This Week in Albany

Week ending May 30, 2014

Freeze Unsafe Closures Now

CSEA President Danny Donohue wrote an op-ed in this week’s City & State magazine in support of the “Freeze Unsafe Closures Now” bill. The legislation, S.5986-B Libous/A.8294-B Lupardo, would postpone all closures and consolidations at state facilities operated by the Office of Mental Health (OMH) and the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) until April 1, 2017. The bill is a top priority for CSEA this legislative session.

In the op-ed, President Donohue urges the state to live up to its responsibility and provide a secure future for people struggling with mental illness and for people with developmental disabilities.

Read CSEA’s memorandum in support of this legislation as well as President Donohue’s op-ed.

CEO Pay Rises to Historic Levels

While public employees often bear the brunt of attacks regarding supposedly lavish benefit packages, big business executives continue to receive mind boggling compensation. It was revealed this week that 2013 marked the fourth consecutive year that executive compensation increased in the United States, with CEO pay increasing by more than 50% over that period. The average CEO now makes $10.5 million, 257 times the salary of the average worker.

Public Financing Remains an Issue

Governor Cuomo continues to publicly push the legislature to pass an expanded system of public campaign financing as he tries to convince groups that back the measure to support his re-election campaign.

CSEA remains opposed to using public funds to pay for political campaigns. We should not be spending taxpayer dollars for political purposes instead of investing in our state.

At a Glance

The legislature will be in session for only two days next week due to the observance of Shavuot. There are ten scheduled session days remaining this year.

This Week in Albany

Week ending May 30, 2014

Headlines include:

  • Freeze Unsafe Closures Now
  • CEO Pay Rises to Historic Levels
  • Public Financing Remains an Issue
  • At a Glance

Continue reading…


June 2014 Work Force

Read the June6_2014_thumb 2014 Work Force
See previous Work Force editions

Strong Communities Work in Poughkeepsie

poughkeepsieeasteregghunt2014_1Our Strong Communities Work initiative is growing in the Southern Region. Several of our activists were recently part of a fantastic community project in the City of Poughkeepsie that provides fun for local children at Easter.

Helen Hayes Local President Mike Gonzales and Dutchess Education Local President Scott Rajczi joined Southern Region President Billy Riccaldo in preparing for and helping out with Poughkeepsie’s huge Easter Egg hunt event. Gonzales donated hundreds of eggs stuffed with prizes for local children, and Rajczi and Riccaldo volunteered at the event. The egg hunt is organized by Poughkeepsie community member John Flowers.

Strong communities need dedicated volunteers, and CSEA members have a long tradition of stepping up to the plate!

New Labor History Class

The colorful and dynamic history of the labor movement is coming to a CSEA Region 2 classroom this fall.

The Metropolitan Region is excited to announce a U.S. Labor History course that will be offered at the Region 2 office, 125 Maiden Lane, in September by the Murphy Institute for Labor Studies of the City University of New York (CUNY). The class will be held every Tuesday evening from 5:30 to 9 pm.

Students will be exposed to watershed moments in labor history such as the Ludlow Massacre and the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. They’ll also be immersed in the lives and work of legendary labor leaders like A. Philip Randolph and Walter Reuther.

“We, in Region 2, are really excited about this,” said Joel Schwartz, Region Executive Director. “It’s often been said that you don’t know where you’re going unless you know where you’ve been. For aspiring labor leaders, this class will help build that foundation.”

The course will examine working class life and the evolution of the U.S. labor movement within the larger framework of U.S. history, with specific regard to class formation, industrial development and the major developments of the organized labor movement.

Students will also explore the relationships of workers to unions, formal and informal economies, race and gender, technology, the American state; and cultural, political and social movements.

Special emphasis will be placed on the issues that gave birth to the labor movement, the development of working class consciousness, and the milestones in the labor movement’s progress during the last century.

Students will be awarded four college credits upon completion of the course that can be applied toward a certificate or toward a bachelor’s or master’s in labor studies.

State workers can pay for the class with a voucher from the New York State/CSEA Partnership for Education and Training. Members interested in signing up for the course should contact the Partnership at: 518-486-7814 or 1-800-253-4332.

