Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Boehnerville: Call Congress Now!


A recalcitrant House GOP is looking for
big concessions from the White House.
photo: Ove Overmyer
Rochester, N.Y.-- From what I understand from press reports coming out of D.C., President Obama has proposed a clearly unacceptable deal with the House Speaker that would make some of the Bush tax cuts for people making more than $250,000 a year permanent and change the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) to reduce Social Security benefits over time. 
Let's get something straight here-- voters asked Obama to give a tax cut for 100 percent of income earners, but only those making over the threshold amount negotiated will be asked to pay more of their fair share beyond 2012.
With Obama's latest fiscal cliff offer, the White House is basically proposing to  extend the Bush tax cuts for everyone earning less than $400,000 a year, and paying for it by increasing the overall tax on the middle class by cutting Social Security and Medicare.
Here's what I don't get. Why is Social Security on the negotiating table in the first place? Social Security does not add one dime to the national debt or deficit. Recipients of Social Security pay into this plan for their entire working career and deserve a return on their own personal investment. 

Is this just a "trophy" for the GOP to say they got a concession out of the White House? By decreasing the benefit over time, who does this really benefit anyway? It's just one more attempt to squeeze the middle class at the expense of the wealthy and the large multi-national corporations who can afford to lobby and line the pockets of House and Senate members of Congress.

Let's be clear: A decrease in the Social Security COLA adjustment over time is simply a benefit cut that will harm the elderly and middle class American. These COLAs make sure seniors' income keeps pace with the rising costs of housing and food. The "chained" CPI would cut future Social Security benefits by as much as $2,432 for someone who is 17 years old today. This is totally unacceptable.
Changes to Social Security benefits are not why CSEA and our working families in Monroe County backed our President's re-election bid. This is not why we supported Louise Slaughter for another term in Congress, and this is why we fought like hell this past election cycle-- to make sure the GOP did not steam roll working families while getting our fiscal house in order. 
I had a long talk with Congresswoman Slaughter’s office earlier today. I told them I vehemently oppose any deal that cuts taxes for the wealthy or cuts Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid benefits for America's working families. And I’m also convinced the 8,000 or so fellow CSEA members in Monroe County would agree with their local officers. Obama and Congress better deliver on their promise-- or they can forget about all that good will capital they earned in early November.

Congress Hotline: 888.979.7608
-Ove Overmyer
President, CSEA City of Rochester Library Workers Unit 7420
Vice President, CSEA Monroe County Local 828

Friday, December 14, 2012

Rochester & Vicinity Labor Council, AFL-CIO Annual Awards Dinner


CSEA delegates pose for a photo after the Rochester Labor Council Annual Awards Dinner held at the Rochester Riverside Convention Center on Dec. 13, 2012.
Photo by Anne Tischer.
Rochester, N.Y.-- Hundreds packed the Rochester Riverside Convention Center on Dec, 13, 2012 to celebrate and honor the labor community's accomplishments for the past year. City of Rochester Mayor Tom Richards was the keynote speaker at the event, and gave a stirring testimony about our city's economic future and the critical role that organized labor plays in our collective success as a community.

CSEA WNY Region 6 was honored for "Best Float" for the 2012 Rochester Labor Day Parade and Kim Whitlock was honored for her participation and attendance as a delegate to the Rochester Labor Council, AFL-CIO.

Mayor Richards with Ove Overmyer
photo: Bess Watts
Ove Overmyer, President of the City of Rochester Library Workers Unit 7420 and Local 828 Vice President, was honored by RLC President Jim Bertolone and the RLC executive committee as the recipient of the 2012 Working Families Advocate of the Year. The award is given to an individual who has exceeded expectations publicly advocating the needs of working men and women during the past year.

CSEA congratulates the entire labor community for their outstanding efforts this past year. CSEA Monroe County Local 828 and the Voice Reporter wish everyone a very joyous holiday and a Happy New Year.

For more images of the event, you can visit our Flickr account or like us on Facebook.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


Rochester, N.Y. -- If I hear one more local politician cry about so-called “mandates,” I’m gonna scream. Let’s get something straight here. New York State government exists for the benefit of all its residents, not just those who are insulated from any financial harm. 

New York State is committed to preserving and improving quality public services and creates constitutional and legislative acts to make sure local governments meet the required minimum standards for delivering those services. These so-called spending “mandates” were created for a reason and support a culture of transparency, accountability, and continuous improvement.

The people of New York created these standards to provide opportunity, tax fairness and to protect all our citizens when it comes to public safety, consumer protections, economic development, healthcare, and education just to name a few.

