Friday, March 30, 2012



Albany, N.Y. -- The number of public employees joining New York's major pension system this month has just about doubled over the same period in 2011.

That suggests a last-minute rush by employees to secure their spots in the current pension plan before the new and less-generous plan, known as Tier 6, takes effect on Sunday.

According to the New York State Comptroller's records, there were 1,399 pension system registrations during March 2011 — compared to 3,287 as of March 28 this year.

The push comes as public sector unions are reminding members to make sure they are enrolled by Friday. While most public employees are automatically enrolled in their pension plans, it can be optional for part-timers, so the rush may represent a lot of part-time or seasonal workers.

At the Rochester Public Library, the personnel office has filed well over 22 applications to the NYS Retirement System since Tier 6 was signed into law. AFSCME and CSEA represent nearly 300 members at 11 branch libraries in the City of Rochester.

That's not to say the controversy over Tier 6 has ended. The state workforce's largest union this week is lambasting Gov. Cuomo and lawmakers over the defined contribution option being offered as part of the new package.

Under the final Tier 6 agreement, non-union public employees who earn $75,000 or more can, starting July 2013, choose a defined-contribution-type plan rather than the traditional defined-benefit pension.

CSEA was one of the first unions that fiercely opposed a defined contribution option during earlier negotiations. "It provides no guarantees and puts all the risk on the employee," said CSEA President Danny Donahue of the concept in January.

But this week, CSEA argues the defined contribution option is a "perk" that lawmakers passed in the dead of night.

Why the change in attitude? The answer has to do with politics and the nature of retirement plans. Most public sector workers have been enrolled in defined-benefit plans. The state pays into a fund and the worker knows what he or she will get as a monthly payment upon retirement, regardless of whether the stock market or other investments have risen or fallen. But the workers must have 10 years before they can qualify.

In the defined-contribution plan, the employee and employer put money in an investment account that follows the owner even if he or she changes jobs. The risk is shifted from the state to the owner of the account. But in addition to its portability, the plan goes into operation faster: After a year, those in the new defined-contribution plan will start accumulating contributions from the state equal to 8 percent of their salaries.

Why give an option?

First off, the defined contribution plan can be seen as a political payback. Banks, fund managers and finance gurus will now get hefty commissions and fees associated with public employee investments on Wall Street, something they have been wanting for decades. We are sure this pleases the Committee to Save New York, Gov. Cuomo’s own corporate lobby super PAC, who have spent well over 10 million dollars trying to boast Cuomo’s agenda since the 2011 budget cycle.

A career civil servant who works for the state for, say, 30 years may be more secure with a traditional -defined benefit plan because he or she knows what they'll be getting upon retirement.

But someone who spends a brief time in the public sector, such as a lawyer or business leader who accepts an appointed position, might prefer the more portable defined contribution.

For that person, getting an 8 percent contribution toward their retirement from the state after just one year may be better than waiting for 10 years to be vested in the pension system.

CSEA, though, says they are upset that the state will pitch in 8 percent toward those who are not in the union and may be in appointed or senior management positions.

No matter how you slice it, it ends up being a boondoggle giveaway for political appointees and top management brass in the Executive branch.

There are other angles to the change. A newly elected legislator, or a local mayor or county executive who earns $75,000 or more, will have to choose between the defined-benefit plan and the defined contribution.
Adding to the anger were earlier negotiations over Tier 6. When Cuomo first proposed the change, he wanted a 12-year vesting period. That would have made the defined-contribution plan more attractive to many state employees. But in the end, the new Tier 6 has a 10-year period, just like Tier 5.

Senate and Assembly members earn a base salary of $79,500, although many get more for extra duties such as chairing committees.

Newly elected legislators will be under a microscope when they choose either the pension or defined-contribution system. It will be a while before voters know which of their elected officials opt for the new defined contribution plan, since that doesn't begin until 2013, and presumably would impact those running in the 2014 rather than the 2012 election cycle.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Organized Money From Cities, Unions and Churches Moving Out of Big Banks

Wednesday, 28 March 2012 15:11
By Yana Kunichoff, Truthout | Report
It's getting expensive these days to be a bad citizen in America, if you're a major bank. A growing number of cities around the country have passed, introduced or drafted responsible banking ordinances that hit big financial institutions where it hurts most - the pocketbook.

Los Angeles drafted a responsible banking ordinance in March that assesses banks that do business with the city based on foreclosure data; in February, Kansas City, Missouri, passed a resolution ordering the city manager to only do business with banks that don't engage in predatory lending; and in November, New York City introduced legislation that would force banks that want to hold city deposits to submit community reinvestment plans.

