2013 News Releases

December 2013

  • Dec. 30, 2013 New York abruptly reverses action over Empire Plan mental health contract
  • Dec. 24, 2013 CSEA agreement means Country Manor residents can celebrate holidays at home
  • Dec. 20, 2013 CSEA President Danny Donohue statement on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s announcements on Greater Binghamton Health Center, Elmira and St. Lawrence Psychiatric Centers
  • Dec. 19, 2013 It’s official – New York now leaves people with serious and persistent mental illness on their own
  • Dec. 12, 2013 CSEA slams New York Tax Relief Commission report

November 2013

  • Nov. 26, 2013 CSEA joins advocates in calling for an end to hunger, income inequality in New York

October 2013

  • Oct. 20, 2013 Don’t Zone Out, It Can Wait

    CSEA, AT&T unique risk free opportunity to experience dangers of distracted driving

September 2013

  • Sept. 9, 2013 CSEA warns state lawmakers on Cuomo’s flawed mental health proposal

    Rundown will put more sick people on the streets, stick local taxpayers with the bill

August 2013

  • Aug. 5, 2013 CSEA lawsuits charge Thruway and Canal layoffs unconstitutional

July 2013

  • July 19, 2013 CSEA honors workers during “Pretrial, Probation and Parole Week”
  • July 16, 2013 Statement of CSEA President Danny Donohue to mental health service providers’ over-eager embrace of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s sketchy mental health proposal
  • July 10, 2013 Cuomo’s vague mental health proposal amounts to another unfunded mandate
  • July 2, 2013 Olympic Regional Development Authority finally moves on contract

June 2013

  • June 5, 2013 Olympic Regional Development Authority acted in bad faith
    CSEA to ORDA: Implement the contract you negotiated!

May 2013

  • May 28, 2013 Cuomo administration doubling down on bad juvenile justice decision
    Moving forward with closure of Middletown, Lansing facilities in the face of Close to Home failure
  • May 22, 2013 CSEA slams latest Cuomonomics corporate welfare giveaway
    “Tax-free NY” represents more misplaced priorities, undermines middle-class jobs
  • May 9, 2013 SUNY Downstate Coalition of Faith, Labor and Community Leaders:
    Rev. Al Sharpton Joins Faith, Labor & Community Leaders To Tell Cuomo He Can Not Close or Privatize SUNY Downstate
    Hundreds Join Interfaith Service, Then March and Rally at Downstate
  • May 2, 2013 CSEA: Warnings ignored on close to home initiative

April 2013

  • April 30, 2013 New state overtime figures reveal Cuomo administration’s misplaced priorities
  • April 17, 2013 CSEA slams Lottery sweetheart deal
    Union seeks answers about public benefit of questionable contracting practices
  • April 14, 2013 CSEA message to New York state drivers: “Don’t Zone Out”
    This week is National Work Zone Awareness Safety Week
  • April 10, 2013 CSEA Charges Taylor Law Violations in Thruway and Canal Corp. Layoffs
  • April 5, 2013 State Canal director has a change of heart: says layoffs WILL hurt operations
  • April 3, 2013 Statement of CSEA President Danny Donohue on Thruway and Canal layoffs

March 2013

  • March 29, 2013 Lawmakers improved Cuomo blueprint but more needs to be done
  • March 26, 2013 CSEA lawsuit challenges Saratoga County over long-term care scheme
    Union contends county can do better for vulnerable seniors than questionable actions to avoid accountability while leaving taxpayers with the debt

February 2013

  • Feb. 27, 2013 Groups seek reality check on New York’s mental health policies and resources
  • Feb. 22, 2013 CSEA challenges Canal head’s claims over service impact
  • Feb. 21, 2013 CSEA leader says exorbitant payout for Thruway manager in the midst of layoffs shows contempt for workers, public
  • Feb. 15, 2013 CSEA says canal layoffs will harm people, boaters, canal communities and tourism
  • Feb. 13, 2013 CSEA lawsuit challenges Onondaga County over long-term care scheme
    Ill-advised action to transfer Van Duyn Home operations violates law, county charter and is bad faith bargaining

January 2013

  • Jan. 30, 2013 Statement of CSEA President Danny Donohue on threatened layoffs of 234 CSEA-represented Thruway Authority and Canal Corporation employees
  • Jan. 22, 2013 Statement of CSEA President Danny Donohue to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed 2013-14 state budget
  • Jan. 2, 2013 CSEA proceeds with legal action on Westchester County budget, targeting of union office

Dec. 30, 2013
New York abruptly reverses action over Empire Plan mental health contract

ALBANY — A stunning set of state actions have raised concerns about the integrity of the bidding process over the contract to provide mental health coverage for state employees and other public service workers covered under the Empire Plan. There are also concerns about the transition to the new administrator by Jan. 1, 2014.

The state has reversed course on the awarding of the contract to administer the Empire Plan’s Mental Health/Substance Abuse program twice in two months, with the most recent reversal being disclosed on Christmas Eve (Dec. 24).

Value Options was selected for a five-year contract to succeed Optum Health earlier this fall by the State Department of Civil Service. However, the day before Thanksgiving (Nov. 27), Civil Service advised that they were going to reissue the Request for Proposal (RFP) in January 2014 and Optum Health would remain as the administrator for 2014. On Dec. 24, with a week to hire staff and get all programs in place, Civil Service has recommended and the state comptroller’s office has approved that Value Options be the administrator for 2014.

“There is something not right here,” said CSEA President Danny Donohue. “There’s either some serious incompetence or political interference going on.”

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Dec. 24, 2013
CSEA agreement means Country Manor residents can celebrate holidays at home

HERKIMER — Herkimer County seniors will be able to celebrate the holiday season at home, thanks to a last minute deal between CSEA and Advanced Healthcare Management that saves the Country Manor Adult Care Facility from being closed.

The county legislature had threatened to shut down the nursing home at 5 p.m. on Dec. 27 unless CSEA and the new owner were able to reach agreement over future operations at the facility by that deadline. CSEA accused the legislature of playing politics with the lives of residents of the home and began talks with Advanced Healthcare Management to keep legislators from closing the home down.

“We’re happy to have been able to spoil the legislature’s Grinch-like plan to put seniors out on the street during the holidays,” said CSEA Central Region President Colleen Wheaton.

The agreement between CSEA and Advanced Healthcare Management provides for all current employees to continue employment with the new owner at their current salaries. Advanced Healthcare Management has also agreed to recognize CSEA as the collective bargaining agent for the workers and the union said negotiations will begin shortly over workers’ terms and conditions of employment.

Despite believing the home should remain public, CSEA knew allowing the legislature to close it down would be devastating to residents and agreed to discussions with the new owner in hopes of reaching an agreement that preserves the quality and continuity of their care.

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Dec. 20, 2013
CSEA President Danny Donohue statement on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s announcements on Greater Binghamton Health Center, Elmira and St. Lawrence Psychiatric Centers

“Governor Cuomo’s announcements about Greater Binghamton Health Center, Elmira and St. Lawrence Psychiatric Centers are welcome news for people and families struggling with mental illness and those local communities.

It is clear that many people, including members of the state legislature, such as Senators David Carlucci, Thomas Libous, Thomas O’Mara, Patty Ritchie and James Seward, Assembly members Aileen Gunther, Donna Lupardo, Barbara Lifton, Addie Russell, Clifford Crouch, Christopher Friend and Philip Palmesano helped deliver a strong message about unmet needs.

There are still far too many areas of mental health care, services and policy that need improvement in every part of New York. CSEA can only hope that this is an opportunity for broader and more meaningful action.”

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Dec. 19, 2013
It’s official – New York now leaves people with serious and persistent mental illness on their own

ALBANY — New York state is leaving people with serious and persistent mental illness on their own under a new initiative that requires them to fend for themselves.

The state Office of Mental Health is planning to move patients with serious mental illness out of state psychiatric centers and into Single Residency Occupancy (SRO) units throughout the state.
SROs are private apartments where individuals would live on their own with minimal supervision from mental health professionals.

