March 31, 2012

In My Opinion: Concerns voiced about union issues


---- — At the recent Northeast Central Labor Council Legislative Breakfast, attended by Sen. Betty Little and Assemblywomen Janet Duprey and Teresa Sayward, a number of concerns were expressed.

The recent teacher-evaluation process was discussed. Teachers were already evaluated yearly. The success of a student in school is one the key components. The state evaluation does not include the capability of the student to succeed or how his/her home environment may affect success.

Graduation in four years may not be possible for all; it may take 5 years. GEDs should count toward graduation.

The 2 property-tax cap has negatively impacted local schools, as kindergarten, accelerated programs, music, art and physical education/athletics could be cut.

Disappointment was expressed on the passing in the middle of the night of state Tier 6 pension legislation. All three of our legislators did not approve of the process of how/when it was passed.

Considerable discussion occurred that we are aware of the economic reality and have given, whether it be Plattsburgh Public Library employees reducing their work week and forfeiting raises, many school employees giving up negotiated raises and some state unions not receiving a raise for a few years and having their health-insurance increase (as everyone's is) and in the recent Civil Service Employees Association contract losing five days pay.

Kathy Garrison, CSEA Capital Region president, talked about tax equity and fairness. She mentioned that while vesting stayed at 10 years, it appears that those management appointees that will be in the 401K can vest in one year.

I indicated we were "racing to the bottom." The rich are getting richer, and corporations need to give their fair share, i.e. General Electric not paying any taxes.

"Wage protection theft" legislation recently passed the Senate. There needs to be transparency and accountability. If there is a need to increase the reporting time, it should be moved from one to two years not one to six years.

We need to protect the Wick law. Studies that examined actual construction projects show the Wicks Law saves taxpayers money, and the reason is simple: It increases competition and cuts out the middleman.

We need local jobs for local people, John Donoghue, on behalf of the Plattsburgh/Saranac Lake Building Trades, told the legislators. When a prevailing-wage job is bid, it must be awarded to the lowest responsible bidder. That means the awarding entity has inquired and has proof that the bidder is indeed responsible by law.

That project will be built with public monies that were intended to be of benefit to the local communities and the residents of the area in question. These projects need local-hiring rules in place to ensure the money stays in the area where it was intended, so the community benefits and the construction worker can then pay his or her bills, including taxes, buying a car, groceries etc.

When construction workers come from another state or out of the area, they take the money they have earned here and spend it where they live. They don't use our hospital, pay school taxes, county taxes, spend locally or raise their families here. When private jobs are put out for bid, using local construction workers should be taken into consideration because they will be the same people that will most likely be using the facility or services that will be provided.

The question should be asked if the low bidder provides any benefits to their worker or do they leave that up to public assistance (taxpayers) to provide for them.

One question that should be asked for both prevailing rate and private work is why there is such a monetary difference in the amount of the bids between the top four bidders.

Several of the speakers mentioned that union goals are community goals.

Everyone does better when everyone does better.

Betty Lennon is president of the Northeast Central Labor Council.