This Week in Albany

Week ending May 29, 2015

CSEA Testifies on Importance of Children’s Mental Health Services

CSEA offered testimony at a public hearing in Buffalo this week regarding children’s mental health services in Western New York. The hearing, held by the Assembly Standing Committee on Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities, examined the impacts of a potential closure of the Western New York Children’s Psychiatric Center (WNYCPC).

In its testimony, CSEA stressed that the continued efforts to close WNYCPC stem from the insistence on reducing the number of remaining psychiatric centers due to the cost of inpatient care, regardless of the impact on families. CSEA urged legislators to consider the drastic cutbacks in staffing and services at all levels of government in recent years and to find alternatives to the state divesting from its commitment to care for its most vulnerable populations.

Read the full testimony here.

State Pension Fund Hits New High

Comptroller DiNapoli’s office announced that the New York State Common Retirement Fund reached a record value of $183.5 billion at the end of the state fiscal year on March 31. New York’s pension fund is one of the largest and best managed pension funds in the country.

Pataki Announces Presidential Campaign

Former New York Governor George Pataki announced that he will join the crowded field of Republican candidates running for President in 2016. Pataki served three terms as Governor, holding the office from 1995 to 2006.

Legislative Update

With ten days remaining in the legislative session, many of the year’s biggest issues have yet to be resolved, including the education tax credit that CSEA is strongly opposed to, extending rent regulations and the property tax cap, and raising the age of criminal responsibility.

Memos and updates on CSEA’s priority bills for the remainder of session can be found on our website.

This Week in Albany

Week ending May 29, 2015

Headlines include:

  • CSEA Testifies on Importance of Children’s Mental Health Services
  • State Pension Fund Hits New High
  • Pataki Announces Presidential Campaign
  • Legislative Update

Continue reading…


Tree and stone dedication honors fallen Ossining worker

IMG_9472CSEA leaders, members and staff joined Village of Ossining officials and family members of the late John-Paul Rodrigues on May 28 for a dedication of a memorial stone honoring the fallen CSEA member.

Rodrigues died on the job in July 2005 in a tragic incident while riding on the back of a village sanitation truck. Village officials later renamed the village operations center on Route 9A in honor of Rodrigues. The tree pictured was planted to honor Rodrigues, and the CSEA Village of Ossining Unit arranged for the stone.

Joining Village of Ossining Unit President Mike Duffy in the presentation were Southern Region President Billy Riccaldo, CSEA Occupational Safety and Health Specialist Jeff Hyman and Rodrigues’ father Joe Rodrigues.

Community garden just one Strong Communities Work project

communitygardenCSEA members involved in the union’s Strong Communities Work initiative have been getting involved in various community projects. The latest is a community garden being planted in Kingston’s Midtown neighborhood.

The project, which is being overseen by the YMCA in Kingston, has drawn many CSEA members for weekend work sessions. Those involved include CSEA retirees, CSEA-represented City of Kingston workers and other union activists.

The goal of the project is to educate community members about planting and nutrition and provide a local source of nutritious produce in a neighborhood with many residents struggling financially. Thanks to CSEA retiree Rose Perez for providing this photo!

VOICE/CSEA Child Care Contract

 

Highlights of the four-year agreement (October 2013 through September, 2017) include:

  • $500 Child Care Quality Grants ($16,433,500).
  • Expanded Professional Development Fund ($8,566,500).
  • Health insurance premium rebates (NYState of Health Exchange) and supplemental insurance (vision and dental) ($19 million).
  • Fair Dispute Resolution Process for Payments and Inspections.
  • Guiding Principles (Provider Rights) – to make sure we get the respect we deserve.

Read the Agreement.

Donohue honored for support of farmworkers

johnquinones_deniseberkley_edit

CSEA Statewide Secretary Denise Berkley, right, accepts a leadership award from the Rural and Migrant Ministry on behalf of CSEA President Danny Donohue in Manhattan on Thursday, May 28. At left is ABC News correspondent John Quiñones, who was also honored.

CSEA President Danny Donohue was recognized by the Rural and Migrant Ministry Thursday, May 28, for his strong support of farmworkers, who are seeking fairness and respect.

