Happy Spring PEF brothers and sisters! This time of year always brings optimism, but the New York State Legislature and Governor have given us extra reasons to be hopeful this time of year. The 2022-23 State budget is filled with priorities you helped bring to the attention of lawmakers. From the first meaningful pension reform in years to bonuses for healthcare workers, restored in-patient beds at the Office of Mental Health system, and loan forgiveneness for nurses, this is the first budget that actually increases state expenditures since I’ve been president of PEF.
I’m reminded of a meeting I had with Governor Hochul in Nov. 2021 when I first provided her with literature explaining our Fund Our Future campaign. We conceived the campaign and built the coalition to lift up the critical work performed by PEF members and fight back against the harmful consequences of privatization. That meeting sowed the seeds for a state budget that takes the first steps toward meeting those goals. As always, there is more work to be done and we are committed to it, but in the spirit of this season of renewal, I want to thank you for the work you’ve done so far. PEF members and friends generated more than 18,000 letters to lawmakers this budget cycle and it’s clear they made a difference.
This month also featured the return of the annual conference of the New York State Association of Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic & Asian Legislators. I was honored to be part of a workshop focused on restorative justice that you can read about in this issue. PEF is the loudest union voice opposed to the current parole laws and we will work hard to amend them as the legislative session continues in Albany.
I’d also like to draw your attention to one more story in this issue about a contract fight involving public workers in Los Angeles County. When I was asked to send a PEF delegation to participate in an escalation campaign run by SEIU Local 721, I didn’t hesitate. It’s important that organized labor act together when the issues resonate beyond a local area. Local 721’s fight against privatizing public jobs for their 95,000 members is the same fight we wage here in New York. Many of the affiliate leaders who helped organize and execute their march in downtown L.A. at the end of March are in Albany this week as we conduct a membership blitz, assessing the concerns of members, signing up new ones and identifying union leaders.
You’ll read more about that in our May issue. Until then, please continue to stay safe and thank you for your solidarity.