Sunday, October 30, 2011


Rochester, N.Y.-- Meet Sterling Comfort-- he is a young single guy who lives in Rochester, N.Y.. It just so happens that Sterling is a public employee and is very proud to serve his community. Sterling sees the world as is and asks, "Why can't we do better? Why are so many working families struggling to survive? What happened to the American Dream?" Often misunderstood, Sterling is probably too smart for his own good.

He often takes the opportunity to share his thoughts and opinions with others-- and doesn't mince his words. We at the Voice Reporter are giving him a stipend-- that's because his municipal employer refuses to pay his health insurance. Plus, they have recently demoted him to a involuntary part-time employee so he needs all the help he can get to make ends meet. We welcome Sterling with open arms.

To view Sterling's first video introduction, you can go here. We hope you like him. Stay tuned.


Saturday, October 29, 2011



A non-violent OWS supporter takes time out to listen to the opinion of an onlooker at the recent rally in front of the Monroe County Office Building on Oct. 11, 2011. 31 people were arrested last night in Washington Square Park.
photo: Bess Watts
RLC says Decision to Provoke a Confrontation was Made Hours Before by City Officials

Rochester, NY-- James Bertolone, President, Rochester and Genesee Valley Area Labor Federation, AFL-CIO, today condemned the arrests of dozens of peaceful protesters in Rochester's Washington Square Park. "The arrests of those supporting the Occupy Wall Street movement last night is an embarrassment to our community and dishonors our American values," stated Bertolone. "It is nothing short of an attempt by the 1% to silence the voices of the 99%; the victims of decades of wage stagnation and income inequality."

"We, in the union movement are alarmed that these protesters were arrested, and call on our elected officials to cease interfering with peaceful demonstrations about our country's economic plight," continued Bertolone. "I am even more disturbed by the fact that City officials made the decision to arrest people many hours before the actual protest. Our office received a warning from City Hall many hours before the demonstration because, we believe, of our organization's support of the Occupy Wall Street protests."

"I want to make it clear that our criticisms do not include rank and file police officers who were obeying orders from City Hall. They handled the situation professionally and without incident. There is no reason to strain our police budgets when there is no threat to public safety, and our nation has already laid off 35,000 police officers. They are also part of the 99% and should not be placed in such a position in the future," continued Bertolone.

"We demand in the strongest possible terms that Mayor Richards reverse his directive and order his troops to stand down. Local ordinances for the public's property, such as trespassing or parade permit laws, cannot be allowed to deny the rights of Americans to peaceably exercise their first amendment rights."

"The Labor movement in this City and State will continue to support the cause of the 99% of Americans until the needs of our citizens are addressed."

The Rochester & Genesee Valley Area Labor Federation, AFL-CIO covers 11 counties, and represents more than 75,000 working men and women from more than 300 local unions.

A sign at the Solidarity March in NYC On Oct. 5, 2011 supporting the occupation of Wall Street sums things up nicely-- and points out the irony that rank and file police officers face when directed to arrest protesters who allegedly violate municipal ordinances. photo: Ove Overmyer / The Voice Reporter


A February 2008 video clip shows angry citizens on the steps of the Monroe County Office Building protesting Maggie Brooks and Bill Taylor's effort to discriminate against it's workforce. (Video: Grlwolf)

Rochester, N.Y.-- It’s not as if we as public workers have short memories or anything, but three years ago the Brooks administration and County lawyer Bill Taylor filed an appeal to make sure same-sex couples who work for Monroe County would stay second-class citizens. And, they spent gobs of our taxpayer dollars to clog up the courts in their effort to fight their own personal anti-equality culture war.

Here is a quick refresher course on some recent local history:

Martinez v. County of Monroe (50 A.D.3d 189; 850 N.Y.S.2d 740) is a judgment of the Supreme Court of the State of New York which established that a same-sex marriage performed in another state must be recognized by the state of New York. The decision was handed down on February 1, 2008. This was the first court decision that an out-of-state same-sex marriage must be recognized by a state.

In the case, Patricia Martinez, a CSEA Local 828 employee of Monroe Community College in Monroe County, New York married her same-sex partner in Ontario, Canada. She then applied for health benefits based on her marriage and was denied. In February of 2008, the court held that because New York has always recognized out of state marriages of opposite-sex couples, it must do so for same-sex couples as well.

On May 6, 2008, the New York Court of Appeals – the State’s highest court – dismissed Bill Taylor’s and Maggie Brooks application for leave to appeal. The Court of Appeals was reported to have refused leave to appeal because the issue of damages between the Martinez family and Monroe Community College had not been resolved.

This little history lesson demonstrates a fundamental difference between voting for candidates who vow to support all our constituents as equal citizens or those whose who use public office to advance their own personal and political agendas. Frankly speaking, we find it incredibly insulting that our County Executive and County Attorney take our very own taxpayer dollars and turn them around and use those funds to oppress the very people they were sworn to serve.

Friday, October 28, 2011


Rochester, N.Y.-- Bill Taylor is just another politician who will say and do anything to get elected, even if it means not telling the truth. This is pretty rich coming from a lawyer who wants to be the top law enforcement officer of Monroe County.

The Fair Election Practices Committee has found a TV campaign ad for Bill Taylor in the race for Monroe County District Attorney has violated the Fair Campaign Pledge. And, he insists that he won't pull the ad.

If Mr. Taylor can't follow a simple campaign pledge and tell the truth, why should voters support him? He has neither the political independence nor prosecutorial experience to lead the office of the District Attorney in Monroe County, N.Y. The choice is clear. Vote for Sandra Doorley.


Rochester, N.Y.-- Rochester, N.Y.-- Bill Taylor is just another politician who will say and do anything to get elected, even if it means not telling the truth. This is pretty rich coming from a guy who wants to be the top law enforcement officer of Monroe County.

The Fair Election Practices Committee has found a TV campaign ad for Bill Taylor in the race for Monroe County District Attorney has violated the Fair Campaign Pledge. And, he insists that he won't pull the ad.

If Mr. Taylor can't follow a simple campaign pledge and tell the truth, why should voters support him? He has neither the political independence nor prosecutorial experience to lead the office of the District Attorney in Monroe County, N.Y. The choice is clear. Vote for Sandra Doorley.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Rochester, N.Y.--  There is no other way to say this: "If you do not consider yourself "financially wealthy," then you have no business voting for a Republican at any level of government-- period. If you think otherwise, then you are just voting against your own self-interest.

While Occupy Wall Street protests continue to spread across the country, outrage against an economy stacked against the 99% is growing. And the media is finally paying attention. Our national debate has shifted from austerity, deficit reduction and cuts to jobs to inequality, income disparity and our broken economic system.

But Congress still isn’t listening to the 99%. Policies continue to fail the 99% and reward the rich at the expense of the rest of us.

