CSEA mourning loss of Southern Region member; union investigating death

inmemoriamCSEA is mourning the loss of Southern Region member Tonny Teskera, 38, an Orange County Unit member and laborer who died on the job April 1 in a tree-clearing incident at the Hickory Hill Golf Course in Warwick. Teskera leaves behind a longtime girlfriend, a 6-year-old daughter and two boys he had helped raise. CSEA and PESH are investigating. Our thoughts are with Teskera’s loved ones and co-workers.
CSEA has concerns about statements about the incident in local media suggesting it was simply a tragic accident. There are almost never “accidents” in safety and health incidents when employers meet their legal responsibilities to ensure that workers are properly trained, have the right equipment and required procedures are followed.
On a related note, the April edition of The Work Force is out. Much of the edition focuses on the union’s ongoing fight for safe and healthy workplaces.
Read the April Work Force

    CSEA accepting nominations for the 2015 Irene Carr Leadership Award



    CSEA is accepting nominations for the 2015 Irene Carr Leadership Award.

    Carr, who served as CSEA’s Statewide Secretary for 17 years, helped pave the way for women to serve in leadership roles in the union. A single mother when she first joined CSEA, Carr devoted her four-decade union career to fighting to advance issues traditionally of concern to women, issues that she referred to as “work and family issues.”

    Carr was the driving force that led to the formation of CSEA’s Women’s Committee, and she served as its first chair. She played a key role in advancing numerous issues that improved the lives of working women in CSEA and across the nation, including pay equity adjustments for women and people of color, expanded clerical training opportunities and affordable child care. She was a role model for CSEA women seeking a place in the leadership of our union.

    To honor her memory as a union leader, CSEA has established the Irene Carr Award, and we are seeking nominees who demonstrate Irene’s leadership and fighting spirit. Women who:
    • Fight every day for the members she represents,
    • Stand up and stand out as a leader in the fight for women’s rights and workers’ rights,
    • Step up despite the challenges before her.

    If you know such a person, please complete the application and nominate her for this prestigious award.

    Nominations must be received no later than March 20, 2015. The award will be presented at the union’s Statewide Women’s Conference at the Desmond Hotel in Albany on May 2, 2015.
    Download the nomination form
    Read more about Carr’s accomplishments

      CSEA, allies rally to support education equality


      The Rev. William Barber II, center, urges for education equality in New York state at a state Capitol rally.

      CSEA activists and education, labor, faith and community allies joined in a spirited rally at the state Capitol in January to support education equality. The event was highlighted by an inspiring address by The Rev. William Barber II, founder of the Moral Mondays movement and president of the North Carolina NAACP.

        CSEA members continue to fight AIDS epidemic


        CSEA members at the AIDS Institute in Manhattan are featured on Page 1 of the December 2014 Work Force.

        Editor’s note: There has been great concern recently during an outbreak of Ebola that has brought the disease to the United States for the first time. Much more deadly and widespread, AIDS/HIV remains a constant threat. CSEA members fighting to protect the public’s health say good information and education are keys to responsible action and stopping any deadly diseases, and they work hard every day to deliver that protection. The following article featuring Health Research, Inc. Local members employed at the AIDS Institute in Manhattan, appears in the December 2014 Work Force.

        Download the Work Force article

        MANHATTAN — While Ebola, H1N1, West Nile Virus and similar outbreaks and diseases have caused widespread panic and concern in recent years, CSEA members working at a special division of the state Department of Health have been quietly and effectively working to defeat several long-feared diseases.
        For more than 30 years, Health Research Institute/CSEA Local members working at the AIDS Institute have provided critical services and support for those affected by HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases, viral hepatitis and related health concerns.
        “We’re no longer fighting an uphill battle,” said Shamey Gonzalez, a local member who works in the Bureau of HIV Ambulatory Care. “We’re coming to a plateau where the end of the illness is attainable.”
        The AIDS Institute is one of four centers in the New York State Department of Health Office of Public Health.
        The institute supports and funds organizations, health care centers and hospitals throughout the state working towards eliminating new HIV, STD, and hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections; ensuring early diagnosis and linking patients to quality care, support and treatment for New Yorkers; providing support for those affected; and eradicating the stigma, discrimination and disparities in health outcomes.
        “In the beginning (when AIDS was first detected and spreading quickly) it was a death sentence,” said Damaris Rodriguez, a CSEA Local member in the Women’s Services Unit. “People didn’t know what to do.”


        Lilian Lee, left, and Shamey Gonzalez stand next to a portion of the iconic AIDS quilt, a memorial to and celebration of the lives of people lost to the AIDS pandemic.