And just days ago, in Massachusetts, the city of Brockton was persuaded to move its money out of Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase altogether after they refused to negotiations on loan modifications for homeowners facing foreclosure.

The movement to divest from banking institutions continues to gain ground, as cities with large amount of capital join individuals, unions and congregations in pulling their money out of banks, or looking more carefully at the conditions a financial institution must meet to hold their money.

"I think it's because there are millions of people who for various reasons are angry at the way banks have taken control of the economy and our democracy," said Ilana Berger, co-director of The New Bottom Line, a coalition group "working together to build a movement that challenges established big bank interests on behalf of struggling and middle-class communities."

"People living under mountains of debt because of unfair fee and predatory practices for a long time felt like we need another solution," continued Berger, while "banks are not acting in the way that is in the best interests of our community and our economy."

"Over the past few months people have started to see a movement that addresses this," she said.

Legislation is also being considered in "Austin, Boston, the Bay Area (San Francisco/Oakland, CA), Chicago, Minneapolis, San Jose, CA, and Portland, OR.," according to The New Bottom Line.

Bank of America, Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase have all come under fire since they were bailed out by the federal government in 2008 for actions that community groups say may have helped their stockholders, but often left people facing unfair foreclosure. These included predatory lending, robo-signing of foreclosure documents and risky investments.

While divestment from big banks began as a progressive issue, with the Occupy movement taking on the rallying cry as well as groups like Move Our Money, Berger says that "if you are in a city with a very high foreclosure rate, you don't have to be progressive to see that it's costing the city money."

It's become a "common sense issue," said Berger.

While the sheer financial power of cities makes them a huge player in the divestment movement, other groups that could have an impact have also jumped on board.

These include churches and union groups, both of which have economic muscle and a connection to the community, said Tim Lilienthal, lead organizer for bank accountability with the Pico National Network.

"If you go into any corner of the country and go into any congregation, there are lots of things that they are dealing with, hearing the same stories that people have been experiencing this for years and years," said Lilienthal.

The Pico group estimates that 25 different congregations in their network have together moved $30 million from big banks. Most recently, a San Jose priest made headlines when he diverted $3 million from Bank of America to a local credit union.

The primary demand coming from the groups that Berger and Lilienthal work with is for banks to agree to large-scale principal reduction, a move that they say could help thousands of homeowners.

Principal reduction would reduce the amount of money that underwater homeowners, who owe more money than their houses are worth, are paying on their mortgages and, thereby, stem the tide of foreclosures.

ProPublica has called the issue "one of the most politically charged debates about the housing crisis," and the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), which oversees the mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, has been vehemently against the proposal

According to a report by The New Bottom Line, principal reductions by big banks would create one millions jobs annually, save taxpayers money and would let the average family pay$500 per month less on their mortgage.

Until this aim is achieved, Lilienthal said he sees the divestment movement continuing to grow.

"What we are aspiring to is not just think about where we are moving our money out of," he said, "but also think of our money as being kind of an organized force."

-This article is a Truthout original.

Monday, March 26, 2012


Rochester, N.Y. -- All AFSCME/CSEA union library advocates, whether we are new to the profession or are long-term veterans of the library field, we are deeply concerned about our ability to recruit, retain and reward the next generation of library workers. As a matter of fact, CSEA and AFSCME represent more library workers across New York State and the United States than any other labor union organization.

At the same time, there are still many people who provide invaluable services in our nation’s libraries who fall short of earning a living wage. We know that, when compared to other professions with similar education and training, librarians and library workers are often compensated at a rate far lower than their comparable worth.

This situation is slowly improving-- thanks to our union efforts to bring this issue to the forefront of public attention at the local, state and national level. But we still have far to go before we can say our job is done.

On January 25, 2003, a federal resolution was proposed that in order to recognize the hard work, dedication, and expertise of library support staff and librarians that the Tuesday of National Library Week be designated National Library Workers Day; and, on that day, interested library workers, library groups, and libraries should advocate for better compensation for all library workers and, if the day coincides with National Pay Equity Day, these individuals, groups, and libraries should recognize both days together.

According to the National Committee on Pay Equity, the wage gap remains at a standstill with women earning 77¢ for every dollar a man earns.

The 2003 U.S. Census reports that the average salary of men with master’s degrees was $75,950 (median $61,634), while women earned only $46,961 (median $41,185)—a difference of almost $29,000 (62 percent).

The average salary of a librarian in 2006 was $56,259 and the median was $50,976.

Men with bachelor’s degrees earned an average of $62,471 (median $49,449); while women earned an average of $35,935 (median $30,412)—a difference of $26,536 (73 percent).