Last week, it happened again: Senate Republicans once again blocked progress for workers with a political maneuver, filibustering the Teachers and First Responders Back to Work Act. It didn’t get a vote at all. Justice for the 99% once again was delayed.

Deliver a message of support

If Congress won’t represent the 99%, then we clearly need to put our anger into action and stand together. Let’s build a movement that is strong enough that our elected officials will have no choice but to start addressing the needs of the 99%.

If you can’t join protesters on the ground, one way to make your voice heard is to send a message of solidarity to those who are.  You can contact the Voice Reporter with your message and we will deliver it for you. Or, if and when your downtown, stop by the Occupy Rochester events at the Liberty Pole and let the "occupiers" know you stand with the 99% of Americans.


Monday, October 24, 2011


Officers and Committee Chairs of CSEA Monroe County Local 828 take a break during an intense workshop training provided by Linda Donahue (back row, 2nd from right), Director of Labor Programs, Rochester District, Cornell University Industrial and Labor Relations School. Photo provided.
 Rochester, N.Y.-- On October 21 and 22, CSEA Monroe County Local 828 union leaders met at a local hotel to discuss ways to make their labor organization leaner and meaner. The objective of this effort was to improve on our goals with our committee activities, become more accountable and therefore work towards becoming a more perfect union.

This was the second scheduled workshop focusing on committee development and performance.  Last year, Cornell ILR professor Linda Donahue facilitated the first workshop titled, "Building Union Commitment through Effective Committees." This year, attendees did a review session of the 2010 program and talked about what worked this past year and what didn't.

photo: Ove Overmyer
Members discussed union values, building ownership, brainstormed methods of decision-making and talked about achieving consensus. At the end of the session, participants verbally surveyed a needs assessment and gave mini presentations to the group.

Bess Watts, Monroe County Local 828 president calls Donahue a gift to the labor community. She said, "Her patient style, depth of knowledge and teaching abilities makes learning difficult subject matter very understandable and rewarding. We are now better prepared to deliver on our promise becoming more effective labor leaders and activists."

Other member comments about the work session included these remarks:

•This was a very helpful workshop to help us work with our committees and unit members/leaders. We could clearly have this for a whole weekend instead of a day and a half.

•I really like the materials to help put my committee together. Thank you for the help. Great job Linda, you are fantastic.

•This presentation was extremely timely for me as I start to re-organize the membership committee. I have developed many new ideas and tips that I will use in my job as chair of this committee.

Watts added that she is delighted with the progress of our Local the past two years but warns there will be continued tough times ahead for all workers. She is always looking for feedback from our members on what we can do better. If you have any questions or comments about your Local or Unit, you can contact her directly by email or calling the Local 828 Office at 585.328.5250.


Saturday, October 22, 2011


Rochester, N.Y.--  Community groups and labor organizations held a press conference at the Liberty Pole on October 18, 2011-- the site of Occupy Rochester-- to launch a campaign effort to stop the state's planned expiration of a tax surcharge for the mega-wealthy.

If the tax ends December 31, 2011, New York State stands to lose over 5 billion dollars that pay for vital public services and programs that benefit the working class.  All photos and video by Bess Watts. 

Friday, October 21, 2011


Rochester, N.Y.-- The dings in the Monroe County administration's armor is taking a toll on their communications machine.  When asked one more time to repsond to the latest news about a County LDC being supoenaed by the Attorney General, the Brooks administration reverts back to their knee-jerk arrogant spin language to divert your attention away from the facts, data, testimony and truth of the matter.

When they can’t twist the facts as they see fit, they rely on the only repsonse they have left in their arsenal-- it's just "political hay" and everyone else is wrong. Well, it didn't work when the State Comptroller found irregularities in the Navitech deal and it will not work this time either. How stupid do they think we are?

Once again, the taxpayers from every corner of Monroe County know better than to accept the County’s media response to this latest news.

The taxpayers of Monroe County see right through this thinly disguised charade perpetrated on the citizens of our community. The County spokesman's dismissive attitude toward the same people they were sworn to represent and their arrogant sound bites to suggest they are beyond reproach makes this all the more unpalatable. Frankly speaking, the petulance and smugness is an embarrassment to every citizen who cares about democracy and good government.

More often than not, when you behave this way, you are guilty and have something to hide.

The unethical and possibly criminal actions of this administration would eventually reach a tipping point-- and now it has. People are fed up. People are tired of being manipulated and lied to. Most of us know better now-- the majority of taxpayers in Monroe County are finally waking up to this pay-to-play, nepotistic, self-serving corrupt system we call County government.

One way or another, the truth eventually surfaces. Truth has no agenda. We think when it's all said and done, history will not be kind to Maggie-- and history will be the final judge of the Brooks legacy.

Questions and improprieties will surface long after this election cycle. Let's hope the voters of Monroe County wake up and smell the coffee before we dig a hole that we can not get out of. We would hate to tell you, "we told you so."


Rochester, N.Y.-- The corruption and scandal plagued Monroe County adminstration is once again reeling from more bad news. The Voice Reporter recently found out that a Monroe County local development corporation managing a $99 million contract to upgrade the county's information technology network has been subpoenaed by state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for documentation detailing its founding, finances and contracts with outside vendors.  You can read a story today in the D&C by David Andreatta here.

The subpoena to Upstate Telecommunications Corp. was issued in late August within the scope of a broad investigation into Monroe County local development corporations being conducted jointly by the attorney general and the state comptroller, and not in response to an audit released last month.

That audit, by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, charged that the county's contract with Upstate Telecommunications smacked of favoritism and cost taxpayers millions of dollars more than necessary-- findings the county has predictably refuted and dismissed as politically motivated.

Upstate Telecommunications Chairman Hank Stuart acknowledged at a meeting of the board Thursday having received the subpoena. The board entered into a closed executive session to discuss the matter, citing it as pending litigation, and later approved hiring an outside counsel to handle the response.

"In regard to the subpoena, the board felt it important to hire outside counsel," Stuart said, adding that the meeting was the first time that board members had had an opportunity to review the subpoena and would respond appropriately. The board meets quarterly.

Navitech deal still under scrutiny

198 Park Ave. near Goodman St.
International HQ of Navitech, the company
that got a 224 million dollar contract from
Monroe County.
A law firm has also been retained by the County to help another local development corporation, Monroe Security and Safety Systems, respond to a separate subpoena previously issued by the attorney general. Monroe Security and Safety Systems, also known as M3SLDC, has a $224 million contract to upgrade the county's emergency communications system.

The lone representative on the M3SLDC board appointed by Democratic county legislators, Samuel Farina Jr., abruptly resigned Thursday in an email to his colleagues. The email did not provide a reason and a phone message left for Farina was not returned.

