Friday, June 28, 2013

Unity Living Center workers unionize

Rochester, N.Y.-- Certified nursing assistants, licensed practical nurses, activity aides and secretaries at Unity Living Center will join the 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East union after an election Thursday supervised by the National Labor Relations Board.

Unity Living Center, a 120-bed nursing home at 89 Genesee St., is part of Unity Health System.

In a statement prepared by 1199 SEIU, certified nursing assistant Evelyn Cruz said, “We are proud that we’re now able to negotiate for better wages, health care and working conditions. The low quality of our working conditions will no longer be so far from the high quality of care that our patients receive.”

Unity president and chief executive office Warren Hern wrote, “Unity Health System has always provided all our employees a safe and healthful work environment, recognition for a job well-done and competitive pay and benefits. None of those things — nor any other aspect of the way we operate — can or will change as a result of this vote. While we respect the law and our workers’ right to reach this decision, we must be honest and say that we believe our people would be far better off by keeping, saving and investing the money they will now be forced to spend on union dues.”

1199 SEIU represents workers at the University of Rochester Medical Center, Anthony Jordan Health Center and other health care facilities.


U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (NY) talking to area folks at the Corn Hill Arts Festival, July 8, 2012.  Sen. Schumer sent a staffer to the DOMA/PROP 8 rally to do damage control. Photo: Ove Overmyer
With all due respect Senator Schumer, you have me scratching my head
-Ove Overmyer

Rochester, N.Y. -- The Supreme Court ruling this week overturning a denial of federal benefits for married gay couples removed a contentious issue in the congressional immigration debate by giving foreign-born spouses of gay U.S. citizens the same rights as those in traditional marriages.

With encouragement from Schumer, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, withdrew an amendment guaranteeing that right from a broad rewrite of immigration law that cleared the Senate on a 68-32 vote on June 27. Some Republican senators, including Rubio (FL) and Graham (SC), said the measure wouldn't have passed in the Senate if the inclusive language was in the final bill.

On June 26, the Supreme Court concluded, in a 5-4 vote, that the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act violated the Constitution’s equal protection provision under the Fifth Amendment. Republicans who oppose gay marriage said they would now take the fight over the issue to the states.

Consequently, this happenstance gets U.S. Sen. Schumer off the snide, so to speak. He was willing to throw bi-national same sex couples under the bus in his “Gang of 8” discussions but got a reprieve from the judicial branch ruling in a decision favorable to bi-national same sex couples.

From my point of view, Sen. Schumer sees himself as this savior pragmatist, the guy who can get things done amid all the chaos. He is probably the most media savvy politician in Washington today. However, I still have my reservations about his decision-making-- e
ven when it means marginalizing tens of thousands of bi-national same sex couples and dispensing of his "democratic principles." Lucky for him, SCOTUS came to his rescue to quell the equality coalition’s rebuke of his less than popular position. I for one thought his office’s presence at the DOMA / PROP 8 Day of Decision rally in Rochester, N.Y. was all about damage control.

Schumer staffer Chris Zellman tried to placate the crowd by saying this: “The decision upholds one of the truly defining qualities of American democracy – our unstoppable drive toward equality. Sen. Schumer was an original co-sponsor of the Respect for Marriage Act, which would have repealed DOMA. The fight for equality is not over. Sen. Schumer is co-sponsor of ENDA, which would prohibit employer discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity. Majority Leader Reid will bring ENDA to the Senate floor for a vote. Passage will be another vital step to achieving equality for all.”

Sorry Chuck-- you still have a long way to go to convince me that you are a champion of equality. While I applaud your efforts to send a staffer to be at this rally, to me it came off as a transparent attempt to make amends. You were the last Democratic elected official in New York State to jump on the equal marriage bandwagon and have never been out in front on equality issues especially when it comes to immigration and assisting our bi-national same sex married couples. There are folks around the county who have been working on this issue long before you stepped into public office. When you had the opportunity to step up and represent them and the Democratic Party as a whole, you looked at public policy polls and took the path of least resistance.

