Statement of CSEA President Danny Donohue on recommendations of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s wage board

ALBANY — “Congratulations to the fast food workers for their brave fight that goes to the very heart of the income inequality that plagues New York more than any other state. It showed the determination of all low-wage workers looking to earn a decent wage for themselves and their families.

Now is the time to do more to address this rampant problem. I give Governor Andrew Cuomo the benefit of the doubt that this wage board wasn’t just an isolated political stunt to score some cheap points. There are some meaningful actions he can take on his own right now to close the wage gap and benefit low wage workers, starting with his own state work force and the neglected workers of not-for-profit agencies funded by the state:
• Raise the wages of state workers making federal minimum wage because they aren’t included under state minimum wage by law.
• Address the state’s scandalous disregard of low-wage human services employees of not-for-profit agencies under state contract who received a cost-of-living increase this year after enduring years without one.
These actions don’t even begin to address the needs of child care providers or the thousands of undervalued local government and school employees – many work for much less than $15 per hour -who take care of our kids, maintain our roads, water and sewer systems and do a whole lot more necessary work. Leading by example would be a good starting place.
Let’s be clear, the governor doesn’t need a wage board to make a bigger dent in this enormous problem and show he’s really serious about income inequality.”

    VOICE/CSEA providers, parents and community members meet to discuss subsidy program issues

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    CSEA Western Region President Flo Tripi discusses how late and short child care subsidy payments is harming providers and parents in Monroe County.

    VOICE/CSEA child care providers from Monroe County, parents and community members met Tuesday to discuss how late and short payments have adversely affected child care programs.

    While county officials, including Department of Human Services Commissioner Kelly A. Reid, were scheduled to attend this meeting to hear the providers’ and parents’ concerns, they canceled shortly before the meeting was to begin.

    Ensuring access to quality child care so parents can work and children can receive the best possible start in life is one the most important investments our communities can make toward breaking the cycle of poverty and giving struggling families a leg up. Access to affordable child care helps working parents stay active in the work force.

    Investments in early education may also reduce the need for special education placements and remedial education, and later in life, involvement with the criminal justice system. High quality early learning experiences are also linked to increased productivity and earnings when these children become adults.

    “We’re disappointed that county officials didn’t show up, but we look forward to scheduling another meeting with them where providers and parents can have a voice,” CSEA Western Region President Flo Tripi said. “We are hopeful we can continue this good relationship and make some progress on these concerns.”

    Watch WROC’s coverage

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      Tell your representative to say NO to fast-track legislation!

      Final-Countdown-to-Stop-TPP-and-Bad-Trade-Deals-Call-Today_blog_post_fullWidthURGENT: The House of Representatives has begun debate on Fast-Track legislation. Call your representative now at 1-855-712-7845, or click here to be immediately connected.

      Fast-tracking the Trans-Pacific Partnership undermines our democracy and doesn’t allow Congress to fix bad provisions that hurt American workers.

      Fast-track trade agreements miss the mark. Instead of building a vibrant middle class, this trade agreement will:

      • export public and private sector jobs overseas,
      • reduce workers’ wages,
      • drive up Medicare and Medicaid costs, and even
      • erode American food safety standards.

      Please call your representative now – 1-855-712-7845 – and tell them to vote no on Fast-Track.

        CSEA joins Bon Jovi, governor, advocates in push to raise minimum wage

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        Rocker Jon Bon Jovi, left, addresses a Manhattan rally on Thursday to support raising the minimum wage as Gov. Andrew Cuomo, second from left, CSEA Metropolitan Region President Lester Crockett, third from right, and other labor leaders and advocates look on.

        CSEA Metropolitan Region President Lester Crockett joined Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, rocker Jon Bon Jovi and labor leaders from across New York Thursday, June 11, at a rally to push to raise the minimum wage. The event was held at the Hotel and Motel Trades Council headquarters in Manhattan.

        In May, Cuomo instructed the state Department of Labor to launch a wage board to investigate and make recommendations on an increase in the minimum wage in the fast food industry. The board is expected to make recommendations for a possible increase by July; those recommendations do not require legislative approval in order to become enacted.

