Thursday, June 23, 2011

What is Collective Bargaining?

A humorous look at collective bargaining (Video)

For years, not many people talked about collective bargaining. But that changed when Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Republican politicians in a dozen other states decided to eliminate the right to bargain collectively from public employees. Instantly, working people in all kinds of jobs as well as students, community supporters, faith leaders and others united to defend this basic right.

And why is it so important? Because the right to come together for a voice on the job is not only a fundamental right, it is essential for working men and women to have the strength to improve their living standards, provide for their families and build an American middle class. Collective bargaining enables working people who are union members to negotiate with their employers to determine their terms of employment, including pay, benefits, hours, leave, job health and safety policies, ways to balance work and family and more. Bottom line: It gives working people a voice at the table.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Ruling upholds labor decision against Monroe County

Repost from the D&C by Jill Terreri

Rochester, N.Y.--  Monroe County was on the losing side once again regarding its interaction with part-time workers, according to a decision issued by the state Appellate Division.

The county's survey of part-time workers asking if they wanted to still be represented by a union violates civil service law, according to the court, which released a decision this week.

The county had queried part-time workers represented by CSEA after learning there were vacancies in the bargaining unit's leadership. The survey asked one question, whether workers wanted to continue to be represented.

CSEA filed an improper practice charge with the Public Employment Relations Board, and an administrative law judge decided the county had interfered with employees' protected rights.

The county then brought its case to the full employment relations board, which affirmed the administrative law judge's decision, saying the survey was "inherently destructive of the rights of organization."

When the county lost with the board, it brought a suit against the board and CSEA to the state Appellate Division, which affirmed the lower decisions.

"What it means is that the county was found to have acted in bad faith and really overstepped the legal bounds of proper labor management relations," said CSEA lawyer Paul Bamberger. "In that sense, what we've been saying all along in that they had acted in a heavy-handed way with us and be more reasonable and work more cooperatively with us, that position has been vindicated."

The county had maintained, based on a contract with the union, that a secret ballot election could be held to determine whether employees wanted to continue to be represented if it first received evidence that 30 percent of the members questioned their represented status.

"The county felt that the ruling by the state agency was incorrect and denied us certain rights and benefits that we had negotiated with the union and that the union had agreed to," said county spokesman Noah Lebowitz.

"The bottom line is we think employees should have a right to choose whether they are a member of a union or not."

The employment relations board found the contract language did not give the county authority to actively solicit opinions regarding CSEA.

The county is considering whether to appeal the decision.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Fight Back Against Attacks on Working People

From CSEA:

Middle-class, working Americans are under attack like never before. We're in the fight of our lives against the rich and powerful who want to take even more for themselves while leaving the rest of us to fight over the scraps. Some here in New York are using the budget problem as an opportunity to scapegoat public employees and blame us for a mess we did nothing to create. They are attacking our jobs, benefits and pensions and attempting to pit public and private sector workers against each other.

CSEA members need to know the facts and be able to fight back with the truth wherever misinformation is being spread.

Facts for you to use:

    • Despite claims that our pensions are overly generous, the average CSEA member's pension is $14,000 a year.
    • We believe all workers deserve a decent retirement and a decent pension is not an unrealistic benefit for all workers to expect, especially when big business is making record profits.
    • Public employees contribute 3 percent of salary to our pensions now.
    • Throughout the 1990s, the state and municipalities paid nothing into the retirement system as Wall Street booms. Minimum payments are now required due to system reform to ensure accountability.
    • New York's pension plan is currently the best-funded plan in the United States.
    • The NYS Comptroller's Office has taken important steps to make employer contributions to the plan more predictable and manageable.
    • No one should be scamming the pension system. The worst abusers are political hacks -- not rank-and-file workers.

  • Download a printer-friendly version of Pension Talking Points

  • 401(k) Plans
    • Defined contribution plans, such as 401(k) plans, are fine as a supplement to pensions but relying solely on a 401(k) plan would put people's retirement security at the mercy of the stock market.
    • The stock market volatility of recent years has decimated many 401(k) accounts and would have wreaked havoc with our retirement security.
    • Studies have proven 401(k) plans cost twice as much to administer as defined benefit plans with account and transaction fees.

