By ALFREDO ALVARADO
The financial crisis at NYC Health + Hospitals, reducing the number of provisional employees and educating members about the proposed constitutional convention vote, which will be on the ballot in Nov. 2017, were the top priorities laid out by Executive Director Henry Garrido at the union’s 41st annual Legislative Conference.
The Oct. 29 conference, organized by the DC 37 Political Action and Legislation Dept., bought together union leaders and invited speakers Dawn M. Pinnock, deputy commissioner of the Dept. of Citywide Administrative Services, and state Sen. Gustavo Rivera to begin addressing these critical issues.
The New York State Constitution mandates a vote every 20 years to decide whether to convene a constitutional convention. DC 37 does not support a constitutional convention.
“We say no because it’s an opportunity to use public workers as scapegoats,” said Wanda Williams, legislative director of the Political Action and Legislation Dept., at the conference. “Our pensions are protected now, but that could change with a constitutional convention.”
Supporters say they would like to convene a convention to enact ethics reforms, but the state legislature has had several opportunities to address the issue and has failed to do so. A vote “yes” for the convention could also cost taxpayers millions of dollars. The last constitutional convention was held in 1967 and cost nearly $50 million.
The status of provisional employees was discussed during a panel with Anthony Wells, president of SSEU Local 371 and Deputy Dommissioner Pinnock.
Pinnock acknowledged that some title exams have not been offered in decades. She made the commitment to aggressively offer more exams and to partner with unions to help reduce the number of provisional employees. Wells encouraged local presidents to push for more exams and to offer test preparation courses. “If we offer this to our members, those who take courses will score higher,” Wells explained.
State Sen. Gustavo Rivera, who represents the 33rd District in the Bronx, closed the conference. He thanked DC 37 activists for their support at the polls.
“You are part of the community I represent,” he said. Rivera is the co-sponsor of the Enhanced Safety Net Hospital bill. His legislation would create a more equitable state funding formula for public hospitals by creating a higher reimbursement rate. It would help alleviate some of the financial burden on the city’s public health system.
The union has been waging a campaign in support of the bill and is urging Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign off on the legislation before the year is over.