DOT work zones should get safer once governor signs bill into law

ALBANY — Thanks to persistence and political pressure from CSEA members, legislation to protect highway workers is one big step closer to becoming state law.

After three years of lobbying and building pressure on lawmakers, the bill to put automated speed cameras into active highway work zones has now passed both houses of the state legislature. The bill was one of CSEA’s biggest legislative priorities this session.

This victory is the result of much work by union activists working through our union’s Legislative and Political Action Department.

This legislative session, in addition to virtual lobbying meetings and support memos, our union’s Legislative and Political Action staff ratcheted up visibility to push the bill, teaming up with our Communications Department to run a digital advertising campaign targeting legislators. An online letter writing campaign generated hundreds of letters from union members to their representatives urging passage. Postcards to legislators reminded them to pass the bill.

“We pushed hard on this safety campaign on behalf of our highway workers,” said CSEA President Mary E. Sullivan. “Union members turned up the heat and demanded something get done to improve work zone safety. We appreciate everyone who took action, and our legislators for passing this livesaving bill.”

Overdue legislation
For the thousands of CSEA members employed as highway workers throughout the state Department of Transportation, county transportation departments and municipal highway garages, and their loved ones, this bill is long overdue.

Members who work on highways have endured too many close calls with injuries due to motorists driving unsafely, and they’re the lucky ones.

Our union lost 57 members due to work zone intrusions since 1983, and numerous more have been injured. This year, ironically during National Work Zone Awareness Week, several CSEA members employed at the state Department of Transportation were seriously injured in a work zone incident in Saratoga County.

It was a sad reminder that our elected officials needed to do more. CSEA demanded action to prevent more needless loss of life and limb.

“How many more crashes, injuries, or deaths will union members have to endure before something is done?” asked Sullivan following the recent incident.

Slowing down saves lives
As previously reported, where used, speed zone cameras have already proven effective in reducing speeds around work zones and lowering numbers of intrusions, injuries and fatalities.

Maryland saw an 80% reduction in speeding violations and a 50% drop in fatalities after implementing speed cameras. A study in Illinois found cameras were as effective in reducing speed as having a police car present in the work zone. In Oregon, the mean speed of vehicles in work zones dropped by 10.5 mph when cameras were in use.

“We know that slowing down helps save lives,” said Mike Garfolo, CSEA Transportation, Region 1 Local President and DOT Labor-Management Committee Chair. “We need to hold drivers accountable for their reckless behavior near work zones that could injure or kill our co-workers. This bill will help do that.”

Next steps
Now the bill will be sent to the Governor for action. CSEA will continue to lobby to make sure the bill is signed into law.

“We need to keep the public accountable for their driving, because people’s lives are at stake,” Sullivan said.

“We will not back down until this bill is signed into law.”

— Mark M. Kotzin

CSEA has successful state legislative session

In addition to legislation establishing work zone speed cameras and establishing direct deposit for child care providers who receive county subsidies, both state legislative houses acted favorably on several of CSEA’s priority bills.

“Our success this session shows how members getting involved in legislative and political action can help make a big difference in the lives of workers,” CSEA President Mary E. Sullivan said. “Thank you to all of the members who sent a letter or took other action to promote legislation this year.”

Passed both houses:
Civil Service Credits for Veterans
S.763 (Gounardes) / A.5447 (Abbate)
This bill would provide that all honorably discharged veterans be eligible for additional points on civil service examinations in recognition of their service. Currently, only veterans who served during specific times and theaters of war are eligible for these credits.

Nursing Home Staffing – Hours of Care
S.6346 (Rivera) / A.7119 (Gunther)
This legislation sets a minimum number of hours of care for every resident of a nursing home.

Clinical Staffing Committees – Hospitals
S.1168A (Rivera) / A.108B (Gunther)
This legislation requires all general hospitals to establish and maintain a clinical staffing committee comprised of direct care workers and hospital management.

Section 80 Rights
A.4125 (Abbate) / S.4899 (Gounardes)
This legislation would grant Section 80 rights, relating to bumping, retreating, and recall rights after a job is abolished, to all non-competitive and labor class employees in the state. This legislation creates a statewide uniform practice under Section 80.

Successfully opposed by CSEA:
Not only did CSEA have a productive session in terms of good legislation passed, our union also successful in opposing bills that could be harmful to CSEA members, including:

New York Health Act
S.5474 (Rivera) / A.6058 (Gottfried)
The New York Health Act would have created a single-payer health insurance plan for all New Yorkers. All private health insurance plans, including those of all CSEA members, would have been abolished. CSEA opposed the bill because it would have disregarded collective bargaining agreements and potentially increased costs for union workers.

Staffing at County Jails
A.1962 (Barrett) / S.5477 (Benjamin)
This bill would have used data on the inmate census from the COVID-19 pandemic to justify the elimination of workers at county jails.


About Author

Mark Kotzin has been passionately advocating on behalf of workers for more than 30 years, and is proud to serve as CSEA's statewide Director of Communications and Publisher of the CSEA Work Force.

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