New York State constitutional and legislative law should not be turned on its head because a few County Executives think they need more flexibility to spend our money the way they see fit. It’s the will of the people and of the state, and last time I checked we have a democracy in place to address such grievances.

And, what disturbs me most about this conversation is the semantics behind calling spending you personally do not agree with as an “unfunded mandate.” The fact is, most state spending is appropriated in a responsible manner, but don’t tell that to the conservative wing of the Republican Party.

The so called “mandated” programs we are referring to include Medicaid, child care subsidies and emergency public assistance for the unemployed, elderly and poor. Sure, we can do better when it comes to efficiencies and execution.  And when it comes to the most visible “complainers” of social safety net programs for the elderly, poor and unfortunate, Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks and Chautauqua County Executive Greg Edwards are tops on that list.

Maggie Brooks is a self-described conservative and anti-choice politician who is endorsed by the Conservative Party who’s National Affairs Platform strongly supports “shrinking the size of government” and de-funding Planned Parenthood. Brooks called attempts to restrict access to abortion a battle that is “moving in the right direction.” When asked by a reporter about her views on the federal mandate for health insurance coverage of contraceptives, Brooks refused to give a full answer. [Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, 3/21/12]

Brooks has been repeatedly called out by civil rights advocates and women leaders in Monroe County for pushing policies that are anti-poor, anti-equality and anti-choice. Maggie Brooks also had no problem trying to take money away from our schools with her FAIR plan, unsuccessfully I might add. She also defunded the Center For Disability Rights as a political payback, will not offer poor indigent families a fair subsidy so they can bury their loved ones with dignity, and refuses to pony up for the lead paint prevention program that keeps our Monroe County children safe.

Do you see a pattern here? Yes—these are all programs that help the less fortunate. And, consequently, County budgets reveal an ideological framework. These essential, extremely vital programs and services often determine whether or not people will live or die. But alas—those affected by these policies probably don’t vote Conservative or Republican, do they?

Slick talking points meant to mislead tax payers

When Maggie Brooks speaks of “we spend too much” and mentions “big government,” don’t be fooled or mislead by these foolish talking points. What she is really talking about is who will benefit from our government, and I can tell you first hand that if you are struggling to make ends meet her idea of governing will not work for you.

And when her administration claims she’s balanced another budget and kept the tax rate flat, you should know that statement is not completely true. The fact is, tax levies have risen 7 times in 7 years and her mastermind efforts to funnel our tax dollars into these shady corporations and authorities has shaken the very foundation and financial future of our collective wealth.

The Brooks administration can be justifiably cited for raising charges and fees for various county services, including subsidies to Monroe Community College and the Board of Elections. How much a property owners pays for these services or “chargebacks,” as they are known is determined by their assessed property value. These charges are really a “hidden tax,” and they are separate from the property tax rate. 

As a recent example, Brooks either didn't know about or mislead tax payers about a hidden “Snow Tax” in this year’s one billion dollar budget. Why does the Brooks administration have such a hard time being honest with Monroe County residents?

Also, in this year’s budget, the Brooks administration are estimating that sales tax collections (total money collected from the 4% tax) will increase to $21.3 million or 4.88% above the anticipated 2012 actual collections. Since 1994, annual growth in sales tax collections has averaged only 2.77%. To be estimating a 4.88% increase in actual collections in one year is a very ambitious number and will require a significant increase in retail sales. One could argue that they have “stretched” this estimate to enable them to say they have balanced this budget.

So, the next time you hear Maggie Brooks or Greg Edwards complain about “mandates,” please understand that their strategy has always been to gain access to more of your tax dollars to execute a well-defined personal and political agenda. If this would ever happen, expect the disabled, elderly, poor and middle class to get pummeled while at the same time, financial benefits, hefty contracts and golden opportunities will be offered to their donors and inner circle. Both Brooks and Edwards will also continue their efforts to privatize your public services and strong arm public employee unions whenever they feel it is necessary.

Honestly, I sincerely believe that deep down inside Ms. Brooks is a very compassionate person. However, it doesn't show in her budget priorities or policy choices. And, moreover, she has no doubt made a political calculation that in order for her to keep her leverage in office, and to continue to be a power broker in Republican and Conservative politics, some of our disenfranchised local residents will have to end up on the wrong side of the budget ledger and be officially written off by County government. This is what budgets reveal. This is political ideology at work.

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

Monday, December 3, 2012


RPL Acquisitions Clerk Mary Haidvogel accepts Christmas gift donations for home-bound library patrons from CSEA City of Rochester Library Workers Unit President Ove Overmyer. photo: Tony Palermo 

Rochester, N.Y.-- Once again, Rochester Public Library employees (CSEA and AFSCME) are donating in-home holiday gift bags to RPL Extension/Outreach Department patrons-- most of them who are unable to visit our public libraries for a variety different reasons.

