Syracuse (WSYR-TV) - Unionized state employees are awaiting a judges' decision, as they try to block a one-day-per-week furlough imposed by Governor David Paterson and the state legislature. Union leaders claim the furlough is illegal and would be in violation of the contract workers have with the state.
CSEA Region 5 President Colleen Wheaton says the heart of the issue is a matter of fairness, a matter of balancing the budget on the backs of those who can afford it the least. "There needs to be cuts in the state budget, but it's not fair for one group to be cut, when others are not getting cut or furloughed," she said. "You have upper administration not being furloughed, you have legislators not being furloughed, the only ones being furloughed are the CSEA and PEF employees, the least paid of the whole state services."
The unions are now going to court to block it from happening, and Cornel University labor specialist Rebecca Givan says they have a very strong case. She believes it is unlikely a judge will allow the furloughs to take place. "Its pretty clear you can't just back out of a contract, so it looks likely this will be overturned as it applies to unionized workers," she said.
Workers in California also faced furloughs that were overturned in court after the furloughs took place. Those workers were given back pay to make up for the wages they lost during their time off from work.
Public worker unions fight NY furloughs
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - New York's powerful public worker unions took the state to court Tuesday in what could become a costly and lengthy battle to stop one-day-a-week furloughs for state employees.
The Public Employees Federation and the Civil Service Employees Association unions, representing hundreds of thousands of white- and blue-collar workers, are seeking a temporary restraining order to block the cost-saving measure approved by the Legislature Monday night.
That's the first step in the court challenge to furloughs for about 100,000 state workers, which the union argues would violate their labor contracts. Many lawmakers who reluctantly authorized the furloughs said in floor speeches that the unions will likely win in court.
Other states, including California, have resorted to furloughs and faced lawsuits. In some cases, courts overturned them and required states to repay workers for the lost time. But the terms of furloughs and labor agreements differ state-to-state.
Gov. David Paterson said the furloughs are needed because the unions have rejected every other call to sacrifice and help the state out of its fiscal crisis, including suspending their annual raises of 4 to 7 percent. Paterson has so far avoided layoffs as part of an agreement with unions on a lower cost pension plan for future hires.
The independent Citizens Budget Commission said the "savings are urgently needed and labor is one of the right areas of the budget in which to seek them." It said the work force is too big to afford, and a pay freeze is needed.
"Labor representatives must begin to be partners in the solution rather than courtroom adversaries," said Carol Kellermann, the commission's president. "There are alternatives to forced furloughs that have the benefit of providing significant savings for more than one year."
She said Albany has for too long made promises to unions and other special interests that its taxpayers can't afford. Unions representing public workers are among the highest spending lobbies and campaign contributors in Albany.
"CSEA will doing everything we can to protect the rights of our members and the services they provide to the people of New York," said the union's president, Danny Donohue. "Governor David Paterson's plan is misguided and will create chaos and crisis."
Public Employees Federation President Ken Brynien called the furloughs illegal.
Paterson said furloughs are unavoidable given the $9.2 billion deficit the state must close in a budget that is already more than a month late.
"The budget that I have proposed reflects the principle of shared sacrifice," Paterson said. "It includes tough, but necessary cuts across every single area of state spending. At a time of unprecedented fiscal crisis, every single organization and individual that relies upon state funding needs to make sacrifices. Unfortunately, however, all we've heard so far from the leadership of our state's public employee unions are expletives and excuses."
Furloughs would mean a 20 percent pay cut, likely until a budget is negotiated by the governor and Legislature. The average state worker is paid $64,164 in the work force of nearly 300,000. About 23,000 make more than $100,000. Paterson said furloughs will save $30 million a week.
