Sunday, May 18, 2014

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren Shows True Leadership; NYS Legislature Must Pass GENDA Now

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

At its core, the Labor Movement and working people have been fighting for dignity, safety, respect and equality, well, since ever. And, just recently, Maryland Governor O'Malley signed into law a bill that bans discrimination targeting transgender Marylanders, bringing the total to eighteen states plus Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico that provide protections on the basis of gender identity and expression. The Maryland bill is the latest example of the progressive nature and development on our nation’s civil rights journey toward equality and justice.

Earlier this year, the New York State Assembly Governmental Operations Committee passed the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) with bi-partisan support, setting it up to be passed by the full Assembly for the seventh year in a row. In 2010, I crafted union language for a statewide resolution submitted to the more than one-thousand plus delegate body of the Civil Service Employees Association to support GENDA, which ultimately passed with the encouragement of CSEA President Danny Donohue and Vice President Mary Sullivan. Even though New York State is considered one of the more progressive states in the nation, GENDA has failed to even come up for a vote in the NYS Senate. It is particularly troubling and ironic to me that we cannot collectively act in the best interest of our transgender brothers and sisters when it comes to employment, public accommodations and healthcare.

More recently, the White House is backing a review of the military's ban on transgender service members and on Saturday, May 17, City of Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren and Council member Matt Haag announced at the Empire State Pride Agenda's Spring Dinner that the City of Rochester will extend transition-related medical coverage to all city employees. Personally speaking, this is one giant step that affects me directly as a labor leader. I know many co-workers who will benefit tremendously by this policy change—and now I can truly say that my employer is no longer holding some workers to a different standard for just being their true authentic self.

As the union elected President of the Civil Service Employees Association, City of Rochester Library Workers Local 828 Unit 7420, I am extremely proud of my colleagues in labor and our city officials. The inclusion of transition-related care in municipal benefits will improve the health and well-being of transgender employees and also send a strong message to the rest of our state that we need to provide medically-necessary care to all transgender New Yorkers.

The benefits will go into effect beginning January 1, 2015 at which time the City of Rochester will add transgender healthcare benefits for employees and their family members who are enrolled in the City’s ‘enhanced’ medical plan. Approved by the City’s Labor Management Healthcare Committee in April, the new coverage will pay for services related to gender reassignment surgery such as medical and psychological counseling, hormone therapy and cosmetic and reconstructive surgeries.

The new city policy is completely consistent with our mission, vision and values of our great city and my union, and I could not be more proud of Mayor Warren and Council member Matt Haag. I couldn’t agree more when Mayor Warren explained to more than 500 people at the Rochester Riverside Convention Center on Saturday night, “Eliminating barriers to health care is simply the right thing to do. The City was the first to support domestic partnerships [1994] and I am happy that we lead the effort to equalize benefits for all once again.” Plain and simple, Mayor Warren gets it. I am particularly pleased that my employer will now ensure that City of Rochester employees, their spouses, and dependents will all have the fullest gender affirming benefits our insurer provides.

As we celebrate this important momentum booster for equal rights, the Labor Movement and working people still face an uphill battle until GENDA becomes law in New York State and some revision of the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA) passes through Congress. Though GENDA has been well received in the NYS Assembly, conservative factions in the Senate continue to allow discrimination based on gender expression and identity. A key group of Senators, the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), has the significant power to influence what legislation comes to the floor.

It's time for NYS Governor Cuomo to join Mayor Warren and the City of Rochester, Maryland Governor O'Malley and the White House by standing up for equal rights for all workers in America. It’s time to pass GENDA once and for all. Please call your lawmakers today and ask them to do the right thing.

ESPA's Equality & Justice Day Rally at NYS Capitol, May 2011.
photo: Ove Overmyer

Monday, May 12, 2014

2014 George M. Growney Scholarship Award Winners Announced; Award Ceremony Slated for May 19

Webster, N.Y.—On Monday, May 19, the CSEA Monroe County Local 828 Executive Board and the Local 828 Scholarship Committee will host the 22nd Annual Scholarship Award Dinner at Liberty Lodge in Finn Park, 850 Maple Dr., Webster, N.Y. At the picnic supper, Local officers will formally announce the winners of the CSEA Local 828 George M. Growney Memorial Scholarships, Unit 7400 and the Jane McManus Scholarship Award for 2014. More than $10,500.00 will be awarded to deserving area students this year whose parents or caregivers are members of CSEA Monroe County Local 828.