RPL Library Assistant Liz Barry, who oversees the project, tells the Voice Reporter that she always looks forward to this time of the year. "Our patrons are thrilled to get these gift bags. We stuff them with homemade crafts, household goods, magnifying lamps, and book holders for hands-free reading, snacks, books, toiletry items and other neat stuff. My fellow co-workers are a very generous bunch of people.”

This year, according to Ms. Barry, nearly 40 home-bound patrons will start receiving their gift bags by the end of this week.

The Extension/Outreach Department of the Monroe County Library System and the Rochester Public Library provides library services to include in-home delivery for members of the community who are unable to visit a library due to age or transportation limitations, or because of a temporary or permanent physical disability.

The Extension/Outreach Department also loans materials to nursing homes and assisted living facilities in the Rochester, N.Y. area as well as lending reading materials and GED support at the Monroe Correctional Facility and Rochester Correctional Facility. Library staff also provides reference service via mail to inmates.

“This library department does magic, I’ve seen it with my own eyes,” says CSEA Unit President Ove Overmyer. “I have made visits to in-home patrons with my co-workers Larry Taylor and Ms. Barry, and I can tell you first hand our patrons embrace them like family. You should see how their faces light up when they come knocking. You would think they won a million bucks.”

Friday, November 30, 2012

Tell Congress: No Benefit Cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid


This Week In Albany

Tell Congress to Protect Our Future

Congress continues to negotiate an agreement to avoid the “Fiscal Cliff”, which is the combination of large spending cuts and tax increases that are scheduled to be automatically enacted at the start of 2013.

If Congress does nothing, every family in America will see their taxes automatically go up at the beginning of next year. A typical middle-class family of four would see its taxes rise by $2,200.

As the so-called “fiscal cliff” approaches, some members of Congress have suggested cuts to benefits for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid even while calling for renewing tax cuts for the richest 2%.

We need your help to make sure that doesn't happen.  Please call your member of Congress at 888-659-9401.

Tell them:

1.    No More tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans!
2.    No Benefit cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid! 

For more details about the “Fiscal Cliff,” click here.

Thursday, November 29, 2012


Tom Privitere and Jim Schmidt pose for cameras at an Education Rally
at the Liberty Pole in downtown Rochester, N.Y. March 17, 2011.
photo: Bess Watts

Saturday, December 1, 2012
3 pm
UR Memorial Art Gallery
Rochester, NY

James F. Schmidt

Rochester: 73, of Rochester, died November 10, 2012. The son of the late John and Susan Schmidt, Jim was born in Auburn on July 20, 1939. He started his career teaching at Central Tech of Syracuse, and then began teaching migrant farmworkers. He was the former Executive Director of the Cayuga County Action Program, worked in the Human Affairs Program at Cornell University, and became the first Director of the National Center for Appropriate Technology in Butte, Montana. He later served as the Director of Farm Worker's Legal Services of NY for over twenty-five years.

Devoted to his family and friends, he was also known for his lifelong commitment to the movement for social and economic justice. He was a co-founder of the Band of Rebels. Jim excelled at playing and coaching basketball and was an avid golfer and runner. Jim is survived by his wife Denise Young, two sons, Robert (Barbara) Schmidt and John "Jack" (Shannon) Schmidt all of Baldwinsville, a step-daughter Gillian Young-Miller of Rochester, five grandchildren, James, Lauren, Alexander, and McKenzie Schmidt and Fallon Young-Streaker, a sister Mary (Michael) Mastropietro, of Saratoga Springs, two brothers, J. Edward (Karen) Schmidt of Long Island, and Thomas (Janis) Schmidt of Auburn, a sister in law, Linda Schmidt of Auburn, Jon and Barbara Young of Depew and Kevin and Joan Young of Sodus Point, many nieces and nephews. In addition to his parents, Jim was predeceased by his first wife Elaine Schmidt, and a brother Robert Schmidt. Special thanks to Drs. Schoeniger, Mulford, Deepak and Constine and their staff.

A memorial celebration of Jim's life will be held Saturday, December 1 at 3 pm at the Memorial Art Gallery. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Wilmot Cancer Center or United for Peace and Justice.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Libraries are transforming lives

By Ove Overmyer

Anyone who frequents their local library on a regular basis would be able to tell you that demand for library services has increased significantly over time. With the growing need for access to digital and online information, including e-government services, continuing education resources and employment opportunities, libraries are essential for thriving communities.

