Dec 10th - 5:18 pm
Labor organizations were not fans of the tax commission report that recommended a series of business tax cuts as well as curbing the growth of business and residential property taxes.
The criticism from labor — including the AFL-CIO and the Civil Service Employees Association — comes despite Denis Hughes, a former AFL-CIO president, being named to the panel ostensibly to provide some cover for its recommendations.
“The Pataki/McCall Commission appears to be a missed opportunity,” said the current AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento. “Its out-of-touch recommendations would throw hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue out the window to fund corporate tax breaks and lessen the tax burden of millionaires, seemingly without any consideration for the potential impact on jobs and services. Those are clearly not the priorities of New Yorkers who are working harder and harder, but falling further and further behind.”
CSEA, which haven’t really been Cuomo fans to begin with (the union declined to endorse him in 2010, despised his successful effort to create a new pension tier in 2012 — also released a statement blasting the report.
“It’s easy to promise more tax giveaways to the rich and powerful when they come at the expense of local government taxpayers and the community services they depend on,” said CSEA President Danny Donohue in a statement. “No one should be fooled by the election year rhetoric in Governor Cuomo’s Tax Commission recommendations – this is more of the same policy that will just increase the misery index for people and communities in the real “new” New York.”
As Liz noted earlier, the state’s other major public workers union, the Public Employees Federation, is even open to backing a Republican in 2014 against Cuomo (who that alternative candidate would be is another question).
The criticism also comes despite the recommendation of a circuit-breaker for property taxes that ties increases to household income — a mechanism that had been preferred by public labor groups to the tax cap.
It’s possible the criticism from the left would be there no matter what, given the inclusion of Republican former Gov. George Pataki as a commission co-chair.
Nevertheless, the tax commission report does appear to more aimed at suburbanites, homeowners both upstate and downstate — crucial constituencies both in a re-election year.
Dec 10th - 1:18 pm
ICYMI on last night’s CapTon or this morning’s memo: PEF President Susan Kent says her union is open to backing someone other than Gov. Andrew Cuomo next year – perhaps even a Republican, which would be only the second time in the union’s history that it has endorsed a non-Democrat for governor.
“We do have a democratic process in my union where we have regional PACs and then the executive board that will weigh in,” Kent told me in response to a question about whether PEF might consider endorsing a challenger to Cuomo in 2014.
“But I can tell you right now with the sentiment of my membership and what we’re seeing in terms of just further erosion of public sector jobs and services that people need, it seems to be a extremely distinct possibility. And we really are looking for – whether it’s Democrat or Republican, whether it’s a third party candidate – someone to step up that is going to really speak out for working people.”
PEF broke with several big public sector unions that remained neutral on Cuomo in 2010 and gave the then-state attorney general its endorsement. The thinking of union leaders at the time was that it would be better to be on the all-but-certain-to-win new governor’s good side, particularly with contract negotiations looming.
But when Cuomo actually took office, PEF didn’t fare any better than the state’s largest public employee union, CSEA, when it came to wrangling a new contract. In fact, the PEF talks lasted longer and were even more acrimonious, despite the union’s 2010 nod.
Disappointment among the PEF rank-and-file with the endorsement process and the subsequent contract contributed to the ouster of former union President Ken Brynien by Kent and her team in 2012. Kent, who pledged to take a harder line with the Cuomo administration, is clearly sensitive to that fact, and she is determined not to repeat Brynien’s mistakes.
The unions are unhappy with Cuomo on a number of fronts. There’s lingering resentment from the Tier IV battle, but more pressing is the slew of prison and mental health facility closures that the governor has undertaken without legislative input.
In 2002, PEF endorsed its first-ever Republican gubernatorial candidate, backing incumbent Gov. George Pataki against Democratic state Comptroller H. Carl McCall, who had beat back a quixotic (and short lived) primary challenge from Cuomo (then fresh off his stint as President Clinton’s HUD secretary). The union had also endorsed former GOP Sen. Alfonse D’Amato for re-election in 1986.
If CSEA and NYSUT again decide to take a pass on Cuomo in 2014, and PEF joins in, it could be more difficult for Cuomo to land the support of the AFL-CIO – an umbrella organization of labor unions that has a weighted endorsement process. Then again, it’s a safe bet Cuomo will have plenty of labor support, especially from the more conservative trades and his longtime ally, SEIU 1199.
Also, it would be difficult for the public sector unions to outright endorse a Republican challenger if that candidate is Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, who has had his share of battles with CSEA over the years.
You can watch my entire interview with Kent here. She also discussed the recently pension-related bankruptcy ruling in Detroit and what that might mean for New York.