“We’ve criticized the state on many occasions for not doing enough to care for the mentally ill,” said CSEA President Danny Donohue. “But now they’re officially leaving people with very serious illness on their own.”

Patients currently in state psychiatric centers are among the most seriously ill. Many exhibit severe behavioral problems that can pose a serious risk to communities. In psychiatric centers, staff and treatment are available 24 hours a day. In SROs, however, individuals may only be visited by a mental health professional as little as once or twice a week.

“That’s like giving a Band-Aid to someone who needs a tourniquet,” Donohue said.
The union suspects the reasons behind the new initiative are financial rather than medical. It comes as the Cuomo administration is proposing to close state psychiatric centers from Long Island to Buffalo, and the union is skeptical that so many patients could somehow have been rehabilitated so suddenly.

CSEA believes there are better options for the state to invest in community care, including state operated group homes and other supervised living arrangements where adequate treatment, staff and other support is available.

According to a Request For Proposals obtained by the union, OMH plans to open 75 SROs in Central New York, 150 in the Hudson River Region, 100 on Long Island, 300 in New York City and 75 in Western New York.

State inpatient facilities scheduled to close, downsize or merge next year include Greater Binghamton Health Center, as well as Elmira, Mid-Hudson, Manhattan, Rochester, Saint Lawrence, Rockland Children’s, Sagamore Children’s and Western New York Children’s Psychiatric Centers.

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Dec. 12, 2013
CSEA slams New York Tax Relief Commission report
CSEA President Danny Donohue today slammed recommendations made by the governor and the New York State Tax Relief Commission.

“It’s easy to promise more tax giveaways to the rich and powerful when they come at the expense of local government taxpayers and the community services they depend on,” Donohue said. “No one should be fooled by the election year rhetoric in Governor Cuomo’s Tax Commission recommendations – this is more of the same policy that will just increase the misery index for people and communities in the real “new” New York.”

The panel’s recommendations include:

• Providing a two-year program to freeze residential property taxes only for homeowners in jurisdictions that abide by the 2 percent real property tax cap.

In the first year, eligible homeowners would see a tax rebate equal to the amount of the increase in a homeowner’s tax bill.

In the second year, homeowners in jurisdictions that abide by the property tax cap would receive a rebate of their tax increase only if they reside in jurisdictions that take meaningful concrete steps toward finding permanent structural savings by sharing services with other jurisdictions or consolidating governments in their entirety.

• Developing a program that would target real property tax relief based on an individual homeowner’s ability to pay.

• Encouraging local government to consolidate, streamline operations and share services.

• A corporate and income tax credit equal to 20 percent of the amount of real property taxes paid by this industry, but would like to see the credit increased for upstate manufacturers if possible.

• Additional tax relief for businesses in New York, including the reform and simplification of the State’s primary corporate income taxes coupled with a reduction in the corporate income tax rate to 6.5 percent, the lowest corporate rate since 1968.

•Reducing Corporate Tax Rate for Upstate Manufacturers further to 2.5 percent, the lowest rate ever.

• Accelerating the Phase Out of the temporary utility assessment (18-a), scheduled to be eliminated in 2018, would be eliminated in 2014 for industrial customers and all other customers will see an accelerated phase out of the surcharge.

• Reforming the estate tax by increasing the State’s threshold to $5.25 million, indexed for inflation, and lowering the tax rate to 10 percent.

• Eliminating nuisance taxes.

View the report
Listen to the National Memo’s David Cay Johnston discuss the report

Nov. 26, 2013
CSEA joins advocates in calling for an end to hunger, income inequality in New York

ALBANY — CSEA joined leading hunger advocates in Albany Nov. 26 in calling on state and federal officials to do more to end hunger.

“Thanksgiving is the one day a year where communities unite to make sure no one goes hungry,” said Mark Dunlea, executive director of the Hunger Action Network. “Unfortunately, hunger is a 365-day a year problem and the problem has only gotten worse over Governor (Andrew) Cuomo’s term.”

“The problem of poverty and hunger in New York state is not caused by a lack of resources or wealth but simply a failure of leadership,” Sara Niccoli, executive director of the Labor-Religion Coalition of New York State, said. “We have a jobs problem.”

An astonishing 40 percent of the families seen at food pantries in New York state are the working poor, and the recent decimation of the federally-funded SNAP (food stamp) program has made matters worse with 3 million New Yorkers affected by the cuts.

As Congress debates more cuts, New York needs to step up and do more.

Advocates say yesterday’s announcement of increased state funding for food pantries is a good start, but Cuomo needs to “lead the charge since the problem has gotten worse during his time as governor.”

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Oct. 20, 2013
Don’t Zone Out, It Can Wait
CSEA, AT&T unique risk free opportunity to experience dangers of distracted driving

LAKE PLACID — More than 1,000 CSEA members will have the unique opportunity to experience the dangers of distracted driving without anyone getting hurt when the union holds its 103rd Annual Delegates meeting in Lake Placid starting Monday Oct. 21. AT& T’s “It Can Wait” campaign will be on hand with its online distracted driving simulator to educate on the dangers of texting while driving.

“This is about saving lives,” said CSEA President Danny Donohue. “Distracted driving can bring tragedy and change lives in an instant.”

CSEA has long recognized distracted driving as a serious issue that directly affects members as drivers and workers.

“Each year, thousands of our members are out there putting themselves at risk on the roadways and especially working on the roadways and bridges,” Donohue said. “Every year, we have members who are seriously injured or lose their lives in incidents that don’t have to happen if people would use good judgment and common sense.”

In 2010, the union launched an ongoing distracted driving campaign called “Don’t Zone Out,” aimed at educating the public about roadway safety, especially in work zones (www.facebook.com/DontZoneOut).

AT&T, its employees and other supporters encourage all drivers to make the commitment to stop texting and driving and to the “It Can Wait” message in their community. The public can take the pledge at www.ItCanWait.com and also use resources on the site to create their own local events. Drivers can also share their promise with others via Twitter (#itcanwait) and Facebook. The pledge effort is part of the company’s public awareness campaign aimed to make texting and driving as socially unacceptable as drinking and driving. Research has found texting drivers are 23 times more likely to be in an accident and more than 100,000 car crashes and injuries happen while a driver was texting and driving.

AT&T will be on hand during the convention to educate attendees about the dangers of texting and will provide an online “It Can Wait” driving simulator which provides a safe environment to experience first-hand the dangers of texting while driving. The online simulator’s virtual reality video game provides the driver with a “city” to drive through including traffic lights, stop signs and other motorists. The game sends the driver “text messages” while driving the course and asks the driver to respond to the text message on the cell phone that’s connected to the game. The online simulator is free to the public and available at www.itcanwaitsimulator.org.

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Sept. 9, 2013
CSEA warns state lawmakers on Cuomo’s flawed mental health proposal
Rundown will put more sick people on the streets, stick local taxpayers with the bill

ALBANY — CSEA today warned state lawmakers that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to run down state psychiatric services will put more sick people on the streets and stick local taxpayers with the bill.

“Too many people suffering from mental illness can’t get the help they need now and the governor’s plan will make a bad situation worse,” said CSEA President Danny Donohue.

CSEA submitted testimony to the NYS Senate and Assembly Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities committees, which began hearings on the plan this week. The governor has proposed a vague plan to consolidate long-term inpatient treatment for people with mental illness, disrupt children’s care and place greater emphasis on community services, but the administration has offered little detail about meeting needs of people and communities.

The Cuomo administration’s own Office of Mental Health stated in its most recent five-year plan that current “state psychiatric hospital capacity cannot be responsibly and rapidly reduced without managed investments in community care.” Yet the administration is disregarding that warning.

There is also substantial evidence that the state underestimates the need for long-term care for seriously and persistently mentally ill people. Contrary to some advocates’ claims, there are many individuals who can’t just live in community settings with minimal assistance – they need longer-term care and supervision. By some estimates, more than half the inmates in county jails and correctional facilities have some form of mental illness. Many of these individuals wouldn’t even be incarcerated if they could get the help and care they need in their community. Local taxpayers will continue to foot the bill and then some for the state’s failure to ensure appropriate services in what amounts to an unfunded mandate.