In 2013, the Monroe County Library System estimates it will circulate over 8.1 million items. Across the nation, last year 1.5 billion library visitors checked out more than 2.4 billion items. If you visit the “learning commons” of a college or university library, you will find it full of students.  The same is true for K-12 school libraries as young people recognize the importance of learning how to become “information literate” as part of their basic core education.

As the Civil Service Employees Association President for the City of Rochester Library Workers Local 828 Unit 7420, I often receive questions on the relevance of libraries in today’s world—especially when information can be obtained so easily in digital format. I believe questioning the need for libraries and the professionals who staff them is like questioning why earthlings need air so we can breathe.

For over 100 years, CSEA has been committed to partnering with our employers to improve public library services and work with libraries, library systems, library associations, trustees and other library advocates to help make sure our public libraries meet minimum standards for Public Libraries in New York State.

Yet, many still question why we need libraries when we have instant access to information on the Internet. Let me put this simply as possible-- to make educated decisions, we depend on reliable source citations and reference information. The Internet can never replace the expertise of library staff. Anyone who has received an overwhelming number of hits searching the Web understands what it means to have a highly trained information navigator. Why wade through hundreds, if not thousands, of possible resources when a librarian can connect you quickly with a primary source document to meet your specific needs?

We need air to survive, just as we need libraries not just to survive but to thrive in an era filled with economic uncertainty, technological illiteracy and information overload.  Technology continues to shape commerce, education and social interactions in our global world.  Libraries, which provide equitable access for all, play a key democratic role in leveling the playing field in our local communities. 

Despite the knee-jerk talking points of the ill-advised, the traditional notion of libraries continues to thrive in the age of Google and Facebook. Additionally, our libraries are also transforming lives by providing patrons with the tools needed to compete and prosper in a 21st century marketplace.

Right now, libraries are part of the solution when a community is struggling economically.  Libraries continue to design and offer programs customized for their local communities’ needs, providing residents with guidance, including sessions with career advisers, workshops in resume writing and interviewing, job-search resources and connections with outside agencies that offer training and job placement.

Also, I’m often asked what makes a good library a great library—and I tell them with no hesitation—it’s our employees. Any bricks and mortar library can house books and computers, but what really makes strong libraries and a strong library system are the dedicated workers who deliver these vital public services. 


Rochester, N.Y. – Let’s get straight to the point. According to a NYS Section of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education, a single set of 11 basic standards assures equivalent levels of access to public library services and resources. Meeting this minimum threshold is imperative in order to satisfy the informational and educational needs of all our local residents and to be compliant with state funding requirements established many years ago.

These standards promote quality local public library service in all our communities. Additionally, these standards empower libraries to strengthen community relations and support a culture of transparency, accountability, and continuous improvement.

One of these most important benchmarks or standards required by NYS Education Law is that communities with heavy population densities like ours require Central Libraries to remain open for a minimum of 55 hours per week. In some rare instances, variances are requested but are never encouraged by the governing Board of Regents.

Education law also stipulates that libraries must maintain our facility to meet community demand, including adequate staffing, space requirements, proper lighting, shelving, programming, seating, and all that other jazz it takes to keep our doors open and for us to function well.

With that being said, the County Executive’s budget proposal for flat funding for the Monroe County Library System jeopardizes these basic minimum standards. Specifically speaking, the Monroe County Library System and the Central Library have received no funding increases since 2003 and have been relying on fund reserves to keep afloat. I would argue that the total net county support for libraries should be increased to match the demand required by state law and adjusted for the rate of inflation.

Generally speaking, the 2013 Monroe County Budget clearly does not give us the resources necessary to meet the minimum required standard for operating the Central Library downtown. Additionally, under this budget proposal, library administrators and advocates will no longer be able to carry out our long-range plan of service. It would be incumbent on the Monroe County Legislature to amend the budget proposal and increase the RPL Central Services Section of appropriations.

I’m often asked what makes a good library a great library—and I tell them with no hesitation—it’s our people. Any bricks and mortar library can house books and computers, but what really makes strong libraries and strong library systems are the dedicated workers who deliver the vital public services. And, when you look at our County’s one billion dollar spending plan for 2013, surely we come up with a funding strategy that will right-size our libraries, adhere to the NYS Education Law and give Monroe County residents the kind of functioning libraries we so desperately deserve.

-Ove Overmyer
President, City of Rochester Library Workers Local 828 Unit 7420

This op-ed does not reflect the views of CSEA as an organization. 

Monday, November 19, 2012


Rochester, N.Y.-- While I sincerely appreciate the sentiment behind The Salvation Army's Red Kettle bell campaign, now more than ever it is incumbent on this organization to come perfectly clean with the American public.