Back at the Senate

Back at the Senate, Sen. Leahy said, “It appears that the anti-discrimination principle that I’ve long advocated will apply to our immigration laws and to bi-national couples and their families can now be united under the law.”

Both Rubio and Graham joined 12 other Republican colleagues in voting for the immigration bill offering 11 million undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship, revising visa laws for employees in technology, agriculture and other businesses and increasing border protection. It includes $46 billion in funds to secure the U.S. border.

The Fight Rages On

As the immigration focus shifts to the Republican-run House, some senior Republicans said an extension of green-card benefits to gay couples won’t be a big part of the House debate.

“I don’t think it will be a major factor,” said Representative Tom Cole, an Oklahoma Republican. “There’s already enough controversy around the bill and it’s now in effect becoming a state issue.”

The high court’s decision opens the door immediately for many gay couples to apply for a green card if the foreign spouse is documented. Those couples must reside in the 12 states and the District of Columbia where gay marriage is legal.

In 2010, there were about 40,000 same-sex couples in the U.S. who would have been eligible to use immigration mechanisms available to different-sex spouses, according to the Williams Institute, a research group at the UCLA Law School in Los Angeles that follows sexual orientation law and public policy. About a quarter of those were living in California.

Gay-rights groups say they’ll still monitor the House debate to be sure that a final immigration law passed by both chambers includes green-card eligibility to same-sex spouses within the population of 11 million undocumented residents already in the U.S. They would be eligible for permanent legal residency under the Senate measure.

Without a foothold in the immigration system to start with, the Supreme Court decision doesn't change the mission of those fighting for same-sex benefits under immigration law.

The Williams Institute estimates there are about 267,000 individuals who self-identify as lesbian, gay, transgender or bisexual among the adult undocumented immigration population.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


DOMA /PROP 8 Statements from National and Local Community Leaders and Elected Officials:

“As one of only 67 members of Congress who voted against the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, I am delighted that the Supreme Court has finally struck down this discriminatory act, ruling that same-sex marriages are equal in every way,” Rep. Slaughter said. “I am also delighted that our LGBT friends in California will no longer be barred from marrying the one they love. The court’s narrow decision on California’s Prop 8, however, means that same-sex couples in 38 states are still barred from equal marriage rights. I will not stop advocating for our LGBT friends until they are granted full equality in every state in our union.”
-Rep. Louise Slaughter, NY 25th Congressional District

“Like many in my LGBT community and our straight allies, it is difficult to put into words the emotional tide engulfing me at this historical moment.  For years many of us have fought to have our love, our commitments and our relationships treated with the respect and dignity opposite sex couples enjoy.  It is a proud day for our nation as the Court has now recognized the legitimate union of two loving adults without discrimination by rejecting DOMA.  With this ruling we will no longer be treated as second class citizens by the Federal Government.  This ruling will also encourage states which have not already done so to move forward with affording full rights to same sex couples.  I applaud the community advocates, Edith Windsor and her legal team and the Justices who understand the Constitution and its application to our families. 

Because of a legal technical challenge the Court in the Prop 8 did not render a final decision on our rights at the state level.  Unfortunately the holding implies to all Americans that the different treatment of one group of citizens regarding marriage might be allowed under state laws; this leaves open the door that states may pass laws that provide a benefit for certain married couples in the form of health care coverage, family leave, tax treatment, and many other protections and responsibilities and to deny these same benefits to another group of married people.  This is both morally and legally wrong.

It is more urgent than ever that we take our fight for equality to the court of public opinion state by state – which is trending on our side and on the side of full equality.  Our work is still not done and I am, like many in our community, committed to fight for full equality for all our families.  This battle is not lost; the struggle is not done; the fight continues; it is not done and will go on.”
-Harry B. Bronson, NYS Assemblymember 138th District (Rochester)

 “This is what democracy looks like…equality under the law, minorities protected from the tyranny of the majority…it reflects the incredible genius that lies at the base of our system of government. Democracy is hard work – It took 200 years of struggle for African Americans to achieve their rights, 80 years for women to get the vote and the LGBT community has been paying their dues for admission to the club of fully equal citizens for a long time too. Our path is not complete, but we have a good road map and we stand on the shoulders of so many American heroes who have fought for civil rights for those before us. I am so proud to be an American today.”
-Bess Watts, VP National Executive Board, Pride at Work, AFL-CIO (Rochester, N.Y.)

