Pension, nursing bills
among top PEF priorities in Albany
By SHERRY HALBROOK
As the 2008 legislative session hits full stride in Albany, PEF is honing in
on top legislative issues, as well as state budget bills.
The union is putting increasing pressure on state senators to pass a bill
restricting mandatory overtime for nurses.
“This bill was passed by the state Assembly last year,” said PEF Legislative
Director Brian Curran, “but, although it was reported out of committee in
the Senate, it did not make to the floor for a vote.”
Since Sen. Majority Leader Joseph Bruno has the most influence over which
bills come up for votes and when, top PEF leaders have met with Bruno to
emphasize how important this legislation is to assuring quality patient
care, to reduce state overtime costs and to reduce high burnout rates among
public- and private-sector nurses.
For a number of years, Bruno has addressed nurses from PEF and other unions
at their joint rallies in the spring and has consistently expressed support
for this legislation.
However, the bill faces very strong opposition from hospitals and nursing
homes that fear it would increase their operating costs.
Because bills introduced in “off years” of the state Legislature’s two-year
election cycle continue forward into the second year with the same bill
numbers, this mandatory overtime legislation is still listed as
A.1898B/S.6342. Unfortunately, it must be brought to a vote again in the
Assembly this year.
This year, the nurses are coming to Albany June 10 to rally and lobby
lawmakers on this and other nursing legislation (if it hasn’t already
passed) shortly before the 2008 legislative session is scheduled to end on
Among the other eight nursing-related bills PEF is supporting are:
• A.2316A/S.3101 – Judi’s Law requires safety measures at the state Office
of Mental Health;
• A.5196/S.1267 – Nursing Care Quality Protection Act;
• A.6119/S.1551 – Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act; and
• A.8645A/S.4994B – Nursing Shortage Correction Act.
Because many PEF members are approaching retirement, the union feels a
special sense of urgency in securing passage of pension and tier-reform
legislation. Approximately 20 of the pending pension-related bills are
supported by PEF.
Many members and retired members feel strongly they have been treated
unfairly because they contributed to their state pensions for more than 10
years, before the 10-year limit on such contributions was established. A
bill, A.7128/S.4554, would give extra service credit for contributing more
than 10 years. This bill, sponsored by state Assembly Member Jack McEneny
and Sen. Joseph Robach, is currently under review by committees in each
Another pension bill sponsored by McEneny would allow members of Tiers 2, 3
and 4 to retire with no reduction in their pension benefits after they have
reached age 55 and have at least 25 years of service. Currently, these
members face severe penalties – loss of up to 27 percent of their pension
benefit – if they retire before age 62 and have less than 30 years of
service. The Senate sponsor is John Flanagan.
PEF also supports bills to address other tier inequities, service credit
issues and special retirement issues faced by members working in certain
Among other important pension bills PEF supports are those addressing such
issues as: protection of state retirees’ health insurance benefits;
improving pension adjustments for inflation; and raising the maximum amount
of money retired public employees can earn without suffering pension
PEF is monitoring hundreds of bills and has taken positions on many of them.
For a complete list of this legislation, the status of each bill and PEF’s
position on it, go online to PEF Political Action, then
select Bills PEF Supports or Opposes for 2007/2008.
Members honor Dr.
King’s passionate activism
By DEBORAH A. MILES
PEF Division 199 members at the state Department of Health held their third
annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. celebration on January 16 at 90 Church
Street in Manhattan.
“In lieu of a Christmas, Kwanza or Hanukkah party, our members feel a
celebration of diversity is important to them, and to honor Dr. King for all
he did for the working class,” said Lola Parks Guerra, PEF Division 199
assistant council leader and Executive Board member. “It is our annual
event, instead of getting together for the holidays.
“We honor Dr. King on a day close to his birthday, and this year we invited
members from PEF Division 191 who work at the state Office of Temporary and
Disability Assistance (OTDA) to join us,” Parks Guerra said.
More than 130 people filled the room, listened to tapes of Dr. King’s
speeches, and also had the opportunity to speak with PEF President Ken
“Not only was Dr. King a civil rights activist, he was a strong union
activist. He fought for working people of all colors, so they would get good
wages and benefits,” Brynien said. “It is fitting the day we come together
to remember him is a time when we are fighting for our wages and benefits
through contract negotiations.”
Paul Stein, PEF Division 199 council leader, noted Dr. King was shot in
Memphis April 4, 1968, by James Earl Ray after delivering his famous “I’ve
Been to the Mountaintop” address to more than 300 striking sanitary workers
belonging to AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal
Employees) Local 1733.
As a side note, the City of Memphis settled the strike shortly after Dr.
King’s assassination with favorable terms to the sanitary workers.
“There are few today who have the eloquence and passion of Dr. King. This
event demonstrates we are still inspired by his example and his words,”
Stein said. “The speeches Dr. King delivered remind us of the importance to
be unified, to fight, and to give back to the community.
CELEBRATING DIVERSITY — Executive Board member
Lola Parks Guerra (L) serves members at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day
— Photos by Richard Dillard