Chairman's Message

Welcome to the official website of the New York State Public Employee Conference

The following Message to Our Legislators was delivered by the chairman on February 2, 1016, at NYSPEC’s Annual Legislative Breakfast event in Albany, New York:

On behalf of the Co-Chairs, Trustees, Directors and, most importantly, the members, of the New York State Public Employee Conference, it is my honor and privilege to welcome you to our 39th annual Legislative Breakfast. We host this event each year to give you, our legislators, an opportunity to see first hand the broad spectrum of our membership, and to better understand our legislative goals.

Initially formed in 1977 with just 13 member unions, we have grown significantly because of the tenacious representation of our members. We now boast 75 member unions!

Our theme again this year is unity. In its most fundamental form, an individual union is all about people banding together to make gains as a whole. The opposite of the proverbial “In Unity There Is Strength!” mantra is simple:  “In Disunity There Is Weakness!” The concerted effort to eviscerate gains made by the union movement over scores of decades is causing one of its desired effects: disunity. Disunity among and between the private and public sector union movements is metastasizing into disunity among and between public sector unions. We, as an umbrella organization, are fighting to arrest this, as nothing good can come of it for our membership. We must redouble our endeavors to ensure that positive legislation beneficial to all public employees is passed into law, for the elemental purposes of making further progress and trying to win back some of the hard-fought benefits that have been lost in recent years, and that will continue to be eroded unless we remain united!

Our theme in recent years has been, essentially, keeping what we have. Public employee pensions and benefits, which had been negotiated for and sacrificed for over the course of generations – and this is key –  in lieu of the lucrative financial packages then enjoyed by the private sector, continue to be the target of attacks for nothing more than political expediency. When in the past there was a need – a real need – to make modifications to public employee pensions, serious and thoughtful consideration and study by eminently qualified individuals over the course of many, many months was undertaken. Health insurance benefits enjoyed by active and retired public employees may seem extravagant to members of the private sector. However, this is a prime example of a benefit that public sector employees bought and paid for in the past as a trade-off for higher salaries. When Wall Street and the private sector were flying high, it wasn’t an issue.

Now that the private sector bubble has burst, and the Tea Party radicals and the media have declared war on public employee unions and benefits, it appears that it’s time to join the “race-to-the-bottom” and eliminate benefits public sector employees bought and paid for over the course of many decades. This cannot, and will not, happen while the New York State Public Employee Conference exists! Sound fiscal management, with proper planning and funding, must be the paradigm going forward, so as not to burden future generations with empty coffers when it is time to pay for negotiated benefits. As always, we are ready, willing, and able to work with you to address the many challenges that face us all in this still-daunting economy.

The situation with respect to fiscal notes for New York City legislation still remains unresolved and must be addressed, as does the notable reluctance of the New York City Council to respond to home rule requests of the state legislature.

New York’s workers’ compensation system still needs to be reformed; in its current configuration it does not meet the needs of the workforce. For example, among other changes, the time frame promulgated in Section 71 of the Civil Service Law should be increased to two years.

We thank you for codifying last year a five year extender of the Governor’s 9/11 Worker Protection Task Force, which we continue to actively participate in, striving to identify and correct unresolved issues more than 14 years after that horrific event.

We appeal to you to carefully consider the impact of all legislative proposals on our members, who continue to show their commitment to the people of this state. The issues encapsulated in this booklet were developed and unanimously approved by all the unions comprising our conference.  We remain steadfastly opposed to a constitutional convention, as the potential deleterious effects of removing protections for so many basic human rights cannot be outweighed by a rush to mollify the sensationalist media. Generally speaking, the New York State legislature has been supportive of our legislative agenda, chiefly because it is essentially an agenda of fairness for the people who come to work every day for the betterment of the public good.

The New York State Public Employee Conference commits to continue working in harmony with you, our elected officials – yourselves dedicated public employees – to obtain positive results for our membership.