“In a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court today gutted the Defense of Marriage Act. Now all couples who are legally married must be recognized as such by the federal government, including same-sex couples who have won the right to wed in 12 states and the District of Columbia. And in California, same-sex couples will likely be able to marry again soon.               

This outcome was predicted by legal experts, but it’s still a remarkable and hopeful moment. And while the ruling doesn’t extend marriage equality to any other states, it does mean that when we finally win there too, those wins will be even sweeter.

I’m proud that openly LGBT elected officials led fights in states that today recognize our marriages. They’ve been crucial to building the bridges to equality that their straight colleagues cross.

Now we must begin to change the hearts and minds of voters, lawmakers and political leaders in the 38 states that still forbid gays and lesbians to marry. That will take the work of the fantastic coalitions that have seen much success in recent years, and it will require electing more LGBT people to change legislatures from the inside.

Today we owe a hearty thank-you to the legal team that won a huge victory for Edie Windsor and same-sex couples across the country. The American Civil Liberties Union had a lot of help from some of our movements most dedicated and impressive legal minds, and all of them have worked hard on cases that brought us to this moment.

Most importantly, we owe much gratitude to Edie Windsor herself, who refused to give up when her government told her she was a second-class citizen. Because of her bravery, we’re a step closer to erasing discrimination against same-sex couples. Please join me in sending Edie your thanks here.
-Chuck Wolfe, Victory Fund President and CEO

“This is an historic win! I can’t even describe how astonishing it feels to know that my marriage and the marriages of thousands of same-sex couples are now recognized by the federal government. Even with this tremendous step forward, I’m also keenly aware that we still don't have full equality. This victory is the beginning, not the end of the fight.”
-Rea Carey, NGLTF Executive Director

"As the Gay Alliance celebrates it's 40th Anniversary, the DOMA ruling today can be and should be viewed as one of the most significant LGBT legal proceedings of  any generation. At the core of the DOMA decision is the Supreme Court's acknowledgment that we are no longer second class citizens and the Federal government recognizes that our families deserve equal protections under the law."
-Scott Fearing, Executive Director of the Gay Alliance of the Genesee Valley (Rochester, N.Y.)

“Today is a historic day for our movement and the freedom to marry. The Supreme Court of the United States stood on the right side of history and declared sections of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional. The Pride Agenda heralds this historic decision that means that our federal government must recognize our marriages and grant our families access to federal benefits.

“The Pride Agenda also is elated that the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal concerning the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8, which took away the freedom to marry from same-sex couples in that state. As a result, the lower court judgment striking down Proposition 8 stands, and loving committed couples in the most populous state in the union will have the ability to marry.

We offer congratulations to our friends in California who, with pro-LGBT New Yorkers and Americans by their side, mounted a successful and historic campaign. We look forward to the day when this issue is put to rest for all Americans and marriage equality is secured across the entire country.”
-Nathan M. Schaefer, ESPA Executive Director

“History was made today as the U.S. Supreme Court held that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional, returning marriage equality to California. In addition to holding Prop. 8 unconstitutional, the Court also invalidated the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) – so finally couples in the growing number of marriage equality states will also get the federal rights and benefits they deserve.

And though today will be remembered as a watershed moment in the fight for equality, the Court unfortunately stopped short of a broader decision on the fundamental right to marry. Millions of us have been fighting for years – first to stop Proposition 8 from passing, and then to reverse it. Today's victory, while joyous, is a reminder of the long road to win marriage equality nationwide.”

