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Letter: The Village Board’s Approval of the CSEA Contract

At the Board of Trustees (“Board”) meeting held on Jan. 21, the Mayor, Trustee Cavanaugh, Trustee Episcopia and Counsel went to great lengths to justify the Board’s approval of the three-year CSEA contract.

When I asked, “What are the total labor costs (wages, health and pension) for each year of this contract,” no one could answer the question. How can the Board approve a three-year contract and not know the answer to that question? Do we operate our businesses and households this way?

Trustee Cavanaugh said the contract is “very good… for the village and employees.” He said that CSEA employees, from May 2000 to November 2010, received a 38 percent wage increase versus a 34.4 percent rise in the cost of living. He then said, “I don’t know the economics of everyone in the village” but that nearly everyone has achieved a better economic gain than the CSEA employees, except maybe “people on fixed incomes.” (CSEA wages actually rose 45 percent during this period.)

How many residents had a 45 percent or even a 38 percent wage increase during this period? How many residents have their employers pay 90 percent of their health insurance and 100 percent of a pension plan for them? How many residents have lost jobs? How many residents had their wages frozen or reduced?  How many households live on fixed incomes? If you don’t know, how can you make the statement that Trustee Cavanaugh made?   

 The village has been generous to our employees in the good times. Under this contract, the village will pay the cost of all increases to the employees’ health insurance, except 75 percent of the employees will pay 10 percent and 25 percent will pay nothing. The village will also pay all the increases to the employees’ pension plan. Do we also have to pay for three years of wage increases as well? Private sector employers require unions to finance their health and pension increases by wage freezes. Why not public employers?

The trustees’ response:

There is nothing we can do about the health and pension costs.

We need to meet the “aspirations and expectations of our employees.”

The residents can afford to pay the increased real estate taxes.

How about the “aspirations and expectations” of our residents who struggle to make ends meet in these extraordinarily difficult economic times?

Thomas M. Lamberti

Garden City