New York has been reducing access to mental health services for the past 20 years by closing psychiatric centers, which provide the backbone of mental health services, including outpatient services, in many communities.

“The governor’s plan is just another empty promise,” the union’s testimony noted. “Without any real detail it is impossible to put any faith in the administration’s claim that this proposal will make things better. We need a blueprint, not press releases and sound bites, for building a new, modern mental health care system that will ensure access for all of New York’s citizens who need it.”

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NOTE: CSEA leaders will testify in Farmingdale and Binghamton this week regarding local concerns about the governor’s plan. CSEA has also begun a statewide radio and TV ad campaign challenging the Cuomo administration’s bad mental health policy.
Read CSEA’s full testimony


Aug. 5, 2013
CSEA lawsuits charge Thruway and Canal layoffs unconstitutional

ALBANY — CSEA has filed federal lawsuits against the state Thruway Authority and Canal Corp. charging that last spring’s layoff of union members working at the agencies was unconstitutional.

The suits claim the state violated CSEA-represented employees’ constitutional rights to freedom of speech, freedom of association, due process and equal protection of the law when, during contract negotiations, it threatened to and did in fact, lay off CSEA represented workers, while sparing all management employees and political appointees.

“The fact that only union members were targeted proves the layoffs were meant to punish them,” said CSEA President Danny Donohue. “If the layoffs were truly financially necessary, wouldn’t it make sense to get rid of at least one highly-paid manager or appointee?”

As further evidence that the layoffs were politically rather than financially motivated, the CSEA lawsuits quote statements made at a Thruway Authority and Canal Corp. board meeting, held just seven days before the layoffs took place, that the agencies were “in solid shape financially” and “doing very well this year.”

The union has contended from the beginning that management used the layoffs to try to unfairly influence the outcome of negotiations by attempting to coerce rank-and-file union members to pressure their union representatives to succumb to management demands. Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s handpicked negotiator, Joseph Bress, is representing the Thruway and Canal management at the bargaining table.

In court documents, CSEA said the layoffs were intended to penalize its members for exercising their First and 14th Amendment rights to seek union representation and to join, support and participate in a union.

Last December, shortly after negotiations for a successor agreement between the parties had begun, Thruway Authority Executive Director Thomas Madison sent an email to CSEA represented workers threatening that layoffs would occur unless the union agreed to management’s contract demands for severe concessions by April 3. Despite numerous proposals offered by CSEA in an attempt to find common ground, management would not move. The Thruway Authority and Canal Corp. laid off members of the CSEA bargaining units immediately after the deadline Madison had given the union to agree to management’s terms had expired.

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July 19, 2013
CSEA honors workers during “Pretrial, Probation and Parole Week”
ALBANY – CSEA President Danny Donohue today recognized union members across the state who work in probation services by declaring July 21 – 27, 2013 as “Pretrial, Probation and Parole Week.”

“On behalf of nearly 300,000 CSEA members across New York state, I am pleased to recognize, each year, our members who are probation professionals,” Donohue said. “The work they perform often goes unnoticed by the general public because we don’t see it every day. But make no mistake about it, their dedication to their jobs and commitment to the public makes our communities safer for all of us.”

Pretrial, Probation and Parole 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 do 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 to keep people and their community’s safe. CSEA realizes the high level of commitment and the special dedication these workers have to the public they serve.

Economic issues have caused an increase in crime over the past few years, causing a higher number of cases probation professionals must supervise to keep the public secure. “When there is an economic downturn the public need for government services increases dramatically,” Donohue said.

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 16, 2013
Statement of CSEA President Danny Donohue to mental health service providers’ over-eager embrace of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s sketchy mental health proposal

‘It’s disappointing that members of the mental health services community would be so quick to embrace the vague and superficial outline put forth by the Cuomo administration. New York has never followed through with promised reinvestment for adequate mental health services over the past generation. Instead, too many individuals and families have been left without the help they need and local officials and taxpayers have had to deal with the human wreckage at their own expense.

There is no evidence in the state’s latest sketchy proposal that promised changes will meet the needs of real people and communities.

Until New Yorkers see a detailed plan, healthy skepticism from the mental health community would be more appropriate than a pep rally.”

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July 10, 2013
Cuomo’s vague mental health proposal amounts to another unfunded mandate

ALBANY – CSEA today sharply criticized Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to consolidate state psychiatric centers as vague, irresponsible and likely to cost local taxpayers.

“There is nothing of excellence in Governor Cuomo’s proposal to close psychiatric centers, leave seriously ill people without the help they need and dump more unfunded mandates on local taxpayers,” said CSEA President Danny Donohue. Cuomo’s proposal renames remaining state psychiatric facilities as Centers of Excellence.

“Once again, the Cuomo administration is purposely misleading the public about the impact of his policies by packaging his proposal with a nice sounding name without providing any real detail about how services will be provided or supported,” Donohue said.

There are not adequate services now and this plan does nothing to improve that.

By some estimates, more than half the inmates in county jails and correctional facilities have some form of mental illness. Many of these individuals wouldn’t even be incarcerated if they could get the help and care they need in their community. Local taxpayers will continue to foot the bill and then some for the state’s failure to ensure appropriate services in what amounts to an unfunded mandate.

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July 2, 2013
Olympic Regional Development Authority finally moves on contract

LAKE PLACID – The Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) has agreed to enact a contract CSEA members ratified more than a year ago, after being cited by the state Public Employment Relations Board (PERB).

PERB had ruled in May that ORDA bargained in bad faith when it refused to ratify the contract.

“What ORDA did was wrong and now they have made it right,” said CSEA President Danny Donohue. “It’s a shame it took them so long to treat our members fairly and with respect.”

CSEA and the authority reached tentative agreement on a successor labor contract between the parties in January 2012, three months before the union’s Statewide Conference on Occupational Safety and Health was set to take place in Lake Placid. The union conference brought 1,000 union members, and their wallets, to the resort town and CSEA was considering moving the conference elsewhere due to the stalled negotiations. Many members of ORDA’s Board of Directors’ own businesses benefit from the influx of cash the union conference brings.

CSEA members covered by the contract ratified the agreement in February 2012. ORDA President and CEO Ted Blazer informed the union that the authority’s board would act on the tentative agreement at its June 2012 meeting but, without giving the union any excuse or explanation, never placed the agreement on the agenda for a vote.

CSEA filed an improper practice charge against the authority arguing that ratification of a tentative agreement, being part of the bargaining process, is subject to the same standards of good faith as the bargaining itself.

Administrative Law Judge Jean Doerr agreed with the union and on May 22, ordered ORDA to execute the tentative agreement, finding the authority had waived its right to ratify.

The ruling came despite attempts by the Cuomo administration to interfere with the case. The Governor’s Office of Employee Relations advised the authority to refuse to stipulate to any facts, including those already in evidence.

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June 5, 2013
Olympic Regional Development Authority acted in bad faith
CSEA to ORDA: Implement the contract you negotiated!

ALBANY — The state Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) has ruled that the Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) bargained in bad faith when it refused to ratify a contract they negotiated with CSEA.

“To negotiate a contract and then refuse to ratify it is the very definition of bad faith bargaining,” said CSEA President Danny Donohue. “What ORDA did was unfair to its workers who have every right to expect their employer to be serious about negotiations that affect their lives.”

CSEA and the authority reached tentative agreement on a successor labor contract between the parties in January 2012, three months before the union’s Statewide Conference on Occupational Safety and Health was set to take place in Lake Placid. The union conference brought 1,000 union members, and their pocketbooks, to the resort town and CSEA was considering moving the conference elsewhere due to the fact that negotiations had reached a standstill. Many members of ORDA’s board of directors own businesses that benefit from the influx of cash the union conference brings.

CSEA members covered by the contract ratified the agreement the following month. ORDA President and CEO Ted Blazer informed the union that the authority’s board would act on the tentative agreement at its June 19 meeting but, without giving the union any excuse or explanation, never placed the agreement on the agenda for a vote.