Pay inequity is rampant within librarianship. The Association of Research Libraries, in its Annual Salary Survey for 2005-06, reported that the average salary for male academic librarians in member libraries was $63,984, while the average for female academic librarians was $61,083.

Library Journal reported that new library school graduates finally crossed the $40,000 mark as an average salary, but the gender split had women below that point with $39,587 and men at $42,143.

As library advocates, we encourage all union members to please celebrate with us National Library Week April 8 through the 14th. After all, libraries are the cornerstones to every great community.


Saturday, March 24, 2012


Photo: Democrat & Chronicle
Rochester, N.Y.-- Maggie Brooks, the former news anchor and elected official from Monroe County, New York will take every opportunity to reap the financial benefits of media perks in public office while at the same time seek a Congressional seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Has the County's agenda become a national agenda? Make no mistake-- her media friends from all the Rochester news affiliates, especially WHEC-TV (NBC) will follow her around like hungry dogs looking for their next meal. Whatever happened to fair and balanced? Whatever happened to equal access under New York State election law? It's not happening here in Rochester, folks.

When you see her out in public or at an event, ask her if she is doing County work or campaigning on the taxpayer's dime. Ask her who paid for the printed materials, transportation to the event, the phone bill, gas and food. Go ahead, just ask. Every time.

Brooks has mastered the art of blurring the unethical lines between honoring election law, governing, campaigning and common decency. She walks this dance like no other, and boldly dares anyone to challenge her otherwise. Most people do not in fear of retribution. That's because-- that's the way she is.

And if you need a quick example of what we are talking about, you don't have to look any farther than the anti-bullying session she attended at the Monroe Community Hospital earlier this week. This event was a campaign stop masqueraded as County business. She made this a scheduled stop knowing full well she has been hammered on not doing enough for middle-class children and creating policy that has contributed to what The Children's Agenda stated as, "A Decade of Decline."

The child poverty report revealed that Monroe County children are worse off than they were 10 years ago-- the same period Maggie Brooks has been instituting anti-worker, anti-poor and anti-middle-class policies that disproportionately have hurt our most precious resource, our children. Nelson Mandela once said, "There can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than the way in which it treats its children."

The Brooks Legacy

At her press conference announcing her candidacy, Brooks says that the nation could learn a lot from Monroe County. If that's the case, then god help us.

As far as we can tell, the Brooks legacy will go down in history as one that afforded opportunities to those who are financially insulated from any harm while the disabled, middle-class, poor and working poor were left with higher fees, limited services and a lower standard of living. Anyone looking from the outside in, might call her a "Tea Party" darling. 

It wasn't that long ago Maggie Brooks tried unsuccessfully to take money away from our schools with her FAIR plan; a deal the taxpayers are still smarting from. She also eliminated funding for the Center for Disability Rights, and hacked away at lead paint funding which would make our children less safe. Under the Brooks administration, according to the Dept. of Labor, we have endured a net loss of 22,000 jobs since she has been in office.

Tax levies have risen seven times over the past seven years. If you want bigger income inequality, under performing schools, less regulatory controls on the water we drink, in the air that we breathe, or tainted meat for that matter, Maggie Brooks is your candidate. If you want your government to put profit before the taxpayers, than vote for Maggie Brooks.

Maggie Brooks is a divisive, anti-worker and anti-equality law maker. And, we didn't even get into all the scandals and ethics violations of her controversial legacy as County Executive. Despite all the turmoil that surrounds her, the media throws her softballs and holds her to a different standard. However, sooner or later the Teflon will slip off the ol' frying pan. She will be vetted this year like she never has been before. Don't be surprised if we get some startling news her so-called media friends can't ignore. 

And, lastly, if you cannot make the connection between local GOP policies and child poverty rates in Rochester and Monroe County, you are living in a fantasy world.  

-The Voice Reporter takes ownership of this content and it does not necessarily reflect the views of CSEA as an organization.

Friday, March 23, 2012


Rochester, N.Y. -- The murder of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida touched so many hearts because he was gunned down in the midst of a simple, every day experience.  He was simply walking down a street—coming from a store where he bought skittles and iced tea for his younger brother.  He was a victim of the irreparable damage wreaked from fear incited by his mere presence, his mere appearance – also part of the everyday experience, particularly for black men in America. 

 Trayvon was someone’s son, 17 years old and unarmed, taken violently and too young from our world because of still-pervasive visceral reactions to skin color in America.

 When devastating tragedies like the murder of Trayvon happen, when violent racial assaults and murders occur, when immigrant women face sexual abuse and brutal working conditions – these are moments in time when our society is measured on the devastating consequences of not doing enough to speak up and speak out. 

When those who raise a constant drumbeat of anger, hatred, distrust and fear are not challenged, we all suffer.