The joint investigation stems from an agreement between the attorney general and comptroller struck in May to establish a task force on public integrity that significantly expanded the attorney general's authority to pursue and criminally prosecute corruption involving taxpayer money. The attorney general was already responsible for regulating nonprofit organizations, like local development corporations.

Some of the documents demanded of Upstate Telecommunications by the attorney general include those easily found in the public domain, such as incorporating papers and minutes of meetings.

But the subpoena also compels the corporation to produce documents pertaining to bank and brokerage accounts, deposit slips and canceled checks, contracts with the county and 14 different companies, and compensation and any other benefits it paid to contractors.

Upstate Telecommunications has no employees, but rather contracts with a variety of individuals and companies to carry out the day-to-day operations of the county's information technology network.

With the public release of his office's audit of the county's contract with Upstate Telecommunications, DiNapoli announced that he had referred his findings to Schneiderman and had specifically asked the attorney general to examine $1.9 million in management fees the corporation paid out between 2005 and 2009.

Among the concerns expressed by auditors were the timing of the creation of Upstate Telecommunications in 2004 and its contracts with individuals with close ties to county government. For example, Richard Mackey, the deputy county executive when Upstate Telecommunications was founded, became a paid consultant for the corporation upon leaving county government in 2005. Mackey has not responded to requests for interviews and declined comment at Thursday's board meeting.

Democratic county legislators held a news conference prior to the board meeting demanding answers to a series of questions and requests for documents they posed to the board two weeks ago.

"The documents we have requested relate directly to how this sweetheart deal was set up, who took part, and who benefitted," said Legislator Paul Haney, D-Rochester.


Thursday, October 20, 2011


Rochester, N.Y.-- New York State has been navigating stormy waters in a battle over the millionaire's tax for quite a while now. A bill was eventually signed by former Gov. David Paterson in 2009 to help close the state's massive deficit.  It created two new tax brackets, designating families with incomes of $300,000 at a rate of 7.85 percent and those over $500,000 at 8.97 percent (which the New York Times points out is the same as neighboring New Jersey's highest rate).

Allowing the tax's expiration would amount to a $5 billion tax cut for New York's richest. Lately, New York's political leadership seem interested in austerity measures only-- not new forms of revenue. It's becoming clear that they're not interested in solving a budget crisis, they're more concerned about giving the rich their "payback" and maintaining the status quo while the working poor and middle-class continue to suffer.

The fact that Cuomo is thumbing his nose at the 99 percent clarifies our national conundrum why and how big money influences public policy even when it's not in the best interest of the State. So, it should be no surprise that Cuomo opposes the tax considering his financial relationships on Wall Street. And, Cuomo has an ambivalent relationship with his own party-- even as momentum created by Occupy Wall Street has politicians from Barack Obama on down realizing that the time is ripe for some economic populism, Cuomo appears committed to protecting the interests of the rich.

OWS supporter marches to Foley Square
in NYC on Oct.5, 2011 to meet 15,000 others.
photo: Ove Overmyer
The Governor and the 1 percent

Before winning the governorship, Cuomo served as New York's attorney general, but unlike his predecessor in that role, Eliot Spitzer, or his successor Eric Schneiderman, Cuomo didn't exactly make a name for himself going after the big banks. Instead of fighting the tenacious battles Spitzer waged, Cuomo tended to look for quick settlements rather than a long, drawn-out, protracted legal fights.

Albany Project blogger and longtime New York political activist Phillip Anderson said, “Cuomo went after Wall Street just enough as AG to maintain the fiction that he gave a damn. Worked out well for both parties and he has been rewarded accordingly.”

Alyssa Katz wrote of Cuomo's election at The Nation, “The big money in New York State politics-- from real estate and Wall Street-- is backing Cuomo against Tea Partyer Carl Paladino and expects to be taken care of in return.”

And the numbers back her up. According to the National Institute on Money in State Politics, nearly ten percent of Cuomo's total campaign funding for 2010 came from securities & investment firms, a total of $2,057,027-- only the real estate industry gave him more. Not only that, but he got approximately 50 times more than his largely self-funded Republican opponent, Carl Paladino, who raised $39,800 from securities & investment firms, and twice as much as Eliot Spitzer, who was elected New York's governor in 2006 before having to step down after a sex scandal.

Over his career, Cuomo's gotten $4,148,597 from securities & investment firms, $841,300 of that when he ran for Attorney General.  That is nearly twice as much as his successor Schneiderman got from that industry during last year's election.

New York's election laws allow individuals to give large amounts to candidates-- several gave Cuomo over $55,000 each. One would assume that individuals giving $55,000 in an election cycle are probably making well over $200,000 a year. That amount is the cutoff for the surcharge for a single earner.
Cuomo says he supports a tax on the rich on the federal level, but doesn't want New York to be the only state with one, claiming that it'll put the state at a competitive disadvantage. But it's hard to see how that could be true-- no matter how much cheaper it might be to live in New Jersey, for example, New York's richest are hardly going to give up their lavish park side views and status parties for the pedestrian suburbs.

Ron Deutsch of New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness dispelled what he called “the myth of the moving millionaire” at a press conference for 99 New York, the new coalition pushing for the tax. Hundreds of Rochester folks gathered at the Liberty Pole on October 18 to kick off the local effort. In an interview with Capitol Tonight's Liz Benjamin, Deutsch pointed out that between 2003 and 2005, when the state imposed a post-9/11 surcharge on the rich, they actually saw a 30 percent increase in wealthy tax filers, and that a 2007 study found that New York's richest are its least likely to move-- whether that's because of those posh penthouses, the social scene, or the ease of the commute, the wealthy simply aren't going to pack up and leave.

Cuomo's attempt to appear to support the people while actually enacting business-friendly policies isn't exactly new to Democrats, but the sudden rise of economic populism in the form of Occupy Wall Street has him looking extraordinarily out of touch with his constituents on this issue.  We say Andrew-- you can’t have both ways.

Here in New York, the public support from even Republicans has the 99 New York coalition poised and ready to utilize all their resources to make the rich pay their fair share. As the occupations continue to gain momentum here in Monroe County, N.Y. and around the country, politicians who ignore the turning of the tide may find themselves left behind-- on the wrong side of the battle lines. Even the GOP in the NY State Senate are starting to waver on the millionaire's tax, especially because the largely rural districts they represent are filled with municipalities that are in serious financial trouble.

Editor's Note: This commentary is the expressed written opinion of The Voice Reporter only and does not reflect the views of CSEA as an organization.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Rochester, N.Y.-- Community groups and labor organizations held a press conference at the Liberty Pole -- the site of Occupy Rochester demonstrations to launch a campaign to stop the state's planned tax cut for millionaires. CSEA Local 828 Vice President Ove Overmyer speaks to the crowd.  Video production by Bess Watts.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Rochester, N.Y.-- In the past few weeks, we have seen the resurrection of a sleeping giant who is now beginning to speak truth to power.

