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New York's Cuomo Takes on Unions

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"...started the process of laying off 3,500 union workers..."

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo started the process of laying off 3,500 union workers Tuesday night after the state's union rejected wage and benefit concessions negotiated to balance New York's budget, reports Business Insider.

Union members voted, 54 percent to 46 percent, to reject the five-year deal that called for employees to forgo raises for the first three years and accept 2 percent increases in each of the final two years. The deal also called for union members to pay more for health insurance, reports the New York Daily News.

Since their rejection of the contract, Cuomo has asked the Public Employees Federation (PEF), which represents 56,000 members, to rethink their position, while a top New York administration official ripped into union leaders and said that unless they reschedule a new vote, layoffs would start immediately.

"We spent months working with PEF's leadership and reached an agreement," said Director of State Operations Howard Glaser. "We now find out that they do not truly represent their membership."

Glaser attributed the defeat of the defeat to a failure of PEF leaders to "effectively communicate" the deal's benefits its members.

Layoff notices went out to PEF workers late Tuesday evening and take effect in 21 days, another administration official has said.

PEF spokeswoman Darcy Wells said it is too early to say if union leaders would schedule a new vote, but noted the overwhelming message from the membership was that the contract was unacceptable, report the New York Daily News.

So apparently the union members did have the contract communicated to them “effectively.” They just do not want to pay more or take a decrease in benefits.

Union President Ken Brynien said PEF members "clearly feel they are being asked to sacrifice more than others, particularly in light of the pending expiration of the state's millionaire's tax" and urged Cuomo to return to the bargaining table.

"There are just so many bad things about it financially," said one PEF member. "It was a bad, bad contract."

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) said he was disappointed by the vote but urged both sides to resolve the matter without layoffs. "These are tough economic times, and I hope that everyone involved can come together to make the shared sacrifices that are necessary," Silver said.

Speaking of sacrifice, is is too much to ask that a public employee who already has more generous pay and benefits than private a sector employee (who pays those benefits and salary) pay at least some of the cost of their own health insurance?

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