standard: Employees of New York State United Teachers
picket the union. Photo: John Whipple
this week, unionized employees of New York State United Teachers,
one of the state’s largest labor unions, picketed their employer
for asking of them what it wouldn’t ask of its members: givebacks
in health insurance.
When education funding faced drastic cuts during state budget
negotiations earlier in the year, school districts statewide
asked their teachers unions for health insurance givebacks—changes
in health insurance plans that would’ve saved districts money
by increasing teachers’ insurance premiums. Although NYSUT,
which represents half a million teachers, would not agree
to any givebacks from its members’ insurance plans, the teachers
union has apparently asked its professional staff for the
very same concessions.
More than 200 members of the Professional Staff Association,
which represents NYSUT’s professional employees (researchers,
organizers, graphic designers, etc.), picketed in front of
the teachers union’s headquarters on Troy Schenectady Road
in Latham Monday and Tuesday (Aug. 18-19). The picket included
current and former PSA members from across the state angered
by NYSUT’s request for health-insurance givebacks when their
contract expires on Aug. 31.
organization has always stressed trying to hold on to or trying
to increase the benefits for its members in negotiations.
Now they are turning around and expecting us to take a cut,
and I find that absurd,” said Joe McPartlin, a retired PSA
member who used to negotiate teacher contracts for NYSUT members.
“The implication was that when I retired in 1996, I would
be able to maintain the health-care package that I had.”
PSA President Jeff Cassidy said NYSUT’s latest offer would
require retirees like McPartlin to face health-insurance premium
increases as high as $1,000 per year. NYSUT is asking current
PSA employees to cut their accruable vacation days from 45
to 30, cut the number of sick days an employee can save from
400 to 200, and face health-insurance increases of $3,000
irony is that the very issues that we fight for . . . NYSUT
members [to enjoy] are the very same issues that they want
us to cut,” Cassidy said.
Dennis Tompkins, a spokesman for the teachers union, wouldn’t
discuss the specifics of the negotiations but did say he expected
PSA members to lobby hard to make sure their demands are met.
be disappointed if PSA wasn’t negotiating hard for a contract,
because that is what they do for our members,” Tompkins said.
“We look at this as part of the process.”
The two parties are scheduled to meet at the negotiating table
later this week, and again the following week with a federal
mediator if necessary. Cassidy said his union has a “no contract,
no work” policy, and PSA members will go on strike if matters
aren’t settled by Aug. 31.
New Map, No Primaries
official. Last week, a federal judge accepted the recommendation
of a lower judge and ordered Albany County to create a new
voting district with a majority of minority voters before
any election takes place. U.S. District Judge Norman Mordue
also ruled that hearings, or possibly a trial, will be held
to ensure that the new map is in line with the Voting Rights
Act of 1965 before it is considered acceptable.
The parties to the case are scheduled to meet next on Sept.
8—the day before the county’s scheduled primaries—making a
postponement of the elections seem inevitable.
The ruling comes as part of a lawsuit filed in April by Arbor
Hill Concerned Citizens Neighborhood Association, which argued
that ethnic minority votes would be suppressed under the county
legislature’s initial redistricting plan. Last month, U.S.
Magistrate David R. Homer determined that an additional district
is called for, and recommended an injunction preventing further
elections until the issue is resolved.
Mordue approved Homer’s recommendations in their entirety
last Friday, and sent the case back to him to “establish a
scheduling order for submission of a revised redistricting
plan and to conduct hearings . . . and/or a trial.”
Now it is up to the parties to the suit to agree upon a new
map, and that will take some doing. The legislature’s Redistricting
Commission will meet again this Friday to examine the county’s
version of the new map, which the AHCCNA finds insufficient.
According to The Daily Gazette, the county’s attorney,
Michael Lynch, told Homer the county will present its version
of the map on Sept. 8.
Judge Mordue did leave the case open for a trial if the hearings
are not fruitful, and the possibility remains that the county
may appeal the order.
With elections drawing nearer, and all 39 seats in the legislature
up for election, voters and candidates appear no nearer to
knowing when their primaries will take place.
Photo: Joe Putrock
Montage Farrell stands vigil for transgender rights and to
honor local transgender activist Bobbi Jo Hahn, who died Aug.
18, 2001. Other transgender activists gathered the same day
at Hahn’s grave. Hahn was a decorated Vietnam Veteran and
founded the Transsexual Clearinghouse, a resource guide
for transgender people. Farrell organized the vigil in part
to draw attention to the fact that gender identity is still
not covered by state anti-discimination laws. Photo: Joe Putrock