-Chad Griffin, President Human Rights Campaign


Tuesday, June 25, 2013


Union PlusCollective Bargains - Tips, Deals and Discounts for Union Members
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Now you can support fellow union workers, save 15% each month on wireless service, AND get $50 credit from AT&T (the only unionized national wireless company).  Offer ends July 26, 2013.
Union Story
Selena Paez, California School Employees Association (CSEA) Chapter 767, just won an iPad mini for spreading the word about the Union Plus AT&T 15% discount. She’s also on track to save $200+ each year on wireless service. Read why she owes it all to her union mom.
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Ruffy the Riveter thinks she’s the CUTEST dog in the union world. Is your pet CUTER? Enter your pet’s photo for the chance to win one of FIVE GRAND PRIZES in the Union Plus Pet Photo Contest. Deadline: August 8.
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LGBT Advocacy Groups Stand With Civil Rights Counterparts in Disappointment at Supreme Court Ruling on Voting Rights 

Washington, DC – Today, the Supreme Court struck down a central part of the Voting Rights Act, invalidating crucial protections passed by Congress in 1965 and renewed four times in the decades since. The sharply divided decision will significantly reduce the federal government’s role in overseeing voting laws in areas with a history of discrimination against African-Americans.

We, America’s leading LGBT advocacy organizations, join civil rights organizations – and indeed, all Americans whom this law has served to protect – in expressing acute dismay at today’s ruling. Not only had Congress repeatedly reaffirmed the need for this bedrock civil rights protection, but authoritative voices from across America had filed amicus briefs urging the court not to undermine the law: the NAACP; the American Bar Association; the Navajo Nation; the states of New York, California, Mississippi and North Carolina; numerous former Justice Department officials charged with protecting voting rights; dozens of U.S. senators and representatives; and many others.

These varied and powerful voices attest to the self-evident reality that racial protections are still needed in voting in this country. As recently as last year’s elections, political partisans resorted to voter suppression laws and tactics aimed at reducing the votes of people of color.

Voting rights protections, which have long served our nation’s commitment to equality and justice, should not be cast aside now. The court has done America a grave disservice, and we will work with our coalition partners to undo the damage inflicted by this retrogressive ruling.

Center for Black Equity
CenterLink: The Community of LGBT Centers
The Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals
Equality Federation
Family Equality Council
Freedom to Marry
Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders
Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC)
Human Rights Campaign
Immigration Equality Action Fund
Lambda Legal
National Black Justice Coalition
National Center for Lesbian Rights
National Center for Transgender Equality
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
The National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance
Out & Equal Workplace Advocates
PFLAG - Parents, Families, & Friends of Lesbians and Gays
Pride at Work, AFL-CIO
The Trevor Project 

Monday, June 24, 2013

DOMA / PROP 8: Waiting Is the Hardest Part


CSEA President Danny Donohue (center) stands with members at the 2013 CSEA Women's Conference held April 5-7 at The Westchester Hilton Hotel, Ryebrook, N.Y. Photo: Ove Overmyer

CSEA Women's Agenda -- A legislative agenda created by working women for working women

New York State-- CSEA has a long proud history of championing the concerns and causes of women and working families.  From spearheading efforts to fight for worker’s rights and safety and health protections on the job to working tirelessly to end domestic violence, CSEA’s commitment to women is second to none.
That is why I am pleased to present you the CSEA Women’s Legislative Agenda.  This comprehensive agenda is another example of CSEA’s leadership on behalf of all women and families, not just our membership.   I am proud of the fact that it was put together by union members – “by working women and for working women. “  It is the result of countless meetings and conferences across the state, including the Statewide Women’s Conference this past April.
Our women’s agenda addresses job security, child and elder care issues, discrimination, pension and retirement security, education, minimum wage, and stress management priorities.  All of these issues were brought forward by working women – not bureaucrats in Albany or headline grabbing politicians.
I hope you will share this agenda with your peers and get others politically active to improve our lives, our families’ lives and our future.
In solidarity,
Danny Donohue
Click here to read CSEA’s Women’s Agenda — A legislative agenda by working women fpr working women.

