ALBANY—The public employees' unions aren't taking news that David Paterson is moving toward layoffs very well.
The presidents of CSEA and PEF said at a press conference they will file a complaint of unfair labor practice against Paterson for sending this letter to 141,00 public employees yesterday, urging them to talk to union leaders about making concessions. That unfairly cuts the union out of the bargaining process, Danny Donohue of CSEA and Ken Brynien of PEF said.
Donohue went for Paterson's jugular.
"We're also here to ask whether the governor understands what the term mental health means," he said. "We think he needs a good psychiatrist, or at least he should share the drugs he's on, because he's not making any sense to our members."
Thisis apparently a refernce to a breakdown which shows mental health services will be among the most severely cut. Later, Donohue said of Paterson: "If the governor doesn't need mental health services, I don't know who does."
In his budget proposal, Paterson asked public employees' unions to re-negotiate their contracts and forego a scheduled three-percent raise, which they refused to do. It was not part of the budget enacted last week. Paterson cited that refusal last month when he asked agency heads to prepare for reductions of up to 8,900 people.
But it's not a totally caustic relationship, it seems; Donohue and Brynien said they met personally this week with Paterson, and will continue to meet.
But this process could cause more damage to the already battered governor. The unions are planning a demonstration April 30 outside Paterson's New York City office, an organizer told me. Donohue offered these words in closing to Paterson:
"We're going to fight like hell for every member we have," he said. "We'll spend our time here reminding people who laid those people off that they need every day."