Just recently at Eastview Mall in Victor, N.Y., some drunken idiot spit on a bell ringer volunteer—which should curl the toes of any right-minded person. And, of course, the local media picked up this story and ran with it. It has been the talk of many Facebook posts and water cooler moments. Moreover, the Salvation Army’s media pros immediately sprang into action and begged local news affiliates to keep this story alive for a few more days— with the hope that it would drive up donations. But it's what they don't want you to know that bothers them the most. Think I’m being cynical? Hear me out.

You would have to be living under a rock not to know that The Salvation Army has a long history of lobbying lawmakers who actively discriminate against gays and lesbians. While you might think you're helping the less fortunate by dropping a few dollars in the bright red buckets, not everyone benefits from your donations and a ton of their money goes to “administrative costs.” Suffice it to say, everyone contemplating donating to The Salvation Army should know they use selective interpretation of Biblical verses to promote discrimination against LGBT people in employment benefits and leadership positions within the organization itself. And, they are also beneficiaries of other financial incentives courtesy of our public tax dollars.

If you look closely to their constitutional documents, you will find out that the group's position statements reveal a somewhat rigid outlook on all equality issues. "Scripture forbids sexual intimacy between members of the same sex," one statement reads. "The Salvation Army believes, therefore, that Christians whose sexual orientation is primarily or exclusively same-sex are called upon to embrace celibacy as a way of life. There is no scriptural support for same-sex unions as equal to, or as an alternative to, heterosexual marriage."

And to prove my point, in 2004 the Salvation Army threatened to close all their soup kitchens for the homeless in New York to protest the city's decision to require vendors and charities doing business with the city to adhere to the state’s civil rights laws forbidding discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Hypothetically, if a racist organization was trying to collect money with the message that some of the money was going towards ministry, but more often the bulk of it was paying for the salaries of top administrators and lobbyists to promote anti-equality legislation, would you second guess dropping a dime on them? That’s why they also hire real pros to spin the media message often teasing the public that they are not even near their goal with the hope you will donate to them without questioning their belief systems.

So, if you are in a charitable mood, why not donate to the American Red Cross instead? —Right now, there are tens of thousands of our brothers and sisters struggling to make ends meet while dealing with the aftermath of super storm Hurricane Sandy and they could really use your support. I’m just sayin.

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

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Ove Overmyer
Question: What would you do if you could get the undivided attention of Washington lawmakers? What priorities would you ask them to focus on in the 113th Congressional Session? Here are a few suggestions. Believe me, I have a ton of other things on my list but we can start here, can't we?

End Bush Tax Cuts for those making over $250,000.00

Don't believe Mitch McConnell when he says taxing the rich is wrong for the country. Under President Clinton he taxed the rich and it turned the country around, brought down the debt and the economy took off. It didn't hurt our country then and it won't hurt our country now. The GOP doesn’t want to raise taxes on the rich for one simple reason—they do not want to piss off their big donors. The middle class have been paying more than their fair share for far too long. It's about time the rich pay their fair share.

Make a Dent in Childhood Poverty

As Americans prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving next week, one in five of the nation’s children are living below the poverty level. One in 45 is homeless. This is a national disgrace and it exists because of willful policy decisions by local, state and federal lawmakers. We can do better.

Invest in Public Services

Our state and local governments are in crisis and need assistance until people are back working and paying taxes. Without additional funding, our public safety, our health needs, our children’s education and our state’s ability to retain and attract new businesses will continue to suffer. Now is not the time for austerity—invest in what made America great in the first place—its people.

Overturn Citizen’s United

In Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, on Jan, 2010, the US Supreme court ruled that corporations and unions can not constitutionally be prohibited from promoting the election of one candidate over another candidate. This is single-handedly the worst decision ever handed down by the U.S Supreme Court.

Don’t Hold Hurricane Relief Hostage

When Hurricane Irene struck America last year, House Republican leader Eric Cantor shocked the nation by threatening to hold disaster relief funds hostage to his partisan pettiness. Cantor demanded immediate spending cuts to offset the emergency aid, even though he had made no such demands when he was cheerleading huge tax breaks for the wealthy, or subsidies for oil companies.

Cantor eventually relented under pressure, but only after leaving millions of Americans pummeled by the storm wondering for days whether they would get help, or be left to fend for themselves. Don't let House Republicans do this again. Send John Boehner and Eric Cantor a message, and demand they pledge right now not to block aid to victims of Hurricane Sandy.

Reform the U.S. Senate Filibuster

Far too often, we've seen good ideas stall in the Senate because a single Senator can stop everything without a single word uttered on the Senate floor.
In a few short weeks, we can reform the filibuster. But it won't be easy. And it's going to require that the American people speak with one, clear, loud voice. Take action now: Tell your Senator to fix the filibuster.

