Kathleen Horan, Reporter, WNYC News
Kathleen Horan is a staff reporter for New York Public Radio, covering the neighborhood beat. She also reports 'Reset', an ongoing series documenting police-community relations in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.
Governor Andrew Cuomo's office has sent out about 3,500 pink slips to state workers. Their union, the Public Employees Federation, voted down a contract deal on Tuesday. It would've frozen wages and increased health insurance costs in exchange for avoiding layoffs.
Members like Gale Baptiste said they were willing to make some of the concessions the Governor proposed, but a contract that included no raises for three years, with added out of pocket expenses, was too much to ask.
"Cost of living is going up, everything is increasing how are we going to survive in this kind of economy with that kind of contract. It's deplorable.”
Baptiste has worked as an emergency room nurse at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn for seven years. She makes about $70,000 and is a divorced mother of one.
She said when fellow PEF members with the State Corrections Department who were targeted to lose their jobs in the layoffs encouraged fellow members to vote no in spite of the threat, she paid attention. "They were willing to tell us to vote no because making so many concessions would set a bad precedent."
Members of PEF, the second largest state employees union, voted down the contract by less than 3,000 votes.
Donald Morgenstern, a research scientist with SUNY, said he voted for the contract in spite of it being the worst proposal he’s seen in 36 years.
"In order to try and save jobs and hopefully get them back to work, I voted yes but it was a close decision because I thought we were being blackmailed and bullied by the governor."
Governor Cuomo has repeatedly said rising state workforce costs are unsustainable in the current economy. "The Legislature passed a budget that made clear that reducing these costs would be achieved either through the collective bargaining process or layoff."
The state's largest public workers union, the Civil Service Employees Association, approved a similar contract in June.
The largest number of layoffs will be in the state’s Mental Health, Corrections and Transportation Departments.