        “Raising the wage is about fairness and giving hardworking New Yorkers more than a shot at making ends meet,” said Bon Jovi at the rally.

        “An economy that works for all makes our democracy more vibrant and sustainable,” CSEA President Danny Donohue said. “When we fight against income inequality, we also fight for fairness and justice for all families.”

        “If workers can’t earn the salaries they need to survive, there is no way we can expect our local economies to thrive,” Crockett said.

          CSEA retirees win fights over health insurance

          scalesCSEA-represented retirees in two Western Region communities are getting some health insurance relief after successfully fighting back against their employers’ attempts to cut their retirement security.
          CSEA recently scored major victories in legal cases against the Niagara Falls School District and the City of Lockport, where the employers sought to cut health insurance benefits against retired workers.
          In recent years, CSEA retirees have been standing strong against employers’ efforts to cut the retirement benefits that the workers have earned — and that the employers have promised to them.

          Niagara Falls School District must reimburse retirees
          In the Niagara Falls School District, the State Supreme Court ruled the district illegally reduced retiree benefits when it moved them from their previous health plan into a more costly one.
          A 1994 state law prohibits school districts from diminishing retiree health insurance benefits unless benefits for current workers are also cut.
          Despite this law, in 2011, Niagara Falls School District officials changed the health plans for active and retired employees from a traditional Blue Cross/Blue Shield plan to a preferred provider plan, claiming the coverage was the same under both plans.
          CSEA sued the district after the union’s review of the plans showed that while active employees did see a slight cost improvement under the new plan, retirees were saddled with new or higher co-payments for office visits, prescriptions and other services under the new plan.
          The court ordered the district to reimburse retirees for expenses they incurred under the new plan and to offer their former plan to them again.
          The school district’s appeal to the New York State Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, was dismissed on June 9 and there is no further appeal. The school district should therefore be reimbursing retirees for their excessive out-of-pocket expenditures retroactively and implement a process for correcting the problem in the future.
          “Sadly, some employers will disregard the real impact on real people to cut costs” said CSEA President Danny Donohue. “CSEA’s responsibility is to keep the focus on doing what’s right for everyone.”

          City of Lockport must pay Medicare reimbursement
          In the City of Lockport, the city’s Common Council recently voted to pay nearly $90,000 to retired, CSEA-represented city workers to settle a lawsuit over Medicare Part B reimbursements. Medicare Part B, the federal program’s medical insurance component, is crucial to the overall retirement security of millions of Americans.
          CSEA retirees have fought this battle since 2010, when city officials agreed to pay the premium cost of Medicare Part B for retired CSEA members covered by the City of Lockport Unit. City officials soon failed to honor the agreement, and CSEA first sued the city in 2010 for failure to pay the Medicare Part B premiums.
          The litigation, which ultimately included two lawsuits and one arbitration decision, was tentatively settled June 10, 2015, when the Lockport City Council approved a tentative agreement to make retroactive payments in two batches, with the first one due in July and the second scheduled for March 2016.
          The City Council also voted on Wednesday to begin paying the Medicare Part B premiums prospectively every month starting in July, which city officials were supposed to start doing in 2010.
          “Our retirees have earned their benefits, and these benefits are their rights,” Donohue said. “The outcome of these cases should send a message to all public employers that our retirement security is our right, and we will fight for what we have earned. We need to continue to stand strong to ensure that all working people have a dignified, secure retirement.”

            CSEA seeking nominees for Nadra Floyd, Membership Achievement awards

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            CALL FOR ENTRIES

            Nadra Floyd Award for Organizing
            The Nadra Floyd Award for Organizing honor CSEA members who make an extraordinary contribution to a campaign to organize a new bargaining unit or group of workers into CSEA.

            The award’s namesake, Floyd, was a longtime union activist who served as CSEA’s director of Organizing from 2000 to her untimely passing in 2001. At the time of her death, Floyd was working to grow CSEA’s membership and transform CSEA’s Organizing program.

            Membership Achievement Award
            The Membership Achievement Award recognizes a CSEA member, committee, unit or local that has done the hard work of strengthening the union through internal organizing by signing up newly hired employees as CSEA members or converting agency shop fee payers into members.