Pass Workplace Equality Bill (ENDA)

A Colorado congressman who’s set to become the most senior openly gay member of the U.S. House is pledging to take the lead on perhaps the most high-profile piece of pro-LGBT legislation: the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) said during a Washington Blade interview on Tuesday that he intends to become the chief sponsor of ENDA following the retirement of gay Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who’s championed the bill since 2007.

“I plan on introducing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in the next session,” Polis said. “Across our country, gays and lesbians face discrimination in the workplace and lose their jobs and their livelihood. It’s wrong and it’s got to end. People shouldn’t be fired in this country just because of who they date in their private life.”

In addition to taking the lead on ENDA, Polis said he’ll remain the chief sponsor of another pro-LGBT measure called the Student Non-Discrimination Act — legislation based on Title IX that would prohibit the bullying and discrimination of LGBT students in school. It’s about freakin time.

Repeal DOMA

Passed in 1996, DOMA enshrined into US law the discriminatory notion that marriage is somehow only between a man and a woman. It also said that states that don’t allow marriage equality don’t have to recognize same sex marriages from other states denies loving married couples over 1,000 legal rights and privileges that straight couples enjoy.

On February 23, 2011, the Obama administration determined that Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional and announced they would not defend it in court.

This is a big step forward but in the meantime, the law remains on the books until Congress repeals it. Do it now.

-Ove Overmyer

Monday, November 12, 2012

A Call To Action: Hurricane Sandy Relief


Wednesday 11/14: CSEA Local 828 General Membership Meeting, Liberty Lodge in Finn Park, Webster, N.Y. Dinner 5:30 pm and meeting to follow. Units please bring raffle baskets for Special Olympics fundraiser. Please confirm your attendance by calling Barb at 585.328.5250 or email asap.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


Rochester, N.Y. -- With such remarkable marriage victories occurring in four states and the defeat of anti-equality candidates across the nation, it's no stretch to say this was probably one of the most consequential years ever in American political history with respect to civil rights. Decision 2012 was a huge leap forward for equality and workplace rights and the effect will be tangible and long lasting.

It's also clear our support this year helped elect the largest number of out federal lawmakers in our country's history. There is also a record number women elected to the the U.S. Senate-- 20.

Additionally, in 2012, it is widely believed that more self-identified LGBT union members than ever volunteered on political campaigns coordinated by progressive candidates and coalitions.

Throughout our state, LGBT and labor activists spoke with their co-workers, knocked on hundreds of thousands of doors, and most of all made sure their voice was heard at the polls.  CSEA delegates to the annual convention passed pro-equality resolutions, with no debate whatsoever. That was unthinkable just a few short years ago. We proved once again that when the progressive community comes together to fight for the issues that matter to most of New York’s hardworking families, we can accomplish great things as a movement. 

Progressive candidates were overwhelmingly successful this year and as a result, our working families are the real winners.

And, it’s also worth mentioning U.S. Senator-Elect from Wisconsin Tammy Baldwin. She shattered a sturdy glass ceiling that's been in place for more than two centuries. At long last, LGBT Americans will see one of our own take the oath of office in the United States Senate. I am extremely proud to share that news with anyone who will listen.

Other developments that went our way include the re-election of two former Congressman who should have never left office in 2010. That would be Central New York Congressman Dan Maffei and Florida Rep. Alan Grayson. Both are progressive  firery lawmakers-- who completely understand the needs of America's working class. 

With a broad coalition that spanned across America, seven states elected their first or only openly LGBT state lawmakers – even in places where some said it couldn't happen. Now LGBT young people in Arizona, North Dakota, South Dakota, West Virginia, New Mexico, Texas, Florida and Pennsylvania will see themselves reflected in government, and they'll dream of brighter futures.

In Colorado and Oregon, openly gay and lesbian state lawmakers are poised to win election as Speakers, which would add real power to efforts to expand partnership rights and make their states more welcoming for LGBT families.

A record number of pro-equality candidates have won this year because of supporters like us-- people who refuse to accept an America that treats some of us as less than equal because of how we identify or who we love.

Locally speaking, I’m particularly proud of Democratic lawmakers Rep. Louise Slaughter (NY25), NYS Senator-Elect Ted O’Brien and NYS Assemblymember Harry Bronson. We not only have elected officials that fully embrace equality, we have a local delegation that will champion equal rights for years to come.

Again, it has been a truly remarkable year—a year that has yielded positive results for working people. I'm incredibly proud to be part of it, and I'm incredibly grateful to all my colleagues and family for believing in me and supporting this work.

