2012 news releases

December 2012

  • Dec. 4, 2012 Judge rules CSEA can sue state over higher health insurance costs for retirees

August 2012

  • Aug. 23, 2012 CSEA announces limited state legislative endorsements
    “Many lawmakers who have long enjoyed CSEA support will not have it this year”

  • Aug. 21, 2012 CSEA hails federal court injunction upholding contracts
    Ruling in Nassau lawsuit has broad impact on labor-management agreements

July 2012

  • July 19, 2012 Child care providers, parents confront county with action
  • July 16, 2012 CSEA honors workers during Probation, Parole and Community Supervision Week
  • July 6, 2012 CSEA to summer vacationers and traveling public: Heed expanded move over law/amber lights. “Don’t Zone Out!”

June 2012

  • June 22, 2012 Statement by Danny Donohue, Candidate for AFSCME International President, on AFSCME Election Vote Count
  • June 6, 2012 CSEA hits lack of security in youth facilities
    Aide brutally beaten by youths

May 2012

  • May 21, 2012 CSEA response to incorrect allegations in New York Post
  • May 7, 2012 Statement of CSEA President Danny Donohue in response to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s reforms to protect people with special needs and disabilities

April 2012

  • April 25, 2012 CSEA renews commitment to on-the-job safety and health
    Nearly 1,000 activists to attend educational program in Lake Placid
  • April 23, 2012 CSEA message to New York state drivers: “Don’t Zone Out”
    This week is National Work Zone Awareness Safety week

March 2012

  • March 29, 2012 CSEA ramps up campaign over Tier 6 “Dark Deal”
  • March 28, 2012 CSEA challenges reckless Close to Home initiative as new information emerges about criminal background of youth slated for move into nonexistent New York City programs
  • March 27, 2012 CSEA President slams “self-serving” budget agreement
    Cuomo, Senate and Assembly leaders again put politics ahead of people

  • March 19, 2012 Tier 6 political deal has serious consequences
    Statement from CSEA President Danny Donohue

  • March 15, 2012 CSEA slams Gov. Cuomo, state legislative leaders for putting politics before people
    Union leader criticizes Cuomo’s scorched earth tactics, legislators’ self-interest

February 2012

  • Feb. 27, 2012 Statement of CSEA President Danny Donohue to Partnership for New York City pension letter
  • Feb. 15, 2012 Donohue, CSEA leadership team returned to office
    Vows to lead workers forward
  • Feb. 13, 2012 Statement of CSEA President Danny Donohue on Big Business Tier 6 misrepresentations
  • Feb. 2, 2012 CSEA slams state juvenile justice policy in wake of brutal NYC cop shooting
    Reckless and reprehensible state youth detention releases put public safety at risk

January 2012

  • Jan. 30, 2012 CSEA and Health Research, Inc. reach tentative agreement on contract for 1,500 workers
  • Jan. 17, 2012 Statement of CSEA President Danny Donohue on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed state budget
  • Jan. 10, 2012 Youth aides taking a beating in state facilities
    More than half of workers at Central New York facility out
    due to injuries suffered in attacks

  • Jan. 4, 2012 Statement of CSEA President Danny Donohue regarding Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2012 State of the State address

Dec. 4, 2012 Judge rules CSEA can sue state over higher health insurance costs for retirees

ALBANY – A CSEA lawsuit claiming the state illegally raised health insurance costs for retired state employees will move forward after a federal court judge denied a state motion to dismiss the case.

CSEA and a coalition of other unions sued the state and the Unified Court System (UCS) in December 2011 on behalf of retirees who retired between 1983 and 2011. The lawsuit claimed that the state and UCS violated the contracts that were in effect between CSEA and the state/UCS on the date when each retiree retired, as well as the Contracts Clause of the United States Constitution, when the state and UCS raised retiree contributions from 10 percent to 12 percent for individual coverage and from 25 percent to 27 percent for family coverage effective Oct. 1, 2011.

Retirees have long contributed 10 percent of individual coverage and 25 percent of family coverage for their health insurance coverage in retirement based on the percentages included in the state contracts when they retired. The unions asserted that it is illegal for the state to increase costs for already retired members. The unions did not negotiate such increases.

“Nobody bargained for these increases. Not the union and certainly not the retirees living on fixed incomes who are being hit hard by the higher costs,” said CSEA President Danny Donohue. “We’re encouraged that a judge has agreed what the state did may be legally wrong. We are certain what they did is morally wrong.”

U.S. District Judge Mae A. D’Agostino denied the motion to dismiss CSEA’s complaint, ruling that, based on the facts alleged in the union’s complaint, each individual retiree has an individual contract with the state or UCS locking in the percentage contribution that was in effect at the time of each retiree’s retirement. CSEA claimed that this percentage is locked in for the life of each retiree.

Judge D’Agostino ruled the union’s arguments had satisfied the legal standard to allow the case to proceed to the discovery phase of the litigation.

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Read the decision

Aug. 23, 2012 CSEA announces limited state legislative endorsements
“Many lawmakers who have long enjoyed CSEA support will not have it this year”

ALBANY – CSEA will endorse a limited number of candidates in New York state legislative races this fall.

The limited endorsements come following extensive review within CSEA. For two years, lawmakers rubber-stamped state budgets that undermined state operations, and shortchanged localities and schools and they forfeited oversight responsibility on important public policy issues. They also imposed a property tax cap that is causing fiscal chaos in local government and school district budgets.

Additionally, lawmakers made a dark deal with Gov. Andrew Cuomo last spring trading support for onerous and unnecessary public employee pension tier changes in exchange for favorable legislative redistricting.

“Many lawmakers who have long enjoyed CSEA support will not have it this year because they abandoned the working people of this state,” said CSEA President Danny Donohue. “CSEA is holding lawmakers accountable for their actions. The CSEA endorsement has to be earned or else it has no meaning.”

CSEA’s limited endorsements are only going to candidates who stand with working people.

CSEA’s endorsement normally brings financial contribution, statewide get-out-the-vote expertise – mailings, phone calls, printing, grassroots volunteers, and other benefits – along with internal union resources and activities to reach the extensive CSEA membership in every part of the state.

“CSEA members will aggressively campaign for our endorsed candidates,” Donohue said. “Just as important, beyond this election we will work to mobilize members to be even more involved in the legislative process – regularly communicating with elected officials and challenging them when they don’t do what’s right for working people.”

CSEA also released its endorsements for federal races, topped by support for U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.

“Senator Gillibrand has been an outstanding advocate for New York and a voice of reason within the U.S. Senate,” Donohue said. “Our congressional endorsements also reflect support for candidates and challengers who will stand up for reasonable and responsible government that works for all Americans.”

