available on its website at to help New Yorkers safely clean up after Irene's devastation. The union has also developed two fact sheets to help members and the public remain safe during the storm cleanup process. The following fact sheets are available for download from CSEA's website:

• Information for CSEA Members Responding to Flood Affected Areas addresses the hazards often found in flooded areas, including contaminated floodwaters, downed electrical lines and building debris, the personal protective equipment employers are responsible for providing workers and other considerations employers should ensure that workers follow to remain safe.

• Working In and Cleaning Up Flooded Buildings highlights the potential hazards of working in flooded buildings, including building structure, electrical hazards and health concerns, as well as what employers need to do to ensure workers' safety.

"Knowing this important information can help up avoid more harm during this already difficult time," Donohue said. "Please share this information with as many people as possible in your communities and work sites. We hope these resources will help you in giving the proper guidance and advice that is needed in these unique, difficult circumstances."

For occupational safety and health related information, you can go here.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Rochester, N.Y.-- Check out this video above-- it's a short commentary on our nation's state of affairs, the need for the progressive community to rally as "WE ARE ONE" and what's at stake in 2012. This video slideshow was produced by Ove Overmyer.


Rochester, N.Y.-- This is really getting absurd.  Are these people for real?  The Voice Reporter does have standards-- we usually don't attack anyone's person or identity, rather the ideas and policies that we may disagree with from day to day.  That is what we try to do. 

We hold those in power accountable and never let others define who we are.  We investigate newsworthy issues affecting working families and let you decide how to process it.  Facts should rule-- and spin cast aside.  Above all and regardless of emotion, we must remain civil and focus on the issues at hand to better understand the complex realities we face as local communities and as a nation. 

However, this is a new ball game in 2011.  This is new territory the Tea Partiers and extreme conservatives are dragging us into.  Facts don't matter much to the GOP-- but the Voice Reporter is listening.  And rightly so, we need to call things as we see them.  And, uncharacteristically, our gloves wil be coming off from time to time. 

Get a load of these recent comments by some top GOP characters:

*Texas Governor and GOP presidential frontrunner Rick Perry says Social Security is a “Ponzi scheme” and “monstrous lie.”  What?

*Tea Party-backed presidential candidate and Iowa Straw Poll winner Michele Bachmann joked that God sent Hurricane Irene to warn against federal spending. Aren’t jokes supposed to be funny?  She really thinks natural disasters are a message from God.  Bachmann is the most unelectable candidate ever-- period, end of sentence.

*Congressional House Majority Leader Eric Cantor says disaster relief must be offset with other spending cuts.  Using people's despair and misery to score political points will not get you very far-- this guy is so out of touch it borders the ridiculous.

Republicans pander to the far right daily with ludicrous statements and attacks on President Obama while at the same time, the do-nothing GOP majority in the House has done absolutely ZERO to create jobs or help the stalled economy. 

Are these wacky statements designed to motivate Tea Party voters or just give fodder for the late night comedians?  Tea Party voters will not elect our next President.  These politicians are just clowns-- dancing in a political circus of one-up manship and making a mockery of the democratic process.

Comedians and the media loves this type of foolishness-- it's great for their bottom line and I don't see it slowing down anytime soon.  However, it devalues everything responsible citizens hope for-- serious leadership in times of unprecedented economic uncertainty and national insecurity.  Where are the adults in this conversation?  Let's get serious folks.  America's working families are hurting out there.

Monday, August 29, 2011


Leader of the House Eric Cantor, Va.- (R)
Rochester, N.Y. -- House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is set to launch an all-out assault on environmental and labor protections. We can’t let that happen.

Cantor’s scheme is yet another Republican attempt to sacrifice clean air, clean water and workers’ rights at the altar of the Tea Party fringe and the GOP’s special-interest backers like the Koch Brothers.

With Congress set to re-convene next week, the labor movement must act quickly to fight back.  Details of Cantor’s memo to House Republicans were revealed in today’s Washington Post.

In part, it said, "House Republicans will roll out plans Monday to fight regulations from the National Labor Relations Board, pollution rules handed down by the Environmental Protection Agency and regulations that affect health plans for small businesses."