It was truly an election cycle for the ages. And, it’s still hard to digest everything that has happened these past few months. However, one thing is for sure-- there is nothing that can stop equality now.

-Ove Overmyer


The scene last night at Democratic HQ at the Hyatt, just after it was announced
Louise Slaughter will return to Washington representing voters of Monroe County.
photo: Bess Watts
By Ove Overmyer
Nov. 7, 2012

Rochester, N.Y. -- When the state of Ohio finally went blue for Democrat Barack Obama on election night, the raucous crowd at the downtown Rochester Hyatt Hotel ballroom went ballistic. The president finally cleared the 270-electoral vote hurdle to win his second four-year term. Shouts of joy and tears flowed like it was 2008 all over again. In other national outcomes, the House of Representatives will remain in Republican hands, and the Senate will keep its Democratic majority.

And, despite all the extreme rhetoric in a very nasty political year where over 6 billion dollars were spent that yielded status-quo results, President Obama was eventually elected by a large margin consisting primarily of young people, Hispanics, blacks and women "micro-targeted" by his effective get out the vote effort in battleground states. The labor community was very instrumental in getting out the vote despite voter suppression efforts in key battleground states like Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio. And closer to home, Monroe County BOE officials estimated by 8 pm on Tuesday, 72 percent of voters already cast their ballots. Officials were expecting voter turnout to reach 80 percent. 

Across the country, 65,600 AFSCME public service workers and CSEA pulled together with family, coworkers, neighbors and community allies to ensure victory in Election 2012 for President Barack Obama and candidates who will support America’s working families in Congress and state and local offices. It didn’t matter if the candidates were Democrat or Republican. It wasn’t about left versus right. It was about right versus wrong.

 “This is a good day for the middle class, the Main Street movement and the American Dream,” said AFSCME President Lee Saunders.

Perhaps no race more clearly demonstrates the commitment of voters to uphold the values of Main Street than Elizabeth Warren’s victory in Massachusetts, winning the seat held for decades by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy. From the beginning, Warren offered a full-throated embrace of Main Street’s fight to curb Wall Street’s power – and the active role that government has to play in the struggle. Other huge wins in the Senate included Chris Murphy in Connecticut, Claire McCaskill in Missouri, Tim Kaine in Virginia and Sherrod Brown in Ohio.

While some votes are still being tallied and a number of important races have yet to be called, this year’s election results are a declaration by the American people that they are standing up for working families, children, seniors and the most vulnerable of our country.

Despite nefarious attacks against the very right to vote, Americans chose Medicare over giving tax breaks to millionaires.  Voters rejected politicians who tried to strip away civil rights, their jobs and their promised benefits.

Throughout the campaign, CSEA and AFSCME volunteers knocked on doors, made 1.1 million phone calls and made 4,400 worksite visits. We worked in coalition with other labor unions and our community allies – an approach refined in our defeat of Senate Bill 5 in Ohio last year – to amplify the strength of our numbers. It was workers’ solidarity and it worked. AFSCME members delivered a victory for working families at every level of government last night.

The labor movement played a key role in defining Mitt Romney from day one.  In January, AFSCME’s “Greed” ad highlighted his dangerous work as a vulture capitalist, not a job creator, as a principal with Bain Capital. Later in the campaign, our “Meet Richard” video featuring Mitt Romney’s garbage collector became one of the most-watched videos of the entire election season, keeping the pressure on Romney for his comments dismissing 47 percent of Americans.

In Wisconsin, citizens voted to return President Obama and Vice President Biden – champions of working people – to office. They sent Tammy Baldwin to the U.S. Senate.

Baldwin, an out lesbian Democratic House member from Wisconsin, made history by winning election as the first out LGBT member of the Senate. Wisconsinites ousted union-busting and voter’s nixed right-to-work promoting legislators in Indiana. The labor community was outspent 15 to 1 and still working class champions prevailed at the ballot box.

CSEA Labor Candidates Maloney, Slaughter and Maffei Win Seats in Congress

Rep. Louise Slaughter
In the Hudson Valley’s 18th congressional district in New York, Democratic challenger Sean Patrick Maloney, an out gay attorney, defeated freshman Republican Nan Hayworth, becoming our state’s first LGBT representative in Washington. Maloney’s victory in New York was matched in Wisconsin, where out gay State Representative Mark Pocan, a Democrat, has won Baldwin’s current House seat.

Incumbent Democrat Louise Slaughter defeated Republican challenger Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks in the race for the 25th Congressional District, according to unofficial results from the Monroe County Board of Elections.