The 99 percent "occupiers" (do not call them protesters) have tapped into a powerful vein of discontent with Wall Street and the corporate capture of our democracy. Around the country and the world, the unemployed, students, working families and countless others are taking to the streets to voice their opposition to a system rigged for corporations and the rich.

The media and the American public have somewhat taken notice, but the wheels of Washington definitely hasn't. Senate Republicans just blocked the president's bill to create millions of jobs, because it asked millionaires to pay their fair share in tax. And the congressional Super Committee is still racing toward a deal likely to include big cuts to Social Security and Medicare without asking the rich to pay more. We only have weeks to stop it. Get off your couch and get into the streets and tell anyone who will listen, "I'm not gonna take it anymore."

Mainstream media and those who oppose OWS would like nothing better than to define us.  This movement can not and will not be defined by one issue alone. As soon as specific demands are made public, that is when they will pounce and denounce. Again, this is not a protest.  This is a movement.  Right now, we are in an "occupation."  Nothing more, nothing less.  This is all it needs to be right now.

For those activists who straddle the world of politics, if you are so inclined, you should be targeting the Republicans who are standing with Wall Street.  Moreover, we need to keep the pressure on Democrats to push for more jobs and tax the rich fairly-- especially in New York State.  This movement's overall global success depends upon average folks just like you. Be your best own advocate. Get with the program.

Today in Rochester, Occupy Rochester will be joined by several other community groups at a rally downtown at the Liberty Pole (4:30 pm) to bring attention to the fact that New York Gov. Cuomo is standing on the side of the rich. At the end of the year, a surcharge on the wealthiest New Yorker's will expire, meaning 5 billion less public money will be available to provide the necessary public services to keep New York families above water, literally and figuratively.

Monday, October 17, 2011


Washington, D.C.-- When will the self-professed moderates wake up and smell the coffee?  If you blank, independent and moderate voters remember one thing before you cast your next Congressional ballot, just remember that all 46 Senate Republicans voted against President Obama’s American Jobs Act last Monday evening. With 60 votes needed to end the Republican filibuster against the act that would create as many as 2 million new jobs and keep 280,000 teachers from being laid off, this bill is unlikely to see any other action. What a disgrace.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka says:

The 99 percent of our country who want jobs now should take note of how each and every senator voted today on the American Jobs Act. And we should ask each one who voted no—what is your plan? How would you put our country back to work and give hope to our nation’s families? Because the truth is the Republicans who unanimously blocked this courageous bill have no plan and seek to profit politically from the country’s pain.

Along with the 2 million jobs, the American Jobs Act would:

•Prevent 5 million workers from losing their unemployment benefits;

•Make immediate investments in rebuilding and upgrading America’s highways, transit, rail, airports, bridges, ports, schools and communications and energy infrastructure;

•Make sure the wealthy contribute their fair share to fixing our economy; the American Jobs Act is paid for by a 5.6 percent surtax on millionaires.

Trumka says the “commonsense jobs bill should have brought together all senators of both parties to stem the tide of economic pain that is overwhelming working people.”

Senate Republicans’ unanimous opposition to this jobs bill reflects shamefully distorted priorities that place partisan gain over economic security for the 99 percent of us who lack it.


Rochester, N.Y.-- Community groups and labor organizations will hold a press conference at the Liberty Pole – the site of Occupy Rochester demonstrations (East Avenue and Main Street), Rochester, N.Y. at 4:30 pm on Tuesday 10/18/2011 to launch a campaign to stop the state’s planned tax cut for millionaires.

We will call on elected officials to do the right thing and stop the $5 billion tax break that the wealthiest New Yorkers will receive if the supplemental tax rates on the wealthiest New Yorkers expire as planned on December 31st of this year.

Similar press conferences were held on Monday by community and labor organizations in Buffalo, Albany and New York City, with another to follow on Tuesday in Long Island. To fund this massive tax break for the wealthy, New York State has slashed education funding by $1.3 billion this year. The State has drastically cut Medicaid, Aid to Municipalities, childcare, and services to the disabled. A further deficit looms and cutting taxes on the wealthy will only make matters worse.

What: Campaign to End Millionaires Tax Cut

Who: We Are One – Rochester Network

Where: Liberty Pole (East Avenue and Main Street), Rochester, N.Y.

When: Tuesday, October 18th – 4:30 pm

We Are One - Rochester Network: Endorsing Organizations:

1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East; American Postal Workers Union Local 215; Board of Education Non Teaching Employees/AFSCME Local 2419; Civil Service Employees Association/AFSCME Monroe County Local 828; Civil Service Employees Association/AFSCME - Western Region; Coalition of Black Trade Unionists - Rochester Chapter; Communication Workers of America Local 1170; Finger Lakes Labor Assembly, AFL-CIO; International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts Local 25; International Union of Electronic, Electrical, Salaried, Machine & Furniture Workers/Communications of America Local 81495; Metro-Justice/Citizen Action in Rochester; Monroe Community College Faculty Association/NYSUT Local 2842; Monroe County Federation of Social Workers IUE/CWA Local 81381; New York State United Teachers - Rochester Region; Next Generation United - Rochester Chapter; Pride at Work - Rochester and Finger Lakes Chapter; Pulse Marketing Group; Rochester and Vicinity Labor Council, AFL-CIO; Steuben Livingston Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO; United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America Local 1097; Workers United - Rochester Regional Joint Board; Working Families Party - Rochester and Finger Lakes Chapter


Rochester, N.Y.-- Just recently, the five CSEA Locals in Monroe County made their political endorsement recommendations to the WNY Region 6 Political Action Committee for consideration. CSEA represents nearly 10,000 workers in the Monroe County area in a variety of public sector and private sector health care related disciplines.

CSEA did not interview or endorse any races for Rochester City School District Commissioner of Schools, City Council or any other local office in any town or village in Monroe County.

CSEA will be operating phone banks on Monday, October 24, 26 and 27 at the Satellite Office in Rochester. Go here for details. By unanimous approval, these candidates will receive support for elected office for the 2011 election cycle:

Candidate and Office

Sandra Frankel for Monroe County Executive

Sandra Doorley for Monroe County District Attorney

Paula Randall, County Legislator- 12

Sandra Oliver, County Legislator- 4

Darren Miller, County Legislator- 18

Moe Bickweat, County Legislator- 5

Paul Haney, County Legislator- 23

Josh Barouth, County Legislator- 24

Vinnie Esposito, County Legislator- 16

Dick Beebe, County Legislator- 6

Saul Maneiro, County Legislator- 29

Butch Fitzsimmons, County Legislator- 15

Steve Eckel, County Legislator- 26

Cindy Kaleh, County Legislator- 28

Ted O’Brien, County Legislator- 17

Carrie Andrews, County Legislator- 21

Willie Joe Lightfoot, County Legislator- 27

PEOPLE is CSEA and AFSCME's political action program. The PEOPLE program protects and improves our jobs, benefits and pensions in Washington, Albany and in your community. Your support and participation in PEOPLE strengthens CSEA's clout in the workplace, in the legislature, in your community and in the labor movement. Here are some of the details of exactly what this program does:

Protects the quality and access of health insurance for active and retired members (passed legislation that created a task force to recommend cost-effective strategies for protecting affordable health insurance coverage for retired public employees).

