Friday, July 20, 2012


In a recent "Your Views" opinion piece, the writer states that "Brooks has flawed agenda for austerity'. Yet I noticed that the writer is a member of the CSEA Union/Rochester Library Workers.
The writer should look around us. Our cars, furniture, etc are made in other countries. Why, because the people of this country cannot afford articles made by high priced union workers anymore.
You are paid by taxpayer dollars.  How high can the county, city, state, or any other taxing authority tax us?
I am retired but pay several thousands of dollars in taxes. It is getting to be a real burden to the point of possibly giving up my home in Irondequoit.
The article mentions countries in Europe, that austerity budgets are crippling the life of residents. Not true, the unions have crippled their economy. Austerity came AFTER the unions got such high wages the country could not afford.  Simply put, people here are buying foreign articles where they do not have unions and are cheaper, i.e: Mexico, South America, China.
We need to get our collective heads around the fact that the unions may not be your friend any more. Actually, many people in this country who do not work for a Union make out just fine. We need jobs, not higher salaries.
Rochester, N.Y. -- A couple weeks ago, I wrote an op-ed for the Messenger Post Newspapers that included several primary source citations that explained how foolish it is to implement an austerity budget when the economy is soft.

My objective here was to promote discussion and debate around this issue, hoping we can elevate a higher understanding of the complex issues that face Monroe County residents—especially for the middle class.

Knowing full well we truly have an uninformed electorate, especially when media giants like FOX News consciously mislead their viewers, I try to be respectful of other people’s points of view. However, the stunning ignorance of the letter writer named Carol Rohr from Irondequoit, N.Y. was very disturbing—not only to me but to all the hard working people of Monroe County I represent.

I've experienced firsthand what it's like to come under fire on so many fronts-- personal attacks from lawmakers, library patrons, and an ignorant and completely uninformed public. My challenge has been to define the debate on our terms and remain stoic and professional as possible-- and to explain how and why public services are so vital to every man, woman and child who lives in our community. 

First of all, Ms. Rohr evidently doesn’t understand the difference between the public and private sector, because if she did, she would know that the government is not in the furniture business.

Secondly, I am the president of a public employee union for the City of Rochester. I represent 165 part time library workers at 11 branch libraries in the city—none of us make a living wage and most of us are women of color over 50 years of age, supporting multi-generational families on little income and probably have no health care for their children and grandchildren. We are the working poor—and for Ms. Rohr to use sweeping generalities about all unions is outrageous, naïve and foolhardy.

And to think working families have crippled the economy is laugh out loud funny—if it wasn't so sad to think that some people in our community actually believe that crap.

As for “getting our collective heads around the fact that unions may not be your friend anymore,” who in God’s name do you think we are?

I’ll tell you who we are. We are the people that drive your kids to school, we make sure your streets are safe; we take care of your aging parents; we make sure the roads are plowed so you can get to the store or work on time; we make sure the air you breathe is clean and the water you drink is healthy. We do not make a lot of money and we are not your enemy. We are your neighbors and public servants who take care of you.

As for me, a public librarian with no employer-provided healthcare living on less than $25,000 dollars a year and trying to take care of 6 people, I take real offense to your shooting the messenger and not directing your anger at the systems that really oppress you and me.

You clearly have trouble grasping simple facts and the economic realities that poor, working poor and the average tax payer face. If you spent more time getting your information from other than one news source, you might be in a better informed position to positively contribute to a public conversation about austerity budgets, current events and our global economy.

Yes, we vent about the tough new realities we see on the job, because we are living them. Maggie Brooks’ policies have made Monroe County’s working families lives unbearable-- but we do the job because we truly care about our communities. Let's face it, one does not choose a library career or public service for a high salary. We choose our professions out of a dedication to public service and a willingness to help our fellow man. 

Yet I wonder how much longer we can expect public workers to remain committed to a profession that, despite its obvious value, has become so marginalized and detested by folks like you, Ms. Rohr. Shame on you, Carol Rohr. I suggest next time you get your facts straight before you reflexively write a delusional rebuttal letter about how public workers and unions are the cause of your misery. Are you kidding me?

And, by the way, we all need to be telling a new and meaningful story about our tax responsibilities that celebrates the concrete opportunity it offers “we the people.” The problem is, without the public systems and structures that taxes pay for, the America we know and love would cease to exist.

-Ove Overmyer
President, CSEA City of Rochester Library Workers Local 828 Unit 7420
VP, CSEA Monroe County Local 828

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