June 17, 2022 — The PEF Executive Board voted June 9 to endorse Kathy Hochul for governor. No other candidates were discussed, and the 12 PEF regional political action committees and the union’s statewide PAC had all recommended Hochul’s endorsement.
The board was informed June 10 that Hochul called the PEF president to thank the union for its endorsement.
Other early political endorsements recommended by the union’s political action committees and approved by the board June 9 include:
- Pamela Helming, R, Senate District 54;
- David Weprin, D, Assembly District 24;
- Andrew Hevesi, D, Assembly District 28;
- Jeffrion Aubry, D, Assembly District 35;
- Juan Ardila, D, Assembly District 37;
- Mathylde Frontus, D, Assembly District 46;
- Latrice Walker, D, Assembly District 55;
- Monique Chandler-Waterman, D, Assembly District 58;
- Nikki Lucas, D, Assembly District 60;
- Deborah Glick, D, Assembly District 66;
- Inez Dickens, D, Assembly District 70;
- Al Taylor, D, Assembly District 71;
- Manny De Los Santos, D, Assembly District 72;
- Yudelka Tapia, D, Assembly District 86;
- Angelo Santabarbara, D, Assembly District 111;
- Jen Lunsford, D, Assembly District 133; and
- Harry Bronson, D, Assembly District 138.
The board also made several other early candidate endorsements at its April meeting.
Democrat and Republican political primaries will be held June 28 and August 23 this year to select the parties’ candidates for the November 8 general election. Only Democrats can vote in the Democratic primary and only Republicans may vote in the Republican primary.
Candidates for governor, lieutenant governor and state Assembly will be selected June 28 and the candidates for Congress and the state Senate will vie for party nominations August 23.
PEF Legislative Director Pat Lyons said it’s important for members who support the endorsed candidates to support their campaigns by volunteering or assisting in other ways.
“These candidates helped us puncture the state spending cap, dedicate money to fill vacancies, enact the nurse loan repayment and healthcare worker bonus programs, pass legislation to require cost/benefit analysis and protect nurses from abuses of mandated overtime,” Lyons said.
PEF President Wayne Spence began the board’s two-day quarterly meeting in Albany by asking the board members and staff from the Buffalo area to come to the front of the room, where they were invited to speak about their experiences related to the tragic mass shooting at the Tops supermarket in Buffalo on May 14.
“It was a gut punch,” Spence said. He noted that the alleged shooter is the son of two PEF members, one of whom is a longtime member of the Executive Board. News media also ran a photo of the shooter’s map of the store that was drawn on a PEF notepad. The president added that a PEF council leader lost a grandparent in the shooting, and other PEF members lost friends.
Stephanie McLean-Beathley, the administrator of the PEF Membership Benefits Program, is a Red Cross volunteer who was called to respond the day of the tragedy, helping children who were separated from their adults – a process that took up to seven hours. Another board member who works for the state Health Department, John Ingram, helped coordinate the assembly and delivery of food kits for the community and reported that FeedMoreWNY had more volunteers than needed thanks to the generosity of PEF members and others.
Spence then introduced PEF organizing coordinator Andrew Puleo, PEF Communications Director Rob Merrill and PEF Division 357 Council Leader Ron O’Bryan, who spent a week in Los Angeles in late March to assist the Service Employees International Union (a parent union of PEF) Local 721 organize 95,000 county workers there fighting for a new contract and against privatization of their jobs.
The effort resulted in a march through downtown L.A. by 3,000 county workers that helped the union reach a tentative agreement that is now up for ratification. Some of the SEIU affiliate volunteers who were in L.A. came to Albany in May to help PEF with its organizing blitz in Region 8.
Spence reported that the Civil Service Employees Association recently reached a temporary agreement with New York state on a five-year pact that offers 2 percent raises for two years and 3 percent raises for the final three years of the agreement.
Spence said PEF expects to begin negotiations with the state on a new contract in November, but it is already pressing the state Office of Employee Relations to put the employee dental program out to bid – something it has never done and is resisting.
“I’ve asked the comptroller to audit it, but he hasn’t agreed to do it,” Spence said. “We will have to lobby him.”
Vice President Darlene Williams, who chairs PEF’s contract team, said the team expects to send out contract surveys to members in August and will meet with members throughout the state to hear their thoughts regarding contract priorities. Members also are invited to send their suggestions and comments to the team any time at contract2022Suggestions@pef.org.
Region 3 Coordinator Leisa Abraham asked how much it would cost members to make the benefits of the Family Medical Leave Act available to them, and was told the current estimate is an average of about $385 per member, per year.
Although several very important bills regarding mandatory overtime for state nurses passed both the state Assembly and Senate this year, PEF is asking members to sign letters/petition to state lawmakers asking them to support further improvements for nurses, including higher pay grades and improved pensions for newer hires.