*Stands up against hostile editorials, anti-labor organizations and holds politicians accountable for their decisions.

*Fights against demands to give back contractual raises and reopen contracts.

*Preserves essential services, protects jobs and fights layoffs.

*Maintains a safe and healthy workplace and protects employees from unnecessary harm with the passage of the Workplace Violence Prevention Act.

*Passed cancer screening legislation.

*Protects Social Security from privatization.

Go here for a printable version of the endorsed candidates list from the CSEA Political Action homepage. For any questions and comments about CSEA's political action endorsement process, you can contact CSEA Monroe County Local 828's Political Action Committee Co-Chairs Cris Zaffuto and Ove Overmyer.


New York, N.Y.-- "Occupy Wall Street" has gone global, reports Karla Adam: "Inspired by the Occupy Wall Street protests that began in New York, protests entered a second day of demonstrations Sunday as they reiterated their anger at the global financial system, corporate greed and government cutbacks. Rallies rippled across the globe on Saturday as more than 900 cities in Europe, Africa, Asia, and North America took part in the worldwide demonstration, including Washington, Toronto, Denver, and Chicago, where more than 175 people were arrested early Sunday for failing to leave a park after it closed.

In cities around the world, a fraction of the protesters who joined the rallies Saturday were hunkering down for a second night of 'occupation.' It’s unclear how long protesters plan to stay, but it could be awhile: for example, according to local reports, hundreds in New Zealand are camping for the next six weeks in Auckland’s Aotea Square, while Toronto’s St. James park is now known as 'tent city central.'"



Saturday, October 15, 2011


Darkness falls on Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan.
photo: Ove Overmyer/The Voice Reporter
If anything, OWS has changed the national debate  

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. What is happening in America right now is not a protest—it’s an occupation. On October 4, I was told by many “occupiers” in Zuccotti Park that rebellions don’t have specific demands.

This year we have witnessed a global wave of social and political turmoil and instability, with masses of people pouring into the real and virtual streets. While these actions have no specific theme, they express in different ways the serious concerns of the world’s working and middle classes about their prospects in the face of the growing concentration of power among economic, financial and political elites.

Citizens like never before are publicly speaking to each other and listening. Global news organizations and mainstream media have no choice but to report on this movement--a national conversation has been started much to the dismay of Wall Street executives and certain conservative politicians. Because of OWS, we are finally talking about what really matters to the folks who live on Main Street.

“This occupation is first about participation,” said a 29 year old unemployed bank teller as he frantically hammered away on his laptop in Zuccotti Park near that big orange sculpture thing-a-ma-jigy. That being said, with the advent of organized labor now backing the Occupy Wall Street movement, the direction of this effort will certainly increase it's global visibility and give it more credibility.

Just a few short weeks ago, the political narrative of deficit reduction, less spending and getting rid of big government went completely unchecked. The House GOP agenda, in its effort to try and pass bills to problems that don’t really exist-- are pushing bills like no federal funding for abortion and voter integrity laws-- while the 99 percent of Americans have been screaming, “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs.” The GOP is only interested in rallying its base and keeping Obama from being re-elected-- these are all just political calisthenics-- they could care less about actual governing and improving American life for the middle-class.

Public spaces are vital to democracy

In the great civil protests the year has seen thus far, there’s at least one common element: ample public space for the peaceful protesters to gather. These spaces, from Tahir square in Egypt to the Capitol building in downtown Madison, Wisconsin, give citizens an integral venue to gather and be heard.

It is a hallmark of a strong democracy when occupying such physical public spaces like city squares or government capitals is tolerated-- or better yet, encouraged. In a way, Egyptians, Tunisians, and now Yemenis, Bahrainis, Libyans, and so on, are fighting for the right to peacefully occupy these public squares. More often than not it’s been dangerous for civil protesters to do so-- and in some cases they’ve been cleared out with gunfire and other violent means. But occupying a presumably public space-- taking it back for the people-- is a symbolic gesture that says, "You better take us seriously." The occupation on September 17 was no different-- people chanting, praying, and channeling their anger peacefully.

NYC Solidarity March to Foley Square
OWS activist looking for followers for his
social networking site on Oct. 5, 2011.
photo: Ove Overmyer
The right to occupy is the most patriotic thing I know.  To show discontent and engage our peers and our government on issues of the day with the hope of a better understanding of our complex society defines true democracy.

Labor unions and OWS

Over the past several decades, America’s unions have been relentlessly attacked. The Koch Brothers, Gov. Scott Walker and Tea Party folks thought earlier this year they could run us off the cliff altogether. That didn’t happen, even though the master plan was in full swing. The thought is, if you eliminate labor’s role in democratic politics, it can only give rise to the conservatives and Tea Party ideals that want to privatize every public service under the sun. What better way to keep your political funding streams intact than to offer big contracts to the same people who put you in office?

However, the workers’ revolt in Wisconsin and Ohio showed that wasn’t about to happen—and what we’re seeing now in Manhattan and elsewhere is further proof that labor is retooling its ambitions, sharpening its message and getting ready to move the country forward. I believe labor folks are emboldened by the participatory assembly in Zuccotti Park and Liberty Park. Average folks, the 99 per centers, now have something to identify with—a common cause if you will.

The occupation movement here in the United States was jump-started in 2011 by public employees in Madison, Wisconsin when they occupied the capital and that has given labor the green light to do more, to become more active, more militant, and take back ownership of defining exactly who we are and what we do. For far too long, labor leaders in the United States have been less than proactive getting our message to the average guy on the street. It’s about time we frame the debate in our own words.  Interestingly enough, it took OWS one month to accomplish what organized labor has been trying to do for decades.

Now that the majority of labor unions endorse OWS, you will see this movement slowly evolve-- and give voice to middle-class working Americans who are suffering like never before.

15,000 people fill Foley Square

15,000 marchers fill Foley Square on October 5, 2011 in support of OWS.
photo: Ove Overmyer/The Voice Reporter
What we saw on Wednesday, Oct. 5, when 15,000 people filled Foley Square before marching en masse to Liberty Square, was the unions’ first visible show of solidarity with the occupation, and it really mattered. For the first time since September 17, I really felt that I was witnessing history in the making. This is the beginning of a long road back to recovery-- or at least, this moment I was sharing with thousands of other disenfranchised Americans could be viewed as a tipping point. Alongside the thousands of students and teachers who engaged in a citywide walkout that afternoon, our collective voices added power to the call resonating across the nation that big finance and big politics need to gear up for a big change.