Saturday, June 22, 2013


JUNE 21, 2013

2013 Legislative Session Draws to a Close

Throughout this week, the Governor and legislative leaders have been working to resolve outstanding issues including casino gambling, Tax-Free NY (now called Start-Up NY) and a women’s equality agenda. The legislature is expected to work through Friday night to pass many of these bills. As of this writing, the Assembly has passed many of the major pieces of legislation while the Senate still has a lot left to do.

Agreements have been reached on several issues on Governor Cuomo’s agenda.

Despite re-labeling “NY Tax-Free” as “Start-Up NY,” the Governor’s plan to allow businesses to locate on and around college campuses and pay no taxes remains bad policy. This legislation creates a special class of employees that will pay no state income tax for five years, and only some taxes on income over $200,000 for an additional five years after that. CSEA has been and continues to be opposed to the inequity of this plan. On a positive note, CSEA was able to secure job protection language to protect our members from the very real threat of privatization attempts on SUNY campuses.

Additionally, the Governor’s plan to create a financial restructuring board for distressed municipalities is expected to be passed by both houses. While this legislation can be viewed as an attempted power grab by the Executive to control local government finances, the decision to request a review or assistance from the 10-member board is voluntary and lies with the municipality.

Both houses have reached an agreement on a bill that would allow for four upstate casinos. Before the legislation can become law, voters will have to approve legalizing casino gaming through a public referendum that will be on the ballot this November. 

As of this writing, no consensus was reached on a women’s equality agenda. 

CSEA Successful in Getting Priority Legislation Passed

While the legislature continues to pass bills, CSEA has already been successful in getting high priority legislation passed this session.

The Veterans’ Employment Act has passed both houses and will now be sent to the Governor. This legislation will help to reduce the high unemployment rate among veterans returning from active duty by requiring the state to use qualified veterans for temporary jobs prior to going to a third party.  

Legislation has passed both houses that would restore the $90 million cut to the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities called for in this year’s state budget. 

Both houses have passed legislation that requires local social service districts to provide OCFS with at least 60 days’ notice prior to lowering financial eligibility levels for child care assistance. 

CSEA supported a bill that requires the state to provide the SUNY health science centers with the same amount of operating support as the prior year, including fringe benefits, unless a fiscal emergency is declared by the Governor. The bill has passed both houses.

Friday, June 21, 2013


Webster Unit 7411
President Joe Tichacek.
photo: Bess Watts
Webster, N.Y.-- The CSEA Voice Reporter wants to give a shout out to one of our more industrious Unit Presidents in Monroe County, Town of Webster Unit 7411 President Joe Tichacek on his birthday.

Joe has lead his team for many years with skill, grace and diplomacy. Not only is he the lead negotiator when it comes time to renew their collective bargaining agreement with their employer, Joe represents CSEA on many committees at several strategic levels of the organization. Joe is a long time member of the WNY Region 6 Planning Committee, as well as the Local 828 Health & Safety Committee, Local 828 Scholarship Committee among others.

Today we celebrate all his accomplishments and wish him the best of luck in the future. We also thank him for his extraordinary service to his community, his union and to his co-workers.

Thursday, June 20, 2013


Monroe County, N.Y.-- CSEA members from Local 828 Health & Safety Committee are asking the general public to watch out for work zones this summer, especially in downtown Rochester where there are many construction projects underway and a large number of workers exposed to the elements.

For more information on our Don't Zone Out Campaign, please read this press release from the CSEA INC website.

Monday, June 17, 2013


Dear Sisters and Brothers,

In 2011, nearly 17 million children lived in households that struggled with food insecurity. That's how many.

Yet, tomorrow the House of Representatives begins debate on a bill that would cut $20 billion from food stamps. (And use that money to pay for wasteful subsidies for big corporations!) That would mean cutting off two million Americans from benefits as well as 280,000 school-age children from their free school meals.