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2012 CSEA Endorsements

NYS Congressional

United States President: Barack Obama

United States Senate: Kirsten Gillibrand

CD 1: Timothy Bishop
CD 2: No endorsement
CD 3: Steve Israel
CD 4: Carolyn McCarthy
CD 5: Gregory Meeks
CD 6: Grace Meng
CD 7: Nydia Velazquez
CD 8: Hakeem Jefferies
CD 9: Yvette Clarke
CD 10: Jerrold Nadler
CD 12: Carolyn Maloney
CD 13: Charles Rangel
CD 14: Joe Crowley
CD 15: Jose Serrano
CD 16: Eliot Engel
CD 17: Nita Lowey
CD 18: Sean Patrick Maloney
CD 19: Julian Schreibman
CD 20: Paul Tonko
CD 21: Bill Owens
CD 22: No endorsement
CD 23: Nate Shinagawa
CD 24: Dan Maffei
CD 25: Louise Slaughter
CD 26: Brian Higgins
CD 27: Kathy Hochul

NYS Senate

SD 4: Ricardo Montano
SD 11: Tony Avella
SD 12: Michael Gianaris
SD 13: Jose Peralta
SD 15: Joseph Addabbo Jr.
SD 18: Martin Malave Dilan
SD 20: Eric Adams
SD 21: Kevin Parker
SD 23: Diane Savino
SD 27: Brad Hoylman
SD 28: Liz Kruger
SD 33: Gustavo Rivera
SD 34: Jeffrey Klein
SD 40: Justin Wagner
SD 55: Ted O’Brien
SD 60: Michael Amodeo

NYS Assembly

AD 3: Dean Murray
AD 5: Alfred Graf
AD 6: Phil Ramos
AD 9: Joseph Saladino
AD 12: Andrew Raia
AD 14: David McDonough
AD 25: Nily Rozic
AD 31: Michele Titus
AD 32: Vivian Cook
AD 34: Michael DenDekker
AD 35: Jeffrion Aubry
AD 38: Michael Miller
AD 39: Francisco Moya
AD 42: Rhoda Jacobs
AD 43: Karim Camara
AD 47: William Colton
AD 49: Peter Abbate Jr.
AD 52: Joan Millman
AD 54: Rafael Espinal
AD 59: Alan Maisel
AD 60: Inez Barron
AD 66: Deborah Glick
AD 76: Micah Kellner
AD 77: Vanessa Gibson
AD 78: Jose Rivera
AD 79: Eric Stevenson
AD 81: Jeffrey Dinowitz
AD 85: Marcos Crespo
AD 86: Nelson Castro
AD 87: Louis Sepulveda
AD 90: Shelley Mayer
AD 91: Steve Otis
AD 92: Thomas Abinanti
AD 93: David Buchwald
AD 94: Andrew Falk
AD 97: Ellen Jaffee
AD 98: Annie Rabbitt
AD 99: James Skoufis
AD 101: Claudia Tenney
AD 103: Kevin Cahill
AD 104: Frank Skartados
AD 106: Didi Barrett
AD 107: Cheryl Roberts
AD 109: Pat Fahy
AD 110: Phil Steck
AD 111: Angelo Santabarbara
AD 113: Carrie Woerner
AD 118: Marc Butler
AD 127: Al Stirpe Jr.
AD 128: Sam Roberts
AD 135: Mark Johns
AD 141: Crystal Peoples-Stokes
AD 149: Sean Ryan

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Aug. 21, 2012 CSEA hails federal court injunction upholding contracts
Ruling in Nassau lawsuit has broad impact on labor-management agreements

CENTRAL ISLIP – CSEA is hailing a federal court blocking an attempt by Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano to unilaterally reopen union contacts. The lawsuit, filed by CSEA in June, protects the rights and benefits of 6,000 CSEA-represented Nassau County employees, but also has broad national implications for labor-management relations.

U.S. District Judge Arthur Spatt granted an injunction against a recent Nassau County law that would give the county executive the authority to unilaterally reopen contracts, modify health benefits and furlough employees to provide fiscal savings. The judge upheld CSEA’s contention that law would violate the contracts clause of the U.S. Constitution and render agreements meaningless.

“This ruling should send a strong message that politicians can’t just ignore contracts because it’s more convenient than acting in good faith,” said CSEA President Danny Donohue, who was the plaintiff in the union lawsuit.

“There are many ways that labor and management can find common ground and work together if there is a willingness to seek solutions,” Donohue said. “Unfortunately, too often today’s polarized politics are about scapegoating public workers and quick fixes that poison working relationships.”

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July 19, 2012 Child care providers, parents confront county with action

Hauppauge, N.Y. – Thursday, July 19, 2012 at 6 p.m. in front of the Suffolk County H. Lee Dennison Building in Hauppauge, VOICE/CSEA is bringing together union members and leaders, child care providers, parents and Suffolk County community members in a coordinated action to urge Suffolk County officials to work with them to address the current child care crisis and protect child care subsidies for working families.

More than 1,200 children and families lost child care subsidies on Friday, July 13, 2012. Losing child care subsidies and access to quality child care has both an immediate and lasting economic and social impact on our communities.

The recent changes in subsidy eligibility have had a devastating impact on lives and work in our community.

“This is unacceptable for those children who need safe, quality early learning and care to support healthy development and success in kindergarten and beyond; and their parents, who without child care subsidies, have to leave their children in illegal, unregulated care or leave their jobs,” said Darcel Leone, Family Child Care Provider, Lake Ronkonkoma. “The county executive can do the right thing and restore subsidies to 185 percent of the federal poverty level.”

“Reductions in parent eligibility impact those of us who care for children receiving subsidies: registered family, licensed group, and informal child care providers; daycare centers and school age programs. When parents can’t afford regulated child care, good providers and programs that employ community members have to lay off workers and even close, making our already bad local economy even worse,” said Trudy Trujillo, Group Family Child Care Provider, Central Islip.

They say the reality is job loss for parents, child care providers and their staff assistants and credit downgrades for small child care businesses and parents. Children often end up in illegal or
underground, unsafe care. Children lose access to food and nutrition programs and educational opportunities. Employers and businesses suffer too when their employees don’t have reliable child care.

“My family came together to help me in the beginning, but it’s come to the point where I can’t afford child care anymore. I’m having trouble paying my bills and then my car broke down and I had to buy a new one. So, between the car, daycare and rent, there is nothing left over for food
and living. I even tried to call for food stamps but got denied; yet here I am having trouble feeding my kids. This program meant so much, because this is how families can work and know they can leave their kids in a safe place and get the proper care while they are out there trying to work and make a living and be able to afford it because, if you have a private babysitter you don’t know they’re safe. It is peace of mind to know that they are in regulated care. Plus, they were a part of the food program which ensures proper nutrition. Now, my kids are bouncing from family member to family member and there have been times that I have had to leave work because something doesn’t work out and my job has been jeopardized,” said Jennifer Hernandez, a parent.