CSEA filed an improper practice charge against the authority arguing that ratification of a tentative agreement, being part of the bargaining process, is subject to the same standards of good faith as the bargaining itself.

Administrative Law Judge Jean Doerr agreed with the union and, on May 22, ordered ORDA to execute the tentative agreement, finding the Authority had waived its right to ratify.

The ruling comes despite attempts by the Cuomo administration to interfere with the case. The Governor’s Office of Employee Relations advised the authority to refuse to stipulate to any facts, including those already in evidence.

Donohue said the foot-dragging should end now.

“What ORDA did was wrong. We know it. PERB knows it. And they know it,” Donohue said. “It’s time for them to do what’s right and implement this contract now.”

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May 28, 2013
Cuomo administration doubling down on bad juvenile justice decision
Moving forward with closure of Middletown, Lansing facilities in the face of Close to Home failure

ALBANY – Just weeks after scathing reports about the abysmal failure of the Close to Home juvenile “reform” program diverting youthful offenders from state juvenile justice facilities to inadequate New York City-based programs, the Cuomo administration is doubling down on bad policy and moving to close two more centers.

The administration is moving to close the Lansing and Middletown non-secure facilities.

Earlier this month, Queens Family Court Judge John Hunt called the governor’s initiative to move juvenile offenders from state-run facilities into New York City programs that are obviously unequipped to handle them “a threat to public safety” after court documents exposed repeated failures with the program, including a lack of security so bad that youthful offenders were able to walk away at will. At one point, 50 youths in the program (about one in four) were missing at the same time.

“It is outrageous that the Cuomo administration can disregard public safety – including the well being of the youths – and make a bad situation worse,” CSEA President Danny Donohue said. “It makes no sense whatsoever to put dangerous individuals back into the very neighborhoods where they got in trouble in the first place without any evidence that they will be properly supervised.”

As the governor’s initiative was being fast tracked last year, CSEA sounded repeated warnings about the potential dangers of the program.

Youths from outside of New York City are reportedly being diverted back to their home counties for placement at local taxpayer expense.

The administration’s plans for the short-term future of the Red Hook and Brentwood non-secure facilities are unclear.

The Office of Children and Family Services has been systematically undermining operations at juvenile justice facilities and moving toward total shutdown after reneging on a commitment to transform the model for resident treatment.

At the same time as he was diverting offenders from upstate juvenile detention facilities, Gov. Andrew Cuomo also closed down all of the New York City-based OCFS facilities, undermining any claim that the program was really about moving juveniles closer to their homes. Despite Cuomo administration claims that they would seek to avoid layoffs, a significant number of employees were laid off or transferred to positions at a drastic cut in pay following the closure of the NYC based OCFS facilities. CSEA has filed a contract grievance over those circumstances.

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May 22, 2013
CSEA slams latest Cuomonomics corporate welfare giveaway
“Tax-free NY” represents more misplaced priorities, undermines middle-class jobs

ALBANY – CSEA President Danny Donohue is slamming a new proposal by Gov. Andrew Cuomo that would provide yet another tax giveaway to business at the expense of local communities and middle-class jobs. The CSEA leader also expressed extreme concern that state legislative leaders seem ready to give the governor a blank check on this latest misguided venture.

The governor’s new scheme, “Tax-free NY,” would allow new businesses to lease land on SUNY campuses and private colleges and universities and pay no taxes for 10 years. Even employees of the new businesses would pay no state income taxes.

“The governor doesn’t get the fact that more corporate welfare is no answer to New York’s economic challenges,” said Donohue. “No amount of TV ads spinning his record can change the reality that his so-called job creation policies have failed. They have mostly benefitted the super-wealthy and big corporations and repeatedly failed to deliver real growth and middle class jobs.”

Recent state budgets have repeatedly shortchanged localities without providing any meaningful relief. This has resulted in the loss of nearly 60,000 public service jobs since the 2010, eroding needed services and taking paychecks out of the economy.

“There’s no money to help distressed localities and we have to cut funds from services for people with developmental disabilities but we can send tax rebates to people who don’t need it in an election year? Now, it’s even more outrageous that the governor and legislative leaders think we can give away even more to businesses without any guarantee of benefit to taxpayers,” Donohue said.

The proposal comes shortly after the governor trumpeted a new municipal finance restructuring board that highlights the administration’s failure to provide real help to struggling localities while creating a new entity to point fingers and lay blame elsewhere.

“The Cuomo administration has very misplaced priorities,” Donohue said. “The governor has the money for the things that help his political agenda and his millionaire friends but he just doesn’t give a fig about working people.”

As further evidence, Donohue pointed to the disgraceful minimum wage deal, giving the lowest-paid workers a small increase over three years, but linking it to a business tax break that actually encourages the creation of more minimum wage jobs at the expense of low wage workers. It’s counterproductive for working people and the economy, especially in a state that already has the nation’s most inequitable wage income distribution.

“Governor Cuomo truly deserves the nickname, ‘Governor 1 Percent,'” Donohue said.

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May 9, 2013
SUNY Downstate Coalition of Faith, Labor and Community Leaders:
Rev. Al Sharpton Joins Faith, Labor & Community Leaders To Tell Cuomo He Can Not Close or Privatize SUNY Downstate
Hundreds Join Interfaith Service, Then March and Rally at Downstate
Contact: Bishop Orlando Findlayter
(646) 339-8344

BROOKLYN — The Rev. Al Sharpton today joined a broad coalition of faith, labor and community leaders to call on Gov. Cuomo to save vital health care services for the people and communities of Central Brooklyn. The coalition later held an interfaith service at a local church and then marched and rallied with hundreds of workers and community residents in front of the hospital.

Members of the coalition blasted Gov. Cuomo for placing the lives of millions of New Yorkers at risk by failing to commit funding for SUNY Downstate. The institution is the borough’s fourth largest employer and serves as a safety net facility, accepting patients regardless of their ability to pay. A large number of its students are also people of color who got on to professional careers in the health professions.

“The people of Central Brooklyn can not do without the vital health care services provided at SUNY Downstate,” said Rev. Sharpton. “We cannot stand idle and watch yet another Brooklyn hospital close its door to the mostly poor, people of color living in this community. Our lives matter.”

The enacted state budget provides no additional state funds for SUNY Downstate. It also calls on the SUNY Chancellor to submit a sustainability plan by June 1st.

Among the members of the clergy who form the SUNY Downstate Coalition are: Bishop Orlando Findlayter, CUSH; Minister Faithlyn Bryan, New Hope Christian Fellowship; Pastor Shane Vidal; Elder Will Seaton, Brooklyn Community Church; Dr. Joseph Chukwu, Helping Hands Ministry; Pastor James, Bethesda Healing Center; Rabbi Michael Feinberg, Greater NY Labor-Religion Coalition; Pastor Gill Monrose, Mt. Zion Church of God 7th Day; Apostle Jean Leeds ; Pastor Terry Lee, Byways and Hedges Ministry; Apostle Karen Champion; and Pastor Derick Allen, Divine Word Church of God in Christ.

“The community is coming together to stand up against the attack on SUNY Downstate Medical Center,” said Bishop Orlando Findlayter, Senior Pastor, New Hope Christian Fellowship and Chairman, Churches United to Save and Heal (CUSH). “We don’t understand why the Governor refuses to do the right thing. Downstate is a vital part of this community and therefore we call on the governor to provide the necessary funding to keep it open.”

Downstate serves an area with over 2.5 million residents. Death rates from diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer and HIV/AIDS are especially high in neighborhoods surrounding the hospital. The death rate of infants is also surprisingly high. Downstate also offers unique health care services, including its nationally recognized kidney transplant center, dialysis for children and Sickle Cell Anemia treatment.

“It is time for us, as a people, to unite all our forces together to put an end to the constant injustice that is taking place in Central Brooklyn, as it relates to health care for our people,” said Pastor Shane P. Vidal. “It is imperative for Governor Cuomo to understand that he was placed in the position as Governor to work for the people, not against the people.”