As we’ve learned in the Wisconsin labor fight and in Republican statehouses across the country, there is no substitute for grassroots working families standing up and fighting right-wing interests who are desperately trying to roll back some of the most important progressive victories of the past century.  People power can beat big money-- we have proven that with the election of Kathy Hochul in the NY-26 and several statewide recall elections in Wisconsin.  Believe it.

Your grassroots support will go a long way to help fight back in the war on worker rights and the interests of the middle-class. We must take this fight directly to out-of-touch Republicans in their backyards—namely western New York’s Ann Marie Buerkle and Tom Reed.

Now, with Congress set to return to DC, we must turn up the pressure. The political world will be watching the labor community's response as we react to Cantor’s attack on the middle-class. Let’s prove that we have what it takes to go toe-to-toe with these oppressive policies.  Call your Region Political Action coordinator today to find out how you can help yourself, your family and co-workers maintain the standard of living you now own. 

Don't let Eric Cantor or any other politician kill the American Dream.  To get involved today, you can call Courtney Brunelle at  the CSEA Western Region 6 Office at 1.716.691.6555 or go to the CSEA PAC webpage for more information. 


Rochester, N.Y.--  video production by Ove Overmyer.

Friday, August 26, 2011


Albany, N.Y.--  Governor Cuomo Pushes for Pension Reform

Showing no appreciation for the sacrifices already made by working families, the Governor continues to push for a Tier VI pension plan. In a recent interview, Governor Cuomo said, “The cost of pensions is going to have to be reformed going forward.”

Governor Cuomo’s proposed Tier VI would raise the retirement age to 65, double employee contributions, require employees to contribute forever and increase the vesting time from 10 to 12 years. It would significantly decrease retirement security for future workers. Governor Cuomo’s push for pension reform comes after the enactment of the Tier V pension plan that was implemented in 2010 and is expected to save the state $35 billion over a 30 year period.

While the media misrepresents our pensions, here are some simple truths to consider:

• The average CSEA member pension is about $14,000;

• The New York State Employee Retirement System is the best funded system in the country;

• Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli stated that the value of the Fund is $146.5 billion, the highest since the global economic downturn in fiscal year 2008-2009.

• The increased pension contributions from public employers are necessitated by the Wall Street crash and a decade of public employers not contributing to the system while employees contributed 3 percent of salary;

• Cuomo’s Tier VI reforms will put unnecessary, unfair and undue burden on the lowest-paid employees in public employment.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


NYS Comptroller Tom DiNapoli says public employers will need
to contribute more to pensions in the very near future.  Tom
is seen here with CSEA members in October of 2010.
photo: Courtney Brunelle 
Albany, N.Y.--  This is not the kind of news  most New Yorkers want to hear.  However, New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli says state and local governments will have to come up with more money for their workers' pensions in the next fiscal year to offset losses in the stock market.  This news has sent some knee-jerk pension reform critics dashing out into the streets with their fire-riddled documents in hand shouting, "See-- I told you so."

Here are some facts.  The average contribution rate to the state pension fund for public workers will rise from 16.3 percent of salaries to 18.9 percent. The average for the police and fire retirement system will rise from 21.6 percent to 25.8 percent.

DiNapoli says the pension fund, worth an estimated $146.5 billion on March 31, is still absorbing market losses from the national downturn two years ago despite subsequent gains.

Municipalities could pass some of the higher pension costs on to property taxpayers because the state's new property tax cap has an exclusion for part of the pension hikes.

DiNapoli has repeatedly said public pension funds work well. New York has reduced pension benefits in the past year for newly hired workers and lowered its performance outlook to 7.5 percent, while most states remain at 8 percent.

"This is a fund that has worked and been able to pay out benefits for 90 years," DiNapoli said. Managers also note the "funding ratio," which is the percentage of the fund needed to pay out all its obligations, is more than 80 percent in many states, which pension managers say is positive.

“To be honest with you, if we were talking in the third week of March, I’d be really concerned,” DiNapoli said. “But we have plenty of time for the markets to recover and one hopes that they will.  To sum it up: I’m still optimistic about where we are right now,” he added.

Editor's note:  This development underscores the argument that we need stronger and more substantial Wall Street regulation and tax code enforcement.  While Main Street has taken the biggest hit, Wall Street's major players keep doling out exorbitant bonuses while working families struggle to put food on the table. 
photo:  Ove Overmyer

In the final analysis, the finger-pointing will be directed at public employees for the cause of the short-term greater employer contributions while most sane economists know that there are many parameters that have produced this latest result-- and blaming the recipients of the fund is a ridiculous notion.  NYS taxpayers may not know, but should be made aware of, the fact that public employers contributed nothing to the pension funds during the boom years of the Clinton administration. 