“Research shows families are less likely to advance and get out of poverty when the cards are stacked against them and that that investing in child care leads to economic stability and growth for our communities. The bottom line is that investing in child care benefits the local economy. Child care subsidies keep parents working, advancing and off welfare rolls,” said Damaris Samolinski, Family Child Care Provider in Islip.

“We must keep parents earning and children learning to turn this economy around, not send working parents straight to the unemployment line and onto welfare rolls,” said CSEA Long Island Region President Nick LaMorte. “These early years are the most critical for a child’s brain development. What happens before kindergarten shapes and influences our future work force.”

“Access to quality child care is fundamental to ensuring an educated work force and bright, productive future child care subsidies offer stability of care and access to quality care that many lower income parents can’t afford. Families rely on child care subsidies to ensure that although they are struggling to get ahead; their children still get the best start in life. Child care providers care for children from the first few weeks or months of life. They have profound and far-reaching effects on the children’s development and their ability to succeed in school. A nurturing and interactive relationship is essential to a child’s fundamental building blocks,” said Keishya Coltrain, Group Family Child Care Provider, West Babylon.

“When we began to work with child care providers back in 2002, I was immediately impressed by the dedication and sense of calling each one brings to her work each and every day. Through VOICE and CCPT, we represent over 20,000 home-based child care providers in 57 counties outside New York City. CSEA and our 300,000 members across the state are also committed to work to restore parent eligibility and secure funding for child care subsidies at all levels of government – here in Suffolk and every county across the state, in Albany, and Washington, D.C.,” said LaMorte.

There is a ripple effect in the economy when parents lose child care subsidies.

“I was working at my mom’s daycare, but I lost my job because of the cuts. Now, I have a part-time job someplace else but while working for my mom, I was going to school full time and my mom was helping me pay for going to Nassau Community College. I’m hoping things will turn around and work out because as it stands right now, the way things are for us, I don’t think I can go back to school next semester,” said Nizza Tasayco of Brentwood.

“Our government officials and leaders need to work with us to do more. It’s that simple,” said LaMorte.

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July 16, 2012 CSEA honors workers during Probation, Parole and Community Supervision Week

ALBANY – CSEA President Danny Donohue today recognized union members across the state who work in probation services by declaring July 15 – 21, 2012 as “Probation, Parole and Community Supervision Week.”

“On behalf of the 300,000 CSEA members across New York state, I am pleased to recognize our members who are probation professionals,” Donohue said. “Probation, Parole and Community Supervision Week is meant to honor a segment of the work force that deserves great respect.”

Probation professionals are a vital part of every New York state county work force and have an important dual role in the public safety field. Not only they work with the justice system to protect the public from crime, violence and abuse, but they also aid in prevention, helping rehabilitate law offenders to rejoin society in a positive way.

As with all public safety work, these professionals often put their own well being at risk in effort to keep people and their communities safe. CSEA realizes the high level of commitment and the special dedication these workers have to the public they serve.

The downturn in the economy has caused the crime rate to increase in recent years, causing an increase in the number of cases probation professionals must handle to keep the public secure. “When the economy is at its worst, the public needs government services the most,” Donohue said.

“Like a lot of public services, the work probation professionals perform goes unnoticed by the general public because we don’t see it every day,” Donohue said. “But make no mistake about it, their dedication to their jobs and to the public makes our communities safer for all of us.”

CSEA is New York state’s leading union, representing employees of the state and its counties, towns, villages, school districts, library systems, authorities and public benefit corporations. Together with a growing population of private sector members and retirees, CSEA is the largest affiliate of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), which is one of the largest affiliates of the AFL-CIO.

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July 6, 2012 CSEA to summer vacationers and traveling public:
Heed expanded move over law/amber lights.
“Don’t Zone Out!”

CSEA – New York’s leading union – is ramping up its “Don’t Zone Out” distracted driving campaign this summer to increase public awareness about New York’s “move over law” and help save lives.

A January 2012 extension of the “move over law” now requires motorists to move over for amber lights on roadways as well as for red and blue police and fire vehicles. According to CSEA-represented highway work crews, people seem to have gotten the message to move over for police and fire but not yet for road crews; mowers; help trucks; tow trucks and disabled vehicles.

Motorists must change lanes when possible, as they approach vehicles flashing red or blue or amber lights. When it is not possible to move over or there is only one lane, drivers must slow down. Penalties are steep: Violating this law is punishable as a moving violation with 3 points on your driving record and a fine of $275 plus court surcharges and a possible jail sentence of up to 15 days.

Since 1983, 45 CSEA members have lost their lives on the job while working in work zones and in the U.S, nearly 600 workers lost their lives while on the job in work zones in 2010 alone (Source: Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) 2010 ARF, NHTSA.)

“In an instant, lives can change forever because of distracted driving,” said CSEA President Danny Donohue. “That’s just as true for the driver as it is for the workers and their families. The “move over law” greatly reduces risk and if obeyed, it will save lives and anguish.”

Summer is peak travel time for vacationers and also a time of busy roadwork.

Launched in 2010 CSEA’s “Don’t Zone Out” campaign promotes work zone safety with the goal of eliminating distracted driving and making the roads safer for everyone.

Here are some “Don’t Zone Out” guidelines drivers can follow while traveling:

  • Move over and slow down for all vehicles on the side of the road; red, blue and amber flashing lights.
  • Be especially alert while driving through work zones;
  • Observe posted work zone speed limits;
  • Focus on driving – not other activities that could distract you
  • Put the phone down
  • Never send or read text messages while driving
  • “Don’t Zone Out!” Help spread the word. Tell other drivers and your community about staying alert in work zones.
  • Join the Don’t Zone Out Facebook community and help build awareness: www.facebook.com/DontZoneOut

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June 22, 2012
Statement by Danny Donohue, Candidate for AFSCME International President, on AFSCME Election Vote Count

A long, hard campaign has come to an end. From day one, this campaign has been about democracy, transparency and accountability.

Throughout our campaign, our stated goal was to shift the union’s focus away from Washington D.C. to the local level where AFSCME members face critical battles to defend their standard of living and the vital public services they provide.

We believe more of AFSCME’s resources should be devoted to winning the fight on the ground in battlegrounds all across this nation. Our councils and local unions desperately need added support from our national union.

We concede this union election. But, we’re not conceding the need to fight for a better union.

At this convention, Lee Saunders has echoed our goals. AFSCME members are counting on him to live up to those commitments. All of us, together, as one union, we’re going to rebuild, renew, unify and fight the enemies of public services and public workers.

