PEF President Roger Benson speaks with Assembly Labor Committee Chair Susan John at the nurses’ rally. — Photo by Deborah A. Miles
Union fighting to save downstate DOL services
By ROGER E. BENSON
Even as the state legislative session winds down, nearly 150 of our members are facing direct threats to their job security.
The state Department of Labor (DOL) has proposed closing its Telephone Call Center in Manhattan and moving those services
upstate. Closing the center would displace and disrupt the lives of hundreds of state employees.
The closure reeks of geographic patronage and privatization. It flies in the face of the state’s efforts to redevelop lower Manhattan, by moving jobs out of New York City. It increases the state’s reliance on costly contract interpreters and increases the prospects for privatization of call-center operations by reducing the ability of DOL to provide in-house multi-lingual services.
DOL claims the root of the problem is federal funding cuts and that it will lose $9.7 million in federal unemployment insurance (UI) funding. This claim is contrary to information from the Federal Funds Information for the States. No information is available that provides independent documentation that DOL will lose nearly $10 million in UI funding. However, despite our insistence, DOL has provided no documentation to back up its claims.
We will fight to maintain the call center in Manhattan and convince the state’s leaders of the value of keeping the call center in New York City. I am proud of our members’ mobilizing efforts and the public relations and political pressure we have brought to bear in fighting the closure. And, as we press on with the merits of this issue, I am confident the state will reconsider its misguided actions.
Unfortunately, the fight in DOL is shaping up to be just the beginning of a fight for many public services which may be affected by the federal budget as actual cuts identified in the congressional budget resolution ripple through the state’s budgets in the years to come.
As the Bush administration seeks cuts in federal funding to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy, pressure will mount for politically targeted funding cuts. There will be cuts to Medicaid, shifts in funding in Housing and Urban Development, Community Service and Community Development Block Grants, and attempts to restructure and privatize successful programs such as workforce training and development, and vocational training — all of which will ultimately affect our members.
PEF will fight these funding cuts and more as we begin to develop a stronger more effective federal legislative program. We know the formula: member mobilization, public relations and political action. We have a proven record of success on a state level and, while that in itself does not guarantee success on the federal level, with your involvement and the help of our international affiliates it certainly increases our chances.
Communicator June 2005
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