There is no action we can take that will bring Trayvon back to his family and replace the hole that will always remain in their lives.  Every person in this country must take a moment to feel that reality.

One of the most sacred principles of the labor movement is our motto, “an injury to one is an injury to all.”  The Voice Reporter issues this statement today in that spirit.  We are grateful for the solidarity of our sisters and brothers who are Latino and black trade unionists, who are Asian Pacific American and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender workers. We are every color and creed imaginable—and we will speak out against this injustice.

Today we are all Trayvon Martin, we are all his parents, we are all his family.  We grieve with the family and add our prayers.  We add our voices to the call that out of this tragedy, we must ensure just action in this case and must all invest more tirelessly in the work needed to make America the country we all believe in: a safe, fair, loving and just country with equal opportunity for all. 

The folks of the Voice Reporter also want to give a shout-out to City Councilman Adam McFadden. From what we have learned, he is responsible for organizing an event for citizens to publicly express their sorrow, grief and anger about this national tragedy. Thank you for your leadership and vision Mr. McFadden. Thank you for your tireless advocacy on behalf of all working people.

Please join us in Rochester, N.Y. on Sunday, March 25th at a justice rally and march from the Liberty Pole in downtown Rochester to the Federal Building on State Street. It begins at 3:00 pm. Wear your hoodie.

Thursday, March 22, 2012


Reflections of an activist

Rochester, N.Y.-- The desire to work together to build a better future is why I spend so much time dedicated to progressive causes.

I don't care how steep the hill…. I won't stop until we have a community where every worker can support their family and have some dignity and some retirement security, where every kid gets a fair shot at a great education and a better way of life.

It has been my personal mission to speak truth to power and give a voice to average working Americans—especially LGBT workers. We must frame the debate in our own words and tell our own personal stories. I will not allow others to define me. I am driven by the simple belief that the world as is, just won't do. We all have an obligation to fight for the world as it should be.

I also believe that each of us, no matter our age, our background or our walk of life, each of us has something to contribute to the greatness of our nation.

I'm just trying doing my part. For those who really know me well, they would tell you I come from a place of desperation and fear-- and I wear my battle scars like badges of hope. I like most Americans, live paycheck to paycheck and sometimes fear for the safety of my family. Not long ago, a bullet went through the front of a house in my kid’s neighborhood—striking a 59 year old man sitting in his living room. That easily could have been one of us.

And, I wonder, "If I get sick, what will happen to them?" I also wonder, “What kind of world are we handing over to the next generation? What will it be like for them when I'm gone?” Or, “Will it be a world full of inclusion and opportunity or a world filled with greed, hate, despair and violence?”

I said this a long time ago, and many times to my loved ones, but it is worth repeating: I do not expect to see the extraordinary things I fight for happen in my lifetime. Matters have gone far beyond that. This country of ours is really fractured over our culture wars. I expect some measure of success along the way but I also know that I will fail many times over-- to one day die in defeat. But that does not matter to me. The journey and the fight is worth waging because these things really do matter, and I intend to give the years I have left to that fight, no matter the outcome during my lifetime. 

I would like to publicly thank my family for their love and support and the sacrifices they make every day so I can serve my community. They give me the desire and inspiration to wake up every morning to try and make our world a better place to work, live and play.

-Ove Overmyer


Video posted by WNY Media on September 26, 2011.



What's this all about?
Make a short video that captures why the Rochester Public Library is important to you.

What should my video be like?
Your video could be about something that changed the direction of your life, or about the pleasures of picking up a good read and sharing the experience with others, or about meeting some amazing and helpful people at the library, or anything else you want to share about our great library. Videos can be live-action or animated, serious or funny.
To be eligible, your video can be no more than 1 minute and 30 seconds in length.

Can anyone submit a video?
The contest is open to everyone, with past or present residents of the City of Rochester and of Greater Rochester especially encouraged to participate.

Children under the age of 17 must have parental approval. Employees and family members of the Rochester Public Library, Monroe County Library System and the City of Rochester may submit videos but are ineligible to receive prizes

When does the contest run?
All entries must be submitted between April 1 and April 30, 2012. 
Voting on the finalists (3 top vote getters) will begin on May 7 and will end on May 18, 2012.
Winners will be announced on May 24, 2012.

I want to know the rules!
To view official rules, please return to this site on April 1.

So, what do I get if I win?
Two Kindles and one Kindle Fire will be awarded!