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June 6, 2012
CSEA hits lack of security in youth facilities
Aide brutally beaten by youths

ALBANY – In the wake of a brutal gang assault by residents on a worker at the Brookwood Secure Center in Columbia County, CSEA is amping up its call for better safety measures to protect staff at youth detention
centers run by the state Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS).

“This is further evidence that the state’s current policy for dealing with juvenile offenders not only isn’t working, it’s putting staff at risk,” said CSEA President Danny Donohue. “The state is sending people into a war zone every day, unprotected, and the casualties are mounting.”

The attack last Friday left a direct care Youth Division Aide (YDA) with a broken arm, a possible broken eye socket and stitches to his face after being jumped from behind by four residents who beat him with a garbage can, a telephone and plastic chairs.

The residents were arraigned on charges of second-degree assault and sent to the Columbia County Jail. They threatened further violence against staff would be forthcoming.

Violent attacks on staff by youths in their care have increased at an alarming rate under current OCFS policies.

Earlier this year, the union filed a complaint with the state Department of Labor’s Public Employee Safety and Health (PESH) Bureau after discovering that 19 staff at the Taberg Residential Center in Oneida County, including the facility director, were out of work due to severe injuries suffered in attacks by residents there. Their injuries included two broken collarbones, a concussion, a broken ankle and a dislocated shoulder.

The resulting investigation led to improvements at that facility, including the temporary assignment of additional management staff and increased worker training. However Taberg and Brookwood are symptomatic of a larger problem. According to a report issued by the state Department of Civil Service on state employee Workers’ Compensation claims, YDAs have the second highest on-the-job injury rate of all state job titles.

The state is moving to shift juvenile offenders from upstate facilities into nonexistent New York City-based programs. Existing providers are ill-equipped to deal with this population. State officials have yet to provide details as to how they intend to provide appropriate security, supervision, resources and support.

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May 21, 2012
CSEA response to incorrect allegations in New York Post

ALBANY – Allegations floated by unnamed sources in the Cuomo administration published in this morning’s Inside Albany column in the New York Post claiming that CSEA is attempting to undermine the proposed Justice Center legislation by tying it to unrelated issues are total fiction. Any claim that there is linkage is nonsense.

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May 7, 2012
Statement of CSEA President Danny Donohue in response to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s reforms to protect people with special needs and disabilities

ALBANY – “CSEA is anxious to review the actual legislation and the entire report in close detail but our initial impression is positive. This new initiative appears to have a broad mission to ensure consistent
quality of care and maintain independent oversight of human services in both the public and not-for-profit sectors.

CSEA is particularly encouraged to see that the report recognizes the importance of a strong, well-trained and committed direct support staff.

We all want better care and services for people in need and CSEA members are committed to that goal.”

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April 25, 2012
CSEA renews commitment to on-the-job safety and health
Nearly 1,000 activists to attend educational program in Lake Placid

ALBANY – Nearly 1,000 CSEA safety and health activists will renew their commitment to on-the-job safety at the union’s biennial Statewide Conference on Occupational Safety and Health in Lake Placid, April 27- 29.

“As union members are fighting to protect our jobs, benefits and pensions, it can be all too easy to put workplace safety and health on the back burner,” said CSEA President Danny Donohue. “But safety on the job is one of CSEA’s top priorities and something we have to fight for every day. That’s especially true today, with misguided politicians trying to take away protections workers have fought long and hard to achieve.”

The union members will join the other unions of the AFL-CIO and mark Workers Memorial Day on Saturday, April 28, with a ceremony remembering workers who have passed away while doing their jobs. Workers Memorial Day was established in 1989 as an international day of remembrance observed on the anniversary date of legislation establishing the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

CSEA members whose lives will be honored at this year’s Workers Memorial Day event are:

  • Nicole Gaulin, 35, a caseworker at the Orleans County Department of Social Services, who passed away April 21, 2010, from injuries sustained in an automobile accident while on the job;
  • Stacie Williams, 45, a patient care assistant at Nassau University Medical Center, passed away June 16, 2010, due to workplace violence stemming from a domestic incident;
  • Anthony Ruggiero Jr., 48, a Village of Tarrytown Department of Public Works employee, passed away Sept. 6, 2010, while working in a village manhole;
  • John P. Kelly, 51, a state Department of Transportation worker at the department’s Region 8 Eastview Residency in Westchester County, passed away Sept. 6, 2010, while responding as a volunteer firefighter to the Tarrytown village manhole incident that also claimed Ruggiero;
  • Sandra A. Marasco, 49, a program coordinator at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo and a member of CSEA’s Health Research, Inc. Local, passed away Jan. 27, 2011, from injuries sustained in an automobile accident while on the job;
  • Stephan Mueller, 47, a laborer at the City of Glen Cove in, passed away Sept. 17, 2011, from injuries sustained from being repeatedly stung by hornets;
  • John Lattimore, 62, a state Department of Transportation worker in the Capital Region, passed away Oct. 20, 2011, from injuries sustained during a bridge inspection; and
  • Robert DelVecchio Jr., 35, a highway worker at the Town of Mamaroneck, passed away Nov. 11, 2011, after being struck by a recycling truck at the town’s sanitation and recycling center.

CSEA has long led the way nationally in seeking safer, healthier workplaces. The union was instrumental in the 1980 passage of the landmark Public Employees Safety and Health Act, extending OSHA protections to public employees. More than 24 states still do not have similar specific protections for public employees today. The union intensified its fight for safer work sites in 1992 after a disgruntled client murdered four CSEA members working at the Schuyler County Department of Social Services. CSEA’s leadership and persistence, led to the historic Worksite Security Act, which brought about an enforceable Workplace Violence Prevention standard that has made many of New York’s workplaces safer for workers and the public.

Despite the union’s achievements, Donohue said there is still more work to do.

“Despite the strides we have made, going to work is still too dangerous for too many people,” Donohue said. “We still wait for the year when we no longer have to “mourn for the dead” on Workers Memorial Day.”

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April 23, 2012
CSEA message to New York state drivers: “Don’t Zone Out”
This week is National Work Zone Awareness Safety week

ALBANY – April 23-27, 2012 is National Work Zone Safety Awareness Week and April is Distracted Driving month designated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. There is no better time to remind drivers of recent changes to New York state law.

Earlier this year, CSEA successfully lobbied in support of a recent amendment to the state ‘move over law” to include amber lights, expanding the law to protect road workers. Motorists are now required when possible, to not only changes lanes when they approach an incident where there is a vehicle with flashing red lights (such as police or fire) but also for amber lights (road workers). When it is not possible to move over or there is only one lane, drivers must slow down. The penalty is a moving violation, can carry three points and up to $150 fine.