  • Download a printer-friendly version of 401(k) Talking Points

  • Layoffs
    • Layoffs don't work. They mean high taxes and less service.
    • Layoffs mean management has failed.
    • A layoff is bad economics. It takes a paycheck out of the market and forces increased costs and demand for social services.
    • Unemployment goes up, fewer taxes come in, people have less money to spend and the economy suffers.
    • Every time you talk about a layoff you're not just talking about a person's job, you're talking about a person's family; you're talking about a person's life.

  • Download a printer-friendly version of Layoff Talking Points

  • Health Care Benefits
    • Most local government workers and all state employees in New York pay toward their health insurance and have deductibles and co-pays too.
    • Rising health care costs are a national problem that won't be solved by simply passing costs on to workers.
    • CSEA regularly works with employers to look for ways to lower health insurance costs. Our creative ideas to contain health insurance costs have saved taxpayers hundreds of millions.

  • Download a printer-friendly version of Health Care Benefits Talking Points

  • Triborough Amendment
    • Since public workers are prohibited from striking, Triborough levels the field in negotiations, preventing employers from unilaterally changing terms and conditions of employment if a contract has expired.
    • Triborough merely continues the terms of an expired contract while the parties negotiate a new one. It does not give workers raises.
    • Without Triborough employers could wait until a contract expires and then simply impose new terms.

  • Download a printer-friendly version of Triborough Amendment Talking Points

  • We're Not to Blame!
    • While New York's financial problems are very real, the fact is public service workers did not create them.
    • We're not the enemy! Nurses, snowplow operators and school lunch ladies are not responsible for our state's fiscal circumstances.
    • Many public service workers do the jobs no one else wants to do, working in prisons or facilities for the mentally disabled or out in extreme weather.
    • Many public service workers are shift workers who go to work when most people are going to sleep and many cannot make plans for the weekends because their days off might be Tuesdays and Thursdays.
    • While working Americans continue to struggle, Wall Street is recording record profits. Profits of $27.6 billion made 2010 Wall Street's most profitable year ever with the exception of 2009, when it benefited from bailout money and low interest rates.
    • Public and private sector workers shouldn't be fighting each other. We should be fighting TOGETHER against our common enemy -- those who condone tax cuts for millionaires while sending the rest of us into a race for the bottom.

  • Download a printer-friendly version of We're Not To Blame! Talking Points

  • Monday, June 13, 2011

    Governor on side of state's wealthy (GUEST)

    Published 12:56 a.m., Sunday, June 12, 2011 in the Albany Times Union

    The June 9 front page article, "Layoffs to begin July 15," left me perplexed and more than a little annoyed.

    Gov. Andrew Cuomo's threat to lay off 9,800 state employees should be called what it is: blackmail. He is trying to pressure the two largest state employee unions, CSEA and PEF, into accepting drastic financial givebacks.

    How will putting 9,800 people on the unemployment rolls reduce the state deficit? Add in the administrative costs of unemployment benefits and it may end up costing the state more money. Those 9,800 unemployed people will not only have reduced buying power, but will be paying far less in state income taxes. How's that going to solve the budget problem?

    Governor Cuomo doesn't want to make New Yorkers with the highest incomes pay their fair share in taxes. Continuing the "millionaires' tax" would do more to improve New York's fiscal health than laying off 9,800 human beings and disrupting the lives of another 30,000 with the "bumping" strategy. I'm far from a high earner, but I'd be willing to pay a little more in taxes if it would help reduce the deficit.

    The governor is resorting to the time-honored tactic of scapegoating public employees. He's hoping that the false premise that state workers are paid too much for doing too little will sway an uninformed public to his point of view. It may not work this time -- the public is better informed than he realizes.

    Governor Cuomo wears a facade of liberalism, yet he is no friend to working people. I believe he is attempting to weaken not only public-sector employees but also labor unions. This would have a detrimental effect on private sector workers as well.
    Weakening the middle class while giving the highest earners a tax break is nothing less than class warfare. It's obvious the governor is not on the side of middle-class workers. He's on the side of the rich.

    Daniel J. Kelly
    CSEA member
    Tax Local 690

    Read more: http://www.timesunion.com/opinion/article/Governor-on-side-of-state-s-wealthy-1420478.php#ixzz1P9RPxSp9