How local Representatives voted
|Representative ||Party ||Vote |
|State Senate |
|Sen. Dave Valesky ||(D) ||Yes |
|Sen. John DeFrancisco ||(R) ||No |
|Sen. Darrel Aubertine ||(D) ||Yes |
|State Assembly |
|Bill Magnarelli ||(D) ||Yes |
|Al Stirpe ||(D) ||Yes |
|Joan Christensen ||(D) ||Yes |
|Will Barclay ||(R) ||No |
Statement from Governor Paterson:
"I commend the Legislature for approving my emergency appropriations legislation, which will ensure the continued orderly operation of government and achieve necessary workforce savings through State employee furloughs. Over the next week, I will work closely with my agency commissioners to expeditiously implement these furloughs in a manner that both reduces taxpayer costs and minimizes any potential impact on public services.
"The budget that I have proposed reflects the principle of shared sacrifice. It includes tough but necessary cuts across every single area of State spending. At a time of unprecedented fiscal crisis, every single organization and individual that relies upon State funding needs to make sacrifices. Unfortunately, however, all we've heard so far from the leadership of our State's public employee unions are expletives and excuses.
"I recognize that these furloughs represent a difficult sacrifice for many of the State's public employees. That sacrifice is only necessary because their union leadership has rejected all other reasonable attempts at compromise. One such proposal that I put forward is to eliminate a scheduled 4-to-7 percent general salary increase for State employees, which I believe is a fair concession at a time when more than a quarter of million New Yorkers in the private sector have lost their jobs and other local public employee unions across the State are reopening their contracts. These furloughs were a last resort.
"In the days ahead, the special interests will use every tool at their disposal to try and prevent me from doing what is necessary to put our State's fiscal house in order. My only objective is to help New York turn the corner on this fiscal crisis and that goal guides every decision I make as Governor. And I will continue to make the difficult decisions needed to close our $9.2 billion deficit and put taxpayers first. The sooner our State is on a path to economic recovery, the better for every New Yorker."
Statement from PEF President Ken Brynien on Furloughs
"I am deeply disappointed the New York State Legislature has voted to authorize the illegal furlough of hardworking state employees," said PEF President Kenneth Brynien.
"The governor continues to insist that breaking contracts negotiated in good faith are the only way he can generate savings from the state work force. He knows this is untrue. PEF has provided the governor with alternative budget solutions that would avoid such hardships.
"PEF will be immediately filing for a temporary restraining order to stop the illegal furlough plan and protect our members from irreparable damage the loss of income will cause," Brynien said.
PEF is the state's second-largest state employee-union, representing 58,000 professional, technical and scientific employees.
How local state lawmakers will vote on spending bill, furloughs
Albany (WSYR-TV) - Thousands of New York State employees held protests across the state today, rallying against the legislature's planned vote on an emergency spending bill.
If passed, about 100,000 workers would have to take one unpaid day off from work each week until a budget deal is reached.
Local lawmakers are split among party lines. State Senator John DeFrancisco, a Republican, says he will vote no to the budget extender bill, which has a provision that requires state workers take one furlough day each week until a full state budget is passed.
Paterson says he is resorting to the one-day furloughs after unions refused his earlier requests to suspend their 4-percent pay raises as well as other concessions.
Democratic State Senator Dave Valesky says he will vote yes, as well as Democratic Assemblywoman Joan Christensen and Democratic Assemblyman Al Stirpe.
Governor Paterson says he'll keep the forced furloughs in place every week until the legislature approves a state budget, but union workers argue the move is illegal.
The Civil Service Employees Association and Public Employees Federation organized simultaneous protests in Albany; Buffalo; Elmira; Hornell, Steuben County; Rochester; Binghamton; Utica; Poughkeepsie; Manhattan; the Bronx; Brooklyn; Long Island; and Watertown.
Paterson wants $250 million in concessions from unions to close a $9 billion budget deficit.
Paterson says he will stop the furloughs, scheduled to begin the week of May 17, if unions agree to other concessions.
NewsChannel 9's Kim Brown is in the State Capitol and will have live coverage beginning on NewsChannel 9 at 5:00.