As the fourth largest employer in the borough, where over 60 percent of its workers reside, Downstate creates over $2 billion in economic activity. Closing the facility will hit Central Brooklyn especially hard since more than a quarter of its residents live in poverty. While no one doubts that the hospital has been mismanaged for a long time, the coalition insists that workers and patients are not to blame for poor choices made by the administration.

Indeed, State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s recent audit confirmed what many have been saying all along: “the acquisitions of Long Island College Hospital and Victory Memorial, with no financial projections in the midst of known underutilization and recurring operating losses, suggests an overall lack of transparency.”

Top leaders of UUP, CSEA and PEF have all expressed their support for the community coalition’s efforts and have spoken out publicly about the administration’s lack of commitment to the facility’s future.

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May 2, 2013
CSEA: Warnings ignored on close to home initiative

ALBANY – In the wake of an explosive expose by the New York Daily News about the abysmal failure of the state Close to Home juvenile justice reform program, CSEA can only say repeated warnings about the initiative were ignored.

The Daily News reported today about repeated failures with the governor’s initiative to move juvenile offenders from state run facilities into New York City programs that are obviously unequipped to handle the dangerous offenders.

As the governor’s initiative was being fast tracked last year, CSEA sounded repeated warnings about the potential dangers of the program.

“There are real public safety concerns that need to be addressed here,” CSEA President Danny Donohue said at the time. “It makes no sense whatsoever to put 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.”

The union pointed to the murder of Buffalo-area direct care worker Renee Greco by a youth who had been inappropriately released by the state into community care as well as the shootings of Rochester and New York City police officers Anthony DiPonzio and Kevin Brennan as grim reminders of the tragic consequences that result from moving troubled youth into the community without adequate resources and supervision.

Last spring, CSEA also released figures the union obtained in response to a Freedom of Information request, showing that 33 percent of residents 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.

Today, Donohue called the failure of the Close to Home program “further evidence of the failure of Governor Andrew Cuomo”s public policy by news release that puts people at risk.”

At the same time as he was diverting offenders from upstate juvenile detention facilities, Cuomo also closed down all of the New York City–based OCFS facilities, undermining any claim that the program was really about moving juveniles closer to their homes. Many dedicated state workers were displaced or lost jobs as a result of this action.

While a Cuomo aide, yesterday, attempted to lay the blame on city officials, Donohue pointed the finger elsewhere.

“This is vintage Cuomo administration to blame others after the fact for disasters when his administration ignored all of the warnings that were raised,” Donohue said.

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April 30, 2013
New state overtime figures reveal Cuomo administration’s misplaced priorities

ALBANY – CSEA – New York’s leading union – today charged the latest figures on New York’s excessive state employee overtime costs reveal the glaring deficiencies in the Cuomo administration’s management by news release.

“The Cuomo administration continues to purposely understaff state agencies and mandate overtime to a perverse degree,” said CSEA President Danny Donohue. “They tell the public they’re cutting the public work force and improving operations when they are really eroding decent middle-class jobs, leaving people at risk and still costing the public plenty.”

Nearly all the overtime in agencies like the Office of People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) and the Office of Mental Health is mandated. Union contracts DO NOT entitle workers to overtime. It is a management choice to use overtime to cover shifts and necessitated by chronic understaffing. OPWDD, for instance, has been slow to fill direct care positions.

Many budget managers and accountants prefer to pay overtime rather than hire more staff. CSEA has long pointed out, however, that excessive and chronic mandated overtime is counterproductive. It contributes to fatigue, burnout and the likelihood of both occupational injuries and on-the-job mistakes. It takes a human toll and also costs taxpayers in the long run.

The evidence of the administration undermining the front-line state work force is coincidental with other news demonstrating Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s misplaced priorities. The administration recently petitioned the Civil Service Commission to authorize the creation of 120 exempt-class positions in a new job title called “Empire State Fellow.”

Exactly why the new positions and why so many of them are needed is unclear. According to the job description, these “Fellows” would “work on the most pressing policy issues facing the state and advance the administration’s strategic objectives and programmatic initiatives.”

Additionally, it was recently reported that the Cuomo administration is paying an outside consulting firm to advise on recruitment practices for the state work force.

“The people of New York would be better served if Governor Cuomo showed more concern about managing his existing work force – providing them with the help, resources and respect that they need – rather than bringing in outside consultants and a new layer of political patronage,” Donohue said.

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April 17, 2013
CSEA slams Lottery sweetheart deal
Union seeks answers about public benefit of questionable contracting practices

ALBANY – CSEA today called for a legislative hearing over the appearance of impropriety at the New York State Lottery. The call came following a published report that a top New York State Lottery official who recently negotiated a multi-million dollar contract with a private vendor is now working for the same vendor. CSEA believes the situation should be reviewed immediately by the Office of Inspector General and J-COPE.

The revelation comes as the Cuomo administration continues to promote privatizing public work.

Gordon Medenica, the former director of the NYS Lottery, is now a consultant with GTECH, a firm that has nearly a billion dollars worth of business with the state. Last year, while still director, he negotiated a $25 million deal with GTECH that essentially privatizes the jobs long held by marketing representatives at the Lottery.

“This has the appearance of impropriety on the face of it and the governor knows it,” said CSEA President Danny Donohue. “We will only see more of this if the Cuomo administration continues its path of eroding public jobs while playing fast and loose with private contractors at public expense.”

The $25 million GTECH contract created a pilot program that called for the hiring of private sector workers to do identical jobs at the Lottery Division. The state started the program on Sept. 17. CSEA questions whether the deal is truly in the public interest. Before the deal with GTECH, the Cuomo administration had not filled authorized positions even through they are revenue generating jobs.

Donohue also decried Medenica’s hypocrisy and conflict-of-interest-tainted job offer with GTECH since he warned Lottery staff that they were prohibited from applying for the new GTECH positions “due to state revolving door laws.”

According to state laws, any official must wait two years before conducting business with their prior agency when working in the private sector, and they are permanently barred on contracts or transactions they directly worked on.

“Here’s a classic example of ‘do I say, not as I do,’ that we’ve come to expect from this administration,” said Donohue. “The public needs some honest answers and accountability.”

GTECH, a private company owned by a foreign global conglomerate already has hundreds of millions of dollars worth of contracts with the state. It’s also a company that donated $40,000 to Cuomo’s campaign.

Indeed, according to a new analysis by the good government organization Common Cause, the gambling industry has poured some $50 million on lobbying and campaign contributions in the state since 2005. In the first half of last year, the industry had already spent nearly $4 million on lobbying alone.

The original $25 million GTECH contract to hire about 20 workers was amended from two years to five years. Hiring just 20 state employees from the active civil service list would cost less than a million over the same period. The Lottery office in New York City currently has roughly equal numbers of GTECH workers and state workers.

In the past two years the agency was cleared to hire at least 100 additional personnel, though only 17 positions were filled. There are currently at least 200 eligible candidates on civil service lists who have passed both written and verbal exams, just waiting to be hired.

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April 14, 2013
CSEA message to New York state drivers: “Don’t Zone Out”
This week is National Work Zone Awareness Safety Week

ALBANY – April 15-19, 2013 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 changes made to the New York state “move over” law.

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 change lanes when approaching an incident where there is a vehicle with flashing red or blue lights (such as police or fire) and 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 hefty. Drivers who fail to follow this law could receive a moving violation, can carry three points and up to $275 fine, plus court surcharges and a possible jail sentence of 15 years.

At the beginning of this month, the New York State Police announced it would be increasing enforcement of the “move over law;” keeping in mind the law’s expansion includes amber lights, the public should know that to remain in full compliance of this law, drivers must also move over for road workers.

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

With the increase of smartphones, gadgets and communications devices in cars, there has been an increase in injuries and deaths due to distracted driving, including work zones. 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.

Distracted driving and excessive speed are the biggest threat to our men and women working in work zones.

“April is the beginning of the road work season. 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.”

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

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.”

CSEA is again renewing its pledge to build awareness this year.

“Just as the seat belt safety campaign took time to reach the traveling public, so will work zone awareness. If we are steadfast, motorists’ awareness of their work zone driving behavior will be as routine as clicking on a seat belt,” said Donohue.