“In an instant, distracted driving can kill and change lives forever,” said CSEA President Danny Donohue.

With the recent upswing in smartphones, gadgets and communications devices in cars there has been an increase in injuries and deaths due to distracted driving. The University of Utah released a study proving reaction time while driving distracted is similar to being legally drunk. Since record keeping began in 1983, 45 CSEA members have lost their lives on the job in work zones.

WHAT THE PUBLIC CAN DO

  • Move over for amber lights
  • Obey posted speed limits
  • Put the phone down and drive
  • Never send or read text messages while driving
  • In work zones, be alert. Focus on your driving
  • Help spread the word.
  • Join the Don’t Zone Out Facebook community and help build awareness: www.facebook.com/DontZoneOut

“The roadwork season is upon us. Scores of our members will be out on roads, bridges and highways. Our men and women are at serious risk for injury or death at the hands of drivers who ignore the law and blast through work zones unaware that lives are at stake, including their own,” said Donohue. “Every driver in New York needs to know the dangers of distracted driving and what to do to make a difference.”

Originally launched in 2010, the CSEA “Don’t Zone Out” public safety awareness campaign for safer roads carries a very simple message to New York state drivers: Be careful driving through roadway work zones: “Don’t Zone Out.”

On April 27-29, CSEA will hold its Statewide Conference on Occupational Safety and Health in Lake Placid. Here, the 300,000 member labor union is renewing its commitment to its “Don’t Zone Out” public safety awareness campaign to help end distracted driving. A new “Don’t Zone Out” Facebook community of nearly 1,500 people helping to spread the message continues to grow and this summer, CSEA is partnering with minor league ballparks across the state through special ???Don??™t Zone Out??? themed nights with giveaways and a powerful video message: “Let’s all get home safe/Don’t Zone Out.”

Nationwide, in 2008 distracted driving killed almost 6,000 people and injured another 15,000. In 2010, the number fell to 3,000 deaths.

In a recent release, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood gave credit to efforts across the country to end distracted driving such as the “Don’t Zone Out” campaign. He said, while there is still much more to do, we are making historic progress when it comes to improving safety on our nation’s roadways. He said through building awareness, we’re saving lives, reducing injuries, and building the foundation for what we hope will be even greater success in the future.

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March 29, 2012
CSEA ramps up campaign over Tier 6 “Dark Deal”

ALBANY – CSEA has launched a new front against the big political giveaway the governor, state senators and Assembly members approved for themselves and political appointees.

“Under the cover of darkness, Governor Cuomo, state senators and Assembly members voted an outrageous perk to themselves and their highly paid political cronies within the Tier 6 legislation,” CSEA President Danny Donohue said.

Legislators and political appointees being paid more than $75,000 annually are all in line to cash in for thousands of dollars every year! The expanded 401(k)-style program lavishes an extra 8 percent of salary, over and above their lucrative pay – literally thousands of dollars – into their individual investment funds. This after Cuomo and lawmakers claimed that New York couldn’t afford decent pensions for low and middle-income front-line public workers any more.

While front-line workers now need 10 years of service to vest in their modest pension program, the politically favored few can literally take the money and run after just one year of service – so it’s like getting a cash bonus windfall they didn’t earn. Even under Tier 5, short-term political appointees would not have qualified for pension benefits until they had at least 10 years of service in the system. Now they benefit after just one year, undermining claims of reform in the public interest.

“The average pension for a CSEA-represented employee is about $14,000 annually after decades of service, but this boondoggle means the politically favored will minimally receive $6,000 annually every year, after one year of service,” Donohue said. “That is totally unacceptable and we can only hope that the public will be as outraged at Governor Cuomo and the State Senators and Assembly members as we are.”

CSEA has TV, radio and print ads beginning in every media market in the state and is prepared to actively take this issue into every community. The union announced last week that it is suspending its political endorsements and contributions as a direct consequence of the governor’s political deal with the legislature that put politics before people.

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March 28, 2012
CSEA challenges reckless Close to Home initiative as new information emerges about criminal background of youth slated for move into nonexistent New York City programs

ALBANY – CSEA today restated the dangers of fast tracking Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Close to Home proposal for shifting juvenile offenders into nonexistent New York City programs as new information has come to light about the criminal background of those individuals who would be moved.

Thirty three percent of residents currently at Limited Secure facilities and 20 percent at Non-Secure facilities operated by the New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) had committed violent felony offenses, including aggravated assault and dangerous weapons possession, according to figures CSEA received in response to a Freedom of Information request.

The governor’s initiative will not save any money and the agency has provided little detail about their plans. New York City does not have existing programs to handle this population. The proposal is part of the budget agreement, and has the state funneling money to New York City to help cover costs while walking away from its own responsibility for dealing with youthful offenders.

The budget agreement also includes the legislature giving away oversight authority for state agencies to the sole discretion of the Executive Branch.

“There are real public safety concerns that need to be addressed here,” CSEA President Danny Donohue said. “It makes no sense whatsoever to put felons – violent, repeat offenders – back into the very neighborhoods where they got in trouble in the first place, without any evidence that they will be properly supervised. You can’t just rubber-stamp an undertaking as serious as this without having facts about exactly how and if it will work, but legislators seem to be blindly buying into the administration’s ‘don’t worry, just trust us,’ approach.”

CSEA has long argued the need for change in OCFS facilities, but the agency has repeatedly and recklessly failed to provide adequate staff, training and resources and has ignored deteriorating conditions that have put staff and residents at risk. Additionally, many of the youth in care act out violently and, but for their age, most would be in adult prisons for the crimes they committed. Some also have serious mental health and substance abuse issues that successive OCFS administrations have failed to address, even in secure settings. Many of the youth have been sent by the courts to state facilities after multiple offenses and after less restrictive programs have failed to change their behavior.

In addition to its apparent deficiency, it is also highly likely that the Close to Home initiative will result in many dedicated and highly qualified state workers who put themselves on the line every day, losing their jobs, further undercutting Cuomo administration claims that the state budget will be positive for job creation.

“The rapid and reckless dumping of violent individuals back onto the streets is dangerous and irresponsible and will continue to put unsuspecting communities at risk,” Donohue said. “This will be another Renee Greco times 100.”

Donohue was referring to the murder of Buffalo-area direct care worker Renee Greco by a youth who had been inappropriately released by OCFS to community care. He pointed to that and the shootings of Rochester police officer Anthony DiPonzio and, more recently, New York City police officer Kevin Brennan as grim reminders of the tragic consequences that result from moving troubled youth into the community without adequate resources and supervision.