Spence announced that PEF has hired former member Debbie Eagle – who is a nurse and an attorney – to consult with the union temporarily to work on PEF nursing issues while PEF interviews candidates for its nurse organizer position.
Many PEF nurses are so overworked because of short staffing that they have little chance to get the time off to lobby for relief and better pay, Spence said.
Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon brought words of support from Gov. Hochul to PEF nurses at SUNY Downstate in May and her message to PEF nurses was featured in a video produced by the DOL. The video was played for the PEF board members at their meeting. (Click to view it on PEF Facebook.)
PEF got the state to increase geographic pay for nurses at SUNY hospitals to help make them more competitive when recruiting new hires.
Chris Leo, PEF chief of staff, reported that the union is working with the Department of Civil Service to address the problem of provisional employees at the state Labor Department not moving up to permanent positions. PEF offered four training sessions for the provisionals this month to help them prepare for any upcoming T&E (training and experience) exams.
Spence said he and PEF’s other statewide officers continue to meet with members at their worksites in spite of the cold shoulder he increasingly receives from the state when arranging \ visits. If the union is denied the opportunity to hold onsite meetings, it will hold them outside, he said.
“If the state (finds it) can shut me down, what will they do to our local leaders?” Spence said. He noted that when PEF was denied a permit to hold its nurses’ press conference on the Capitol steps in Albany recently, “We did it anyway (in Capitol Park).”
PEF Director of Organizing Dan Carpenter reported that of 1,055 new state hires since the executive board last met, 856 have signed PEF membership cards and the recent PEF blitz in the Capital District produced 95 new members and 41 new contributors to the Committee on Political Education (COPE).
“What we did in Albany was not just for Albany,” Spence said. “We plan to do it in more areas of the state.”
Carpenter said PEF hopes to focus organizing efforts in coming months on members at all three SUNY medical centers, and at the state departments of Transportation and Environmental Conservation.
“It’s worth it. Members appreciate you coming to their homes,” Spence said.
Using accrued leave
Spence and several board members urged union members to use their vacation time. Region 4 Coordinator Gina Corona advised members to ask to use their vacation time and to “let PEF know if it’s denied.”
Board member Ade Oluwo recommended that members who cannot get permission to use their vacation time should donate it to other members who are too sick or injured to work and have run out of leave.
2022 PEF Convention plans
The board approved plans for the 2022 PEF Convention that will be held October 23-26 in Niagara Falls. It was noted that downstate delegates will not need to arrive on the Saturday before convention as they did last year, so no Saturday flights or lodging will be arranged for them. The board voted to increase both the delegates’ meal stipend from statewide PEF and the PEF limit on the stipends that are awarded by some PEF divisions to their delegates.
It was explained that delegates should not make their own hotel reservations because PEF will already have booked rooms as part of its agreement with Niagara Falls to hold a citywide convention and must pay for them regardless.
PEF Secretary-Treasurer Joe Donahue said membership and dues revenue have increased since the state lifted the hiring freeze. Committee expenses are still down since they have been meeting virtually. President Spence said the committees may now resume holding in-person meetings at PEF headquarters and should contact his office at (518) 785-1900, ext. 225, when they are ready to do that.
Donahue reported that PEF division expenses are also down because the divisions, too, have been meeting virtually.
PEF is self-insured and Donahue said the cost of employee health insurance claims is up.
PEF Executive Director Todd Kerner said, “We are at the mercy of claims. We had a bunch that hit the Stop Loss insurance (threshold).”
The board went into executive session to further discuss the issue. It also discussed changes to the SEIU pension plan for PEF officers and staff in a separate executive session.
The executive board debated a proposed amendment to change Article XII (Recall) of the PEF Constitution to provide that recall may only be done for cause. This Article on Recall presently provides that a PEF elected official may be removed by popular demand by a petition signed by 60% of the membership of the constituency of that office (without cause). During the debate it was noted that Article XIII (Impeachment) already allows for impeachment for cause. Under either Article (Recall or Impeachment), the person recalled or impeached may seek office again during the next election. The debate focused on concerns that people facing possible recall from office need to know the grounds for the recall so they could defend themselves. Concerns were also debated that this would create two articles with different standards to remove a PEF elected official for cause. The executive board approved sending the amendment to add “for cause” to the recall provision to the PEF 2022 Convention.
Two housekeeping amendments to the PEF Constitution were proposed by the PEF Constitution and Bylaws Committee regarding obsolete language. Those proposed amendments were also approved by the Executive Board to be sent to the PEF 2022 Convention.
The proposed amendments will next be voted on by the delegates at the PEF Convention Oct. 23-26, 2022.
The next executive board meeting will take place Sept. 8-9, 2022, in Albany.