Cementing that support, two days later AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka visited Liberty Square where he stated his support and his union federation’s unanimous decision to back Occupy Wall Street. Feeling betrayed by free trade agreements that hobbled domestic manufacturing under Democrat Bill Clinton and a false promise to allow workers to unionize via “card check” under Obama’s watch, organized labor has been on the ropes; the assault on pensions and collective bargaining has diminished our potency-- but that is all about to change. History has shown that the arc of justice does bend toward equality.

What Trumka’s endorsement of the occupation means is that unions, with millions of members and a formidable political apparatus, now have the coalition allies to take a lead role to facilitate policy change all in an effort to get income disparity, tax reform and unemployment under control.

A better question: where we ain't goin' to go

The occupation, which has now spread to hundreds of cities across America, grew from the desire to reshape a criminal and bankrupt financial-political landscape that favors the 1 percent over the rest of us. Where precisely is this movement going? Perhaps that isn’t as important as the question about where it’s not going-- no one will completely define this movement nor should they.  That's what really gets under the skin of the Wall Street CEO's, corporate elites and the media conglomerates they own, including FOX news.

We’re not going to settle for one reform demand that can be conceded later down the road.  Those who oppose the occupation would then have the argument and opportunity to shut us down-- no one demand can meet the goals that have been set by this diverse group that is trying to readjust the balance of power in this country. This effort will focus on the welfare of the people, and not the accumulation of wealth and profit for those who are insulated from any financial harm, regardless of how the economy is doing.

The other place we’re not going is electoral politics, weighed down into waiting for the next election when everything will be just fine. For now, we’re going to keep engaging in direct action, tell our stories, continue to organize and march; again, it’s all about the "act of occupation."

Labor’s traditional power is mobilizing bodies in the street and at the ballot box. How much they’re engaging in support for this movement-- and how much they’re becoming part of it-- have yet to be measured. Much has been accomplished in a very short period of time and only time will tell if this movement bares any fruit.  I say it will.

Today is October 15. It is being called a global day of revolution. One that will, it appears, be televised. Stay tuned.

-Commentary by Ove Overmyer
This commentary is the expressed written opinion of the author only and does not reflect the views of CSEA as an organization.

Friday, October 14, 2011


CSEA Fights Back!

Throughout the state, public services remain under attack by politicians. In Nassau County, the County Executive is attempting to unilaterally change the terms of union contracts. In Ulster and Orange Counties, elected officials are attempting to close and privatize their public nursing homes. In Erie County, a crucial race for County Executive has tightened. CSEA members are fighting against incumbent Chris Collins’ constant attacks on wages, benefits and the critical services we provide.

It is important for all CSEA members across the state to get involved in their local elections.

To get involved, please contact your Political Action Coordinator.

Region 1 - Gretchen Penn 631-462-0030

Region 2 - Matthew D’Amico 212-406-2156

Region 3 - Chris Ludlow 845-831-1000

Region 4 - Bryan Miller 518-782-4400

Region 5 - Rick Noreault 315-433-0050

Region 6 - Courtney Brunelle 716-691-6555

Take Action Now!

CSEA has several online letter writing campaigns currently underway. Please visit the CSEA Political Action website.

Governor Cuomo Announces New Initiatives to Reduce Costs

Governor Cuomo announced initiatives to save taxpayers $600 million over five years. These reforms include an extensive analysis to ensure government-paid-for space is fully-utilized. Efforts are now underway to move agencies in leased locations into state-owned buildings as leases expire and fill vacated state-owned office space in the Albany area.

Further, the Governor launched five initiatives to consolidate information technology processes and infrastructure including data center consolidation, enterprise identity and access management, email consolidation, help desk consolidation, and voice-over-internet protocol telecommunications.

Lastly, the proposal includes a new procurement process that will leverage the state's buying power to secure the best value in purchasing.

Jobs Bill Fails to Advance

President Obama's “American Jobs Act” failed to clear a procedural hurdle in the U.S. Senate this past week. In the Senate, 60 votes are needed to end debate on a bill and send it to a final vote. This bill only received 50 votes.

President Obama has now indicated that he is willing to break the bill into smaller pieces in order to get various portions of the bill passed. However, many members of the House of Representatives remain opposed to the bill and the likelihood of it passing seems slim at this time.

For a summary of this legislation, please visit the CSEA Political Action website.


Occupiers camp out in Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan.  OWS sources say they aren't going anywhere and the movement will only grow. 
photo: Ove Overmyer/The Voice Reporter
New York, N.Y.-- Despite an optimistic mood at Occupy Wall Street (OWS) today due to a decision by Zuccotti Park's owner, Brookfield Office Properties, to not go forward with a planned cleanup of the space, demonstrators and police clashed in the Financial District this morning.

This led to multiple arrests, as well as the arrest and hospitalization of a legal observer after his leg was caught under a moving New York Police Department (NYPD) scooter.

Earlier, New York’s authorities announced that a clean-up of Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan, where Occupy Wall Street protesters have been camping for about a month, had been postponed.

Voice Reporter sources say the owners of the Zuccotti park had informed Mayor Bloomberg on Thursday night that they had put off the clean-up which had been scheduled for 7 am EDT on Friday, AP news agency reports.

“Late last night, we received notice from the owners of Zuccotti Park, Brookfield Office Properties (BOP), that they are postponing their scheduled cleaning of the park, and for the time being withdrawing their request from earlier in the week for police assistance during their cleaning operation,” the City's deputy mayor’s statement said.

City officials added that BOP hope they can reach some agreement with protesters to ensure that the park remained clean, safe and available for public use. The official promised to further monitor the situation.

According to BOP, conditions in the park were “unsanitary” as there was a shortage of rubbish bins and no toilets. According to the park owner, neighbors were complaining of offensive odors from the protesters, as well as harassment and drug abuse.

However, OWS organizers warned their supporters on Facebook that that the city’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg had used the ‘cleaning-up’ tactic to disband protests before. They also said that a similar ploy was used to dissolve protests in Europe.

At about 6 am this morning, some thousand protesters gathered at the park. Many stayed up all night cleaning the area themselves.

The Occupy Wall Street protests have been ongoing in the US since mid-September, with numerous complaints of police violence being lodged. Hundreds of protesters were arrested in New York alone and dozens in solidarity rallies across the United States, including the cities of Boston, Washington DC, Chicago, Austin and San Francisco.

Most of the New York protesters who spoke to the media said they were determined to stay no matter what the police do.

