[Marxism] New York Unions Press Members to Accept Deal
lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Jul 18 11:38:14 MDT 2011
There is one common feature in the development, or more correctly
the degeneration, of modern trade union organizations in the
entire world: it is their drawing closely to and growing together
with the state power.
NY Times July 17, 2011
New York Unions Press Members to Accept Deal
By THOMAS KAPLAN
New York labor leaders, spooked by public workers’ rejection of
negotiated concessions in Connecticut, are beginning a carefully
planned campaign to persuade more than 100,000 state employees to
accept a wage freeze and other measures in order to avoid sweeping
The state’s largest union of public workers, the Civil Service
Employees Association, has sent contract negotiators across the
state as part of an effort to persuade health care, maintenance
and clerical workers that it would be better to stomach furloughs,
benefit cuts and three years without a salary increase than to
risk losing thousands of jobs as the state cuts costs.
The second-largest union, the Public Employees Federation, also
plans to campaign for its members’ approval after agreeing
Saturday to nearly identical concessions. Together, the two unions
represent more than half of New York’s public work force.
The reaction of rank-and-file members is a test both for union
leaders, who are trying to protect jobs in a political climate
that is increasingly hostile to public employees, and for Gov.
Andrew M. Cuomo, who is trying to rein in spending without
alienating labor, a traditional Democratic constituency. Mr. Cuomo
won approval of a state budget that depends on $450 million in
labor savings, and he has warned of as many as 9,800 layoffs if
union members do not agree to concessions. He has also proposed
limiting pension benefits for future employees.
“There’s a lot politically riding on it for the governor,” said
Joshua B. Freeman, a labor historian at Queens College. “It’s a
potential pattern-setter for other state employees, and possibly
even New York City municipal contracts.”
Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat elected last year, said he was mindful of
events both in Connecticut, where union members created a budget
crisis last month by rejecting concessions agreed to by labor
leaders and a Democratic governor, and in Albany, where a small
union of law enforcement officers rejected in May a deal the
governor had championed as “a model the other unions negotiating
with the state can follow.”
“I’m confident, but it is crazy out there, and would I guarantee
anything right now?” Mr. Cuomo said in an interview last week. “No.”
Union leaders are leaving nothing to chance. The Civil Service
Employees Association will mail ballots to its 66,000 members on
Friday, but only after the union’s president, Danny Donohue, sends
a mailing urging them to agree to the concessions.
“These are not ordinary times, and we worked hard to balance
shared sacrifice with fairness and respect,” Mr. Donohue wrote in
the mailing, a copy of which was provided to The New York Times.
He added of the contract, “Equally important, it provides job
security and prevents massive layoffs.”
The proposed contract is unlikely to thrill many of the union’s
members, who earn $40,000 a year on average. The contract, which
Mr. Cuomo called “a tremendous deal for the state,” calls for a
three-year freeze on base wages and 2 percent raises for the next
two years. By contrast, the previous contract gave employees 3
percent raises for each of the first three years and a 4 percent
raise in the final year.
The new contract would also require workers to take nine furlough
days, and it would increase health insurance costs for employees.
For example, state employees currently must pay 10 percent of
their individual health insurance premiums; under the new
contract, the contribution would rise to 12 percent for lower-paid
workers and 16 percent for higher-paid ones.
The deal that Mr. Cuomo made with the Public Employees Federation
is virtually identical. The union, with 56,000 members, reached
the agreement only six days before hundreds of union members were
scheduled to be laid off, and the union’s president, Kenneth
Brynien, acknowledged as much in announcing it.
“We are confident this is the best agreement that could be
negotiated in the current environment,” Mr. Brynien said.
As part of the deals, the state has agreed to exempt union members
from broad-based layoffs for two years, and that provision has
been a major selling point for Civil Service Employees Association
Abraham Benjamin, 53, a local association leader who is a
treatment supervisor at Bronx Psychiatric Center, has spent many
lunch breaks for the past few weeks explaining the terms of the
contract deal to employees in New York City.
“Initially, they’re very, very disappointed,” he said.
But Mr. Benjamin, who has been a state worker for three decades,
said his audiences generally came around.
“I won’t say I like it, but in the environment that we are in, I
feel it’s a good deal,” he said. “I explain to them that they can
hold out as much as they want, but we also have to be realistic.”
Michael Weissman, 55, of Amsterdam, northwest of Albany — a youth
division aide for the Office of Children and Family Services who
has worked for the state for more than two decades — said he
agreed that the concessions were necessary.
“It’s not what we want,” Mr. Weissman said. “But when you’re in
tough financial times, everybody’s got to give. If I’m making the
same amount of money and I don’t get raises, but at least I have
the job, that’s O.K.”
Some of the debate among union members is happening online.
Facebook pages for Civil Service Employees Association offices
around the state show a smattering of complaints about the
contract deal, mostly centered on the lack of raises and higher
health care costs, as well as the suggestion that the union should
have taken a firmer stance against Mr. Cuomo. But when a woman
posted a message last month on one of the Facebook pages, urging
her fellow state employees to vote against the contract, a union
staff member wrote back, “Would you rather face a layoff?”
Association members must mail back their ballots by Aug. 12, and
the results are expected to be announced Aug. 15. The Public
Employees Federation’s executive board is scheduled to discuss
that union’s pact on Aug. 11, and only after that would it be sent
to rank-and-file members for a vote.
The ratification process in New York is simpler than that in
Connecticut, where collective bargaining rules require the
approval of 14 of the 15 public employee unions, with the
supporting unions representing 80 percent of the affected workers.
The vote last month met neither threshold, though 57 percent of
union members supported the contract.
In New York, the governor can negotiate contracts on a
union-by-union basis and usually needs only a majority vote of
each union’s membership to win ratification. And although the
first contract Mr. Cuomo negotiated, with the Law Enforcement
Officers Union Council 82, faced organized opposition, no such
campaign has emerged within the larger unions.
A few weeks ago, one state employee started a Facebook page to
persuade C.S.E.A. members to reject the contract. But as of
Sunday, it had only six supporters.
“It’s not inconceivable that it could fail, even without organized
opposition,” Mr. Freeman, the labor historian, said. “But the fact
there hasn’t been that would seem to indicate some level of
outrage has not been reached.”
More information about the Marxism