From left to right, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, CSEA Western Region President Steve Healy, Erie County Local President Denise Szymura, Erie County Corrections Unit President John DiMartino, Erie County Corrections Unit 1st Vice President Markus Chappell, Erie County Sheriff John Garcia, Erie County Undersheriff William Cooley and Erie County 10th District Legislator James Malczewski. (Photo by Deb Mueller.)



BUFFALO — After more than a decade of advocacy by our union, CSEA Erie County Correctional Facility Unit members are celebrating monumental changes to their pensions that will advance efforts to recruit and retain workers.

Working with Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, Erie County Sheriff John Garcia and the Teamsters, which also represents employees at the county correctional facility, CSEA recently secured an amendment to the corrections pension plan that lowers the required years of service from 30 to 25 years.

This pivotal change, known as the “25 and out” retirement plan, not only lowers the number of years of service, but makes significant changes to retirement age eligibility.

Before this agreement, members were required to work until age 64, regardless of the years of service. Under this plan, members are now eligible to retire as early as age 46 if they have at least 25 years of service.

The 25 and out plan is meant to bolster recruitment and retention efforts within the county corrections facilities by both making the career path more appealing to prospective employees and more attainable for current Jail Management Division employees.

From left to right, Erie County Corrections Unit Recording Secretary Cameron Kiebzak, Unit Treasurer Donald Starr and Unit President John DiMartino prepare to count ballots on the 25 and out plan. (Photo by Deb Mueller.)

As this edition went to press, the Erie County Legislature had yet to approve the changes.

“I’m happy to say today that this agreement to reduce the requirement for retirement and pension eligibility to 25 years of service is a sigh of relief for so many officers just like me who continue to wake up every single day and rededicate themselves to the well-being and betterment of those incarcerated here in Erie County,” said Erie County Correctional Facility Unit President John DiMartino.

The hope is that in addition to these recruitment and retention efforts, this legislation will also lower the average age of the unit’s workforce. Many of the unit’s jobs require a high level of mental and physical strength.

After unit members overwhelmingly approved the change, DiMartino, CSEA Erie County Local President Denise Szymura, CSEA Western Region President Steve Healy and county officials participated in a news conference to discuss the pension change.

“This agreement was negotiated in good faith by all parties and is not only a strong agreement for the affected employees that realizes a long-sought goal of a 25-year retirement plan but is also a prudently budgeted move that is cognizant of the fiscal realities faced by Erie County,” said Poloncarz to local media.

This was a unique negotiating process, noted CSEA Labor Relations Specialist Deb Mueller. Because our union’s team worked so closely with legislators, CSEA Political Action Coordinator Chris Rackl also joined the negotiations.

“This had such an impact because Chris was able to use his connections to respond to pushback from the employer in real time,” said Mueller about Rackl’s participation.

She added that while there’s usually a political action component to negotiations, it’s quite unusual – though effective in this case – to have the coordinator at the table with the negotiating team.

“Overall, this was a huge win not just for CSEA members, but for Erie County as a whole,” said Healy. “Congratulations to the Erie County Corrections Unit on a hard-fought victory.”

A large part of the success of these negotiations can be attributed to Poloncarz and Garcia, who were both endorsed by CSEA in their successful reelections. Having strong support from elected leaders who stand with working people is a major reason our union gets involved in political action.

“I’d like to specifically thank Mark Poloncarz for finding the funding for and fully supporting this effort that’s been over a decade in the making,” said DiMartino.

“I am always pleased when our county’s leadership come together with its bargaining units to achieve a common goal,” said Szymura. “Because of the strong relationship CSEA and Local 815 has maintained with the county, we were able to achieve a goal that we’ve been working toward for years.”

— Madison Ruffo


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