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March 27, 2012
CSEA President slams “self-serving” budget agreement
Cuomo, Senate and Assembly leaders again put politics ahead of people

ALBANY – CSEA President Danny Donohue today blasted the new state budget agreement as another backroom deal that puts politics before people.

“Governor Cuomo, Senator Skelos and Assembly Speaker Silver have a self-serving sound bite agreement that ignores the horrendous consequences it will inflict on working New Yorkers,” said CSEA President Danny Donohue.

Donohue pointed out that eliminating 400 beds in the mental health system, turning violent youth over to nonexistent programs in New York City, shortchanging localities and some hocus-pocus with the school funding formula will not improve the quality of life for all New Yorkers. These are just some of the ways New Yorkers will be adversely affected by a budget that’s long on public relations and short on actual detail.

“They can color it anyway they want, but the legislature has also given away its oversight authority for state agencies to the executive and that’s just not good government,” Donohue said.

“New Yorkers should understand that the governor’s claims of job creation are just a lot of self-congratulatory political nonsense because devastating cuts in state agencies will lead to real job loss in communities across the state and will undermine services that real New Yorkers depend on every day,” Donohue said. “The governor needs to understand that the loss of a job is the loss of a job – it’s devastating and it’s on his head.”

The budget’s funding impact on localities, schools and health care facilities are also likely to lead to job losses.

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March 19, 2012
Tier 6 political deal has serious consequences
Statement from CSEA President Danny Donohue

ALBANY – “CSEA will immediately suspend all state political endorsements and contributions. This unprecedented action is a direct result of the political deal between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state
legislative leadership, Senate Republicans and Assembly Democrats, trading the future retirement security of working New Yorkers for legislative redistricting lines.

This action is necessary to give our union the opportunity to re-evaluate our political relationships and make judgments about the criteria we use in determining who has earned and deserves
our support. It is also important to consider how our support is valued.

CSEA will also use this time to consult with our brother and sister unions and other allied community organizations about how we can collectively address the disrespect and disenfranchisement of working people by our state’s elected officials.

New Yorkers should understand that lawmakers’ actions did not result from meaningful debate and good judgment – it resulted from political expediency – and it will have harmful consequences to people and communities now and for a long time to come.

CSEA will seek better ways to hold elected officials accountable and ensure that the voices of working people will be heard and addressed in New York state.”

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March 15, 2012
CSEA slams Gov. Cuomo, state legislative leaders for putting politics before people
Union leader criticizes Cuomo’s scorched earth tactics, legislators’ self-interest

ALBANY – CSEA President Danny Donohue slammed Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state legislative leadership, Senate Republicans and Assembly Democrats for a politically expedient deal that trades the future retirement security of working New Yorkers for legislative redistricting lines.

“Tier 6 shoved down the throat of state legislators fixated on their own self-preservation, will be devastating to 99 percent of New Yorkers,” Donohue said. “This deal is about politicians standing with the 1 percent – the wealthiest New Yorkers – to give them a better break while telling nurses, bus drivers, teachers, secretaries, and laborers to put up and shut up.”

Last December, Cuomo pushed for a tax break for the wealthiest New Yorkers that exceeds the pensions of most working people.

There are no immediate savings from the Cuomo Tier 6 plan. Potential savings over decades will only come at the expense of working people. While hard-pressed localities will see no relief in the short term from Tier 6, they will be affected by loss of state services, downsizing and consolidation of vital facilities, along with other aid reductions and a further erosion of their middle class as workers get squeezed or have their jobs eliminated. CSEA pointed out that facts had little bearing on the governor’s agenda.

Donohue criticized the governor’s scorched earth pursuit of his political ambition for giving new meaning to the term “bully pulpit.”

“Regardless of the governor’s glib talking points, New Yorkers should understand that this deal did not result from meaningful debate and good judgment – it resulted from political expediency – and it will have harmful consequences to people and communities now and for a long time to come,” Donohue said. “No good will come from this.”

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Feb. 27, 2012
Statement of CSEA President Danny Donohue to Partnership for New York City pension letter

“The Partnership for New York City’s corporate masters just got a tax break in December that’s bigger than the pensions most working people earn.

Times may be tough but it’s a bit much that corporate CEOs tell future nurses, school bus drivers, highway workers and others to just accept a 40 percent pension reduction.

Elected officials need to keep in mind that retirement security IS an investment in New York.”

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Feb. 15, 2012
Donohue, CSEA leadership team returned to office
Vows to lead workers forward

CSEA President Danny Donohue, one of the most influential and well-respected leaders in the American labor movement, has been returned to office without opposition.

“These are some of the toughest times CSEA has faced in our 102 year history, but there is only one way to go and that is forward,” Donohue said. “I want to thank CSEA members for their confidence in my
leadership.”

CSEA – New York’s leading union – is the largest affiliate of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). The union has grown stronger and larger under Donohue’s presidency, achieving unprecedented organizing success in the public and private sectors and today boasts a membership 300,000 strong. Donohue’s vision led to CSEA recently becoming the representative for more than 25,000 independent childcare providers across the state, under a new model of union representation. Donohue also significantly strengthened the union’s role and influence in both the AFL-CIO and AFSCME, where he serves with distinction as an International Vice President.

In tough economic times, Donohue continues to fight for fairness for middle-class New Yorkers, while protecting public services and the benefits workers have fought so hard to get. The union’s most recent contract with New York state, negotiated in a challenging fiscal environment, kept union members working while protecting their rights and benefits.

Born in Brooklyn, Donohue began his career in public service as an attendant at Central Islip Psychiatric Center. He burst into CSEA’s leadership ranks in 1975 when he won a write-in campaign to become local president there. He became increasingly active in CSEA at region and statewide levels, including becoming Long Island Region president at a very young age.

Donohue was the first Long Islander elected to a CSEA statewide office when he won a five-way race for executive vice president in 1988. In 1994 he became CSEA’s 23rd statewide president.

Expanding CSEA’s outreach and community presence has been a hallmark of his leadership. Donohue’s down to earth personality is his greatest asset, allowing him to connect with rank and file union members and elected officials.

“There is no force in New York more powerful than CSEA when we work together,” Donohue said. “But no CSEA member should take anything for granted. We have to communicate and support each other. There is a responsibility on the part of leaders to provide information, create understanding and build solidarity, but there is also a responsibility on the part of each individual member to stay informed and involved. No one should expect things to just get better unless you are willing to participate.

Also returned to office for four-year terms without opposition were CSEA Executive Vice President Mary E. Sullivan and Statewide Secretary Denise Berkley. Treasurer Joseph McMullen was re-elected.