Buffalo area Rep. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat swept into office last year largely because of her support for Medicare, was defeated in her push for a full term. Millionaire Chris Collins, an extreme anti-labor Tea Party candidate and the former Erie County executive, was leading Hochul 51 percent to 49 percent, CNN reported, with 97 percent of precincts reporting at last count.

Hochul was elected in a May 2011 special election with the help of organized labor, and saw the already conservative western New York district turned even redder in the recent redistricting process. 

In one of the sweetest moments for the labor community and Democrats last night was the victory of Central New York former legislator Dan Maffei. Maffei is declaring victory in the 24th Congressional District, even though U.S. Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle, R-Onondaga Hill hasn't conceded — yet.

"I am honored that the people of central New York have elected me to represent them in Congress. We have won an important victory for central New York's middle class," Maffei said in a prepared statement released to major media outlets. "I am looking forward to working to fix our economy, create jobs, and rebuild our middle class. I would like to thank the voters, and all of our supporters who invested their time and energy in our campaign. This victory belongs to them."

Meanwhile, Buerkle is waiting for all the votes to be counted. She said she will let the "democratic process to run its course."

Local Democrats Wallop GOP

The race for the 25th Congressional District attracted a lot of national attention and a lot of soft money, including a last-minute, $1.3 million ad-buy from a Karl Rove-connected group for Tea Party darling Maggie Brooks.

In a Wednesday morning email to supporters after the election, Slaughter said, “We beat back Karl Rove, the Koch Brothers and all the money they poured into trying to buy this seat. We were victorious!”

She added, “This election was never about me, it was never about my opponent, it was about the future of our families. We were able to stand strong and make sure that New York has a constant advocate who will fight for our middle class families.”

Slaughter added, “We have built a strong grassroots organization that we can be proud of. Despite being the target of millions from Karl Rove and the Koch brothers we were able to fight back and we were able to win.”

The race went negative early, with Slaughter's camp firing back at vicious attacks by Brooks’ surrogates. Brooks' supporters were particularly nasty, taking digs at Slaughter's age — she's 83 — and appearance.
Slaughter returns for a 14th term in Congress, while Brooks has three years left as county executive before term limits kick in.

Bronson Breezes to Victory

Bronson on Election Night
photo: Bess Watts
Incumbent Rochester Democrat Harry Bronson, who was first elected to the New York State Assembly in 2010 as the first openly gay upstate legislator, had a solid victory over his Republican challenger Peterson Vazquez. Bronson received 63 percent of the vote, while Vazquez received 37 percent.

In his acceptance speech to a packed house at the Hyatt Ballroom in downtown Rochester, Bronson thanked his family, the labor community and all of his supporters.

He said, “Thank you to the working families of the 138th District. You have allowed me into your homes so I could listen and learn from you—so you could add your voice to help make the Empire State the best it can be. Your trust in me is a privilege I do not take lightly.”

Mark Johns, a retired CSEA member who was running to keep his Assembly seat, beat former Assemblyman David Koon by a narrow two point margin for the second time.

NYS Senate Dems Win Alesi Seat

Ted O'Brien (at right) Wins NY Senate 55th District Race.
photo: Bess Watts
In what may have been the most expensive New York State Senatorial campaign in history, CSEA backed Democrat Ted O'Brien won the race for the state Senate's 55th District seat. O'Brien and Republican Sean Hanna were running for the open seat that was previously held by Republican Jim Alesi, who decided not to seek reelection.

The race was a contentious one and from the early stages of the campaign. O'Brien was the target of untruthful and unrelenting attack ads from an anonymous group, but voters evidently dismissed those tactics with disdain.

The race drew statewide interest because it has implications for which party controls the state Senate. That question isn't settled yet, but O'Brien's victory does flip a Republican seat to a Democratic seat.

O'Brien received approximately 64,800 votes to the approximately 59,900 votes Hanna received, according to unofficial results from the Monroe County Board of Elections and the Ontario County Board of Elections.

Monroe County Legislature Sees Red

Despite all the positives for Democrats this election year, at the local level Republicans in the County Legislature increased their majority by one member on election night. Irondequoit foot doctor Joe Carbone unseated RIT professor Stephanie Aldersley, the Democrat who was appointed to a vacant seat earlier this year.

The race was very close, which did not come as a surprise since Carbone narrowly lost to Democrat Vinnie Esposito, who held the seat before Aldersley, in the 2011 elections. Esposito resigned this year to take a job with the state.

Aldersley served 10 years in the Legislature prior to Esposito’s tenure.

Carbone’s victory brings the Republican majority one vote closer to a two-thirds majority. That’s important in terms of county borrowing, which requires support from two-thirds of the legislators, or 20 out of 29 votes. When Carbone takes office the Republican majority will have 19 of the 29 seats in the legislature.