        Longer lives, less stigma
        Negative stigma about the disease combined with medicine and treatment that were toxic or ineffective, usually resulted in death. Today, science, research, new treatments and support services have enabled people with HIV and AIDS to enjoy richer, fuller lives.
        At the Women’s Services Unit, activist Lilian Lee is tasked with monitoring programs that assist mostly minority and poor women in the state. Women within this population often take care of their own health needs last, when it may be too late to treat.
        “Part of the campaign to end the epidemic is getting people to test early, getting them into care and maintaining them in care,” said Lee. The state recently created a task force and revealed a plan to significantly reduce new HIV infections by 2020.
        Since its discovery, AIDS has caused an estimated 36 million deaths worldwide (as of 2012). As of 2012, approximately 35.3 million people are living with HIV globally. HIV/AIDS is considered a pandemic — a disease outbreak that is present over a large area and is actively spreading.
        “We have to educate our young and elderly populations,” said Rodriguez. “If you know what you have, you can better deal with it.”
        New York remains the national epicenter of the HIV epidemic, ranking first in the number of person living with HIV/AIDS. At the end of 2012, approximately 132,000 New Yorkers were diagnosed and presumed living with HIV or AIDS, with an estimated 3,300 new diagnoses of HIV infection in 2012.
        Today, perhaps as many as 23,000 New Yorkers are not aware they are living with HIV, and thus, are potentially damaging their own health as well as risking transmission of HIV to others.
        “As a society, we need to become more comfortable discussing these illnesses,” said Lee.
        The annual World AIDS Day on Dec. 1 has been instrumental in reaching and teaching people about the HIV and AIDS.
        “World AIDS Day helps us remember where we came from and allows us to pay respect to those who have passed on and have helped us get to this place,” said Gonzalez. “It also lets others who are living with AIDS or are at high risk know that they are not alone.”
        CSEA activist Nicole McMillin at the Bureau of HIV Ambulatory Care said she enjoys working for an agency “that is trying to create a brighter future for human beings that may have one of these diseases or illnesses.”
        “We were among the first in the country to offer these services and I like knowing that I’m part of that history,” Gonzalez said.
        While the major goal is eliminating AIDS, Gonzales continues to caution that “anybody can get it.”

        David Galarza

          CSEA push for accountability after park worker fatality yields state PESH violations, safety improvements

          LanceGaytonBEAR MOUNTAIN – An investigation into the tragic workplace death of CSEA member and state parks worker Lance Gayton, who died in 2013, has resulted in the New York State Department of Labor issuing five serious violations to the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP).

          CSEA, the union representing Gayton and the majority of state parks workers, has worked cooperatively with representatives from the Department of Labor’s Public Employee Safety and Health Bureau (PESH) to ensure both a full investigation of the incident that led to Gayton’s death and accountability from OPRHP officials in the wake of this preventable tragedy.

          “Had proper training, equipment and resources been provided, this tragedy would have been prevented and Lance’s family would not be without their husband and father,” said CSEA Southern Region President Billy Riccaldo. “A safe workplace is a right, not a privilege. Our CSEA Occupational Safety and Health Department representatives have been working closely with PESH and our CSEA local leaders to ensure OPRHP comes into compliance with the violations that resulted from Lance’s death, and stays in compliance.”

          Gayton, 61, of Highland Mills, died Aug. 7, 2013 after an incident that occurred while working alone in Harriman State Park. Gayton was at the Youmans Flats Garbage Transfer station on Seven Lakes Drive using a front loader to place a 3,500-pound Wimmer hydraulic hammer upright when the hydraulic hammer fell, striking Gayton and pinning him to the ground. A short time later, a co-worker discovered Gayton and called for help. Gayton was later pronounced dead at Good Samaritan Hospital in Suffern.

          The violations issued to OPRHP in Albany describe violations of the Public Employee Safety and Health Act of 1980. The five violations, rated by PESH as serious, resulted from issues including failure to train workers on proper use of the hydraulic hammer, failure to properly identify and inspect the alloy steel chain slings used to lift the hammer, unauthorized modification of the front loader by welding D-rings to the loader bucket, and the unsafe practice of allowing an employee to work under or beneath the front loader bucket and the hydraulic hammer.

          PESH first issued the violations Sept. 11, 2014. At a follow-up meeting held in early November, PESH officials determined that OPRHP had come into compliance.

          “Everyone that goes to work expects to be safe and to return home,” said CSEA Palisades Parks Local President Danny Corigliano. “This accident was a wake-up call. Lance was very well-respected, a gentleman and a role model. We are working diligently with PESH and OPRHP to ensure the violations are resolved and that the park remains in compliance.”