Sullivan was first elected executive vice president of the union in 1994. Sullivan began her professional career as a social worker and staff trainer in the Herkimer County Department of Social Services. She was CSEA’s first local government division member to serve in statewide office. Sullivan is an International Vice President of AFSCME. In 2009 she was elected president of the Capital District Area Labor Federation, which represents 120,000 union members and their families across 11 counties.

Berkley was first elected CSEA statewide secretary in 2008. Berkley’s union activism began at the Brooklyn Developmental Center. A longtime union activist, Berkley remains committed today to the ongoing struggle for social, racial and economic justice for workers and communities.

McMullen, who has served as treasurer since 2007, is responsible for overseeing CSEA’s budget and ensuring the union’s fiscal responsibility. McMullen is a trained electrician who worked at the State University of New York at Oneonta for 30 years.

Lester Crockett, a longtime activist and leader from the New York State Insurance Fund was elected Metropolitan Region president. Crockett filled the position since last fall following the retirement of George Boncoraglio.
Capital Region President Kathy Garrison was re-elected to her fourth term.

Long Island Region President Nick LaMorte, Southern Region President Billy Riccaldo, Central Region President Colleen Wheaton and Western Region President Flo Tripi were all returned to office without opposition.

The election also filled seats on the union’s 122 member statewide Board of Directors.

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Feb. 13, 2012
Statement of CSEA President Danny Donohue on Big Business Tier 6 misrepresentations

“The Business Council (the lobby for big business in New York state) Unshackle New York (another front for big business interests) and billionaire New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg are all taking shots at state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli for standing up for working people in the Tier 6 debate. DiNapoli has raised legitimate concerns that a 401(k)-style pension option will lead to greater economic instability.

Once again, the corporate interests and the 1 percent are at it trying to demonize anyone who stands up for fairness and consideration of what’s right.

Here are the facts:

  • Historically 83 cents out of every pension dollar has come from investments not taxpayers;
  • The problem is not excessive benefits – it’s Wall Street greed – When investments tanked, they got bailed out and New Yorkers had to make up the pension shortfall;
  • We’ve all seen enough damage to retirement security tied to 401(k) plans.
  • Changing the public employee retirement system to put all the risk on employees will encourage even responsible companies to erode heir pension plans;
  • Wall Street stands to make a windfall on administrative fees if Tier 6 is enacted

It’s a good thing for all of us when retired workers stay in New York and spend their modest pension benefits here after decades of service.”

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Feb. 2, 2012
CSEA slams state juvenile justice policy in wake of brutal NYC cop shooting
Reckless and reprehensible state youth detention releases put public safety at risk

ALBANY – In the wake of the brutal shooting of a New York City police officer by a former resident of a state operated juvenile detention center, CSEA today slammed a state Office of Children and Family Services plan to escalate the release of juvenile offenders from upstate facilities and place them in community programs.

Officer Kevin Brennan was critically injured Jan. 21 after being shot in the back of the head inside a Brooklyn public housing project. The suspected shooter, Luis (Baby) Ortiz, had been released by OCFS from the Goshen Secure Center in Orange County. Police said Ortiz, who had violently assaulted an aide while at the facility, was also wanted for the New Year’s Day murder of 34-year-old Shannon McKinney in front of a Brooklyn supermarket.

It appears that Ortiz was released by the NYS Office of Children and Family Services when his time was served, even though he was in the county jail on assault charges after an altercation with staff and could have had his time extended by the agency.

CSEA is concerned that city agencies and not-for-profit providers won’t be up to the task of dealing with youthful offenders. There is also concern that shifting jobs from the state may open the door to corruption and patronage. The union’s biggest concern is the lack of an adequate plan as to how the proposal would work. There is little detail in the OCFS budget proposal for radically downsizing state youth detention facilities and shifting custody to ill-prepared alternative agencies.

“You can’t just announce an undertaking as large as this and offer no plan or any details whatsoever as to how you intend for it to work,” said CSEA President Danny Donohue. “Still, the public is being asked to blindly buy in with this ‘Don’t worry, just trust us,’ mentality.”

Donohue said the dedicated and highly qualified workers who put themselves on the line every day, often being beaten and battered by youths assigned to their care, are being rewarded by having their jobs eliminated and their futures jeopardized.

Donohue said residents at state juvenile detention centers are put there because they belong there. Many act out violently and, but for their age, most would be in prison for the crimes they committed. Some have serious mental health and substance abuse issues that successive OCFS administrations have failed to address, even in secure settings. Many of the youth have been sent by the courts to state facilities after multiple offenses and after less restrictive programs have failed to change their behavior.

“There are real public safety concerns that need to be addressed here,” Donohue said. “It makes no sense whatsoever to put these felons – violent, repeat offenders – back into the very neighborhoods where they got in trouble in the first place.”

CSEA has been calling for a more responsible approach to New York state’s juvenile justice system for years, warning about dangerously deteriorating conditions at state juvenile detention facilities, including one at which 19 staff, including the facility director, have recently been victims of violent attacks by youths in their care.

News reports recently revealed that 18 out of 33 youth division aides (YDAs) currently employed at the Taberg Residential Center in Oneida County are out of work due to severe injuries suffered in attacks by residents. Their injuries include two broken collarbones, a concussion, a broken ankle and a dislocated shoulder. To cover for their injured co-workers and provide the round-the-clock supervision residents require, the remaining aides must work double shifts, making their physically and emotionally draining jobs even more stressful and more dangerous.

Taberg is symptomatic of a larger problem. According to a report issued by the state Department of Civil Service on state employee Workers’ Compensation claims, YDAs have the second highest on-the-job injury rate of all state job titles.

Violent attacks on staff by youths in their care have increased at an alarming rate under current OCFS policies that include shifting the agency from a correctional model to a so-called “sanctuary model” which centers on reducing or eliminating restraints and providing more therapeutic care. In current OCFS policy, violent youth are not held accountable for infractions that would increase their length of stay in OCFS facilities. Additionally, the Goshen Secure Center has been found in violation of the Public Employee Safety and Health Act by the New York State Department of Labor for not addressing condition that have led to an increase in workplace violence incidents at the facility.

Despite attempts by the union and the aides it represents to work cooperatively with OCFS officials to make the sanctuary model a success, front-line workers were never given the staff, resources and support, to make it work.

CSEA also blames OCFS for creating a myth of empty facilities – deliberately running down resident population at certain facilities by manipulating the transfer of youths to other facilities in order to justify closing the now under populated facilities and move youths into the community, whether community programs were ready to meet their needs or not. Current community-based programs are entirely inadequate to handle the challenges presented by youths being dumped into them. That has led to tragic consequences CSEA believes city officials should seriously consider before buying into the idea of bringing troubled youths into their communities.