Since 1993, CSEA Local 828 has awarded over $130,000.00 in scholarship prize money. In 1993, the Monroe County Employees Unit 7400, the largest Unit in the Local, created their own scholarship program and have distributed $21,500.00.

George M. Growney Memorial Scholarships Local 828 & Unit 7400

Mr. Growney was a long time local labor leader and activist. He was employed as a probation officer with Monroe County. He served as local president for nearly two decades before his retirement in 1995. George had a passion for kids to succeed, and would be proud that his union brothers and sisters have carried on his legacy of love and commitment to youth. George M. Growney died on August 10, 1997. The scholarship program was named in his honor the following year after his death.

“This is one of the best things we do as union activists,” said Bess Watts, President of Local 828. She added, “It’s very rewarding to know we are helping our young people succeed in life.”

CSEA Local 828 Scholarships are open to graduating high school seniors whose parents and caregivers are members or agency shop fee payers of Monroe County Local 828. The scholarship committees have reviewed thousands of applications in the past 22 years, demonstrating a significant need of financial resources for young adults continuing their formal education. Scholarships applicants are judged on academic achievement, a written essay, financial need and potential.

Jane McManus Scholarship Unit 7420

Jane McManus
This year, no applicant met the general criteria to win the Jane McManus Scholarship. Therefore, the funds for this year will roll over to the 2015 Scholarship.

In 1974, Jane McManus started her public service career at the Rochester Public Library as a Senior Library Clerk. While a full-time employee, she also worked in the Literature and Local History Divisions. Shortly thereafter, Jane was promoted to part-time Library Assistant while working in the Reynolds Audio-Visual Department of the Central Library. In 1991, she transferred to the Winton Branch Library and has been The Story Lady for over two decades.

In 1993, Jane was appointed to the Part-Time Benefits Committee at the Rochester Public Library. In 1995, Jane was one of the founding members who organized and established CSEA Local 828 Unit 7420. Jane was unanimously elected as the first ever President of the City of Rochester Library Workers Unit, where she remained as President of the Unit until April 2006.

Jane remains active in CSEA serving as a Steward, Contract Negotiations Team member, Grievance Rep, member of the Local 828 Health & Safety Committee, and member of the Local 828 Scholarship Committee. She’s a strong advocate for workers’ rights and childhood education. Her CSEA part time library co-workers in Unit 7420 proposed that a scholarship be named in her honor in 2010. They did so knowing full well that Jane's passion, leadership abilities and vision should be forever acknowledged in perpetuity.

Monday, May 5, 2014

CSEA Honors Fallen Brothers and Sisters at Workers Memorial Service May 3

Lake Placid, NY-- More than 800 CSEA leaders and occupational safety and health activists attended the union’s Statewide Conference on Occupational Safety and Health in Lake Placid, NY from May 2-4, 2014.

The conference featured numerous safety and health training programs. The weekend was highlighted by several events, including:

• Putnam County Local President Jane Meunier-Gorman receiving the William McGowan Occupational Safety and Health Award for her ongoing, vigorous activism on behalf of workplace safety and health issues;

• A powerful keynote address by Dr. Linda Rae Murray, chief medical officer at the Cook County, Ill. Department of Public Health and a social justice activist, whop discussed income inequality and how it has worsened in recent years;

• A Sunday morning plenary program that highlighted Strong Communities Work that gave attendees an opportunity to form an idea to work toward making New York’s communities stronger; and

• Attendees remembering fallen workers at a Workers Memorial Day ceremony, particularly 10 CSEA members who have passed away on the job over the past two years.

Ove Overmyer poses with the CSEA Canary at the OSH Conference May 3, 2014.
(photo by CSEA, Inc.)