Investing in the stock market is a long term endeavor, and we are very patient investors.  Pension funds have a long story arc because we have a perpetual investment horizon in front of us.  However, this won't stop the wild-eyed anti-pension bloodhounds from barking up the wrong tree.


Rochester, N.Y.--  The Most Wanted motorcycle club is riding for Jobs Not Cuts!

Come on out and show your support as we send NY Congressional Tea Party extremist Ann Marie Buerkle the message: It's time to create an economy that works for working people. It's time to invest in our communities with good jobs. It's time to restore the American Promise.

For the last century, the United States has worked together to ensure that each generation would have more opportunity and more prosperity than the generation before it. But, right now in Congress, the American Promise is under attack. Vital social programs like Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security that protect millions of families, disabled persons and senior citizens are being threatened by a radical anti-government, anti-people agenda.

There will be two rallying points, one at the departure location in Irondequoit at 11 am, and one at the arrival location in Syracuse at 1:30 pm. There will be host speakers and press at both locations.

Let's make sure our member of Congress is standing up for us by creating more jobs and putting our economy back on track for us—not just the rich and big corporations. I hope you can join your co-workers in the labor movement and other community members.

Any media questions regarding this mobilization, you can contact Rosemary Rivera at 585.520.6542.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Rochester, N.Y.-- Last fall, when Republicans took complete control of their governments in a whopping 20 states, we knew things could get out of hand very quickly. But no one saw this type of right wing extremism coming at a time when American working families are being tossed around like pawns in a chess game.

Anti-worker Republican governors like Scott Walker and Rick Perry—backed by GOP-controlled legislatures—have gone on a right-wing binge, with more than 60 new anti-choice laws, unprecedented attacks on workers' rights, deep budget cuts that are pushing us toward a double-dip recession and laying off thousands of public sector workers.

There was a time when Republicans would have at least pretended their tax cut obsessions would help the middle class. Now, Wall Street executives just boldly defend their righteous dignity saying that, “rich people are just maligned and deserve all the tax breaks they can get.”

As we wallow in one of the worst economic times in American history, for the majority of Americans that is, the GOP continues to push for reduced government spending and even more cuts to vital services before this election cycle is over. In states across the country, Republicans are calling "special sessions" to ram through even more budget cuts and partisan redistricting plans that will lock in their dominance for years to come.

Most sane economists will tell you that government intervention during times of economic crisis is necessary-- spending money on infrastructure projects, continuing unemployment insurance for those out of work and stabilizing vital public services that keep American communities working are all critical to a growing economy.  Tax breaks for the super-rich do not create jobs, period.

With so much at stake, the labor movement needs its rank-and file members to wake up and smell the coffee-- and focus on a major effort to bring grassroots muscle and Internet organizing to state capitols all across this country.  We need to shift the national narrative away from the GOP tax-cut plan and start talking about what really matters to the American people-- a very bold job creation plan that resembles FDR's New Deal.

photo:  Ove Overmyer
The Tea Party Republicans have already done enormous damage already, and public opinion is slowly turning against them now that the majority of Americans know that their policy ideas are flawed and are wreaking havoc on our economy. But, in the meantime and with more than a year till the next presidential election, we need to redouble our efforts to stop the next wave of budget cuts and far-right social policies driven by a minority of super-rich conservatives.

It’s time to take our message to the streets—we do not have a spending problem, we have a revenue problem. The super-rich need to pay their fair share, and it’s up to the middle-class to make that happen.  America's working families have already sacrificed enough, and now its time that we even out the tax codes and make the mega-rich responsible citizens.

According to a recent report authored by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, at least 23 states have made identifiable cuts in support for public schools. In many cases, these cuts undermine school finance systems that are intended to reduce disparities between high-wealth and low-wealth school districts, so the largest impacts may be felt in communities that are least able to compensate for the loss of funds from their own resources.

States are closing shortfalls with service cuts, new taxes, or reserves

To meet their balanced budget requirements, states must close their budget shortfalls, as they have in the last three years and in previous recessions. The question for states is how to accomplish this while doing the least damage to the economy, vulnerable residents, and necessary public services. States’ main choices are to draw on reserves, raise taxes, cut spending, or use a combination of these approaches.