Oct 22nd - 2:43 pm
Last night on CapTon, NYSUT’s Dick Iannuzzi tried to equate the battle over Obamacare with the fight here in New York over the Common Core, saying the three-year moratorium on using test results to evaluate teachers is not a complete rejection of the controversial curriculum, but rather a “pause to recalibrate” and be sure its implementation is sound.
“High standards do work in the long-term but high standards are delayed by an improper implementation,” Iannuzzi told me. “Look, President Obama today is saying the same thing about Obamacare…The implementation has been so poor that it’s really challenging some of the people who have been supportive of it.”
“I would say the same thing to the commissioner. This isn’t about using the frustration as a reason to abandon Common Core. It’s about using a moratorium, a pause to recalibrate, to look at what we’ve done and decide if it’s the right way – as a way to actually be sure that the Common Core and a sound evaluation plan go forward.”
I was confused by this argument, noting that the House Republicans tried – and failed – to get the president to put a year-long moratorium on the implementation of the individual mandate portion of Obamacare, so if Obama held firm in that instance, why should the commissioner not do the same – rickety rollout be damned?
“The difference is the president is speaking about health care,” Iannuzzi replied. “He’s speaking about people who have been denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions. Speaking about people who will literally suffer and die during of the process.”
“What we’re saying is not as dramatic. But we’re talking about young people who are suffering and stressed and feeling harmed if we go forward. So, in the president’s case, if we stop, people will feel harmed. In the case of the moratorium on high-stakes testing, if we continue at this rate, young people are feeling harmed.”
Make of that what you will.
Also: State Education Commissioner John King will be joining me on CapTon this evening (8 p.m. and 11:30 p.m.) to counter Iannuzzi’s argument and also review the performance evaluation data released by SED today.
Oct 4th - 1:05 pm
ICYMI, this was today’s Morning Memo:
The labor-backed Working Families Party has fired a warning shot at two Democrats who broke ranks with their party along with seven others to vote with the GOP on a vote that would have ended the government shutdown, accusing them of siding with “Tea Party bullies trying to stop Obamacare.”
On Monday night, after Reps. Sean Patrick Maloney and Dan Maffei voted “yes” on a measure that would have repealed the Obamacare carve-out for Congress and delayed the individual insurance mandate for a year, the party sent its members an email alert with the subject line: “You thought we weren’t going to find out?”
“Monday night, two New York Congressional Democrats, Dan Maffei and Sean Patrick Maloney, showed solidarity – with John Boehner,” the email signed by WFP State Director Bill Lipton read.
“They sided with Boehner and the Tea Party Republicans in an attempt to delay the Affordable Care Act – blocking millions of uninsured families from getting access to affordable health care and leading to the shut down of the federal government. We voted Reps. Maffei and Maloney into office because we wanted better government, not no government at all. ”
“…Tell Reps. Dan Maffei and Sean Patrick Maloney that we didn’t send them to Washington, DC to vote with the Tea Party to shut down the government.”
The email includes a link to an on-line petition that the WFP plans to send to the two Democrats.
Maloney and Maffei, both of whom are freshmen (although in Maffei’s case, this is his second time around in the House) representing marginal districts, have been on the defensive about this vote. Maloney said in a statement:
“I strongly support the president’s decision to give employers more time to comply with the law, and I believe that we should give families the same flexibility we’re giving to our small businesses…Families and businesses in the Hudson Valley are not getting special subsidies from Obamacare and neither should members of Congress or the White House.”
Maffei, meanwhile, told his hometown paper, The Syracuse Post-Standard:
“Do I think it would have been better to have no strings attached? Yes. But if it’s about keeping the government open, I’m going to support it. I will work with any side to do it. Our leadership on both sides of the aisle needs to make some sort of concession.”
Both Maloney and Maffei are engaged in a delicate dance.
On one hand, their districts are closely divided, and they need to display independence from the liberal House Democratic leadership in order to appeal to the centrist, swing voters who will likely make the difference between winning and losing in the 2014 elections.
On the other hand, both Democrats railed during their successful 2012 elections against “extremist” Republican opponents – former Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle, in Maffei’s case, who recently announced she won’t be seeking a third rematch next fall; and former Rep. Nan Hayworth in Maloney’s case, who is planning on attempting a comeback.
Maffei and Maloney both ran with WFP support in 2012, and losing the line in 2014 could be problematic – if not fatal.
The WFP does engage in a lot of saber rattling, but there is some precedent for the party abandoning a Democratic member of Congress on the issue of health care reform just to make a point – even if that means losing a seat to the Republicans.
Just as former Reps. Mike Arcuri and Mike McMahon.
Both Democrats voted “no” on health care reform in 2010 – Arcuri was one of only two Democrats nationwide to change their vote from “yes” to “no” on the bill – and both lost the support of the WFP and various powerful labor unions as a result. Both also lost their seats in the 2010 elections, though the primary challenges the WFP initially pledged to support against them never materialized.
