November 4, 2021 — “I say ‘power,’ you say ‘PEF’!”
That’s what New York State Attorney General Letitia James called out as she addressed delegates at PEF’s annual Convention in Niagara Falls on Oct. 25.
“New York State is the second most unionized state in the nation and one of just two states with union members in the millions,” James said. “PEF has always been a great union. I owe you thanks two ways – as the Attorney General, I have the privilege to have a few hundred PEF members in our offices, and as a New Yorker I am privileged and honored to benefit from the hard work and heroism of more than 50,000 PEF members.”
The Attorney General praised PEF members for putting others before themselves during crisis after crisis, from the pandemic, to climate change, to social justice and economic upheaval.
“You deserve fair wages, compensation and, most importantly, respect for the work you’ve done and continue to do,” James said. “You are the best at what you do, but you can’t do it alone. You need a state government that is mission driven and fully staffed to support you. We can no longer have total power and decision-making solely in the hands of the executive. Where has that led us?”
James said it took a report from her office to finally hold politicians accountable and unveil the severity of what was going on in New York’s nursing homes during the pandemic.
“We need a new culture in Albany,” she said. “Let’s leave policy to the professionals. Let politicians get out of the way.”
The Attorney General wants to see the 5,000 open positions across the state filled so vital services can be properly administered.
“Let’s get back to serving the interest of the public, not politicians,” she said. “When we have unions, we have a better, more sustainable, economy and a bigger middle class. I see a future where organized labor and the economy can thrive.”
James said she will fight to make sure New York remains a worker’s state, not a right-to-work state, despite decades of systemic attempts to undermine organized labor.
“If we work together, I know we can overcome them,” she said. “I am using the full power of my office to support working people and unions.”
The Attorney General’s Office has recovered $3 million in stolen wages since 2019. This year, the office sued Amazon for failing to provide adequate health and safety measures for employees at the company’s New York facilities and Amazon’s retaliatory actions against multiple employees amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Her office also worked to hold manufacturers of opioids accountable for the devastating impact of addiction and helped secure $4.5 billion from the Sackler family for their role in fueling the crisis.
“This year, I championed laws to improve workers’ lives,” James said. “I joined with 16 other Attorneys General to pass the PRO Act. The right to organize is essential to the middle class. We need an FDR moment and movement in this state.”
The Attorney General said PEF shares her core values and vision for the future.
“It’s been a long time since you heard it from an elected official,” James said. “I want to heartily say thank you.”