July 14, 2022 — PEF’s statewide officers are ramping up efforts to reach rank-and-file members, visiting numerous worksites to update members on the state of the union, field questions, and listen to concerns.
In May, the officers visited Regions 10, 11 and 12, meeting members at more than a dozen locations. Most recently, they hit six locations across Region 5 – where telecommuting, upcoming contract negotiations, overtime rate agreements and geographic pay topped the list of issues.
“Depending on who we talked with, members were concerned about upcoming contract negotiations, hazard and geo pay, telecommuting,” said Secretary-Treasurer Joe Donahue. “The nice part was people being able to talk to someone face-to-face, rather than send an email. We were getting first-hand information and although sometimes it wasn’t the answer they wanted, they appreciated the efforts to get out and meet with them.”
Vice President Randi DiAntonio echoed Donahue.
“It varied based on where we went and what agencies they worked for,” she said. “At facilities and agencies with direct service to individuals, there was a lot of concern about staffing and the 2.5 times overtime agreements – about doing more work with not enough people. We heard a lot of questions about the changes to Tier 5 and 6 pensions, as well. Members were very interested in us working to continue trying to improve that.”
DiAntonio said the officers also discussed ways members can participate in upcoming contraction negotiations and stressed the importance of getting involved during legislative and budget sessions.
COVID remains a concern for many members.
“Members are concerned about the uptick in the virus and being able to telecommute,” said Vice President Darlene Williams. “There seems to be an understanding now that I can’t stay home 100 percent, but let’s have consistency. If I could stay home 50 or 25 percent and I’m stable doing that, that it’s not going to up and change at the whim of the manager.”
Region 5 Coordinator Dave Dubofsky said they hit a lot of agencies and members also expressed concerns about the dental insurance and health insurance.
“The majority of members did not have major concerns,” said Vice President Sharon DeSilva. “Telecommuting was a major discussion at one big Department of Transportation meeting, that I addressed. COVID concerns were another.”
The power of presence
Fielding questions, concerns, and input is important, but the officers agreed that getting out to worksites in person is vital and the best part of the tour.
“Members were really happy to see the statewide officers,” Dubofsky said. “We went to a few facilities that didn’t see them very often, and for some members it was the first time. They were incredibly receptive. It’s very important to have a face to the names. If they don’t see you, the union becomes something in the background instead of in the forefront. Most members don’t seek out the union unless it’s for disciplinary issues – we really have to engage them to let them know what’s going on.”
Donahue said lunch and the interactions were appreciated and morale seemed high.
“I feel that when members heard what PEF was doing for them, they appreciated it,” he said. “They understand that we as a union are trying to represent all members with respect to the terms and conditions of employment.”
It’s critically important to engage members, DiAntonio said.
“It allows us to hear first-hand what they are experiencing at their worksites,” she said. “The good and the bad. It also allows them to learn more about their union and what we do at a broader level to better their lives. Having that dialogue is not only critical, but also extremely valuable and worthwhile.”
“On a scale of 1 to 10, getting out to the members is a 10,” Williams said. “It’s very important for us to get out to the worksites.”
DeSilva echoed her fellow statewide officers.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity to meet, listen and address concerns of our members, who are working diligently to service residents of New York State,” she said. “I always tell members that PEF is here to help you live your best PEF life. Members love when I say and explain that statement!”
The statewide tour will continue in August in Regions 1, 2, and 3.
Confirmed dates and locations include August 2 at Buffalo Psychiatric Center, the Department of Labor, and the Rochester School of the Blind; August 3 at Rochester Psychiatric Center, Department of Transportation; and August 4 at Hornell Elks Lodge. Members in those regions and specific worksites should keep an eye out for registration emails to sign up.
Upcoming visits for PEF Statewide officers:
August 1, 2022 from 11:00am to 1:00pm
St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral – 139 Pearl Street, Buffalo, N.Y. 14202
August 1, 2022 from 3pm to 4pm
Western New York Children’s Psychiatric Center – 1010 E & West Rd. West Seneca, N.Y.
August 2, 2022 from 6am to 9am
Buffalo Psychiatric Center – 400 Forest Avenue, Buffalo, N.Y.
August 2, 2022 from 11am to 12pm
Department of Labor – 290 Main St. Buffalo, N.Y.
August 2, 2022 from 2pm to 3pm
Batavia School for the Blind – 2A Richmond Ave, Batavia, N.Y.
August 2, 2022 from 3:30pm to 4:30pm
NYS Vetrans Home – 220 Richmond Ave, Batavia, N.Y.
August 3, 2022 from 6:30am to 9:00am
Rochester Psychiatric Center – 1111 Elmwood Avenue, Rochester, N.Y.
August 3, 2022 from 11am to 1pm
Bowl-A-Roll Lanes – 1560 Jefferson Road, Rochester, N.Y.
August 4, 2022 from 7:30am to 9:30am
Allegany County Office Building – 7 Court St, Belmont N.Y.
August 4, 2022 from 11:30am to 1:00pm
Elks Lodge – 60 Broadway Mall, Hornell, N.Y.
August 4, 2022 from 2:30pm to 5:00pm
Elmira Psychiatric Center – 100 Washington Avenue, Elmira N.Y.
August 5, 2022 from 6:00am to 9:00am
Elmira Correctional Facility – 1879 Davis Street, Elmira N.Y.
More dates and locations are in the works.