They, like many other marginal Democrats, fell victim to the Tea Party wave that year, and while you could argue that having the WFP line might not have made a difference in the final outcome, it certainly wouldn’t have hurt.
So far, the WFP has held off issuing any ultimatums the way it did back in 2010, and we’ll just have to wait and see how far the disappointment with these two on the part of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party goes.
Aug 5th - 12:38 pm
The Civil Service Employees Association is challenging the constitutionality of layoffs at the Thruway Authority and the Canal Corp., charging that workers were penalized for joining and participating in a union.
“The fact that only union members were targeted proves the layoffs were meant to punish them,” said CSEA President Danny Donohue. “If the layoffs were truly financially necessary, wouldn’t it make sense to get rid of at least one highly-paid manager or appointee?”
CSEA, the state’s largest public workers’ union, points to the layoffs at the authority sparing management employees and political appointees.
The union filed two separate challenges to layoffs at the Thruway Authority and the Canal Corp. on behalf of seven union members targeted in the April layoffs.
The suits name the authority’s board as well as Executive Director Tom Madison.
The Thruway Authority, which manages the Canal Corp., announced last year it would shed 234 jobs in order to stem growing costs.
The layoffs are expected to save $20 million. A mulit-year cost-saving plan was announced in December by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Madison in order to avoid a toll increase on heavy trucks and commercial vehicles.
Jun 4th - 4:59 pm
The union that represents academic and professional staff at the state’s public colleges have approved its contract with the state, United University Professions announced this afternoon.
Though technically a five-year agreement, the deal expires in July 2016 and is retroactive to July 2, 2011, and was one of the remaining outstanding labor agreements that had yet to be officially resolved.
The agreement formally ratifies a tentative deal between the UUP and the Cuomo administration in February. UUP officials said 77 percent of members approved the contract.
“This definitive vote in favor of the tentative agreement affirms that our members understand the challenging times in which these negotiations took place,” UUP President Frederick Kowal said in a statement. “We are very pleased to deliver a fair and equitable contact to our members.”
Under the terms of the agreement, UUP members receive salary increases in 2013 and through the end date, along with awards for reaching career milestones.
The contract includes nine deficit reduction days in order to yeild savings, with seven repaid employees at the end of the agreement.
May 28th - 4:04 pm
The Civil Service Employees Association and the American Federation of Teachers reiterated their support today for the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act this afternoon, giving the issue a boost in the final weeks of the legislative session.
The Empire State Pride Agenda is pointing to the endorsements today from labor as nod that GENDA, among other components, calls for a variety of workplace protections.
Both CSEA and the AFT approved resolutions recommitting support to GENDA as chances of passage in the Senate appear to be an uphill climb.
“As trade unionists, we believe that our gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender brothers and sisters unequivocally deserve the same protections and benefits as their brothers and sisters,” said the American Federation of Teachers in a resolution.
The CSEA resolution wrote that it was a matter of equal treatment.
“While currently it is illegal in New York State to discriminate on the basis of age, race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, sex, marital status and other categories in the areas of employment, housing, public accommodations, education and credit, current human rights laws do not explicitly ban discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression,” said the Civil Service Employees Association in a resolution. “All New Yorkers deserve equal treatment.”
The focus on GENDA comes after the LGBT lobby in New York scored its most significant victory, the passage of same-sex marriage rights in the state via the Legislature.
GENDA has been a sought-after goal for nearly a decade, but has died in both Democratic and Republican-led Senate majorities.
“It’s unacceptable that in 2013 any New Yorker risks being fired, evicted or denied public accommodations simply for being who they are. But absent GENDA, thousands of New Yorkers live in fear – and lack basic civil rights and equal protection under the law,” said Nathan Schaefer, Executive Director of the Empire State Pride Agenda. “We commend the American Federation of Teachers and Civil Service Employees Association for leading by example and are hopeful that the State Senate will follow suit.”
Apr 30th - 1:37 pm
New York’s largest public employees union, CSEA, seized on state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s report earlier today that overtime continues to increase at the state agencies as an opportunity to slam Gov. Andrew Cuomo for failing to keep staffing at adequate levels.
“The Cuomo administration continues to purposely understaff state agencies and mandate overtime to a perverse degree,” said CSEA President Danny Donohue.
“They tell the public they’re cutting the public work force and improving operations when they are really eroding decent middle-class jobs, leaving people at risk and still costing the public plenty.”
The union noted that overtime in many agencies – especially those that deal with vulnerable populations, like the offices of People with Developmental Disabilities and Mental Health – is mandated, and union contracts don’t entitle state workers to overtime pay.
