Earlier this year the New York State Education Department was poised to lay off five New York State Museum Scientists including the State Archaeologist and the Curators of Archaeology and Historical Archaeology. These layoffs are imminent again following today’s failure by the members of the Public Employees Federation (PEF) to ratify the contract that PEF leadership had negotiated with the State of New York. According to reports of the vote totals, apparently about 54% of the PEF membership that voted prefers layoffs to accepting the concessions included in the proposed contract. It is estimated that about 3,500 PEF members will lose their jobs. Currently, it is expected that the State Museum scientists previously targeted will be included among the lost positions. A similar contract has already been ratified by the members of the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA). Under the agreement, CSEA members will be spared from the layoffs.
PEF leadership appears poised to continue negotiating with Governor Andrew Cuomo’s budget team to find a way to preserve as many of the PEF positions as possible. In a statement made today, PEF President Ken Brynien said:
We will ask the governor to direct his negotiators to immediately return to the bargaining table to work out an agreement which our members will ratify. We are calling on the governor to resist laying off thousands of our members as he has threatened and, instead, work with us to identify savings that would preserve the state’s depleted workforce and services, especially during this economic downturn and in light of the recent flooding.”
PEF members live throughout the upstate New York region devastated recently by Hurricanes Irene and Lee. Some surely are working on the response to these disasters; others may well be personally affected.
I discussed the history and importance of the targeted archaeology positions in blog posts on July 8 and July 14, 2011. I anticipate that a letter-writing campaign soon may materialize to help save the New York State Museum positions. Whether this would require letters to Governor Cuomo, as indicated by Mr. Brynien’s call for more negotiation, or to New York State Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl H. Tisch (as in the response to the layoff announcement this summer) will probably become clear in a day or two. I will provide more information then.