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 2012, 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. “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,” he said.

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April 10, 2013
CSEA Charges Taylor Law Violations in Thruway and Canal Corp. Layoffs

ALBANY — Charging the Cuomo Administration with Taylor Law violations, CSEA has filed charges over last week’s vindictive and politically motivated layoffs of Thruway and Canal Corporation employees. The union charged Thruway management with acting in bad faith to coerce, intimidate and pressure rank and file union members.

CSEA filed improper practice charges with the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) against the state Thruway Authority and Canal Corporation. The union charged management with attempting to unfairly influence the outcome of contract negotiations.

CSEA filed the charges April 4, after CSEA-represented Canal workers and CSEA-represented Thruway workers were among about 200 unionized employees laid off. The union accused the Authority and Canal Corp. of coercing employees with threat of layoff so that the employees would unduly pressure their union representatives to succumb to management demands.

“It is unfortunate that the Cuomo Administration continues to resort to intimidation, threats and bullying to get what it wants at the expense of Thruway and Canal operations,” said CSEA President Danny Donohue. “The administration doesn’t seem to care that it is hurting people and communities across this state.”

Last December, shortly after negotiations for a successor agreement between the parties had begun, Thruway Authority Executive Director Thomas Madison sent an email to CSEA represented workers threatening that layoffs would occur unless the union agreed to management’s contract demands for severe concessions by April 3.

Despite numerous proposals offered by CSEA in an attempt to find common ground, management has not moved. The Thruway Authority and Canal Corp laid off members of the CSEA bargaining units last week, immediately after the deadline Madison had given the union to agree to management’s terms had expired.

In addition to Madison’s actions, on which the charges are based, Canal Corp. Director Brian Stratton’s comments to the media last week calling canal workers’ salaries “bloated” further exposed the administration’s contempt for its workers.

“Instead of laying off workers who did nothing to deserve it, the administration should lay off its union busting tactics,” Donohue said.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: The CSEA charges, including the union’s arguments to support them, are attached in their entirety.

Read CSEA’s Improper Practice charges against the Thruway Authority
Read CSEA’s Improper Practice charges against the Canal Corp.


April 5, 2013
State Canal Director has a change of heart: says layoffs WILL hurt operations

ALBANY — In a dramatic turnaround, the head of the state Canal Corporation now says Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s layoffs there will indeed mean a drastic reduction in operations along the canal system along with a corresponding drop in morale.

In an email sent to employees yesterday, Canal Corp. Director Brian U. Stratton said Cuomo’s layoffs would force the corporation to resort to a reduced operating schedule last employed in 1991. “Even with this revised schedule, our resources will be strained, and our people challenged, like never before,” Stratton said. “I am aware of the state of morale, and the precarious state of our labor force.”

Just over a month ago, Stratton said the layoffs would not affect operations or pose a threat to safety. However, CSEA, the union representing the canal workers, immediately rejected Stratton’s claim because many of the cuts involved Canal Lock Operators, who perform the vital function of controlling dam movement and regulating water levels. CSEA has learned that due to the governor’s cuts, the Oswego Canal now has no lock operators.

“Unmanned locks are more than just an inconvenience to boaters or a hit to the wallets of communities along the Mohawk Valley that depend on the canals economically,” said CSEA President Danny Donohue. “This could potentially cause a serious safety hazard, particularly at a time when major storms and flooding continue to pose a real threat.”

The union leader predicted that the skeleton staff of remaining workers may wind up having to rove between locks to provide necessary coverage, racking up large amounts of overtime and offsetting anticipated cost savings.

CSEA has contended from the start that the layoffs were political retaliation against unionized workers because ongoing labor negotiations have not concluded, a charge bolstered by the fact that management employees and political appointees have been spared. Donohue said Stratton’s email provided further evidence that the layoffs were politically motivated, rather than financially necessary.

“For many of our friends and colleagues, yesterday was a heartbreaking end to a career they enjoyed in a place they loved, and to jobs they truly excelled in performing,” Stratton wrote. “Certainly, they had done nothing to deserve it.”

“It’s a sad commentary that Governor Cuomo cares more about making a political point than he does about the well being of these workers and their families, even at the expense of Thruway and Canal operations,” Donohue said. “The evidence is beginning to pour in that the governor’s vindictive action against innocent employees will have widespread consequences.”

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April 3, 2013
Statement of CSEA President Danny Donohue on Thruway and Canal Layoffs

“It is likely that New York State Thruway and Canal Corporation workers will be put out of work today. This is a tragedy for these workers who have done nothing to deserve it. CSEA has sought alternatives, but there has been no movement by the administration. It’s a sad commentary that Governor Cuomo cares more about making a political point than he does about the well being of these workers and their families, even at the expense of Thruway and Canal operations.”

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Please Note:
The Thruway Authority has long been mismanaged and a landing spot for many political patronage appointees. Any claim that these layoffs are necessary due to economic circumstances is bogus because not a single patronage employee or even a manager is being let go – only unionized workers.

It’s also disingenuous if the administration tries to claim that there won’t be negative impact on operations. That’s impossible when they are laying off 234 workers who actually do the work of maintaining and operating and inspecting the roadways and the canals. (81 of the layoffs are in CSEA-represented positions – 39 in Canals, 42 in the Thruway professional unit.)

The governor’s handpicked negotiator, Joe Bress, is conducting the negotiations.

The Thruway contracts are completely different from the state Executive Branch contracts. It’s an apples to oranges comparison.

Since 2010, nearly 60,000 public sector jobs have been lost in New York – middle class jobs, which has eroded services and stalled the state’s economic recovery.


March 29, 2013
Lawmakers improved Cuomo blueprint but more needs to be done

ALBANY – CSEA is encouraged and thankful that state lawmakers took strong stands in key areas of the final state budget.

“Lawmakers understand there’s a moral and an economic impact when the state abandons people with mental health challenges and fails to reinvest in community care – it’s an unfunded mandate when localities have to pick up the pieces of broken lives simply because the state has abandoned its responsibilities,” CSEA President Danny Donohue said. “It’s also clear that most lawmakers recognize we need real reform, not lip service in juvenile justice.”

“These are just a couple of areas where the final budget shows a much better approach than what Governor Andrew Cuomo originally proposed,” Donohue said.

The CSEA leader said that, unfortunately, New Yorkers are still seeing too many misplaced priorities in this budget.

“Something’s not right when Governor Cuomo and lawmakers can give a politically motivated tax rebate to people earning up to $300,000, but still threaten the very existence of essential services that people with developmental disabilities need and hit the lowest-paid workers delivering those services with the brunt of the impact,” Donohue said. “It’s shocking that there hasn’t been more outcry over this harmful action given the governor’s public statements about improving the quality of care in this field.”

Donohue also pointed out that it is outrageous that the budget includes a sweetheart deal to NBC to lure the Tonight show back to New York and a luxury suite for Cuomo administration use as part of the taxpayer financed renovation of the Buffalo Bills’ stadium ‘ all at the same time he leaves an essential hospital, like Downstate Medical Center at significant risk of closure and struggling localities without relief.

“The governor’s got money to spread around when it suits his interests, but localities get a flat budget that will absolutely mean more cuts in services and loss of jobs across the state,” Donohue said. “It’s also galling that he concocts a pension fund scheme and tries to pass it off as mandate relief.”

Donohue pointed out that since 2010, nearly 60,000 public sector jobs have been lost, eroding services and stalling the state’s economic recovery. He also indicated that this is just one area where the governor’s economic development policies are counterproductive.

“Giving minimum wage workers a small increase over three years and linking it to a business tax break that will actually encourage the creation of more minimum wage jobs is unconscionable, especially in a state that already has the most inequitable income distribution in the nation,” said Donohue.

“Unfortunately, the facts – and the people affected – don’t seem to matter much to Governor Cuomo, who continues to privatize public services and undermine middle-class jobs in a race to the bottom,” Donohue said.

