By GREGORY N. HEIRES
As the Nov. 7 elections approach, DC 37 is stepping up its work with a coalition fighting against a ballot question on whether the state should hold a constitutional convention.
Established earlier this year, New Yorkers Against Corruption is spreading the word about the danger of holding a convention, which would open the door for special interests to chip away at crucial protections and rights enshrined in the state constitution.
The group’s campaign includes a media outreach and door-to-door canvassing. “A lot is at risk,” said Jordan Marks, the group’s campaign manager. “Voting rights. Criminal justice. Environmental protections. Women’s health and a lot more.”
Besides working with the coalition, the union is also focusing on informing members about the constitutional convention. Polls show that the convention is not on the radar screen of most voters.
During the summer, Volunteer Member Organizers from DC 37’s Political Action Dept. visited homes of members to discuss the convention and other issues. They also discussed the convention during get-the-vote visits on Primary Day last month.
VMOs who work with the Organizing Dept. are also informing coworkers as to why the convention is a threat to working families and union workers. They also carried this message to the Labor Day Parade on Sept. 9.
“We have a lot to do,” said VMO Virginia Salisbury, a retired Local 1549 member. “Many people don’t know about the convention and need to be educated.”
“I feel a constitutional convention would allow the special interests to do a lot of damage,” said retiree Evelyn Brown, a former 911 worker. “They are money people. They want to nullify our pensions.”
The constitution guarantees the pension of retired public employees. A convention would open the way for anti-government extremists to slice out provisions or even take away that right. Today, public employee pensions cannot be modified. If the constitutional protection is taken away, pension payments — including cost-of-living increases — may be cut.
The right to public education, workers’ compensation and union representation could all be threatened if anti-government and anti-labor interests gain control of the convention.
Ultimately, New York could become a right-to-work state, which would financially cripple unions and undercut organizing efforts.
“All of our values are at stake,” Jordan said.
Be sure to flip over the ballot to vote against the constitution convention (Proposition 1).
This article previously appeared in the October 2017 issue of Public Employee Press.