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.”