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March 26, 2013
CSEA lawsuit challenges Saratoga County over long-term care scheme

Union contends county can do better for vulnerable seniors than questionable actions to avoid accountability while leaving taxpayers with the debt

BALLSTON SPA – CSEA – New York’s leading union – has filed a lawsuit against Saratoga County, challenging the transfer of the county’s public nursing home, Maplewood Manor, to a local development corporation – a non-regulated shell corporation that has little oversight and no accountability to taxpayers.

CSEA, which represents public nursing home workers throughout the state, has publicly argued that local development corporations should not be used to allow municipalities to skirt regulations designed to protect taxpayers or to avoid public scrutiny or opposition to the sale of publicly owned nursing homes.

CSEA represents most of the 325 employees of Saratoga County’s Maplewood Manor, who provide essential care to some of the county’s most vulnerable citizens.

“Saratoga County’s actions are, at best, questionable,” said CSEA President Danny Donohue. “Unfortunately, in county after county we have seen elected officials walk away from responsibility to our seniors. CSEA has made it clear that we will not hesitate to take our case to the judicial system whenever necessary.”

“We had strong community support for finding alternatives and we made a good argument,” said CSEA Capital Region President Kathy Garrison, a county resident who is a plaintiff in the lawsuit. “The elected officials ignored the people and refused to do what was right.”

The case was filed in state Supreme Court in Saratoga County and has been assigned to Judge Robert Chauvin. Part of CSEA’s argument revolves around a provision of the law that holds a local government cannot sell property for which there is still a necessary public purpose. The use of the LDC also raises a variety of legal issues regarding accountability while taxpayers still retain debt obligations.

The Saratoga County action is a glaring example of a disturbing recent trend where counties have flaunted legal obligations, circumvented normal open meeting requirements and engaged in irregular bidding practices. Many of these actions appear to be attempts to minimize scrutiny and public input. CSEA is alarmed that these actions also seek quick political fixes at the long-term expense of people and communities.

CSEA”s first legal action involving the transfer of public nursing facility operations to a local development corporation was filed last month, challenging action by Onondaga County. Oral arguments in that case were held today in state Supreme Court in Syracuse. A ruling is expected within 60 days. In the meantime, several other counties are currently considering similar schemes.

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Feb. 27, 2013
Groups seek reality check on New York’s mental health policies and resources

ALBANY – Representatives of CSEA, PEF and the New York State Sheriffs’ Association are calling for a reality check on New York state’s mental health policies and resources.

In recent years, the state budget has provided inadequate resources for community mental health services and the state Office of Mental Health has been unable to truly coordinate the delivery of services across the state. The current budget proposal perpetuates that irresponsibility, reinvesting only a small portion of promised savings from psychiatric center closures and consolidations, which are not detailed.

There has been considerable political rhetoric in recent months, particularly in the context of gun safety, about ensuring that people with mental challenges get the help they need. But New York’s track record of reneging on community reinvestment does not inspire confidence.

State taxpayers pay in other ways: By some estimates, more than half the inmates in county jails and correctional facilities have some form of mental illness. But even in these secure settings, these individuals do not get adequate treatment, if any at all. Many of these individuals wouldn’t even be incarcerated if they could get care and treatment in their community.

“Public safety and mental health are inevitably intertwined. The jail population today has a significant percentage of inmates in need of mental health treatment,” said Monroe County Sheriff Patrick O’Flynn, who is the president of the New York State Sheriffs’ Association. “Jails should not be a substitute for inpatient mental health care, and should not continue to be the place of last resort for individuals to receive mental health treatment.”

“This makes no sense – the Governor insists that mental health providers share info with government officials – but cuts mental health funding at the state level while empowering his commissioner to close facilities at his sole discretion,” said Erie County Sheriff Tim Howard.

“As chairman of the Jail Committee for the New York State Sheriffs’ Association, I know that our local county jails across New York State have been inundated with inmates suffering from mental health issues, drug addiction issues, and physical health issues,” said Herkimer County Sheriff Christopher Farber. “As more and more mental health facilities close, those suffering from those related issues are ending up in our facilities driving up the costs for local taxpayers and adding more stress on our staff. It is very difficult for local jails to provide the proper care these individuals need without the financial and clinical support that is lacking.”

“I am deeply concerned about the lack of adequate funding for mental health services in New York State,” said Putnam County Sheriff Donald B. Smith, the immediate Past President of the New York State Sheriffs’ Association and current chairman of its Legislative Committee.

“Unfortunately, many people with serious mental health issues are not getting the treatment they need and deserve, which often makes the county sheriff, who operates the jail, the mental health provider of last resort. Sadly, more than a third of the people in our county jail are dealing with mental illness and drug addictions, which are symptoms of the disease. It is much more cost effective and efficient to provide treatment within the community. Regrettably, over the past many years, we have seen both inpatient and outpatient resources receiving inadequate funding. We must turn this around if we are going to truly make New York the Excelsior State again,” said Sheriff Smith.

“People who need mental health services should receive those services in a professional, well-trained manner,” said Albany County Sheriff Craig D. Apple.

“We all have a responsibility to take the steps necessary ensure that there is a continuum of services to properly treat the mentally ill, including adequate inpatient services,” said PEF President Susan Kent. “We cannot allow the State to relinquish its responsibility to serve the mentally ill in appropriate settings. Jails and prisons should not be the primary intake point to house and treat the mentally ill.”

“It is not acceptable that New York continues to seek cuts in mental health programs, facilities and services,” said CSEA President Danny Donohue, representing mental health workers in state local, and private sector health care settings. “Without a clear plan – out in the open for review and debate – people with mental health challenges will face more pain and suffering no matter what politicians say they’re doing to make things better.”

“There is also a need for all those concerned about better mental health care and services to come together and speak with one voice,” Donohue said. “We must stop letting a divide and conquer strategy undermine true improvements in state policy and resources.”

The groups have submitted testimony to the state legislature calling for responsible resources and greater accountability to ensure adequate, integrated mental health resources.

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Feb. 22, 2013
CSEA challenges Canal head’s claims over service impact

ALBANY – CSEA is putting little faith in recent comments by the head of the state Canal Corporation that planned layoffs of 42 canal workers won’t affect operations or pose a threat to safety.

The union has questioned the wisdom of the layoffs for a host of reasons, including the fact that they come at a critical time when major storms and flooding continue to threaten communities along the Mohawk Valley. Many of the workers whose jobs have been targeted in the cuts are Canal Lock Operators, who are responsible for controlling dam movement and regulating water levels.

New York State Canal Corp. Director Brian Stratton said Wednesday the cuts should not increase the risk of flooding, even in the event of severe weather. But CSEA warned that residents in high flood risk areas across the state should take little comfort in Stratton’s assessment that layoffs won’t put them at risk.

Explaining its skepticism, the union pointed to the fact that when the former Schenectady mayor was asked by a reporter what he knew about canals when he was appointed to his new post just two years ago, Stratton replied: “I know the water goes in, the boats go down. The water goes in, the boats go up.”

“Instead of relying on Mr. Stratton’s “expert” opinion, we would do better to listen to the skilled lock operators whose job it is to help prevent flooding how safe we will be when there are 42 fewer of them left to do that,” said CSEA President Danny Donohue.

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Feb. 21, 2013
CSEA leader says exorbitant payout for Thruway manager in the midst of layoffs shows contempt for workers, public

ALBANY – News that the State Thruway Authority will be paying an exorbitant salary to one management employee just weeks after giving rank and file workers pink slips adds insult to injury, according to CSEA President Danny Donohue.

The Thruway Authority will be paying Peter Sanderson $340,000 annually as a project director for the Tappan Zee Bridge project. Meanwhile, 234 hands-on workers represented by CSEA and other unions who keep the state Thruway and Canal System operating every day are told to “hit the road,” in a move that has nothing to do with saving money or the public interest.

“Governor Cuomo’s priorities are out of whack,” said an angry Donohue. “This is disgraceful in every way, paying one employee that kind of money at the same time he is laying off necessary workers to prove a political point shows contempt for the workers and the public.”

CSEA believes the layoffs are political retaliation because ongoing labor negotiations with the state have not concluded. The fact that management employees and political appointees have been spared from layoffs is further evidence that unionized workers are being targeted in a vindictive action that makes no economic or operational sense.