Call 585.428.8143 for more information.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Rochester, N.Y. -- On Tuesday, April 10, during National Library Week, communities across the country will observe National Library Workers Day.   The recession, caused by the collapse of the Wall Street casino economy, means AFSCME and CSEA library members continue to confront severe budget cuts while, at the same time, our communities desperately need the services libraries offer.  And library workers have always been a strong voice for free and open access to knowledge and information. Yet the voice of library workers, and of other public employees - their right to have a union and to collectively bargain – is under attack. 

Meanwhile, libraries across the country are being threatened with closures and privatization. Here is how Library Systems and Services, Inc. (LSSI), the only company in the private library business, explains their philosophy: “A lot of libraries are atrocious. Their policies are all about job security. That’s why the profession is nervous about us. You can go to a library for 35 years and never have to do anything and then have your retirement. We’re not running our company that way. You come to us; you’re going to have to work.” [Frank A. Pezzanite, Executive Chairman of LSSI, as quoted in the New York Times, September 26, 2010]

New York Library advocates must protect our public libraries and our system services.  AFSCME and CSEA represent more library workers than any other union and is a powerful advocate for libraries and library workers. Indeed, education, training, and library occupations are among the most unionized in the United States (36.8% in 2011).  We encourage you to observe National Library Workers Day, a time to honor the contributions of AFSCME and CSEA members, including librarians, technicians, support staff and others, who make libraries happen and who are doing more with less.

Monday, March 19, 2012


Maggie Brooks

Rochester, N.Y. -- A few thoughts about the Brooks for Congress announcement today: When it’s all said and done, history will be the final judge of the Brooks administration in Monroe County. And as far as we can tell, the Brooks legacy will go down in history as one that afforded opportunities to those who are financially insulated from any harm while the disabled, middle-class, poor and working poor were left with higher fees, limited services and a lower standard of living. 

Maggie Brooks tried unsuccessfully to take money away from our schools with her FAIR plan; a deal the taxpayers are still smarting from. She also eliminated funding for the Center for Disability Rights, and hacked away at lead paint funding which would make our children less safe. Under the Brooks administration, according to the Dept. of Labor, we have endured a net loss of 22,000 jobs since she has been in office.

Tax levies have risen seven times over the past seven years. If you want bigger income inequality, under performing schools, less regulatory controls on the water we drink, in the air that we breathe, or tainted meat for that matter, Maggie Brooks is your candidate. If you want a government that puts profit before taxpayers, than vote for Maggie.

If you want D.C. representation where only the one percent are cared for, vote for Maggie. If you want a more corrupt political system whereby cronyism and kickbacks rule the day, Maggie Brooks is your candidate. We now live in a county where our children are worse off than they were just 10 years ago-- it's no coincidence that is when Maggie Brooks became our County Executive. The title of the Children's Agenda report was aptly titled, "A Decade of Decline." No kidding. And, if you want more obstructionism in the House of Representatives and a minority player who is virtually unable to "bring home the pork," then consider voting Republican.

If you want a candidate who is anti-worker and anti-equality, go ahead and vote for her. Here's another wake up call. In last November's election, she wasn't even the top vote getter in Monroe County-- Sandra Doorley was. Maggie will be vetted like she never has been before and eventually some simple truths will emerge-- ethics violations, misdeeds and just plain dishonesty. Sooner or later the Teflon will wear off the frying pan. And, lastly, if you cannot make the connection between local GOP policies and child poverty rates in Rochester, you are living in a fantasy world. 


Statement from CSEA President Danny Donohue

ALBANY - "CSEA will immediately suspend all state political endorsements and contributions. This unprecedented action is a direct result of the political deal between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state legislative leadership, Senate Republicans and Assembly Democrats, trading the future retirement security of working New Yorkers for legislative redistricting lines.

This action is necessary to give our union the opportunity to re-evaluate our political relationships and make judgments about the criteria we use in determining who has earned and deserves our support. It is also important to consider how our support is valued.

CSEA will also use this time to consult with our brother and sister unions and other allied community organizations about how we can collectively address the disrespect and disenfranchisement of working people by our state's elected officials.

New Yorkers should understand that lawmakers' actions did not result from meaningful debate and good judgment - it resulted from political expediency - and it will have harmful consequences to people and communities now and for a long time to come.

CSEA will seek better ways to hold elected officials accountable and ensure that the voices of working people will be heard and addressed in New York state."

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Shame on Brooks, Cuomo and Bloomberg; New York Lawmakers Support the One Percent

Rochester, N.Y.-- What you did to New York's middle class is a shame.


Rochester, N.Y.-- No matter how you slice it, making changes to New York's 90 year-old pension system offered Gov. Cuomo an opportunity to pay back his rich friends who have been writing him big checks to support his agenda-- all at the expense of New York's working class. 

