BEHIND THE LEGISLATIVE SCENE — (L-R) Musa Moore, Ryan Delgado, Brian Curran, John Murphy, Danielle Little-Thomson. Not shown, Peggy Moore-Carter. — Photo by Deborah A. Miles

Legislative department keeps PEF in political arena

PEF achieved some very important legislative gains during the last two years, and a good part of these victories is due to the efforts of PEF’s Legislative Department.

It’s a small staff of six who act as the voice for PEF members in the political arena. They work with the state Legislature and Congress to help lawmakers understand how proposals or budget items may affect union members.

“Almost all of our members are public employees. This department serves these members by helping to identify issues that may directly affect their jobs,” said Brian Curran, legislative director and counsel.

“We articulate the union’s position with decisionmakers to advance the interests of our members.”

The department’s role is to monitor the daily activities in the legislative process and keep a keen watch on the state budget.

“If we identify an issue that would positively or negatively affect our members, the issue is discussed internally with PEF leaders until a position is formed,” Curran said. “Then, the department advocates on behalf of the union to state legislators, members of Congress and other officials.”

Politically savvy staff
The staff includes Danielle Little-Thomson, legislative assistant; John Murphy, Ryan Delgado and Musa Moore, political organizers/lobbyists; and Peggy Moore-Carter, a part-time administrative support assistant.

They work under the direction of PEF President Ken Brynien and coordinate with statewide Political Action Committee (PAC) Chair Joe Fox and Co-chair Pat Baker, both PEF vice-presidents.

Curran said his staff is well versed in the legislative and political process and is flexible.

“It’s not a nine-to-five job. We often work evenings or weekends,” Curran said. “There is also a lot of variety. One day we may be reading bills and the next organizing members to contact their legislators about our positions. Wherever the need is, we rise to the occasion.”

Making a difference
PEF’s Go Public campaign is just one example of how this department, in conjunction with other PEF departments, got results. Three of the four bills are signed into law. The cost-benefit analysis bill is the last one and still a priority. (Last year, the bill passed both houses but was vetoed by Gov. George Pataki.)

“With this campaign, there was substantial success in getting several of our proposals adopted, at least in part, and in some cases entirely,” Curran said. “The governor’s office indicated a willingness to talk with PEF about a modified version of the cost-benefit analysis bill. We are waiting for the governor’s office to tell us what he is willing to commit to and for specific language.”

The department supported PEF’s efforts to get workplace safety bills passed. “These were major bills to be adopted,” Curran said. “They should pay some long-term dividends in improving safety in the workplace.”

The department was also instrumental in the defensive fight around the Berger Commission’s proposal to privatize the State University of NY (SUNY) Hospital in Syracuse.

“The union was successful in altering that proposal. By persuading all the parties involved in taking a different approach, we came up with a solution that will preserve all our members’ rights while meeting some of the goals of the Berger Commission,” Curran said.

Be active, visible
What would give PEF more political power? According to Curran, the answer is member involvement.
“The single greatest thing to improve PEF’s effectiveness is to get more members to be active and visible as volunteers in political campaigns at the local level,” Curran said.

“Nothing is as powerful to a politician as knowing there are folks in their home district who are a part of your group.”