The Executive Board welcomed a panel of community leaders and legislators who are joining forces with PEF in its Fund Our Future coalition to address the Executive Board on Dec. 14 in Albany.
New York State Sen. Robert Jackson, Rev. Peter Cook, executive director of the New York State Council of Churches; Ron Deutsch, a private consultant on social economic justice issues; and Ryan Delgado, chief of staff at the New York State AFL-CIO, spoke on the importance of legislative advocacy and supporting one another.
“We’re moving into phase two of our campaign,” said PEF Vice President Randi DiAntonio. “Phase one was increasing our internal capacity – storytelling, gathering testimonials – so we can start educating folks. We do a lot of great things, but we talk about them to each other, not our neighbors.”
PEF Legislative Director Pat Lyons summarized PEF’s budget priorities for the next session, including reinvigorating the state Civil Service system; a $45 million budget add for OPWDD to stop current closures and develop a plan to address ongoing housing shortages; $50 million for OMH/OASAS to address the ongoing mental health/addiction crisis; and to amend the “Less is More” law and “HALT” act and provide real re-entry services and support for the formerly incarcerated.
State Sen. Robert Jackson is no stranger to PEF. A former member, who now chairs the Senate’s Civil Service and Pensions Committee, he said his “feet are tied to PEF.”
“To get anything done, you have to work for it,” he said. “The workforce is under capacity, and we need to recruit and retain staff. Tier 6 sucks. I hear it every single day from employees and workers.”
Jackson is determined to reform Tier 5 and 6 to better align with the benefits of Tier 4.
“Everyone should be able to live on their retirement,” he said.
Jackson is ready to do what it takes to support the public-sector workforce, even if means walking to Albany – something he has done before, walking 150 miles during the Campaign for Fiscal Equity school funding lawsuit in 2003. The result was a court judgment worth $16 billion for New York City schools.
“If we just sit in our chairs, change is not going to happen,” he said.
Ron Deutsch, a private consultant who works on social and economic justice issues, was most recently the Executive Director of the Fiscal Policy Institute, a research and education organization committed to improving public policies and private practices to better economic and social conditions in New York.
“You are the ones that are on the frontlines, making our society safe, helping people who are in desperate need of services,” he said. “I ran the Fiscal Policy Institute for a number of years and that’s where I really saw how important the work you all do is.”
He said the previous governor instituted a 2% spending cap, decimating state services and agencies and hurting staff.
“You were all being asked to do more with less,” he said. “It’s just not fair to you or the people you serve. The time for mourning is over. Now it’s time to organize. We’re going to be loud and proud and vocal at the Capitol. Press conferences, rallies, lobby days. We need to make sure that people understand that it’s you who a providing service and making a difference in peoples’ lives every day.”
Among the priorities, he said, are more Civil Service exams, increasing beds at psychiatric facilities, and making sure that any criminal justice reforms provide for the safety and humane treatment of everyone — from inmates and parolees, to the officers who supervise them, to the wider community.
“We can do this together,” he said.
Ryan Delgado, the chief of staff at the New York State AFL-CIO, serves as the organization’s political director, responsible for managing the endorsement process of the Federation and the coordinated political action program of the AFL-CIO’s state affiliates.
He acknowledged the role of PEF.
“PEF is a very important part of what we do at the state level,” Delgado said. “Not a day goes by that we aren’t on the phone with PEF. We are unique from other states in how closely we work with our local federations.”
Delgado said it is key that all 3,000 locals in the AFL-CIO, comprised of more than 2.5 million members across the state, work together and “go in the same direction.”
“We are building power and very focused on looking at where the elections underperformed,” he said. “We need to let them know when the legislature is doing right, when it’s wrong, and when we need things. It’s important to PEF members lives and all working people.”
Rev. Peter Cook, executive director of the New York State Council of Churches, which represents 7,000 congregations across New York, has been a strong advocate of affordable housing and community outreach.
“We collaborated with the union movement around the Fight for $15, safe staffing for nurses, improving wages for home care workers, and resisting union busting in the private sector,” he said. “We joined with 32BJ and PEF and supported the HEAL act.
“The Council also has the unique role of certifying and supporting chaplains for OMH, OCFS, DOCCS – all PEF members,” he said. “We would strongly support efforts to increase hiring of state workers and not be downsizing or outsourcing their work.”
Cook said prisons and secure facilities need mental health and addiction treatment.
“The need is immense,” he said. “We are in the rehabilitation business, and you too are in the rehabilitation business. It takes money, staffing, working with chaplains, correctional officers, mental health programs. You can’t just be cutting corners. When you cut corners, it becomes unsafe for everybody.”
DiAntonio said the campaign going forward will depend on the coalition being built. I’m
“It’s fluid,” she said. “It’s going to be an ongoing process. But building power takes all of us.”
To learn more about the Fund Our Future campaign, click here.