Federal Issues Report

Week ending May 23, 2014

Headlines include:

  • Senate Sets Funding Levels for Spending Bills; House Agriculture Bill Threatens Improvements to School Meals and Scientific Integrity of WIC Meal Plans
  • House Committee Approves Transportation and Housing Spending Bill
  • Water Bill Sent to President Obama
  • House Passes Bill to Prevent Sex Trafficking and Improve Opportunities for Youth in Foster Care

Continue reading…


Federal Issues Report

Week Ending May 23, 2014

Senate Sets Funding Levels for Spending Bills; House Agriculture Bill Threatens Improvements to School Meals and Scientific Integrity of WIC Meal Plans

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved overall funding levels for each of its 12 spending bills on a party-line vote. Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) stated her intention to have all 12 bills with program-specific funding levels pass out of committee by July 10. She warned that the spending allocations are austere, essentially freezing current funding levels. The House and Senate have accepted the same overall spending cap of $1.14 trillion but have allocated different funding levels for each individual bill. One significant difference is proposed spending for labor, health, human services and education programs which received current funding levels in the Senate but $1 billion less than current funding in the House.

The Agriculture spending bill was approved by House and Senate committees, but the House inserted two provisions that would be harmful to the health of women and children. House Agriculture Chairman Robert Aderholt (R-AL) included a provision that would allow any school district which operates its meal program at a loss for at least six months to seek a one-year waiver from complying with new, healthier school food standards. Further, it would allow these schools to retain the six cent increase that was intended to assist schools in complying with the more expensive standards. Currently, 93 percent of schools comply with the new regulations. This change would be a major setback to the hard-fought effort to improve school meals and help children get the nutrition they need. In the U.S., 30 percent of children are in danger of being overweight or obese, and 17 million children are “food insecure” and rely, sometimes solely, on meals served in schools. These waivers could do away with the new standards entirely in many school districts across the country, and even districts already complying with the new standards could apply for a waiver.
Bipartisan Legislation Reforming Workforce Programs Announced

A bipartisan group of lawmakers from Senate and House committees this week announced agreement on legislation to reform the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). The announcement by Sens. Tom Harkin (D-IA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Johnny Isakson (R-TN) and Reps. John Kline (R-MN), Virginia Foxx (R-NC), George Miller (D-CA) and Ruben Hinojosa (D-TX) is the result of five months of behind the scenes, intensive negotiations.

Significantly, the bill maintains the Wagner-Peyser Employment Service (ES) as a statewide public system, a high priority of AFSCME during efforts over the past 11 years to renew WIA which broke down over disputes over consolidating programs and ending funding directly to the Employment Services.

The agreement also includes several new provisions related to training for AFSCME-represented employees. It adds a new requirement for the U.S. Department of Labor and state agencies to coordinate in establishing activities to enhance professional development and career advancement opportunities of ES staff. It also creates a multistate study to develop and implement career advancement models for low-wage health care providers and providers of early education and child care.

The WIA bill will be offered first in the Senate as a “substitute amendment” to a workforce bill previously passed by the House and sent to the Senate. If the Senate passes the legislation, the House is expected to take it up quickly.

We will have a better idea of the bill’s prospects in the Senate within a few weeks. In the House, there are reports that Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) supports the legislation.

House Committee Approves Transportation and Housing Spending Bill

The House Appropriations Committee approved the annual funding bill for Transportation and Housing and Urban Development programs (T-HUD). The committee voted to approve the bill 28-21, largely on party lines, with Republicans supporting and Democrats opposing. The bill underfunds several AFSCME priorities and compared to the current fiscal year, flat funds the Public Housing Operating Fund and cuts $100 million from the Public Housing Capital Fund. Both of these funding levels are significantly below President Obama’s budget request.

The bill includes $17.1 billion in yearly-approved spending for the Department of Transportation. Transit grants to state and local governments are funded consistent with current levels and will help local communities build and maintain their mass transit systems. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) received a small increase in funding for operations. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) offered an amendment to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 over three years and index this wage to inflation. The committee voted 22-27 along party lines to reject the amendment.