The Rural and Migrant Ministry, which leads the Justice for Farmworkers campaign, honored Donohue as part of its Sowing the Seeds of Justice event at The Riverside Church in Manhattan. Donohue and CSEA have long supported the Justice for farmworkers campaign, which seeks basic labor rights for some of the most impoverished workers in our state.

Also honored at the event were ABC News correspondent John Quiñones, and Rene Thiel of the Hitchcock Presbyterian Church in Scarsdale. Quiñones, who hosts ABC News’ “What Would You Do?” series, moved the crowd with inspiring stories about his own humble beginnings and dreams of going to college and being on national television.

Learn more about the farmworkers’ fight for justice

Senate Passes Veterans Pension Credit Legislation

By a 60-0 vote, the State Senate has passed legislation that would allow public employees to purchase up to three years of pension credit for military duty.

The legislation would remove all existing requirements that such military service be performed during certain war periods, during certain hostilities while in theater of operations or upon the receipt of an expeditionary medal.

CSEA is strongly supportive of this legislation, which was passed by both houses last session before being vetoed by Governor Cuomo. Click here for CSEA’s memo in support of the legislation.

For anyone interested in comments made on the legislation on the Senate floor, see below.

“Contracting in” savings

Niagara Falls, New York: Sam Mattina Supervisor of operations for The Niagara Falls State Parks poses behind the 9K solar power system installed at the Niagara Falls Discovery Center May 21, 2015. The systems were installed by CSEA local employees trained in co-operation with Alfred State University. Photo by John Normile

Niagara Falls, New York: Sam Mattina Supervisor of operations for The Niagara Falls State Parks poses behind the 9K solar power system installed at the Niagara Falls Discovery Center May 21, 2015. The systems were installed by CSEA local employees trained in co-operation with Alfred State University.
Photo by John Normile

An idea a few years ago to tap a resource that’s nothing new under the sun has blossomed into potentially great green savings for state parks.
And, CSEA members have a key role in making it happen.
State Director of Energy and Sustainability Management Mike Wise had a notion three and a half years ago to use solar energy as an alternate way of powering state parks after an initiative to be more energy efficient in state agencies was introduced by Governor Andrew Cuomo and supported by Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey.
After receiving an expensive quote of $200,000 from a private contractor for a relatively small job, it became clear to him that outsourcing the work may not be the answer.
CSEA member Sam Mattina and co-worker Vince Iacovitti, electricians at Niagara State Park, were asked their thoughts. They agreed that keeping the project in-house or “contracting in” seemed more logical.
Fort Niagara Solar2
How best to handle additional work and its necessary training while still maintaining the park was the challenge, but CSEA members got the job done, saving the state an estimated $133,000, plus yet-to-be realized energy costs.
This story is a perfect example of how good labor-management relations leads to huge savings for New York state.
“CSEA members are 100 percent the driving force of this program,” Wise said.
Wise said the program now aims to eventually make as many state parks energy neutral as possible, which means reduced electrical costs to the parks and a surplus of power added to the grid.
Most recently, CSEA members received recognition for installing an impressive 50-kilowatt solar panel array at Fort Niagara, the largest state employee installation yet.
Niagara Falls, New York: Sam Mattina Supervisor of operations for The Niagara Falls State Parks inspects the 9K solar power system installed at the Niagara Falls Discovery Center May 21, 2015. The systems were installed by CSEA local employees trained in co-operation with Alfred State University. Photo by John Normile

Niagara Falls, New York: Sam Mattina Supervisor of operations for The Niagara Falls State Parks inspects the 9K solar power system installed at the Niagara Falls Discovery Center May 21, 2015. The systems were installed by CSEA local employees trained in co-operation with Alfred State University.
Photo by John Normile

