Unions Split on New York Budget

ALBANY, N.Y. —New York state’s major public worker unions split on the multi-billion-dollar state budget that lawmakers sent to Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo – a budget that makes it easier to collect union dues.

That provision in particular drew kudos from the state AFL-CIO, while the New York State United Teachers, the state’s joint AFT-NEA affiliate, lauded the overall budget.

But the Civil Service Employees Association, the state’s AFSCME affiliate, rapped Cuomo’s budget for again shorting services for people with developmental disabilities.

The New York budget comments, first reported by Western New York Labor Today, also show what workers can achieve with pro-worker majorities in state capitols – and despite the anti-worker Republican-run government in D.C.

Across the country, in California, a similar pro-worker state legislature and governor, Democrat Jerry Brown, are taking moves to protect undocumented people threatened by GOP Trump administration executive orders and legislative proposals (see California story).

“The #1 priority of the labor movement is always to help working men and women achieve a better life, and it is with that in mind we are pleased with the final state budget,” said New York State AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento after lawmakers passed the budget. His federation’s unions include 2.5 million members in the most heavily unionized state in the U.S.

“A key piece included in the final spending plan will make it easier for union members to deduct the cost of their union dues from their state taxes,” Cilento explained. “This new benefit will put an estimated $35 million back into the pockets of our members in private sector, public sector, and building trades unions throughout the state.” It’s especially valuable, he added, by contrast with attacks on the right to unionize elsewhere in the U.S.

 

NYSUT, with 600,000 members and United University Professions, a 42,000-person AFT affiliate for state university system professors and personnel, called the overall state budget for 2017-18 “a solid start and progress for our students.”

“We appreciate this budget’s steadfast support of public schools and the welcome commitment to public higher education embodied by” a scholarship program Cuomo proposed and lawmakers approved, the two unions said. They also lauded the Democratic-run state Assembly “for rejecting a radical overreach by the Charter School Industry.” And “renewal of the (state’s) millionaire’s tax is a step in the right direction.  All in all, progress for our students.”

And UUP President Fred Kowal said his union is “pleased that students will benefit directly,” from the budget as any State University System tuition increases “must be used to hire more full-time classroom faculty and staff.”

But Fran Turner, legislative director for the 300,000-member CSEA, again found herself objecting to the budget’s shortchanging of the Office of People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD). She also said an arbitrary 2 percent spending increase for all state agencies – a virtual freeze – has cost the state at least 10,000 workers, or one of every 12, since 2011.

“CSEA has always been a willing partner in the appropriate transition of OPWDD’s system of care from large institutions to community-based settings. Unfortunately, this transition has left thousands without care and with nowhere left to turn,” Turner testified at an earlier budget hearing. “As the transition to community-based services has accelerated, the state workforce has been stretched beyond its limits. Extreme overtime and on-the-job injuries have taken their toll on the workforce and the clients they serve.

“Based on the latest information to CSEA by OPWDD, there are 11,000 families waiting for some type of services…It is not acceptable that an individual must be in crisis to receive the services he or she needs and deserves Clients served by OPWDD deserve to be taken care of by a well-trained workforce they know and trust. It is time for the state to show a true commitment to provide care for all of New York’s citizens who need it.”

Source: PAI