In the three years since the recession began, states already have imposed cuts in all major areas of state services, including health care, libraries, services to the elderly and disabled, and K-12 and higher education. New York is cutting total Medicaid spending from all sources by $337 million, or 1 percent, relative to 2011 levels.

At least 38 of the 47 states that enacted 2012 budgets plan major cuts in services in the 2012 fiscal year, on top of cuts already implemented in all those states in fiscal years 2009, 2010 and/or 2011. In more than four-fifths of the 44 states for which the necessary data are available, states will spend less next year than before the recession hit, after adjusting for inflation. On average, those 37 states will spend 8 percent less than their states spent before the recession, adjusted for inflation.

Some states have enacted tax cuts, forcing even deeper cuts to services

For the first time since the recession caused state revenues to plummet, lawmakers in some states have enacted large tax cuts-- mostly cuts to taxes paid by corporations and other businesses-- in a misguided attempt to spur economic activity.

Twelve states that faced FY12 budget shortfalls have enacted major tax cuts that would reduce revenues in the coming fiscal year. Some of these states, as well as several others such as California, Maryland, and New York also allowed major tax measures to expire or phase out, losing significant revenue and causing further cuts in spending.

Spending cuts have weakened schools, reduced access to medical care and cost us American jobs

Since states spend more of their budgets on education and health care than anything else, lawmakers imposing large spending cuts are hard-pressed to avoid cutting back on these essential public services. Many states also will lay off state employees or cut their pay and benefits. These actions, coming on top of deep cuts that states have already made over the last three years, place a drag on the nation’s economic recovery.

New York State cut education aid by $1.3 billion, or 6.1 percent. This cut will delay implementation of a court order to provide additional education funding to under-resourced school districts for the third year in a row. Beyond cutting the level of education aid in FY12, the budget limits the rate at which education spending can grow in future years to the rate of growth in state personal income.

We at the Voice Reporter are completely puzzled by the fact that during the deficit reduction debate, the Republican position of using no revenues to balance the budget was supported by only 26 percent of the American people. How can the Republicans maintain that they are in any way acting as representatives of the people when they are taking a position that is opposed by over 70 percent of the people?

We also put the blame of our squeamish economy squarely on the GOP majority in the House-- who has not introduced ONE jobs bill since they took over the majority in January. The thought of a conservative Republican in the White House in 2012 should scare the crap out of every working American-- regardless of their party registration.

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.

-Ove Overmyer

Monday, August 22, 2011


Rochester, N.Y.--  A video wake-up call to the rank and file by Ove Overmyer.  Enjoy. 

Editor's note:  This video content is the opinion of the author only and does not represent CSEA as an organization.

Friday, August 19, 2011


Rochester, N.Y.--  Above you will find a timely and inspirational video slideshow by Ove Overmyer. To view other videos on the CSEA Local 828 Youtube channel, you can go here. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 18, 2011



Rochester, N.Y.--  Last year, forty unions participated in the annual parade, sending more than 3,000 members down the streets of downtown Rochester. Several bands, over a hundred vehicles, and several community groups accompanied the marchers and a large crowd turned out to cheer the on the parade.  So, get off your duff this year and join us at the corner of East Ave. and Strathallan Street at 9:30 am on Monday, September 5.

Also, there will be a picnic at Seneca Park for Local 828 members and their immediate families following the parade festivities. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Albany, N.Y.--  CSEA president Danny Donohue says passing the state worker contract was the best choice for the union and for New York's working families.  Check out his "back and forth" with Capitol Tonight's host Liz Benjamin. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Albany, N.Y.--  Members of the state’s largest public employees union approved a new five-year contract that freezes wages for three years, increases health-care contributions and requires unpaid furloughs, the union announced late Monday.

Under the contract, the Civil Service Employees Association avoids layoffs, but agreed to some of the largest givebacks by a public-employee union in state history.  This proves that public employees have always been part of the solution to our state's collective fiscal problems-- even though workers are not responsible for the gross mismanagement of public funds.  

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who had vowed to lay off up to 9,800 state workers this year if their unions didn’t agree to $450 million in concessions, called the contract “a win for the union and a win for the people of the state.”