He got that done by raping the pension system and giving them access to fees and commissions for the newly created 401(k) options for workers who make over 75 K. His argument that this is somehow a "win" for local government budgets is just plain nonsense. Everyone agrees that there are no immediate savings to implementing a Tier 6 plan-- Cuomo played politics with our retirement security and now we know exactly where he stands. He stands with his corporate friends and the Wall Street thieves who wreaked havoc on our economy a few short years ago. Despite his pathetic claims otherwise, Governor Cuomo values his relationships with CEO's, hedge fund managers and real estate developers more than the average taxpayer. 

We, the working families of New York are blue in the face justifying our righteousness. We know what will keep our economy growing-- by providing quality public services, by making sure the middle class has a decent living wage and a pension fund that can support our families when we retire. A strong middle class benefits everyone-- but Cuomo doesn't see it that way. 

We hate to say this, but New York has become just another Wisconsin, Florida and Ohio-- states where Governors  and the executive branch staff suffer from delusions of grandeur. It's defined by an overreach of power that we think most New Yorker's will eventually find very offensive. And, to think that Cuomo can reach in and grab 250 million dollars of education funding the legislature is more than capable of regulating is obscene and unethical. 

By instituting these changes in the pension system and holding the budget hostage in the process, Gov. Cuomo has created a lower standard of living for the hard working people of New York State. This outcome was less important than the political payback to the biggest banks and multi-national corporations who wanted all along to get a piece of the New York State Retirement System pension pie. 

Do not believe the governor's spin and rhetoric-- he has shown his true colors here. He played politics with our retirement security and this type of policy will continue until you step up and raise a little holy hell. Today we march, tomorrow we vote. You have to do something about taking control of your own financial future. If you leave it up to Governor Cuomo, your in for a bumpy ride.

-This op-ed is the opinion of the Voice Reporter and does not reflect the views of CSEA as an organization.

Friday, March 16, 2012


Sisters and brothers –

As a candidate, Andrew Cuomo promised to remake New York into a progressive model for the nation. Instead, Governor Cuomo, joined by the state assembly and senate, used the dark of night to betray working families and their retirement security – all to benefit his friends on Wall Street and the richest one percent. Call them now to tell them you are disappointed in these shady deals. 

We joined religious and community leaders in a massive statewide mobilization campaign. While we did defeat the worst pieces of Tier 6, including an outrageous 401(k) plan that would have given away billions in fees to Wall Street, it is cold comfort for New York’s nurses, public safety professionals, librarians, and other public service workers. As providers of vital public services, we go to work every day to make our communities safer, healthier and stronger. Governor Cuomo and the legislature repaid us by stabbing us in the back. 

Tell our elected officials enough is enough.

There is another way. Closing tax loopholes will provide immediate fiscal relief to struggling cities and communities in New York.

This spring and summer, AFSCME New York will tell these anti-worker politicians loud and clear that we won’t stand for them attacking the retirement we earned. And come the fall, if anyone is unclear where we stand, they’ll get the message on election night.

Call your elected officials now – tell them you are angry and will not forget this betrayal.





The People's House
photo: Ove Overmyer
ALBANY — State lawmakers on Thursday morning approved a controversial measure to cut the retirement benefits for future public employees across the state, dealing a setback to middle-class families at the end of a dramatic, dysfunctional all-night session.

The pension changes were less drastic than those sought by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, applying to fewer employees and saving less money than he had hoped for. However, he is still pitching this development as a political win.

The pension changes were part of a policy package approved overnight that intertwined several of the thorniest issues facing lawmakers this year. Working through the night, the Legislature approved a reconfiguration of the state’s Assembly and Senate districts, the language of a proposed constitutional amendment to legalize casino gambling and the creation of one of the most extensive criminal DNA databases in the nation.

The governor and legislative leaders first allowed the public to see the details of the pension legislation at 3 a.m. Thursday. The irony of this ploy cannot be overstated—this week is Sunshine Week—a time to celebrate and raise awareness for freedom of information and transparency issues with all levels of government.

The Republican-controlled Senate approved the measure an hour later, despite the absence of most of the chamber’s Democrats, who had walked out over redistricting. More on that later. Democrats argued that the pension vote was invalid because there was no quorum present for the vote; Republicans insisted that a quorum had been met for the pension vote.

The Democrat-controlled Assembly approved the pension changes shortly after 7 a.m. The Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, a Manhattan Democrat, had kept the voting open for nearly two hours as he called in lawmakers who had gone to sleep in a tense effort to muster the votes for passage. In the end, the Assembly approved the measure by a comfortable margin.

The pension deal comes as state and local governments around the country take similar steps to reduce retirement costs, often prompting pitched battles with labor unions.