The system powers the entire building where it is installed and sends electricity to other parts of the park such as the pool, pumps and bathrooms.
“I feel privileged to be doing this groundbreaking work. We proved it can be done and it feels great to know they trust in us and have faith in us to train us. I love the opportunity to learn,” said Mattina, an electrician who is now a NYSERDA approved solar installer.
Mattina said he is excited knowing that the state has invested in him and his co-workers and it is an example of how it should be done.
Twenty CSEA maintenance employees from across the state trained via a custom program designed for them by Alfred State College, condensing an entire semester of solar installation course work into one week and delivering the training on location at Letchworth State Park.
Niagara Falls, New York: L-R: CSEA local 104 members Mike Horne and Jim Gifford were just 2 of many employees who helped install the 50K solar power system installed at Fort Niagara  May 21, 2015. The systems were installed by CSEA local employees trained in co-operation with Alfred State University. Photo by John Normile

Niagara Falls, New York: L-R: CSEA local 104 members Mike Horne and Jim Gifford were just 2 of many employees who helped install the 50K solar power system installed at Fort Niagara May 21, 2015. The systems were installed by CSEA local employees trained in co-operation with Alfred State University.
Photo by John Normile

The state park system now has 20 certified solar installers (generates electricity) and 24 certified thermal solar installers (generates energy to heat water) on staff as public employees — all CSEA members.
“It was an opportunity for us to become part of something that is going to be here for a long time. Solar is the way of the future,” said Mattina.

Huge savings
“I never thought that this would be that big of a deal. I knew solar was a big and upcoming thing but not until the array we installed at the Discovery Center (Niagara Falls) powering the entire building, did I realize the impact this would have. We were fortunate to have a good relationship with management,” said General Mechanic Tim Ross, at Beaver Island State Park.
“As each panel went down and each day followed we were more excited for the future because we started to see the growth and realize this program was going to take off,” Ross said.
Fort Niagara SolarIn fact, the next project is 10 times the largest solar array that has been installed yet.
On Long Island at the Robert Moses Park, CSEA members are poised to install a 500 kilowatt solar panel array in June, which will make the park completely energy neutral.
“This is a fantastic example of what can happen when labor and management work as a team. I am proud of these CSEA members who sacrificed a lot of time and energy for the good of us all,” said Western Region President Flo Tripi.
“Every solar project we have coming out of New York state was born out of the conversation with two Niagara Falls electricians. Now we have some of the best solar installers in the entire state — private or public,” said Wise.

Niagara Falls, New York: The 50K solar power system installed at the Niagara Falls Discovery Center May 21, 2015. the systems were installed by CSEA local employees trained in co-operation with Alfred State University. Photo by John Normile

Niagara Falls, New York: The 50K solar power system installed at the Niagara Falls Discovery Center May 21, 2015. the systems were installed by CSEA local employees trained in co-operation with Alfred State University.
Photo by John Normile

“Everyone is excited. We are getting awards and CSEA members are not only doing this green, climate protective work but also saving the state at ton of money.”

— Jill Asencio

This Week in Albany

Week ending May 22, 2015

DiNapoli IDA Audit

Comptroller DiNapoli released an audit of the state’s Industrial Development Agencies (IDAs) this week, the latest of several audits from his office questioning the state’s economic development programs.

The audit found that while IDAs provided $105 million more in net tax exemptions in 2013, 23,000 fewer jobs were created than the prior year. The Comptroller stressed the need for scrutiny of IDAs to ensure that taxpayers are receiving the jobs and economic benefits promised from tax giveaways.

CSEA has long supported improved oversight and accountability of IDAs.

Fast Track Legislation Advances

The U.S. Senate voted 62-38 to end debate on legislation giving the president authority to send trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership to Congress for an up-or-down vote without the ability to amend. A formal vote on the legislation is expected on Friday. The House of Representatives has yet to take up the bill.

Memorial Day Weekend

As we enjoy the unofficial kickoff to the summer season this weekend, it is important that we remember the significance of Memorial Day. CSEA recognizes the memory of those who sacrificed their lives in service of our country so that we may enjoy our freedoms.

Enjoy a safe and happy holiday weekend.

At a Glance

The legislature will be in session for two days following the holiday weekend. There are only 12 days remaining in the 2015 legislative session.

This Week in Albany

Week ending May 22, 2015
Headlines include:

  • DiNapoli IDA Audit
  • Fast Track Legislation Advances
  • Memorial Day Weekend
  • At a Glance

Continue reading…