Water Bill Sent to President Obama

The $12.3 billion Water Resources Reform and Development Act was sent to the White House after the Senate voted 91-7 to pass it on Thursday and the House voted 412-4 in favor earlier in the week. This comes after months of negotiations between the House and Senate to hash out differences. The bill authorizes funding for construction and repair of waterway and flood control projects, as well as work at specific ports. This will be the first federal water infrastructure authorization since 2007.

House Passes Bill to Prevent Sex Trafficking and Improve Opportunities for Youth in Foster Care

On Tuesday, the House passed by voice vote The Preventing Sex Trafficking and Improving Opportunities for Youth in Foster Care Act (H.R. 4058). In addition to provisions aimed at protecting children in foster care from sex trafficking, the final bill restored the requirement that states provide certain information including a Social Security card, birth certificate and proof of health insurance coverage to youth when they age-out of foster care. This section had been dropped from the bill in the House Ways and Means Committee because of the $10 million cost over 10 years that was not offset by other spending cuts. Remarkably, the committee took this action on the very same day it approved six corporate tax breaks costing $310 billion over 10 years without requiring any offsets. In the House-passed bill, the $10 million cost is paid for with an offset that requires states to electronically process withholdings orders in their child support programs, which will increase child support payments and reduce the need for government benefits. The $310 billion in tax breaks for corporations is still not paid for.

This Week in Albany

Week ending May 23, 2014

State Party Conventions Conclude

The State Democratic Party held its convention on Long Island this week, where Kathy Hochul was announced as Governor Cuomo’s running mate. Mrs. Hochul formerly served as Erie County Clerk and was elected to Congress in 2011, where she served one term before being defeated in the 2013 election. Mrs. Hochul has worked as a lobbyist for M&T Bank since her defeat.

Comptroller Tom DiNapoli and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman were unanimously nominated for re-election by the party. Additionally, former Governor David Paterson was selected by Governor Cuomo to chair the Democratic State Committee.

The State Republican Party held its convention last week in Westchester County. The party nominated Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino for Governor and Chemung County Sheriff Christopher Moss for Lieutenant Governor. Former Governor Pataki aide John Cahill was nominated for Attorney General and Onondaga County Comptroller Robert Antonacci was nominated for State Comptroller.

More Retirements in the Legislature

Assemblymembers Joan Millman (D-Brooklyn) and Rhoda Jacobs (D-Brooklyn) announced that they will not seek re-election this fall. Assemblywoman Millman has served in the Assembly since 1997 and was chair of the Aging committee. Assemblywoman Jacobs has served since 1979.

School Budgets

Nearly 98 percent of all school budgets were approved this past Tuesday. Out of 24 districts that wanted to exceed the property tax cap, 14 were successful. Thank you to all CSEA activists who helped in their local districts.

Honor Those Who Died this Memorial Day

It is important to remember the purpose of this holiday weekend and to honor the memory of those who died in the service of our country this Memorial Day.

At a Glance

The legislature will be in session for three days following the holiday weekend.

CSEA is continuing to push both houses to pass the “Freeze Unsafe Closures Now” bill that will postpone all closures and consolidations at state facilities operated by OMH and OPWDD until April 1, 2017.

This Week in Albany

Week ending May 23, 2014

Headlines include:

  • State Party Conventions Conclude
  • More Retirements in the Legislature
  • School Budgets
  • Honor Those Who Died this Memorial Day
  • At a Glance

Continue reading…


Scholarships help CSEA families

It’s nearly high school graduation time, which means that many CSEA locals and units are presenting college scholarships to children of members. CSEA has a long tradition of supporting higher education. In June, Southern Region President Billy Riccaldo will present several Southern Region scholarships to students from across the Hudson Valley.

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Scholarship recipients from Orange County Local 836.

On May 13, Orange County Local 836 President Sabina Shapiro and Scholarship Chair Kathy Rodriguez awarded 15 scholarships to children of Local 836 members.

Send your scholarship presentation photos, to be used for publication on our website, to jessica.ladlee@cseainc.org.