“City officials, including Mayor Bloomberg, who welcome this proposal as some kind of jobs bill, better be careful what you wish for,” Donohue said, noting that existing facilities don’t have the resources necessary to deal with the complex array of problems the young offenders will present. “This will be another Rene Greco times a hundred.”

Donohue was referring to the murder of Buffalo-area direct care worker Rene Greco by a youth who had been released by OCFS to her care. He pointed to that and the shootings of Brennan and Rochester police officer Anthony DiPonzio as grim reminders of the tragic consequences that result from moving troubled youth into the community without adequate resources and supervision.

These tragic incidents are only some of the glaring examples of what results when violent youth are inappropriately released into the community.

“OCFS has consistently shown a complete disregard for the safety of staff, residents or members of the community, ignoring the concerns of CSEA, community members and law enforcement officials,” Donohue said. “This rapid and reckless dumping of violent individuals back onto the streets is dangerous and irresponsible and will continue to put unsuspecting communities at risk.”

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Jan. 30, 2012
CSEA and Health Research, Inc. reach tentative agreement on contract for 1,500 workers

ALBANY – CSEA and Health Research, Inc. have reached a tentative agreement on a new four-year agreement. The agreement, which extends through March 31, 2015, maintains health benefits at the current level and continues step increases and longevity payments with minor modifications to the schedules.

“The agreement maintains all the provisions and benefits our members told us were important to them,” said CSEA President Danny Donohue. “That is quite an accomplishment in times such as these.”

Health Research, Inc. is a not-for-profit organization structured to receive and administer grants for research on all forms of cancer and communicable diseases, AIDS and bio-terrorism.

Among the highlights:

Wages

  • 0 percent increase on base salary for fiscal year 2011;
  • 0 percent increase on base salary effective April 1, 2012;
  • Negotiations will be reopened to determine salary increase for 2013; and
  • 1 percent minimum increase on base salary effective April 1, 2014 (may be more based on 2013 wage reopener).

Other highlights:

  • Downstate adjustment continued at current level;
  • Tuition reimbursement funding continued at current level for life of contract;
  • Pre-tax transportation account extended to workers throughout the state (previously NYC only) and now includes parking expenses

The agreement covers approximately 1,500 CSEA-represented employees in a wall-to-wall unit that includes clerical, administrative and scientific staff at various locations throughout New York state. Primary centers
include the Corning Tower in Albany and Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo.

The agreement is subject to ratification by the CSEA membership.

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Jan. 17, 2012
Statement of CSEA President Danny Donohue on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed state budget

ALBANY – “Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposed budget lays out some complex challenges in many areas. CSEA remains concerned that the governor seems out of touch with the day-to-day challenges that public workers in both state and local government face as a result of his budget priorities. Too many necessary services in every part of the state are deteriorating because people are working short staffed and at risk without adequate equipment, training and backup.

“CSEA has no hesitation in saying that the proposal for a new public employee pension tier is an assault on the middle class and a cheap shot at public employees. It will provide no short-term savings and will mean people will have to work longer, pay more and gain less benefit. Simply put, the Tier VI provisions would be onerous on working people and undermine middle class security and the governor ought to be more concerned about that.

“The governor’s proposal of a 401K style option as part of Tier VI would certainly be attractive to highly paid political appointees who could max out their contribution, have it matched by the public employer and take it with them as they come and go. It’s a lot different for front-line career employees who have to worry about whether being at the mercy of Wall Street ups and downs will provide them with adequate retirement security 30 years from now.”

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Jan. 10, 2012
Youth aides taking a beating in state facilities
More than half of workers at Central New York facility out
due to injuries suffered in attacks

ALBANY – The head of New York’s largest public employee union said workers in state juvenile detention facilities are literally taking a beating at the hands of youths assigned to their care.

CSEA President Danny Donohue warned about increasingly dangerous conditions in the facilities, including one where 19 staff, including the facility director, have recently been victims of violent attacks by youths in their care. The union leader said the workers are also victims of a complete lack of support or concern for their safety from officials at the state Office of Children and Family Services, which runs the facilities.

“For years, CSEA has consistently and loudly warned about the danger front line workers at OCFS face and it’s time someone listens before anyone else gets hurt,” Donohue said.

Currently 18 out of 33 Youth Division Aides (YDAs) employed at the Taberg Residential Center in Oneida County are out of work due to severe injuries suffered in attacks by residents. Their injuries include two broken collarbones, a concussion, a broken ankle and a dislocated shoulder. To cover for their fallen co-workers and provide the round-the-clock supervision residents require, the remaining aides must work double shifts, making their physically and emotionally draining jobs even more stressful and more dangerous.

Taberg is symptomatic of a larger problem. According to a report issued by the state Department of Civil Service on state employee Workers’ Compensation claims, YDAs have the second highest on-the-job injury rate of all state job titles. CSEA blames the injuries at Taberg on insufficient staffing and training needed to deal with the influx of residents from the Tryon Girls Residential Center in Fulton County, which shut down last year. The union said the arrival of female residents has changed the make-up of the previously all male facility, increasing the risk for violence against staff there.

Violent attacks on staff by youths in their care have increased at an alarming rate in recent years since OCFS began shifting from a correctional model to a so-called “sanctuary model” which centers on reducing or eliminating restraints.

OCFS officials have repeatedly ignored the union’s concerns that front line workers aren’t being given the resources and support, including adequate staffing levels and proper training, necessary to make the sanctuary model work. Donohue said there is no evidence that OCFS has any plan to ensure that the appropriate resources will ever be provided and CSEA is concerned that continued cutbacks in state operations will make conditions even more dangerous.

“For too long, OCFS has shown a complete disregard for the safety of its staff,” Donohue said. “We cannot afford to continue policies that compromise public safety and put youths and staff at risk. We need a commitment to provide the leadership and resources necessary to ensure the safety and well being of youths, staff and the community.”

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Jan. 4, 2012
Statement of CSEA President Danny Donohue regarding Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2012 State of the State address

“Governor Andrew Cuomo presented a challenging vision of New York’s future and CSEA fully expects to be actively engaged in discussion and debate with the administration over the details.

I am frankly surprised that the governor gave such high priority to a new pension tier with emphasis on immediate impact. A Tier V was only recently enacted and will not provide the state and localities with any significant savings for many years. A Tier VI would be no different and would only mean that working people would have to work longer, pay more and benefit less – hardly in keeping with the governor’s goal of strengthening the middle class.

Finally, it was disappointing that the governor’s appropriate recognition of first responders to the recent series of natural disasters seemed to focus on the uniformed services without real appreciation for the wide range of front-line state and local government employees who were essential in New York’s addressing the emergency. Many of these workers put duty first to respond while their families faced risk and devastation. So many of these workers are at risk from state and local cutbacks and property tax capping.”

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