CSEA has long insisted that mandated overtime, which is allocated at the discretion of managers who prefer it to hiring additional staffers that require health care and pension benefits, can be counterproductive by contributing to fatigue, burnout and the likelihood of both occupational injuries and on-the job mistakes – all of which costs taxpayers in the long run.
DiNapoli’s report, which found overtime pay for employees at state agencies grew by almost 11 percent last year to $529 million, also gave CSEA a chance to criticize Cuomo’s “misplaced priorities,” noting the administration petitioned the union to create 120 exempt class positions for the governor’s Empire Fellows program and retained an outside consultant to provide advice on recruiting to bolster the aging state workforce.
“The people of New York would be better served if Governor Cuomo showed more concern about managing his existing work force – providing them with the help, resources and respect that they need – rather than bringing in outside consultants and a new layer of political patronage,” Donohue said.
Cuomo has had a tense relationship with the state worker unions since his days as a candidate when he ran on a platform that called for wage freezes. His first contract negotiations with PEF (which endorsed Cuomo in 2010, but was later sorry about it) and CSEA (which did not) were rocky, and the unions weren’t thrilled (to say the least ) with the creation of a sixth pension tier, either.
It will be interesting to see how these two unions – and the rest of the labor community – react to candidate Cuomo when he’s running for re-election next year. New PEF President Susan Kent told me during a recent CapTon interview that her members aren’t prepared to re-endorse the governor at this moment, and if he wants their support, he’s going to have to work for it.
UPDATE: State Budget Division spokesman Morris Peters sent the follwing comment in response to CSEA’s claims:
“Since the Governor took office, agency budgets were cut by 10 percent in the first year and spending has remained flat ever since. Each agency is managing their workforce to stay within their budget. As a result, overall payroll spending is down.”
Apr 26th - 12:44 pm
It’s a little early yet to be talking about 2014 and the governor’s re-election bid, but, as you know, we like to do it anyway.
You’ll recall that in 2010, there were some labor unions (CSEA and NYSUT, most notably) that declined to back Cuomo, thanks to elements of his New New York plan that they found onerous – like the tax cap, for example, and salary freezes for state workers.
One union that did back Cuomo was PEF. But the second largest public employees union is now under new leadership, and the new president, Susan Kent, was among those who opposed the organization’s support of then-candidate Cuomo in the last election.
Kent was my guest on CapTon last night for her first interview since she ousted Ken Brynien last summer. I asked her if she thinks her members are at this moment prepared to overcome the bitterness they felt during the 2011 contract negotiations and Tier IV talks and back the governor again.
“At this point, I would say no,” Kent responded. “I would say no, but it is too early. But we have some more time to see if he’s going to turn things around. My membership feels very disrespected. They feel that they were bullied in the contract negotiations…Responsibility has to go on both sides, the union and the governor.”
“But when the governor seeks re-election, he is going to have to come to us. He is going to have to talk to us, which he didn’t have to do when he first ran. And that’s the major reason why my administration was against the endorsement. It was incumbent upon the union leadership at that time and the governor to come and speak to the union.”
“But I don’t know if he wasn’t ask or if he declined. So that’s why I can’t lay blame either way. But for the next round of endorsements, and for the endorsements that we just did, we ensure that there will be accountability for our members.”
“So, no one will receive an endorsement from PEF without coming before the leadership, coming before the executive board, talking to them about where they stand on issues. And one big issue the governor’s going to have to overcome with my membership is about continually contracting out services.”
Mar 28th - 4:31 pm
ICYMI: NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi told me during a CapTon interview last night that the reason more members of the education community have declined to sign onto his union’s lawsuit challenging the two percent property tax cap is because they’re afraid of “retribution.”
It was not explicitly stated, but it was fairly clear who would be meting out said retribution. After all, the tax cap was one of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s signature policy achievements during his first year in office.
“We had a lot of people patting us on the back, and when we walked around with our press release they were really hard to find,” Iannuzzi said.
“But that didn’t matter. We’ve gone alone on important issues before, and we’ll go it alone if that’s what happens. I’m positive it’s fear of retribution…and it’s sad, frankly, it’s very sad.”
“Because you’re talking about education, talking about where you’re trying to instill in young people the importance of standing up for principles, and leading by example usually helps.”
I asked Iannuzzi if NYSUT has experienced any retaliation from Team Cuomo since filing its suit.
“Not at all,” he insisted, adding: “The governor knew how we felt about the property tax cap….there’s shared responsibility and I hope there will be shared responsibility in addressing it going forward.”
So, if you believe Iannuzzi – and who wouldn’t, since quite clearly retribution isn’t something that worries him – maybe this time the administration decided not to go the threat route.