            Download the Nadra Floyd Award for Organizing nomination form
            Download the Membership Achievement Award nomination form

            Nominations for both awards must be submitted by August 18, 2017, and mailed to the:

            CSEA Membership Committee
            Nadra Floyd Award for Organizing
            c/o CSEA Organizing Department
            143 Washington Avenue
            Albany, N.Y. 12210

            or CSEA Membership Committee
            Membership Achievement Award
            c/o CSEA Organizing Department
            143 Washington Avenue
            Albany, N.Y. 12210

              Donohue honored for support of farmworkers

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              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

                CSEA members overwhelmingly approve new agreement with Health Research, Inc.

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                Representatives from the American Arbitration Association and members of CSEA’s HRI negotiating team, including CSEA HRI Buffalo Division Local President Laura Porter, far left, and CSEA HRI Albany Division Local President Deborah Hanna, seated, third from left, count ratification ballots on April 29.

                BUFFALO — After swift negotiations, CSEA members overwhelmingly approved a new agreement with Health Research, Inc. (HRI), a not-for-profit corporation affiliated with the New York State Department of Health and the Roswell Park Cancer Institute, a leading cancer research center in Buffalo.

                CSEA represents more than 1,000 HRI employees, who perform daily, key functions in keeping important, cutting-edge medical research like cancer and biomedical research, rehabilitation medicine and disease and infection research moving forward.

                The new four-year contract (previous contract expired March 31, 2015) includes wage increases and an increase in employer contribution of health insurance premiums in all years of the agreement, addressing the two top issues workers identified as concerns through a pre-negotiations survey.

                CSEA members also maintain steps and longevity in the new agreement, which also enhances benefit programs, time off, severance packages, and cost of living adjustments for workers in downstate locations.

                “Good things result when labor and management work towards everyone’s best interest,” said CSEA President Danny Donohue.

                “This contract brought back a lot of good things for the members of both CSEA locals at HRI and this, all after a very rough time of transition and change,” said Deborah Hanna, president of CSEA’s Health Research, Inc. Local, Albany Division. “We are very pleased. This contract not only has additional benefits gained, but we are also holding on to key benefits that were at risk. We are back to where we want to be. We are back on track.”

                “It was good to see this high level of engagement from our members,” said Laura Porter, president of CSEA’s Health Research, Inc. Local at Roswell Park, Buffalo. “There were so many members taking interest and continually involved throughout the process, from voicing opinions throughout negotiations to voting on this contract. To that, we can attribute this success.”

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                  CSEA members meet with federal representatives about ending workplace violence

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                  Western Region Member Korrie Spadone, a psychiatric nurse at Erie County Medical Center and Southern Region member Amie-Beth Morran, a CNA at Valley View Nursing Home, speak with Walter Vance of the Government Accountabillity Office (GAO) about workplace violence.

                  Western Region Member Korrie Spadone, a psychiatric nurse at Erie County Medical Center and Southern Region member Amie-Beth Morran, a certified nursing assistant at Valley View Nursing Home, joined several other mental health workers from across the state today in discussing workplace violence with representatives of the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). Unions are working toward a national standard for dealing with and preventing workplace violence throughout the country.

                    CSEA, allies fight for a living wage

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                    CSEA Statewide Treasurer Joe McMullen, center, shows support for workers receiving a living wage at the Fight For $15 Rally at the Empire State Plaza concourse in Albany.

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                    CSEA Metropolitan Region President Lester Crockett, front row, right, leads CSEA activists and allies in a Manhattan rally to fight for a living wage.

                    CSEA, allies fight for a living wage
                    CSEA activists, including Statewide Treasurer Joe McMullen, Capital Region President Kathy Garrison and Metropolitan Region President Lester Crockett, and our allies showed support this week to workers who are fighting for a living wage through Fight for $15 rallies in Albany and Manhattan. These rallies were among the many events held across the country to support a living wage and the right for workers to form a union.
                    See photos from the Albany rally
                    See photos from the Manhattan rally