“Governor Cuomo says his administration is about jobs and the economy, but putting dedicated workers out of work and undermining the state Thruway and Canal operations is a lousy way to promote a jobs agenda,” Donohue said.

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Feb. 15, 2013
CSEA says canal layoffs will harm people, boaters, canal communities and tourism

ALBANY – CSEA and other concerned individuals, businesses and organizations are questioning the wisdom of plans to lay off 42 New York State Canal workers for reasons they say are more political than practical. The layoffs are among the 234 people to be terminated by the NYS Thruway Authority, which oversees the canal operations.

“This is just a bad idea – the canals are an invaluable resource for New York State in so many ways,” said CSEA President Danny Donohue. “It is very important that we let the public know how this ill conceived plan will hurt people, businesses and communities.”

The canal system is a symbol of New York’s forward thinking on economic development and innovation. While commercial traffic has diminished since the canal’s heyday, the canal system still drives economic development in waterway communities, especially through tourism and recreation.

The layoffs come at a critical time when major storms and flooding continue to threaten communities along the Mohawk Valley. Locks in some parts of the state require hands-on manipulation by skilled workers to control dam movement and regulate water levels. The intricacy of this work should not be underestimated.

Statewide support for strong canals is growing. CSEA released statements from a wide range of individuals, businesses and organizations in support of strong Canal operations (See Statements of Support). CSEA has also joined a grassroots coalition effort to stop the cuts, New Yorkers Against Canal Cuts, which has established a petition site to galvanize support at: www.change.org/petitions/stopnycanalcuts.

Among other activities, the coalition will start handing out fliers at the Central New York Boat Show in Syracuse this weekend.

CSEA believes the layoffs are political retaliation because ongoing labor negotiations have not concluded. The fact that management employees and political appointees have been spared from layoffs is further evidence that unionized workers are being targeted in a vindictive action that makes no economic or operational sense.

“Governor Cuomo says his administration is about jobs and the economy but putting dedicated workers out of work and undermining the state Thruway and Canal operations is a lousy way to promote a jobs agenda,” Donohue said.

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Feb. 13, 2013
CSEA lawsuit challenges Onondaga County over long-term care scheme
Ill-advised action to transfer Van Duyn Home operations violates law, county charter and is bad faith bargaining

SYRACUSE – CSEA – New York’s leading union – has filed a lawsuit against Onondaga County, challenging the transfer of the county’s public nursing home, the Van Duyn Home & Hospital, to a local development corporation – a non-regulated shell corporation that has little oversight and no accountability to taxpayers.

CSEA, which represents public nursing home workers throughout the state, has publicly argued that local development corporations should not be used to allow municipalities to skirt regulations designed to protect taxpayers or to avoid public scrutiny or opposition to the sale of publicly owned nursing homes.

The Van Duyn Home & Hospital is Onondaga County’s 513-bed long-term care facility. The case was filed in State Supreme Court in Syracuse.

The suit alleges that Onondaga County violated Not-for-Profit Corporations Law through the sale of necessary property and that the county legislature exceeded their authority by abolishing Van Duyn’s work force in the county budget, which essentially eliminates the county department of Long Term Care Services, established under county charter. CSEA believes that action, which will lead to the layoff of about 500 county employees later this year, also constitutes bad faith bargaining.

“Onondaga County can do better for the current and future residents of Van Duyn, let alone the people who care for them and the county taxpayers,” said CSEA President Danny Donohue. “There is a responsibility to ensure that care will be there for our seniors. This scheme is, at best, deceptive and puts future care at risk while still keeping taxpayers on the hook.”

The Onondaga County action is a glaring example of a disturbing recent trend where counties have flaunted legal obligations, circumvented normal open meeting requirements, and engaged in irregular bidding practices. Many of these actions appear to be attempts to minimize scrutiny and public input. CSEA is alarmed that these actions also seek quick political fixes at the long-term expense of people and communities.

This is CSEA’s first legal action involving the transfer of public nursing facility operations to a local development corporation, but several other counties are considering similar schemes.

“CSEA has tried to get local officials to do what’s right by making our argument in the court of public opinion,” Donohue said. “We will not hesitate to take our case to the judicial system whenever necessary.”

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Jan. 30, 2013

Statement of CSEA President Danny Donohue on threatened layoffs of 234 CSEA-represented Thruway Authority and Canal Corporation employees

“Governor Andrew Cuomo needs to understand that threatening layoffs, putting dedicated workers out on the street and undermining the state Thruway and Canal operations is a lousy way to promote a jobs agenda.

The governor should stop blaming workers for every situation and knock off the strong-arm tactics. He needs to keep people working if he wants any credibility on economic development.”

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Jan. 22, 2013
Statement of CSEA President Danny Donohue to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed 2013-14 state budget

“There are several troubling areas in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed 2013-14 state budget:

The governor is too quick to gloss over the negative impact of a flat budget on state operations, especially considering the cuts, closures, downsizing and upheaval in that area over the past several years. Without meaningful detail, it is nearly impossible to adequately evaluate the effect on specific agencies, programs and the people who deliver them. Dedicated CSEA members deliver those services every day, but they have been reduced to political bargaining chips in the governor’s budget.

While stressing economic development priorities, the governor also seems to forget that the erosion of public sector jobs also hurts people and communities and takes money out of the economy.

Even more outrageous, the governor is proposing a bait and switch scheme on his own misguided Tier 6 that will allow public employers to underfund their pension obligations – basically, raiding the system to pay for savings that Tier 6 didn’t actually provide and calling it mandate relief. This approach would put political expedience ahead of fiscal responsibility.

It is also hard to understand why the governor continues to throw good money after bad on local government consolidation given its track record of repeated rejection by the voters.”

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Jan. 2, 2013
CSEA proceeds with legal action on Westchester County budget, targeting of union officer

WHITE PLAINS – CSEA, the largest union representing Westchester County employees, is challenging Westchester County on several legal fronts following the county’s layoff of 73 CSEA-represented employees, including the elected union president.

Attorneys for the union have filed an improper practice charge with the state Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) in Albany, charging that the county violated the state Taylor Law by specifically targeting CSEA Westchester County Unit President Karen Pecora for layoff. Earlier today, CSEA took the additional step of applying to PERB to seek injunctive relief over the firing; the agency has 10 days to determine if it will pursue action against Westchester County.

Last week, CSEA filed a lawsuit in state Supreme Court in Westchester County challenging the legality of the 2013 county budget due to violations of the state Open Meetings Law. The judge has set Jan. 18 as the return date for the county’s response.

“CSEA has an obligation to see that members’ rights are protected and laws are followed in the best interest of the entire community,” said CSEA Southern Region President Billy Riccaldo. “We believe the budget vote that took place was done in violation of the law, which means 73 people were forced out of their jobs illegally. What’s also disturbing is that the bargaining unit president was clearly singled out to be on that layoff list, which is an unusual if not unprecedented action, not to mention a violation of state law ensuring fair labor-management relations.”

No public minutes were taken of the portion of the Board of Legislators meeting where nine remaining legislators voted on the budget, which CSEA attorneys charge violates the Open Meetings Law.

The CSEA contract includes a provision providing the unit president release time from her job in the county Parks Department, to represent and conduct the business of the 3,200-member bargaining unit. The contract stipulation, which is common in larger union bargaining units, was negotiated many years ago in good faith. Its inclusion has allowed for
efficiency in county labor relations and significant savings in labor relations costs. In a shockingly candid statement provided to the media several weeks ago, county officials stated that Pecora’s job title in the Parks Department was eliminated after it was decided her position was no longer needed, despite the fact Pecora was on union release time.

“The county’s blatant singling out of the union president has a chilling effect on the union and sends a very threatening message to county workers that they could be next if they speak out for their rights,” Riccaldo said. “CSEA representatives reminded the county’s representatives of the legal implications of anti-union animus, but they chose to proceed with targeting Ms. Pecora in spite of the clearly-written provision in the Taylor Law warning this very circumstance.”

CSEA remains in negotiations with the county for a successor contract.

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