“The union avoided layoffs and the state is financially stronger,” Cuomo said in a statement. “I’m pleased that our approach of labor and management working together is vindicated. Mutual respect and honest negotiations work.”

CSEA spent all of Monday tallying close to 30,000 ballots that were returned on the contract. CSEA represents about 66,000 mostly blue-collar public workers across New York. The union reached a tentative deal with Cuomo’s office in June, and voting by mail wrapped up last week.

About 60 percent of the ballots returned were in favor of the deal, according to CSEA spokesman Stephen Madarasz. More information on the vote would be made available at a news conference on Tuesday, he said.

The vote was seen as a bellwether to determine whether other unions would agree to similar terms. Contracts expired for more than a dozen unions on April 1.

The second largest union, the Public Employees Federation, plans to vote next month on the same deal as CSEA’s.

The state’s difficult fiscal position made the more austere contract a necessity, CSEA President Danny Donohue said.

“These are not ordinary times and CSEA worked hard to reach an agreement that we believed would be in everyone’s best interest,” Donohue said in a statement. “CSEA members agree that this contract is reasonable and responsible for the long term and shows that CSEA members will do what is right for the good of all New Yorkers."

CSEA President Danny Donohue and CSEA Director of Contract Administration Ross Hanna, surrounded by the CSEA State Negotiating Team members, speak to the media after the union's tentative agreement with New York state was announced in June.  photo:  Courtesy of CSEA

Sunday, August 14, 2011


Employers are struggling to map out what is best for employees and their bottom line.  Is this the beginning of the end for domestic-partner benefits?

photo:  Ove Overmyer
Rochester, N.Y.--  Misinformation and confusion is commonplace now that the Marriage Equality Act in New York has become the law of the land.  The Empire State joins six other states or municipalities in which same-sex couples can get married in the United States.

What does this mean for all workers?  What does this mean for the future of domestic-partner benefits and those who are stuck in civil unions?  Will unmarried straight couples be denied worker benefits if they choose not to marry?

When gay marriage officially became legal in the state of New York in July, thousands of same-sex couples rushed to be among the first to take their wedding vows under the new law. Before the law passed, many gay employees requesting domestic-partner benefits had to prove to their employer that they were in a longstanding, committed relationship -- providing evidence that they owned property together, held joint bank accounts or named each other as beneficiaries.

Meanwhile, employers in the state are now mulling over this question: Should they stop offering domestic-partner benefits in light of the Marriage Equality Act?  As a result of these new found laws and policies, employers should be mindful of their existing plan documents and the way in which they define terms such as spouse and domestic partner.

Now in New York state, same-sex spouses will receive the same rights and responsibilities provided to different-sex spouses under New York law. According to ESPA and the NYCBA, there are over 1,300 such rights and responsibilities, including, health care decision-making for an incapacitated spouse, property rights, and inheritance rights.

This law will not affect domestic partnership registries.  It will continue to be available unless the municipality or employer chooses to terminate the registry or the labor unions that represent those workers fail to negotiate for these benefits in their collective bargaining agreements.

All couples who have registered or will register as domestic partners in Albany, Ithaca, New York City, Rochester, Southampton, Suffolk County, or Westchester County, but are not legally married, will continue to have access to the limited rights and responsibilities available through the registries. Workers need to know that domestic partnerships and civil unions will not automatically convert to marriages.

Employers are asking workers to make the first move

The Human Rights Campaign says that corporations want to
 retain the best and brightest.  One way to do that is offer
equal benefits to all employees. photo:  Ove Overmyer
However, the expected trend is likely to be just that; in those jurisdictions where marriage is possible, it will be a requirement to get benefits, just as it is for heterosexual couples, says most private sector human resource specialists, including Helen Darling, president and CEO of the National Business Group on Health in Washington. 

Currently, the same-sex domestic partners of 33 percent of government workers and 29 percent of private-industry workers have access to health care benefits, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Survivor benefits are offered to 7 percent of private-industry workers and half of government workers.

"Given the new law, companies in New York are beginning a transition period where their gay and lesbian employees will have roughly six months to a year to get married before the company pulls back its domestic-partner benefits," says Darling.

But she doesn't think a nationwide pullback of domestic-partner benefits is in the works--  primarily because there are just seven jurisdictions that currently allow same-sex marriage.  And, she believes it won't happen anytime soon because there are many states that are still struggling with the issues of equality and civil rights. 

