Editor’s Note: This is the third in our continuing series “What Can PEF Do For You?” highlighting the role PEF departments perform for the union membership. You can read the first installment about PEF Health & Safety, here, and the second about Organizing, here.
When people think union, they immediately think contract.
PEF’s Contract Administration Department is the force behind your Contract Team and the staff ensures the state affords members all the rights they are entitled to under the collective bargaining agreement.
“Our department works with and helps train the Contract Team so that they can negotiate a successful contract,” said Director Debra Greenberg. “After the collective bargaining agreement is negotiated, we monitor the implementation and work to resolve any disputes.”
As an example, when the state failed to pay per diem nurses the nurse uniform allowance included in the 2019-2023 contract, Contract Administration immediately stepped in to correct the oversight.
“By advocating with our Office of Employee Relations (OER) counterparts, we were able to have that corrected without having to file a grievance and await arbitration,” Greenberg said. “Some other recent successes include advocacy on the Article 10 Work Life Services Advisory Board, where, along with PEF designee Conrad Davis, we were able to get the state to increase the contribution to the Dependent Care Advantage Accounts by $200 per participating employee.
“We are also expecting the state to roll out a pre-tax parking benefit for those who park in lots not provided by the state,” Greenberg said. “Along with our leaders Vivian Falto and Chad Williams on the Article 15 Committee, and staff member Kim Loccisano, we successfully advocated for the new license renewal reimbursement to be increased from $100 to $200 per year.”
The six staff members in the department are assigned to various contract committees to assist PEF elected leaders as they advocate for members; and to assist leaders and Field Services staff in reviewing and providing guidance to labor/management teams on agreements, including telecommuting and alternative work schedules; and much more.
Staff also handle grievances at Steps 3 and 4 to enforce members’ contractual rights through a triage process in which PEF meets regularly with OER and a triage arbitrator to resolve pending grievances and by arbitrating grievances, as needed. For example, at triage, Contract Administration has been successful in having members’ accruals restored when they were denied COVID leave. Grievances going to full arbitration are often those that have wide impact on the bargaining unit.
Get to know your advocates and what motivates them
Greenberg joined PEF in 1997, working in the Legal, Field Services and now Contract Administration departments. She has been with Contract Administration since 2017 and became director in 2019.
For Greenberg, Contract Administration allows her to make an impact on the lives of members.
“I am drawn to advocating for the less powerful,” she said. “When I first started my legal career, I did criminal defense work for the indigent population. While there, I got involved in the staff union as co-president of the Legal Aid office and from there it was a natural transition to union work and advocating for workers.”
Longtime PEF staffer Ed Aluck joined the ranks 23 years ago as a law clerk in the Legal Department. He has been an attorney with PEF since 2001 and with Contract Administration since June 2019.
“My main job is to advocate for and enforce our member’s collective bargaining and contract rights,” Aluck said. “I am a member of the PEF bargaining team for the PS&T unit and for some of PEF’s smaller municipal units, where I assist the teams in negotiating. I also provide reviews and opinions on contract grievances, and I present cases at triage, expedited arbitration and full arbitration.”
He is assigned to the Article 15 Professional Development Committee, the Article 19 Downtown Albany Parking Committee, the Article 13 Workers’ Compensation Committee, and the Grievance Appeals Committee.
“I’m drawn to this work because I have always had a passion for advocating for working people and, more generally, the little guy, or underdog,” Aluck said. “I hate bullying and seeing people being taken advantage of, so working here gives me an opportunity to advocate for justice and fairness on behalf of employees against their more powerful employer.”
Health benefits are staff member Erika Frasier’s specialty. She helps members with all health benefit issues, from medical, to dental, to vision.
“I advocate and fight for our members best interests,” she said. “I was recently able to get full retroactive medical coverage going back three years for a member who was unintentionally wronged by their agency. I was also able to get the state to reimburse them almost $20,000 in COBRA premium payments they shouldn’t have had to pay.”
After six years at a private-sector broker firm, she was drawn to PEF because of the important work of members.
“The members PEF represents have a huge impact on the daily lives of many people and I wanted to be able to pay them back and fight for the great benefits they deserve,” she said.
For more than a decade, Sean Shields has been involved in the labor movement, both in the private and the public sector. He joined PEF’s Contract Administration team in June 2022.
“I was initially drawn to this field after a college course in labor history with an eccentric professor,” Shields said. “He was extremely passionate about the labor movement and by the end of the semester, he convinced me to enroll in the graduate Labor Relations program where he served as my advisor and mentor.”
Joining PEF in November 2021, Administrative Assistant Marci Chadwick keeps track of all Step 3 reviews and decisions; maintains files on all agency contract reviews; and coordinates taking notes at the bargaining table. She also fields basic contract questions and directs members to the right person to help them.
“I have always advocated for myself for better wages, benefits and working conditions,” she said. Since joining PEF, she has been able to extend that advocacy drive to benefit members.
Recently joining the Contract Administration team after two years in PEF’s Legal Department, where he worked on disciplinary matters, improper practice charges, and litigation, Benjamin Traslavina will now provide technical expertise and assistance to the contract team and work on grievances to enforce the contract.
“I came to this work because I believe an organized working class is key to a more equitable society,” he said. An attorney for a little over two years, Traslavina said working in this department is rewarding because “contracts can make tangible improvements in the workplace on a broad scale.”
You can access the current contract, as well as grievance forms and other contract information, here. To contact PEF Contract Administration, call (800) 342-4306, ext. 233.