CUT THE POLITICS — PEF President Ken Brynien gives a TV interview at union headquarters in April to explain better ways than layoffs for saving the state money.
— Photo by Mario A. Bruni
Hang tough now, or face same threats over and over in coming years
By KENNETH BRYNIEN
Back in December when the governor submitted his Executive Budget, he included a number of proposals that would have stripped benefits from our members and retirees as well as illegally forced contract concessions through legislative fiat.

We were successful in blocking those proposals in the Legislature and none were enacted as part of the adopted budget. However, as you know, this was just the first round in the governor’s fight to extract unnecessary concessions from the state workforce.

What the governor could not achieve in the Legislature he is now trying to achieve by threatening the livelihoods of nearly 9,000 hardworking state employees, saying he has no options. He either gets concessions from the unions or we face layoffs.

We are steadfast in our certainty he has other options that must be explored and implemented before any state employee loses his or her job. These alternative solutions would provide long-term savings for the taxpayers and set the state on a footing for greater savings in years to come.

These savings easily could be achieved by reducing the state’s reliance on consultants, reducing overtime, and allowing our members greater access to programs that allow voluntary reductions in employee work schedules, just to name a few. If combined, these options could double or even triple the savings the governor is seeking through job cuts. Yet the governor continues to seek only job cuts or concessions.

To many PEF members, the governor’s proposal to cut jobs is the greatest threat we face. Having gone through the layoff process in 1991 and again in 1995, I have firsthand knowledge of the anguish and upset the threat of losing your job causes.

As difficult as this fight is, it will define us as a union for years to come. How we respond will be a major factor in whether we will find ourselves in this situation again as the state’s leaders continue to address the fiscal crisis.

To be effective we must speak with one voice when it comes to the governor’s proposals.

Our challenge as a union is to make sure the governor and the public recognize the savings he seeks can be achieved without unfair and unnecessary concessions from the state’s workforce or damaging cuts to the services on which New York’s citizens rely.

So, we continue to fight the governor’s proposals. I reiterate: We will not reopen our contract and we will work to eliminate layoffs.

In January, when the governor gave his State of the State Address, he identified as a guiding principle the need to rebuild New York’s economy “not by spending more, but by spending more effectively.”

We are asking the governor to abide by his own principle and in our words: “Cut the waste, not the workers.


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