Additionally, many human resource specialists agree that we now have an intricate web of pending legislation in our state legislatures and courts attempting to grapple with the definition of families and legally recognizing personal relationships-- all of which complicates perceiving the status of our American working families.

And, another complicating factor is that many workforces include people living in different states -- with different rules -- so dropping domestic-partner benefits would hurt out-of-state employees or force them to travel to other states to marry.

Roberta Chevlowe, a labor and employment lawyer with Proskauer in New York, think companies won't be in any rush to drop domestic-partner benefits -- even if they're New York employers with a strictly New York-based workforce.  The Human Rights Campaign says corporate employers want to retain the best and brightest, and one way to do that is to provide benefit packages that are equal across the board.

Chevlowe asks, "Why should [an employer] force same-sex couples to get married in New York in order to get certain benefits from the company?"  She added, noting that the federal government does not recognize same-sex marriage, "that means a worker in a same-sex relationship will be taxed on the benefits they receive from an employer as if they are income." 

LGBT workers are still being treated far from equal; Labor advocates say DOMA is unconstitutional

Workers in same-sex relationships also continue to lose out on plenty of other benefits, such as Social Security survivor benefits.  On a federal level as it stands today, same-sex couples are far from equal to opposite-sex couples-- mostly when it comes to reporting taxes on earned income.  When same-sex couples can not file jointly, they lose out on many tax benefits afforded different-sex married spouses.

Even if the federal government were to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), most labor advocates agree that it should not mean the end of domestic-partner benefits or perpetuating the ill treatment of employees with different identities.

"I still think domestic partnership benefits should remain as is--  right now the states are the ones who define marriage and relationships," says Bess Watts, president of CSEA Monroe County Local 828 and a national board member of Pride At Work, AFL-CIO.  She told the Voice Reporter, "DOMA is unjust and unconstitutional-- it needs to be repealed."

Watts stresses that union workers should continue to negotiate domestic partner benefits language into their collective bargaining agreements even though state laws on relationship matters are evolving at a rapid pace. 

Tom Privitere, WNY Director of Field Services for the Public Employees Federation, who was the chief negotiator in the first effort to adopt domestic partnership language in New York State collective bargaining agreements back in 1995, wants public employees to know that domestic-partner benefits and civil unions are not the same as marriage.  "Back then, getting second-class status was not the goal and this was not just about LGBT workers.  Statistics show that the percentage of families who enjoy domestic-partner benefits are unmarried heterosexual couples.  This was an effort that benefited all our state workers who were job-titled under our collective bargaining agreement."

"You do not have to get married in New York or otherwise register your marriage in New York if you are legally married elsewhere, " added Watts.  In February 2008, an intermediate appellate court ruled that same-sex couples who marry outside New York are entitled to full recognition of their marriages in New York. 

In May 2008, the Court of Appeals, New York’s high court, unanimously ruled not to review the decision in Martinez v. County of Monroe, letting the appellate court’s ruling stand. Pat Martinez is a employee of Monroe Community College and a member in good standing with CSEA Monroe County Local 828.  She successfully sued her employer to have her relationship legally recognized, and therefore, was eventually offered the same benefits as the married heterosexual colleagues that worked right beside her.

On May 14, 2008, Governor Paterson’s legal counsel directed all state agencies to revise rules and regulations in order to provide equal rights, benefits, and responsibilities to same-sex couples who marry in other jurisdictions, pursuant to the court’s decision in Martinez.

Watts and Privitere both say if you want to receive spousal or family benefits at work, it will be up to you to inform your employer that you have a domestic partner or that you are now married.  They also both suggest you proactively contact any entity who is required to recognize your marriage or a possible name change, whether it be your bank, lawyer or the department of motor vehicles.

In some cases, however, if your employer does not require opposite-sex couples to provide a marriage certificate in order to prove the existence of their marriage, then you should not be required to do so either.

Although workplace inequtities have received more attention of late, Privitere cautions that until the federal government, including perhaps the Supreme Court, finally and fully recognize the legitimacy of married same-sex couples, the slippery slope experienced by LGBT couples in California is still possible elsewhere-- including here in New York State.