The occupiers also plan to converge on Times Square, a move that has given rise to fears of clashes which have tended to break out each time the occupiers leave the park, giving the police an excuse to use force.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


Wall Street Occupiers have been camping out in Zuccotti Park in NYC since September 17.  Things could get ugly in the morning when NYC sanitation and police enter the premises to supposedly clean the park.
photo: Ove Overmyer/The Voice Reporter
New York City--First of all, let get something straight.  This is not a protest-- it is "an occupation."  There is a difference.  The Voice Reporter will comment on that later.

Earlier this evening, Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered Occupy Wall Street activists out of Zuccotti Park for a cleanup at sunrise, and his new rules for their return effectively would shut down the occupation, now in its fourth week.  This announcement comes just days after he said the occupiers could stay "indefinitely."

The new rules prohibit tarps, sleeping bags and “lying down”—even as temperatures plummet. Most sources close to the movement say this is nothing but a transparent ploy to stop the Occupy Wall Street movement.  Many occupiers have told media sources that they will have to, "drag us out or arrest us-- we won't go quietly."

MoveOn delivered a petition of 200,000 signatures just a few moments ago to stop the action.  The petition says:

“Mayor Bloomberg: Respect the protesters’ First Amendment rights. Don’t try to evict Occupy Wall Street.”

These demonstrators have inspired an entire grassroots movement. More than 800 Occupy Wall Street protests have spread across the country, including Rochester, N.Y.  Questions abound why the owners of the park and City administration are moving to evict the Wall Street Occupiers.

Inspired by democratic events in the Middle East, Europe and Occupy Wall Street, middle-class folk and working people are turning out with their friends and neighbors in parks, congregations and union halls across America to express their frustration—and anger—about our country’s staggering wealth gap, the lack of work for people who want to work and the corrupting of our politics by business and financial elites.

The Voice Reporter recently spent the better part of a week in NYC and will be publishing a special commentary about this movement in the very near future.  Please stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Rochester, N.Y.-- Video slide show documentary by Ove Overmyer of the Occupy Wall Street events that took place on October 4 and 5, 2011.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Rochester, N.Y.--  Members of CSEA and FSW rallied outside the Monroe County Office Building earlier today to bring attention to the fact that County government is dragging its heels when it comes to collective bargaining with County workers. 

Thousands of County employees have been working without a contract since December 31, 2008.  To read more about the Brooks administration's stall tactics, you can go here.

To read the Messenger Post story on this rally, you can go here.

Video slideshow by Ove Overmyer.


CSEA Monroe County Unit 7400 members and the Federation of Social Workers
(FSW) have been working without a contract since December 31, 2008.
photo:  Bess Watts
Rochester, N.Y.--  As the County continues an effort to stall any chance of the workforce getting a fair agreement this year by once again entering a frivolous charge against CSEA with the Public Employees Relations Board (PERB), CSEA as our union continues to protect your benefits, especially your health insurance benefits both for working members as well as protecting benefits for members when they retire. The outsourced law firm whom is handling the contract negotiations has a financial interest not to settle in a timely manner.  Our only conclusion is that the taxpayers of the County are real losers here-- once again, we are getting fleeced by the tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars which continue to line the pockets of these lawyers at the expense of those who can least afford it.

The County’s new charge is that the Union Negotiating Team has made new proposals to the Fact-finder that were previously not discussed in any of the two and a half years of talks both sides have had or in any of the two tentative agreements that the membership has rejected. On the contrary, the proposals sent by CSEA are only modifications of subjects that have been previously discussed and although, it only causes a continued stall of the process, the County’s argument once again will be nulled by the State and CSEA will continue the Fact-finding process that has a great probability of showing that the Union proposals will be substantiated especially for the economic times we all have endured.

Another major piece the County is using to stall negotiations is that they are not willing to come away from is the issue of your health insurance benefits. They have a mis-guided belief that to maintain the benefit of having health insurance (something you actually work for) should cost you more by increasing your percentage of the premium drastically.

What they forget to realize is that if you have to pay an exorbitant amount for the health insurance, than it is really not a benefit to you as it decreases any gain you might achieve with a fair wage increase. That the County has this ill-conceived idea that the workforce will ever agree to this concession illustrates their position to continue to delay any real possible agreement, even more so when two prior agreements that did not include this extremely negative proposal did not pass.

“We are doing what needs to be done, the only thing standing between higher health insurance costs and the current rates we benefit from is CSEA,” said CSEA Unit 7400 President Cris Zaffuto. She added, “Fighting the good fight, our union is protecting our benefits and we’re still working 24/7 to secure a positive future for all."


Rochester, N.Y.-- The Voice Reporter has just learned that the Senate will vote today on the American Jobs Act. This bill would put hundreds of thousands of people back to work immediately rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure and keep 300,000 teachers, police officers and other first responders on the job.

The bill would also extend unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed for an additional year. The bill pays for these job-creating measures by instituting a 5.6% surtax on annual household incomes above $1 million. President Obama has noted that the American Jobs Act would be “fully paid for, asking millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share.”

Please call right now and tell your Senators to vote yes to get this jobs bill moving! 1‑888‑665‑9823.

Monday, October 10, 2011


Protesters line the streets of lower Manhattan on October 5 when organized labor
officially joined the Occupy Wall Street movement. photo: Ove Overmyer/The Voice Reporter
Rochester, N.Y.--  This week already is shaping up to be huge, with actions everywhere demanding good jobs for working families, paid for with fair taxes for millionaires and Wall Street. 

Rochester and Monroe County area residents can vent their frustrations with the status quo at the Liberty Pole in downtown Rochester beginning today at 4 pm.  The rallies are planned indefinitely. The Occupy Wall Street protests, which really took off over the weekend, will continue in cities from coast to coast. Marchers will line Main Street in downtown Rochester tomorrow at 4 pm, starting at the Liberty Pole and meeting up with other area residents at a rally in front of the Monroe County Office Building in support of County workers.

CSEA and FSW will be hosting this rally at the Monroe County Office Building, 39 West Main Street, tomorrow (10.11.11) at 5 pm.  County workers will be protesting the fact that they have been without a contract for nearly three years.  While workers suffer, the Brooks administration is planning 2.5 % pay hikes to her confidential management confidants and political appointees. This is the last full session meeting of the County Legislature before the general election on November 8.

photo:  Ove Overmyer
And the AFL-CIO America Wants to Work national week of action starts today. This is a not-to-be-missed moment to get out and attend an event in your community.

The AFL-CIO is sponsoring a wide variety of activities, from vigils to teach-ins on college campuses, demonstrations outside job-outsourcing corporations and press events. In many places, working people will join the Occupy Wall Street protests that have sprung up and are growing, from Hawaii to Washington, D.C.

