Hoping for the Best - Preparing for the Worst

Friday, April 22, 2016
Message from President, Billy Imandt
 
This past Wednesday eight down-state court union Presidents (COBANC, SCCEA, 9th JD, NYC Court Reporters, DC37, both Attorney Court Unions and CWA) met with our new Chief Justice, Janet DiFiore, in her office in Manhattan. The eight Presidents, who originally caucused to work on upgrades for our union's non-peace officers (NPO's), penned a letter to the Judge asking for a meeting to discuss upgrades and reallocation, Civil Legal Services, security issues and staffing.
 
We met with the Judge, with Judge Marks present, and she entered the room with a nice greeting and "What's on the agenda today?" Each President had at least 10 minutes to speak about issues particular to their union. Of course, there were a lot of common issues that crossed over to some or all of the other unions. 
 
We did the talking and she asked questions during each presentation and took copious notes.
 
When it was my turn to speak, I handed the Judge COBANC's Nassau County staffing report and asked her to read it sometime after our meeting. I then spoke to the issues more specific to COBANC: No contract for five years and that we are at the "impasse" stage of negotiations and heading for the Legislature.
 
Not knowing if she was truly aware of "our" version of the last five years; that being in 2011 we had a 20% reduction in our workforce, Civil Legal Services was formulated and the fact that the Judges were recommended to receive a raise which actually came to fruition in 2013. All this while we were offered a 0% increase for 2011, 2012 and 2013. I told her that we earned, and in fact "funded", our own raises and upgrades - and continue to do so because we are still getting the job done with a 20% reduction in staff.
 
I spoke of how the eight unions that were before her went to Albany with a goal of securing more funds for the Judiciary budget by meeting with over 15 Senate and Assembly Judiciary members and explaining our staffing shortage in great detail.
 
I also gave her not just "We need money for compensation and staffing" but ideas on how to fund them.
  1. Move Civil Legal Services out of the Judiciary budget, leave the money in place, and fund Civil Legal Services through the Executive budget.
     
  2. For a mere 45 million dollars she could probably clear out the contracts of the four remaining unions that are still without a 2011 contract by paying a$1,500 "expanded duty pay" for each of the three zero years including all the unions that already signed a 2011-2016 contract that had parity (me too) clauses in their contract. I also said that I was open to discussing a 10-year contract (2011-2021) and will be reaching out to Lauren DeSole, Director of Labor Relations in a week or two to discuss the possibilities while we wait for the Fact Finder to be appointed.
     
  3. had previously mentioned that she should also consider 28-hours a year of "pro bono work" for the 60,000 or so NON-governmental attorneys in the NYS bar Association (No one in COBANC) for the Civil Legal Services program rather than funding it out of our budget.

I also pointed out, collectively she had over 200 years of court experience before her and that each President's career went all the way back to the good old days when we were respected and treated more like family as opposed to the "obstacles in the way of their objectives". I said "Judge, you can change five long years of "bad will" with your authority by enacting the above. *I also suggested that, in the future, she involve the unions more in the conversations as a "partner" with OCA. We don't have to be on the opposite side when we have the same goals and needs.

It seemed to me that she was hearing some of our bad news situations for the first time and, at times, looked upset with some of the horrible treatment stories she was hearing.

Another matter that was addressed was Judge Mark's promise, if OCA received it's requested 2.4% increase they would address the Clerk series upgrades with a view towards an April 1, 2017 implementation. They did thanks to our presence in Albany according to a state Senator and a state Assemblyman. Judge Marks told us that OCA counsel, Barry Clarke (a former Clerk himself) is handling it and to coordinate with him. [Note: I reached out yesterday and have a conference call, along with Bill Dobbins, scheduled forthis Monday].

When we finished Judge DiFiore stated that she really enjoyed the exchange and (see * above) will be meeting with the union leaders throughout the year to assess how her "Excellence Initiative" is playing out in the field. Having this kind of access and dialogue with the Chief Judge is unprecedented.

She also told us that she was going to be visiting the 10th Judicial District (Long Island) in the very near future. You can bet that SCCEA President Bill Dobbins and I will be there to greet her and show her around when she arrives.

My assessment of the meeting is that we have a new "people person", not an elitist leader, and her tenure is NOT going to be business as usual. I have heard over a dozen stories since she was nominated from many different union members and leaders that she really cares about her employees and treats them very well. I'd have to say that I felt that way too. But more importantly - I have heard NO bad stories about her. 

SUMMARY: Since the meeting ended with no new compensation for COBANC members I will begin reaching out TODAY to members who have signed up to come into the office to help prepare for our next initiative.

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Will be meeting with union leaders throughout the year
  • Will be visiting 10th J.D. in the very near future and be joined by union Presidents
  • Bill Dobbins and I will be speaking Monday with OCA counsel, Barry Clarke, regarding implementation of review for Clerk upgrades
  • Awaiting confirmation of a meeting with Lauren DeSole, this Wednesday, regarding the 22-page upcoming Court Clerk survey with a view towards having input into what is in the survey.

LOWLIGHTS:

  • No actual discussion about any compensation or staffing enhancements
OCA ISSUES ADMINISTRATIVE ORDER CONFIRMING COURT OFFICER UPGRADES
 
Yesterday I received a memo from Ron Younkins along with an Administrative order signed by Chief Administrative Judge, Lawrence K. Marks enacting the Court Officer and Court Officer Sergeant upgrades. It will be a reallocation from grade 18 to 19 for the Officers and from grade 19 to grade 20 for Sergeants. This is to take effect on June 2, 2016. If it not realized by June 29thin your checks, there will be retroactive pay adjustments back to June 2. Congratulations to all our hard working, underpaid Court Officers!
 
TO ALL OTHER MEMBERS OF COBANC: WE ARE ACTIVELY WORKING WITH TWO SEPARATE COALITIONS TO SECURE UPGRADES FOR COURT CLERKS AND FOR THE NON-PEACE OFFICERS OF OUR UNION. I WILL NOT FORGET YOU!

From the AFL-CIO

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