-written by Ove Overmyer

Saturday, August 13, 2011


Rochester, N.Y.--  The Voice Reporter has just learned it has received peer recognition for its work for the year 2010. 

The Metro New York Labor Communications Council sponsors the only New York area competition that recognizes excellence among labor journalists, photographers, graphic artists, editors and publications.

Judges are experts from the labor press, mainstream press and academia.

Metro is dedicated to the importance of union publications and other labor media. Winning a Communications Award calls attention to your staff’s talents and the achievements of your publication or other medium in delivering labor’s message.

Talent and good ideas are independent of financial resources and that is what the MNYLCC recognizes.

Individuals, Web sites, radio programs, public relations work and publications are honored during an awards ceremony at Metro’s annual convention and in a journal of first-place winners published by Metro.

For a full list of winners, you can go here.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Monroe County Legislature honors local activists
left to right:  Democratic Minority Leader Ted O'Brien, Ove Overmyer, Bess Watts,
Anne Tischer, Todd Plank and County Legislator C. Stephen Eckel.
photo:  Stefan Fleming

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


Rochester, N.Y.--  In a decision authored by state Supreme Court Justice Ann Marie Taddeo on August 8, the legal challenge to the election petitions filed by Democrat Harry Davis was successful.

Monroe County Democratic Leader of the 23rd Legislative District Allan Richards filed a lawsuit against Davis, who was running for a City Council East District seat, saying his petitions were riddled with "fraudulent" inaccuracies.

Taddeo said testimony provided in court was convincing enough to throw into question the legitimacy of all of the petition signatures Davis collected.

“The Court finds that the questionable and irregular signature-collecting process permeated the petition with fraud and should be invalidated,” she wrote.

The court also found that numerous violations of Election Law 6-132 were substantiated, more notable, the purported signature of New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning.  Who knew that Eli was living incognito in the Southwedge?

Therefore, Davis will not appear on the ballot this fall, where fellow Democrat and incumbent Elaine Spaull will face Republican Rich Tyson in the general election on November 8.  As a matter of fact, Davis' legal problems are far from over. 

This is not the end of the story-- filing false petitions to the Board of Elections is a serious crime.  The Rochester Police Department and the Monroe County District Attorney's Office are looking into criminal charges against Davis.

In a case in Nassau County earlier this year, Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice  prosecuted an employee at the Nassau County Board of Elections for writing false residential addresses on petitions for a political candidate in an attempt to secure the necessary number of signatures to get the candidate’s name on the ballot for the 2009 election.

Imtiaz Insanally, 27, of Valley Stream, was arrested by DA investigators and charged with one felony count of Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the first degree and one misdemeanor count of misconduct in relation to petitions. Insanally faced up to four years in prison if convicted.

CSEA will not be making any recommendations or endorsements for any citywide City of Rochester publicly elected offices for the 2011 election year.

Monday, August 8, 2011


Rochester, N.Y.-- In 2010, the Civil Service Employees Association celebrated 100 years of service to the communities of New York State. This year, the Rochester Public Library is celebrating a century of service to the Rochester and Monroe County area. CSEA first organized the library Unit in 1995, and is one of 21 units that comprise CSEA Monroe County Local 828. For a complete list of all the Local 828 Units, you can go here.

In honor of these milestones, we have put together a 46 second public service announcement honoring the CSEA represented workers of the Rochester Public Library.


Tuesday, August 2, 2011


Westchester, N.Y.--  More than 1,000 hourly and seasonal employees of Westchester County overwhelmingly voted to become a part of Civil Service Employees Association, New York State's largest union.

The workers, who began organizing to join CSEA more than a year ago, voted in a representation election held by the New York State Public Employment Relations Board in July. The ballots were counted on Aug. 1.

The campaign, called H.O.U.R. Westchester – Hourlies Organized and United for Respect – began when unrepresented Westchester County workers approached CSEA about joining the union. Westchester County CSEA leaders saw the opportunity to assist these workers and strengthen the union, union leaders said.

The newly organized workers include some seasonal workers working at the county’s parks, pools, golf courses and an amusement park, and some year-round employees who work on an hourly basis with no benefits.

“We saw the need to protect our work and strengthen our union by bringing together all Westchester County workers,” said CSEA Westchester County Unit President Karen Pecora. “This organizing campaign is part of our broader effort to defend vital public services at a time when they are under attack.”