Wednesday, January 20, 2016
Inside This Issue:
Results of my meeting with Judge Marks regarding a Clerical series upgrade; Meeting next week with seven (7) other unions involving non-peace officer member upgrades; General membership meeting moved to Thursday, January 21st.
Message from President, Billy Imandt
Suffolk County Court Employee Association President, Bill Dobbins, 9th Judicial District President, Selene Jackson and I met with Chief Administrative Judge, Larry Marks on Friday, January 15th to present our case for an entire Clerical series upgrade. Also in attendance was Executive Director Ronald Younkins and OCA counsel. President Pam Browne of the Court Clerks union met with the Judge earlier in the week.
I presented a four-part presentation which contained:
(1) - Approximately 100 letters from Court Clerk describing their duties and requesting an upgrade along with my cover letter, which I read to Judge Marks, as follows:
"Dear Judge Marks,
I am writing this letter to you not only as the President of the Court Officer's Benevolent Association of Nassau County but also as a Senior Court Clerk in Nassau county for the past 28 years.
I know only too well how the SCC job has changed over the decades. In fact, the day before I took office as the President of this Association, in June of 2014, I worked in four trial parts that day; conducted two hearings, with different Judges, a trial with a third Judge and then calendared the dispositions of the day for all four Judges.
Yes, the workload of a Clerk, in all titles, has grown tremendously. In some cases, there are Clerks working, as a new assignment, jobs that were previously done by two full-time Court Clerks.
You know only too well that we have had tremendous cut-backs in staffing. My membership is down approximately 20% from the pre-workforce reduction days. Yet we are still getting the job done. Day after day, week after week and now year after year.
I take a lot of pride in the job my membership has done over the past half-decade under these circumstances but I have to tell you that many, many of my members are struggling to keep up the pace while waiting for the "cavalry to come" with relief. That relief should come in the way of more personnel. I'm sure you are trying to get more budget money for more employees, and that could very much relieve the situation; however, a real show of appreciation would be to acknowledge how much harder your employees are working and compensating them appropriately by recognizing, not only the workload, but the new complexities and responsibilities of the job of a Court Clerk.
When I became a Senior Court Clerk, in 1988, in the Nassau County Supreme Court, we didn't even have computers on our desks and everything was done by hand. Minutes, orders of protection and daily dispositions just to name a few. In Nassau we had a "Calendar Department" that consisted of ten (10) data entry Clerk and Office typists that entered all the dispositions of the day sent down from the court rooms. Today there IS no Calendar Department and that work is being done by the Court Clerks directly in the courtrooms.
In all the courts there are new and more assignments and responsibilities, again, with 20% less people.
I have compiled a presentation that I put together for you to make my case for an across the board Clerk upgrade, including Court Assistants that are also in the Court Clerk series.
My presentation consists of four sections.
First (1) I have letters from approximately 100 of my Clerk members who are professionally and respectfully "pleading their case" by letting you know how much harder they are working, how many more responsibilities they have and how much more complex their job has become. Please read these letters. You'll see in some cases they are pouring their hearts out to you, and, in some case, they are quite angry. But, I think if you take an hour or so to read them you will see caring, responsible professionals letting you know what is going on in the trenches and you will have a better understanding of why they are so exasperated and feel like they have truly been "left behind".
The second (2) part of my presentation is a study of the title standards. I went to each Court and gave my Clerks the title standard of the Clerk position one promotional title ahead of them and asked them to tell me what "typical duties" of that title standard position they now routinely do. Much to my surprise most Clerks were doing an overwhelmingly high percentage (75%+) of the position that is two grades higher than their grade. Please read that section carefully and you will see that their jobs, over the years, has morphed into activities and responsibilities that are two, four and in some cases five grades above their job title standards. It's been gradual but that is where we stand today. This is my main argument for an upgrade of the Clerical series.
The third (3) section of my presentation pertains to what is commonly known as the Glen Decision.
I put this in the presentation to show you that even when we win in court - we lose. The court found that lower Court Clerks were doing substantially the same job as their appellate counter parts, yet the resolution to the decision of the court by OCA was to "downgrade" further promotions to the appellate division. That was to address the equal pay for equal work situation. Can you imagine how demoralizing that was to lower Court Clerks? Not to mention what it did to the desire of moving up to the former promotional opportunity. Time after time we have been told that it will be addressed and corrected. But decades have gone by and nothing has been done.
The fourth (4) part of my presentation is bearing out that OCA, all the while of claiming to have absolutely no money for respectable contracts and upgrades, somehow "found" over $150,000,000 for Civil Legal Services, Judges raises, Court Officer upgrades (which we do not begrudge) and to raise the salary of Court Officer Trainees (also, which we do not begrudge - I only bring it up to show that there was money when we were told there was none.) None for us. The hard working everyday employees down in the trenches.
Judge, please consider, with the utmost importance, this request to upgrade the Clerk series. We've have worked so hard, with so many new responsibilities, for so long. It's time.
President/Senior Court Clerk"
Overall the meeting went well
The meeting went very well in that our case and point was made and that Judge Marks also acknowledged, "it is time." Time for a final review and then an upgrade. To further express his sincerity, Judge Marks indicated that OCA realizes two things:
1 - We will probably never get back to the staffing levels "pre 2011" and
2 - That OCA would get a tremendous bang for their buck if they upgraded the Clerks and modestly refilled staffing in absolute critical areas. The savings would be substantial compared to replacing all the salaries and health insurance benefits of the people that were laid off.
Do I believe it? I'll believe it when I see it but at least the Judge had an "upgrade argument" that made sense as to why they would finally do it.
The promise Judge Marks made was that if the court gets the requested 2.4% budget increase, the Court Clerk review for upgrade would commence immediately.
In speaking to a "friendly" member of the Judiciary committee, the committee that approves the OCA budget, I was told that right now the obstacle appears to be the Governor - not the Senate or the Assembly. Is it an act that he is championing to show the other state agencies that he is fighting for the 2% cap? Time will tell.
I went to that Beaver Street meeting looking for a commitment and I got one - providing that the courts get what they are asking for. If they don't, then I will be asking OCA to pare down the discretionary Civil Legal Services program to compensate our mandated salaries with fair and just enhancements. Assuming that Janet DiFiore is confirmed today, as Chief Judge, I will immediately request, with other union Presidents, to meet with her and make the argument for fair contract compensation, upgrades and staffing.
Working on Upgrades for non-peace officers members
I called for and will be meeting next week, for the second time, with seven (7) other court union Presidents, who have non-peace officers in their unions, to work on upgrading everyone else in COBANC and all union members in this partnership.