          See the PESH violations

            Orange County’s Valley View nursing home to remain public

            Orange County legislators failed to secure the required super-majority on Nov. 13 when voting for the second time this year to transfer the county’s Valley View nursing home to a local development corporation for sale, leaving the nursing home publicly owned.

            The attempt earlier this year to transfer Valley View failed when a judge ruled the initial transfer void because it passed with only a simple majority, 12 to 9.

            Legislators went on to add full funding for Valley View in 2015, something County Executive Steve Neuhaus did not have in his proposed budget.

            Neuhaus and legislators are now faced with a roughly $13 million projected budget deficit, as the proposed Neuhaus budget factored in an LDC transfer and proceeds from a nursing home sale. Neuhaus previously threatened sweeping layoffs if the nursing home is not sold.

              CSEA, labor and community organizations join faith communities in getting out the vote

              vote-button-1CSEA, labor, faith and community organizations are coordinating to get New Yorkers to vote on Nov. 4 in numerous local, state and Congressional elections. Many of the races are close, and the outcome will affect New Yorkers’ daily lives for years to come. Faith leaders are making a special effort to get out the vote in their faith communities in this election.

              CSEA is also urging lawmakers to support #RaiseUpNY, legislation that would raise the minimum wage to at least $10.10 per hour and keep pace with the cost of living. Join us in the fight by contacting your elected leaders and tell them to pass #RaiseUpNY.

              Download the All Souls to the Polls flier
              Learn more about #RaiseUpNY

                Oct. 24, 1910: CSEA founded


                William Thomas, the association’s first president

                On Oct. 24, 1910, a group of New York state employees came together at the state Capitol in Albany to form the Association of State Civil Service Employees to advance the concept of merit and fitness in the state civil service system and to improve the working lives of New York state employees.

                The association appears to have been the first organization of its kind representing the interests of state employees.

                It’s not clear what specifically brought that group of state employees together on Oct. 24, 1910 — a Monday evening — but the Association’s founders knew one thing right away: “The Association of State Civil Service Employees which was formed Monday night promises to be one of the strongest organizations in the state,” as reported in the Oct. 30, 1910, Albany Knickerbocker Press. The newspaper also reported that state workers had been considering the idea of forming the Association for months. “When the subject was broached several months ago as to the advisability of forming State civil service employees into an association, the question was raised as to who could be relied upon to take the initial steps to perform the arduous task of developing the plan and perfecting the details of its consummation,” the newspaper reported, as noted in the January/February 1932 State Employee magazine.

                William M. Thomas, a hearing stenographer for the state Department of Law, served as the Association’s first president; serving until 1918.

                From the very start, the story of CSEA has been about people wanting to do better and believing we could help make New York a better place. Today, 104 years after the association formed, the Civil Service Employees Association (as the association was renamed in 1946), is still committed to making all of New York’s communities better.


                  Food for Thought


                  CSEA St. Lawrence County Local member Heather Wenzel, right. discusses her county’s increasing hunger and poverty problems Food For Thought Symposium presented under the banner of CSEA’s Strong Communities Work initiative. The program focused on how to strengthen Northern New York communities. Also shown, from left, are St. Lawrence County Local activist Mark Patterson, who moderated the event, Dr. Heather Sullivan-Catlin, professor of Sociology at SUNY Potsdam; Greg Hart, regional director of the Workforce Development Institute (WDI) and Daisy Cox, executive, Potsdam Neighborhood Center.

                  On Oct. 8, CSEA hosted the “Food For Thought” Symposium at SUNY Potsdam, sponsored by the union’s Strong Communities Work Initiative.

                  Several dozen people attended the event, which was designed to spark community discussion of hunger and poverty in Northern New York and what could be done to alleviate these issues that weaken our communities. Four local experts took part as panelists, and helped drive home the message that hunger and poverty are strongly linked to income inequality, a political system that favors the wealthy and a lack of living wage jobs.

                  CSEA Central Region President Colleen Wheaton closed the event noting that we need to continue the dialogue in our communities in order to make a change.

                    October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

                    pink-ribbonBreast Cancer Awareness Month is an annual international health campaign organized by major breast cancer charities every October to increase awareness of the disease and to raise funds for research into its cause, prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cure.
                    CSEA members proudly take part in many charitable events, including walks and runs, that raise money to fight breast cancer.
                    The National Cancer Institute notes that when breast cancer is detected early, in the localized stage, the five-year survival rate is 98 percent. CSEA urges members to regularly get screened for breast cancer and to support efforts to fight the disease.

                    Learn more