Wayne Spence Head Shot By WAYNE SPENCE

The first quarter of each year is always a busy time for this union.  The State Legislature is in session, soliciting feedback from PEF and other stakeholders as they formalize the budget. The halls of the Capitol in Albany echo with advocates pushing their priority issues at rallies and press conferences.  PEF has been an active participant at many of those, including calls to save SUNY Downstate and Fix Tier 6 of the pension plan.  

In this issue, we have coverage of a major rally held outside SUNY Downstate on Feb. 29, featuring multiple unions, nearly a dozen concerned lawmakers, Rev. Al Sharpton and more than 1,200 Downstate workers, union members and community activists – all speaking with one voice to say: “Brooklyn Needs Downstate!”  This is a fight PEF has waged before, in 2012, when former Governor Cuomo wanted to privatize this critical healthcare hub in Central Brooklyn.  After more than a decade of disinvestment and neglect, we’re fighting again to make sure SUNY Downstate stays open and can continue to deliver quality services to a community that deserves it.  PEF has created a mobile billboard to travel around the Capitol and State agencies in Albany, and we invited clergy leaders from Brooklyn up to Albany on March 4-5 to meet with legislators and share stories about how vital Downstate is to their congregations.  All these actions have raised community awareness about the issue and I’m hopeful that the SUNY chancellor’s misguided plan to transition services from Downstate to Kings County Hospital will not be part of this year’s budget. 

On another front, PEF is very involved in the multi-union campaign to “Fix Tier 6” of the State pension plan.  Secretary Treasurer Joe Donahue took part in a rally this week at the Capitol that filled two levels of the Million Dollar Staircase and attracted nearly a dozen supporting lawmakers.  We successfully lowered the number of required years of service for vesting in Tier 6 from 10 to 5 in 2022 and I believe there is momentum this year to bring more changes to the Tier so that New York can attract and retain more to fill the rampant staffing shortages across agencies. 

The State’s budget is due April 1, so if you have not yet sent letters to your local lawmakers about PEF’s priorities, please take a minute to do so.  Elected officials really pay attention when their constituents make their voices heard.  We’ve assembled them all here and it takes just a few minutes.  

There are plenty more stories worth reading in this issue of The Communicator – from contract money paying out this Spring to features about inspiring members at the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance and the NYS Fire Protection Service — and so I will let you get reading.  Thank you, as always, for your public service and your PEF pride. 

In Solidarity, 

Wayne Spence
PEF President