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Collective Interest Vs Self Interest

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Message John Pagoda

The recent contract negotiations between a public union and New York state reflects all the elements of the relationship between government, the wealthy and the middle class that have given rise to the Occupy Wall St. movement nationwide in the form of an ambitious politician, the interests of the already well off, a union leadership eager to settle rather than fight for a shared sacrifice to address an economic problem which its members did not create and the people whose fate hangs in the balance culminates this week when the votes of union membership are counted.


A few weeks ago New York's Public Employees Federation union voted against Governor Cuomo's contract offer which included no pay raises for the next two years, an increase in employee health care contributions, a 5 day furlough in the first year and a 4 day furlough the following year and no guarantee of job security for the duration of the 5 year contract.


Governor Cuomo stated 3500 PEF employees would be laid off if PEF didn't accept his contract offer as such PEF's leadership agreed to the contract and presented it to its membership for a vote. Nearly 70 percent of PEF members voted of which over 19,000 voted against the contract and 16,000 some voted in favor as such a majority of PEF's membership rejected Governor Cuomo's offer.


Feigning concern over the fate of the recently 3500 pink slipped PEF employees local talk radio 1300 entertainers expressed shock that PEF wouldn't have a do-over vote on Gov. Cuomo's contract offer. Anyone who ever listened to that station is well aware of the anti-union, anti-public employee animus these power elite sycophants repeat ad nauseam 24/7 so expressing insincere interest about the plight of the 3500 PEF members who received pink slips seemed disingenuous at best and hypocritical as usual.


PEF's leadership recently claimed that the reasons workers voted against the contract were the added health insurance costs, the furlough days, and that workers would have limited layoff protections for the next five years. Interestingly PEF did not cite the first 3 years without a pay raise as one of the reasons they rejected the contract yet that didn't prevent Gov. Cuomo from showing his contempt for the union by blaming those who voted against the contract claiming they were influenced by a "forget the collective - it's all about my self-interest" ethos and as such decided to sacrifice thousands of workers in order to preserve their self-interest.


The Gov. claimed that since the largest public sector union in New York (CSEA) agreed to the contract between New York State and the public employees PEF should follow CSEA in agreeing to the contract "or else" a few more thousand New Yorker's would become unemployed. The printed media and what passes for local news never informed the public that Governor Cuomo's argument neglected to mention that only 45% or only about 30,000 CSEA members bothered to vote and those who favored the contract was less than those in PEF who opposed it.


Gov. Cuomo expressed sadness at putting people out of work and casting blame elsewhere begged several questions: Was Gov. Cuomo concerned about "the collective" during the spring when he rejected a tax increase on millionaires? Will Gov. Cuomo be showing his concern for "the collective" later this year when he proposes an additional 4.5 billion dollars in tax breaks to the already well off because they are "job creators"? Is Gov. Cuomo merely looking out for his own self-interest by providing millionaires with more than generous tax breaks today for the sole purpose of insuring their continued financial support for his future political aspirations?


A new contract would have to be negotiated between the Governor and PEF leadership. The Governor was adamant about guaranteeing job protection during the entire period of the contract placing PEF in the position of being held responsible for any jobs lost now or accepting a new contract with a few concessions to ease the pain of sacrificing for the collective.The impasse provided PEF with an opportunity to protect all of its members including those 3,500 or 7% of its membership certain to be laid off now and/or in the future by accepting the contract as is with the minor modification of having employees contribute a more equitable share of health insurance and in return demanding nothing more and nothing less than securing Gov. Cuomo assurances that those millionaires, those "job creators" who are benefiting from his tax breaks pony up and find jobs in the private sector for each of those laid off by the state or hold the "job creators" financially accountable for the economic mess they created when they acted in their self-interest by "forgetting the collective" when they kept the money instead of creating jobs.


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"tomorrow is guaranteed to no one" compells this fellow traveler to describe the way of life that requires a new way of living where something is left behind which decreases the suffering of all forms of life that follow.
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