WHITE PLAINS — When labor is under attack, CSEA members stand up and fight back.
That is especially true this year.
Not only did CSEA efforts help defeat a state constitutional convention, our members in Westchester County were tireless in doing the phone banking, labor walks and campaign work that resulted in voters overwhelmingly choosing state Sen. George Latimer to replace two-term incumbent Rob Astorino as county executive.
The defeat ends eight years of Astorino routinely bashing CSEA’s insistence on a fair contract, underfunding vital services, and even going so far as to single out CSEA Westchester County Unit President Karen Pecora during layoffs.
“What I have been hearing for the last few days is ‘it’s Christmas in November,’” Pecora said. “It is such a great feeling to know that the first negotiations meeting that we schedule will be with county representatives who will respect the over 3,000 members here and the work we do.”
Anti-labor policies spark move for change
Latimer, a friend of labor while serving in various elected positions, has pledged a cooperative working relationship with CSEA, in sharp contrast to Astorino’s adversarial approach.
CSEA members in Westchester County Unit are seven years without a contract due to protracted negotiations with Astorino’s team.
Members overwhelmingly rejected a memorandum of agreement last year, stating that the deal would have ultimately meant a pay cut for some of the lowest paid members once health insurance contributions were factored in.
In a chilling move, Astorino targeted Pecora’s county position for elimination during a wave of layoffs in late 2012. An arbitrator ultimately returned Pecora to her former position with back pay, agreeing with CSEA’s charge that the layoff was clear anti-union animus and a violation of the Taylor Law.
Astorino has also stalled negotiations for the Westchester Community College Unit by refusing to refer a memorandum of agreement, ratified by members and the college Board of Trustees, to county legislators for a vote.
Fed up with Astorino’s treatment, CSEA activists spent months making phone calls to other members, knocking on doors and dedicating their time on Election Day to get Latimer elected.
“This election allowed us to engage members who’ve never been involved in the union and show them that by stepping up, we can help elect candidates who respect them and the work they do,” CSEA Southern Region President Billy Riccaldo said. “After eight years of divisiveness under Rob Astorino, I look forward to a respectful and collaborative relationship with George Latimer and his administration.”
Enough is enough
CSEA/VOICE Local 100A Family Child Care Providers from across Westchester County, fed up with the Astorino administration’s failed child care policies and inability to fix the flawed subsidy payment system, jumped into action to join in the effort to elect George Latimer.
The last straw came recently when contracted providers received bills for a county miscalculation costing as much as $40,000 each. Previous years of underpayment with no reimbursement moved CSEA/VOICE Local 100A’s Westchester-Putnam chapter into action to decry hypocrisy and say enough is enough.
The providers joined the Latimer campaign and CSEA Southern Region leaders in holding a press conference urging providers, parents and all working families to vote for change by electing Latimer.
Providers also distributed literature to other providers, their families and parents of the children urging them to support Latimer, who supports child care. On Election Day, CSEA/VOICE providers in Westchester had conversations with parents about Latimer at pickup and offered to watch the children longer for parents who needed time to vote.
Hard work yields results
“Our members went above and beyond in our effort to vote the county executive out of office,” Westchester County Local President John Staino said. “Our local phone banks reached over 9,500 members in Westchester County, we took part in labor walks with the Westchester-Putnam Central Labor Body and we had many one-on-one conversations with members to let them know what was at stake.”
Local media reported very strong voter turnout across the county, particularly in the cities of Mount Vernon and Yonkers. In their efforts to get out the vote for Latimer, CSEA/VOICE Local 100A Westchester-Putnam Chapter Representative Cynthia Bolding and DSS committee member Dinitia Blount focused on turnout from both cities.
“I had been stressing to our membership how important their vote is and that it was going to be a very close race,” Pecora said. “They understood this was not a political issue; this was our survival. They got it and came through. When people come to congratulate me, I always say this was a group effort.”
— Jessica Ladlee and Jill Asencio