Nearly one out of four Americans (24 percent) say they had trouble putting food on the table in the past 12 months  making the United States stand out among wealthy nations in the percentage of its citizens struggling to afford life’s basic necessities.

Over 1,500 people have written to their representatives telling them to reject cuts to nutritional aid programs for hungry kids. Join them so we can reach our goal of more than 2,500 people taking action on behalf of hungry children.

Tell your representative to reject cuts to food aid for hungry children.

Thank you,
Tracey Conaty
E-Action Network

Friday, June 14, 2013


Week Ending June 14, 2013

Agreement Reached to Restore Cuts to Providers for the Developmentally Disabled

According to sources, Governor Cuomo and the legislature have agreed to restore cuts to nonprofit organizations that provide services to people with developmental disabilities. The 2013-14 State Budget included a $90 million cut to the Office for People With Developmental Disabilities, but the Governor and legislators have agreed to restore some of the cuts if the state can’t generate enough administrative and other non-care savings.

Legislative Update

Governor Cuomo released a proposal detailing his “Tax-Free NY” program, which CSEA strongly opposes. The Governor’s program would provide tax breaks to new businesses located on and around college campuses and would allow the employees of those businesses to pay no state income taxes for five years, while income up to $200,000 would remain tax-free for an additional five years. The initial plan was focused on upstate, but the Governor’s bill would provide for tax-free zones downstate and in New York City as well.

Additionally, the Governor’s Program Bill detailing his plan for the public financing of political campaigns was released. CSEA remains opposed to spending taxpayer money on partisan political campaigns while real New Yorkers are struggling.

The Veterans' Employment Act was passed in the Senate this week, and is expected to be passed by the Assembly next week. This bill will ensure that our returning heroes have access to gainful employment upon return from active duty by allowing them to fill temporary state jobs prior to the state going to a third party.

Safe Patient Handling Report Released

This week, the Fiscal Policy Institute released a report that confirms that safe patient handling policies at hospitals and nursing homes would not only help protect health care workers and patients from injuries, but would also save health care facilities about $183 million per year. CSEA has been fighting for the Safe Patient Handling Act to allow zero lift policies to be established at health care facilities statewide. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013



Dear Sisters and Brothers,

The U.S. Senate is taking up comprehensive immigration reform this week and AFSCME members know that it’s a fight in which we must be invested. 

America now has a broken immigration system that leaves 11 million people in the shadows of our society and weakens the economy for ALL of us by encouraging the exploitation of immigrant workers. We will all benefit by fixing this broken system.

The Senate’s debate on the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act” (S. 744) must end with a vote to bring undocumented immigrants in the U.S. out of the shadows and onto a path to citizenship. Your United States senators need to hear from you that the time for immigration reform is now.

This is about all of us. It’s about Rebecca Zaremba of AFSCME Local 34 (Council 5), a case management assistant in Minnesota who is trying to help immigrant families access the services they need. It’s about Hupert Rose, the water plant operator in Florida, AFSCME Local 3293 (Council 79), who came to the United States in search of opportunity and works hard for it. It’s about Edmundo Cavazos, the medical interpreter in Washington, AFSCME Local 1671 (Council 28) who helps immigrant families navigate so much more than just our medical system. 

AFSCME supports S. 744 because it would boost our economy, provide more money for public services and raise wages for all workers.

Please: Contact both of your senators today.

In solidarity,

Chuck Loveless
Director of Federal Government Affairs

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


Union PlusCollective Bargains
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Here’s a sample of the many Father’s Day gift ideas you’ll find at
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Union Story
Maureen Bicknase knows the many benefits of being a member of United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 99. But she recently learned that some very valuable benefits—such as the Union Plus financial assistance programs—aren’t part of her bargaining contract.
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Union Issue
With June kicking off the summer wedding season, here are some ways to support fellow union workers and newlyweds when selecting wedding gifts, flowers, wines and more.
Text WINE or BEER to 22555 to get a list of union-made wine or beer sent to your phone.
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