Mr. Cuomo had significantly scaled back the most contentious portion of his pension proposal, which would have given new public workers the option of forgoing a traditional pension and instead choosing a defined contribution plan, similar to a 401 (k) style plan. He and lawmakers agreed to offer the defined contribution option, but only to new state workers who earn $75,000 or more and are nonunionized.

In another concession by Mr. Cuomo, the deal did not make significant changes to the retirement benefits of New York City police officers and firefighters.

NYS Comptroller Tom DiNapoli says the pension reform math is still fuzzy, and it will probably cost local governments millions of additional dollars to implement Cuomo’s plan in the short term.

Here are some details of the new Tier 6 plan:

  • New employee contribution rates (permanent)
  • Those making $45,000 or less still pay 3 percent
  • $45,000 to $55,000 pay 3.5 percent
  • $55,000 to $75,000 pay 4.5 percent
  • $75,000 -$100,000 pay 5.75 percent
  • Salaries over $100,000 pay 6 percent
  • Public employees become eligible for retirement age 63 (penalty of 6.5 for every year if you retire prior)
  • Sick leave credit down to 100 days
  • Overtime capped at same as Tier 5

Again, this legislation raises the minimum retirement age to 63 from 62 for state workers. It will also require most workers to increase the portion of their salaries that they contribute to the pension system from the current 3 percent to as much as 6 percent for the highest earners.

This is not real reform, and for the taxpayers of the state this does not give them a better deal for their money. It remains a 25-30% pension cut and translates to a lower standard of living for the middle class.

CSEA activists talk with Rochester
area Assemblyman H. Bronson outside
the Assembly Chamber on March 6.
photo: Lynn Miller
As of today, we still don't have all the precise numbers because it was a backroom deal, negotiated without public input, and we are literally still crunching the numbers coming out of the final bill. As Cuomo has publicly stated in the past, he thinks it's better to get things done as quickly as possible, even if that means there's no time for public input. The most important thing to know is that Assembly Democrats and Republican Senators protected their job security instead of looking after the residents they swore to serve and protect.

Obviously, Mr. Cuomo’s agenda has infuriated labor leaders, including our very own Danny Donohue. Our CSEA Local 1000 president, who oversees the state’s largest union of public workers, the Civil Service Employees Association, said that the pension deal was “shoved down the throat of state legislators fixated on their own self-preservation.”

 “This deal is about politicians standing with the 1 percent — the wealthiest New Yorkers — to give them a better break while telling nurses, bus drivers, teachers, secretaries, and laborers to put up and shut up,” Mr. Donohue said after the vote approving the pension changes.

Overnight, lawmakers also approved a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow full-scale commercial casinos. The state has nine racetrack gambling parlors and five American Indian casinos; the amendment, which would have to be approved once more by the Legislature and then by voters, would authorize up to seven Las Vegas-style casinos.

The all-night session in Albany resolved many of the most prominent issues facing the Legislature. Lawmakers have not yet reached an agreement on a state budget for the fiscal year that begins April 1, but legislative leaders have expressed confidence that they would reach a deal within days.

Redistricting held hostage in pension talks

Lawmakers also completed their part of a contentious redistricting compromise with Mr. Cuomo. He had pledged during his campaign for governor not to approve maps unless they were drawn by an independent body, but he reversed his position because, he said, approval of the maps drawn by the Legislature enabled him to get long-term redistricting reform.

In exchange for Mr. Cuomo’s approval of the maps, lawmakers agreed to support a constitutional amendment that would create a bipartisan redistricting commission after the 2020 census. In an effort to ensure that the Legislature follows through with its pledge to approve the constitutional amendment two years in a row, Mr. Cuomo insisted that it pass a law that would grant the governor greater power over redistricting if the Legislature abandoned the amendment.

The Assembly and the Senate approved the lawmaker-drawn maps and the constitutional amendment late Wednesday night, and the backup law early Thursday. The maps approved by the Legislature were for legislative districts only; lawmakers have been unable to agree on how to reduce the number of Congressional districts in the state to 27 from 29 and have left that task to a federal court.

Mr. Cuomo’s compromise on legislative redistricting drew criticism from Senate Democrats, who departed the chamber en masse rather than participate in the vote, held just before midnight. Government watchdog groups are pressing the governor to veto the maps, which they described as gerrymandered to protect incumbents and as unfair to minority voters.

The Senate minority leader, John L. Sampson, a Brooklyn Democrat, questioned whether Mr. Cuomo had dropped his opposition to the redistricting maps in exchange for passage of his pension proposal.
These are the actions you would expect if this was a Republican governor.  One Democratic lawmaker was quoted as saying to the NYT, “Governor Cuomo always talks about how Albany has changed. Albany has changed. Albany has changed for the worst.”


