As Election Day draws near and recent news stories continue to unfold, we find ourselves presented with a choice. What role will AME play as the rapidly changing landscape of local politics unfolds and takes shape? Do we passively go to the polls and pull the proverbial lever for the candidates of our own choosing or do we take an active role in endorsing and supporting the candidates who will give us all a voice?
With the shadow of November 7th upon us, rarely has so much been at stake. No matter the results at the polls, we already know for certain that 2018 will bring-at the very least-six newly elected individuals to Suffolk County government, as four legislators are termed out and both the Sheriff and District Attorney races are open. Perhaps even more important than that, this year we, along with all New York State voters, have been given the opportunity to VOTE NO on the Constitutional Convention and, in the process, protect our pensions and our rights to organize and bargain collectively.
However, our votes alone are not enough. We must be seen and our voices must be heard. We need those seeking political office to understand that, at nearly 8,000 strong, AME wields power and influence and that this great County only works because we do. Moreover, what is good for us is good for the County, the public, and the electeds who serve us all. Through our endorsements and the work of our Political Action Committee, AME members have been given the opportunity to become active participants in our very own democracy for our very own futures. I invite you to join the fight.
Just last month, through our fight at the Legislature over health care, we saw how our voices can influence legislative action. As you know, AME won a significant victory when IR 1661 was defeated in the Government Operations Committee through a Tabled Subject to Call motion.
On September 27th, our voices totaled in the thousands, as hundreds of AME members used their own personal time to attend the Government Operations Committee meeting and even more took part in our letter of opposition campaign. Together, we took a stance to defend what we have rightfully earned and, in so doing, it became clear that our elected officials heard our call, as it was after these efforts, under the leadership of Deputy Presiding Officer Rob Calarco, who chairs the Government Operations Committee, that the Legislature recognized our position and took action to effectively kill IR 1661.
Legislator Calarco took the feedback of our members so seriously that he requested I pass along the following message to you, which I do so proudly in light of his support of our fight:
Thank you for contacting my office about IR 1661, which would have instituted a 15% contribution for exempt employees towards their healthcare plan. Many of you called, emailed or faxed my office expressing your objection to the bill. I did not support this bill and I am happy to report it did not pass through the Government Operations Committee today. It was "Tabled Subject to Call," which means it will effectively not be considered again during this cycle.
Our Suffolk County employees work hard every day to provide exemplary services to our residents. They do so in some very difficult conditions. And for years you have been asked to do more with less. We heard that in your passionate voices today at the Legislature.
Any agreement to ask an employee to pay towards their health insurance should be collectively bargained. I fully respect that process and do not agree with any legislation that circumvents that process.
Thank you so much for your continued engagement and your commitment to Suffolk County residents. I am honored to work with each and every one of you.
Deputy Presiding Officer, 7th LD
By defeating IR 1661, we affirmed that our ability to negotiate collectively would not be infringed upon or circumnavigated through legislation. I thank Legislator Calarco for sharing this position.
I also want to thank and recognize the other legislators of the Government Operations Committee, all of whom were endorsed by AME, for casting their vote to table this bill and, in the process, defended our right to negotiate at the bargaining table instead of at the horseshoe. They are: Legislator Bill Lindsay, Legislator Kara Hahn, Legislator Leslie Kennedy, and Legislator Kevin McCaffrey.
Just as it is important to remember and respond to those who would do us harm, it is imperative we remember and support the elected officials who have stood with us and have lent their voices to our cause. On Election Day, I ask that you please remember those who will have the courage to stand with AME and defend our rights and positions. Even more importantly, I ask that you remember the power AME has in shaping the local political landscape and influencing legislative action-a power that is only actualized when we collectively make ourselves active participants in our own democracy.