Working people will come together in hundreds of events through Oct. 16 to demand action from Congress to promote a real jobs creation agenda and real shared sacrifice from Wall Street and the rich. Find an event near you.

And college students across the country will gather on Wednesday, Oct. 12, for a live national teach-in with events on campuses from 7–8:30 p.m. EDT. If you can make the one in your area, you can watch it live Wednesday night.

Whatever you do this week, don’t miss the opportunity to be a part of something big. To see photos of events and marches from last week in lower Manhattan, you can go here.

Union activists and Occupy Wall Street supporters jam Foley Square in
lower Manhattan on October 5 that drew 15,000 protesters.
photo: Ove Overmyer/Voice Reporter

Sunday, October 9, 2011


Protesters from the Occupy Wall Street movement, including members of several labor unions, gather at Foley Square in New York, on October 5, 2011.
(Photo: Ove Overmyer/The Voice Reporter)
New York, N.Y.--  Class warfare has once again entered the vocabulary of mainstream national politics, but this time with a strange twist. Right-wing politicians such as Paul Ryan and various high-profile conservative media pundits and corporate-funded think-tank spokespersons have made visible what ruling classes have long tried to bury beneath the discourse of "wealth rules" and the myth of the classless society-- that is, the harsh consequences of class power, hierarchical rule and brutal inequality.

The Voice Reporter was in Manhattan this past week, and have several stories to report to our faithful readers.  We've run into socialists, old folk, communists, liberals, pseudo-intellectuals, gutter punks, Rastafarians and just plain thugs...and the truth is everybody is getting along very well. Stay tuned to video reports, slide shows and updated info on the week that was and how these developments will shape this blossoming movement. To see a slide show or video of the Solidarity March at Foley Square/Federal Plaza and the overnight guests camping out in Zuccotti Park, you can go here.

Testimonies from many people who have been camping out in the Liberty Square/Zuccotti Park area have been consistent with their message despite the big press narrative describing the movement as directionless. Protesters say, according to the ruling elite, the real class war is being waged against the belief in free and unfettered markets, the reign of unchecked capital, a culture of individualism and self-interest-- in spite of the fact that it is precisely these beliefs that serve the interests of Wall Street elites who brought the world to the brink of ruin in 2008.

photo:  Ove Overmyer

Protesters say the appeal to "earned success" and individual entrepreneurial rings hollow given the millions of dollars in bonuses paid to failed CEOs and hedge fund managers and an economic recovery that has only benefited banks. With CEOs taking in millions in salary and bonuses while major corporations are laying off thousands of workers each month, the assertion that an unrestricted market is the only mechanism ensuring one's hard work pays off appears both disingenuous and desperate. What many GOP operatives willfully omit is that any society in which morality disintegrates into self-interest and cruelty is celebrated as a central element of a market-driven social order has nothing to do with either freedom or democracy.

As thousands of young people, union activists and the disenfranchised march against corporate power and rallying in protest against the symbols of Wall Street greed across the United States, the political and economic elites respond by engaging in a form of class warfare and clinging to the celebration of the shark-like culture of casino capitalism, revealing all too clearly their own criminal behavior and how it represents a major threat to American democracy.

For more information about the Occupy Together movement, you can go here.

Saturday, October 1, 2011


Monroe County bureaucrats
embarrassingly dismiss a NYS
Comptroller's Audit Report.
Rochester, N.Y.--   This past week the Office of the New York State Comptroller (OSC) released an audit in which it raised questions regarding a contract issued by Monroe County back in 2004-2005. Although the audit report is in draft form -- and could be revised if the County can substantiate evidence contradicting the findings -- as of today County officials have failed to do so.

 The audit concludes that Monroe County deceived taxpayers by claiming that contracted telecommunications services would save taxpayers money; to the contrary, the audit found this claim not to be true. In fact, the audit found that Monroe County sold telecommunications equipment to the contractor, then leased that equipment back -- taxpayers essentially paying twice for the use of the same equipment they previously owned. The audit also discovered that over a five year period, the county paid the contractor $8 million more than the county received in services.

How many of these mini-macro scandals will need to pile up before Monroe County taxpayers put all the puzzle pieces together? Pugnacious County spokesman Noah Lebowitz misguidedly considers the Comptroller's audit report of the UTC scandal as merely partisan mudslinging and was completely dismissive when asked for a formal response. Conversely, the sad truth is-- it's the local Republican Party who are sinking knee deep in a quagmire of mud and quicksand.

If the County Executive can just forget "politics" for a single moment-- and if she has the integrity that many have long believed she has -- then she needs to address this audit report head-on and admit wrongdoing. If Lebowitz and her cronies convinces her not to do so, voters will have to seriously consider the mounting evidence that her tenure and legacy as County Executive has done more harm to taxpayers than good.  

One way or another, the truth eventually surfaces.  Truth has no agenda.  We think when it's all said and done, history will not be kind to Maggie-- and history will be the final judge of the Brooks legacy.

For several years now, unethical and possible criminal wrong-doing have been tossed around to describe our County government-- and these questions will remain long after the 2011 election cycle.  Let's hope the voters of Monroe County wake up and smell the coffee before we dig a hole that we can not get out of.  We would hate to tell you, "we told you so." 


We need jobs. Not unfair trade agreements.

Millions of people who are ready, willing and able to work are unemployed or underemployed. But instead of focusing on job creation, Congress is getting ready to take up unfair, job-offshoring trade deals.

With more than 25 million people desperately searching for full-time jobs, the last thing our leaders should focus on is these unfair trade deals. It’s the wrong thing to do, and it’s a huge distraction from our jobs crisis.

Tell Congress: Get moving on jobs, and drop these unfair trade deals. Then, be ready to join our national call-in day this Tuesday. With your help, we’ll make our voices heard by flooding Congress with calls and messages.

Here’s why the three pending trade agreements are a bad deal for working families:

The Korea agreement is the biggest trade deal since NAFTA. It would displace an estimated 159,000 net U.S. jobs, mostly in manufacturing.

Colombia is the most dangerous place in the world for trade unionists. So how can we reward it with a free trade agreement? In 2010, 51 trade unionists were assassinated in Colombia—more than in the rest of the world combined. So far in 2011, another 22 have been killed, despite Colombia’s heralded “Labor Action Plan.” Would we reward a country where 51 CEOs were killed last year?

And Panama, with a history of failing to protect workers’ rights, is known as a tax haven for money launderers and tax dodgers.

Past trade deals like NAFTA have been miserable failures for working people—and these new deals follow in NAFTA’s footsteps. Working people need to make our voices heard.

Please e-mail Congress now. Then get ready to join our national call-in day this Tuesday. With your help, we’ll flood Congress with calls and messages to make our voices heard.

In Solidarity,

Richard L. Trumka
President, AFL-CIO