Rochester, N.Y.-- On March 15, the Rochester & Finger Lakes Chapter of Pride At Work, AFL-CIO hosted their 2nd True Colors Recognition Award Dinner at the Diplomat Banquet Center in Rochester, New York. More than 150 people attended the dinner. The mission of Pride At Work is to mobilize mutual support between the organized labor movement and the LGBT community. The local chapter began operations in the fall of 2007. 

The evening featured a Labor Fashion Show called, "Workin' It!", written and hosted by Anne Tischer. Linda Donahue, Labor Educator for Cornell University's School of Labor & Industrial Relations, and Ove Overmyer, CSEA and Pride At Work member received the 2012 True Colors Award for their outstanding commitment to the advancement of workplace democracy.

For some biographical information on Linda Donahue, you can go here

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


This afternoon, the AFL-CIO’s General Board voted unanimously to endorse President Obama for re-election. 

For many reasons, we are pledging to work with President Obama throughout the elections and in a second term. The bottom line is this:
 As president, Barack Obama has placed his faith in America’s working men and women to lead our country to economic recovery and our full potential. So we’re putting our faith in him. 

Please join us in pledging to get to work for working people by supporting President Obama and other working family candidates.

Although the labor movement has sometimes differed with the president and often pushed his administration to do more—and do it faster—we have never doubted his commitment to a strong future for working families. With our endorsement today, we affirm our faith in the president. We pledge to work with him through the election and his second term to restore fairness, security and shared prosperity.

Brothers and sisters, the coming election is a choice about values.
 President Obama honors the values of hard work, mutual respect and of solving problems together—not every person for himself or herself. Each of the Republican presidential candidates, on the other hand, has pledged to uphold the special privileges of Wall Street and the 1%—privileges that have produced historic economic inequality and drowned out the voices of working people in America. 

Please join us in pledging to get to work for working people by supporting President Obama and all working family candidates.

Working people are the Davids standing up to Goliath in today’s politics.
 Our strength is in our numbers, our values and plain, hard work. When we come together, we are formidable. And for this election, we are coming together like never before. 

Thank you for all the work you do.

In Solidarity,

Richard L. Trumka
President, AFL-CIO

P.S. Here are some key reasons we support the president’s re-election:

1.    He took America from the brink of a second Great Depression by pressing Congress to pass the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which saved or created 3.6 million jobs.
2.    He championed comprehensive health insurance reform, which—while far from perfect—set the nation on a path toward the health security that had eluded our country for nearly 100 years.
3.    He insisted upon Wall Street reform—passed over the objection of almost every Republican. Now, we can finally begin to reverse decades of financial deregulation that put our entire economy at risk.
For these reasons—and many more—President Obama has earned the support of working people for a second term. We hope you’ll join us today in pledging to support his re-election. You can read more about why we’re supporting the president here.


Rochester, N.Y.-- This just in from Albany-- the Assembly and State Senate both passed budget bills on Monday that did not include Tier 6. Your phone calls, faxes and visits really made a difference. However, Gov. Cuomo is pressuring the legislators to vote on a Tier 6 bill later this week. 
We can't let the middle class come in second place to Wall St. greed! Gov. Cuomo’s so-called pension reform will cut future workers’ pensions by 40 percent, and hand over billions to Wall Street -- the very same people who needed a $4.76 trillion taxpayer bailout in 2009.

Our state legislators know middle class families deserve a secure retirement, but Gov. Cuomo is pressuring them to vote on Tier 6 as part of the re-districting deal---playing politics as usual instead of working on real legislative reforms.

Please join us for lunchtime events this Wednesday--Thursday--Friday in Buffalo and Rochester. We'll be spreading the word with signs and leaflets that Tier 6 is just another Wall St. bailout--one that NY's working families can ill afford.

Join us as we stand up for retirement security
Say NO to Gov. Cuomo’s political games!

Buffalo-area Press conference and Rally
Wednesday, March 14
12 PM - 1 PM
Sen. Mark Grisanti
65 Court St, Buffalo, NY 14202
(meet on Court St. side of building)

Rochester-area Press Conferences and Rallies
Thursday, March 15th
1 PM- 2 PM
Senator Joseph Robach
56th Senate District office
Rochester, NY 14626
(Corner of West Ridge & Greenfield Rds.)

Friday, March 16th
12 PM - 1 PM
Senator James Alesi
55th Senate District office
Fairport, NY 14450
(Corner of Perrin St & West Ave)

Questions? Call Courtney Brunelle, 716-691-6555 or email her at:
CSEA and AFSCME will provide signs and leaflets; please wear your union colors!