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  Main >  Member Communications > PAnorama > April 2002

PAnorama: April 2002

From the President's Desk
by Ellis Gage Searles

Vitality. Growth. Energy. What characterizes the season is equally exemplified here in the PA, the weeks just past and those coming up bursting with the activities that bring life to the Association.

We've been negotiating, lobbying, and communicating. We continue to be effectively represented both on campus and off-at meetings and conferences, in grievances and negotiations, and in the community and the legislature.

These pages will provide ample evidence of all this, so I'll just gloss some recent and upcoming highlights.

But first--how about these pages!! At the NYSUT Representative Assembly later this month, our tireless and multi-talented editor will be accepting FIVE awards for excellence granted to PAnorama as a result of the statewide Journalism Competition. First class work, Cynthia! The PA thanks you and the contributing writers who are helping our organization achieve its goal of improved communication in such a spectacular way.

Those efforts will be taking yet another form this month as we unveil the long-awaited new PA bulletin boards in three buildings on the Utica campus. Look near the kitchen on the third floor of Payne Hall, in the AB lobby, and on the wall near the Interlude for the handiwork of Caroline Lewis, who will do the important work of keeping those spaces updated. And say "Thank you" to Gene Militello for finding the boards themselves.

Another kind of "ink" was focused on the PA last month when our lobbying efforts were featured in both the Albany Times-Union and New York Teacher. For autographed copies of the articles and accompanying photos, see political activists Bill Zogby and George Searles.

Not in the news, but surely and steadily behind the scenes, the essential day-to-day work of our union goes on as well. Contract negotiations are underway through the efforts of our indefatigable team. Sam Drogo, Dennis Rahn, Marie Czarnecki, Paul Halko, and Cynthia Villanti have been meeting regularly with the Administration, logging more than 50 hours in our collective interest since the first week of this semester. Treasurer Mike Donaruma has been ably managing our money: keeping the accounts up to date, closing out this fiscal year, and putting together a budget for the next one. And our ever-vigilant Grievance Committee, under the leadership of Dennis Rahn, continues to look out for our best interests as always.

While browsing the PA newsletters and the meeting minutes and notices of various kinds that you regularly receive by e-mail, please notice the array of other committee work going on. Research and Records has been gathering data, developing our database, and working with Webmaster Debbie Otis to update the PA website. Community Outreach is supporting the Ted Moore Run/Walk. Education and Training has set up a financial workshop for April 16th. Political Action's newest initiative will introduce PA members at upcoming Oneida County Board of Legislators' meetings. Chairs Rich Henry, Luther Riedel, Jim Smrtic, and Mike Sewall have been leading their committees forward.

At the same time, our organization as a whole will be represented locally, statewide, and nationally during the month ahead. The AFT Higher Education Conference will be held this weekend in Chicago. I'll be there on our behalf, as I will be at the NYSUT Presidents' Conference later in April. Then, RA Delegate Mike Sewall and I will go to the NYSUT annual convention in New York City from April 25th to 27th. Two PA members will be at the Central New York Labor Council-sponsored roast for AFL-CIO Secretary/Treasurer Richard L. Trumka. And, hopefully, many members will be marching in the May 2nd rally to support fellow unionists at the Rome School for the Deaf, who have been without a contract since 1999.

Now think about how many people it takes to make all this happen. And then look at the yellow nomination ballot that has sprouted in your mailbox, thanks to your PA rep. As befits the season, the Internal Communication Committee, under the leadership of Arthur Friedberg, has begun to plant the seeds for this year's new crop of officers and committee members. The resulting ballot will be presented at our General Membership Meeting on April 18th, along with your Association's 2002-2003 proposed budget.

It's a meeting you won't want to miss. Mark your calendar. Add your name to the ballot. Think about how you can grow this spring.

General Membership Meeting Announcement

General Membership Meeting
Thursday, April 18
3:30 pm
Payne Hall 102

Agenda Highglights:

  • budget vote
  • election nominations

The PA celebrates Jackie Womack
by Cynthia Villanti

CONGRATULATIONS Jacqueline Womack!

Recipient of 2nd Annual Harriet Tubman Humanitarian Achievement Award

After our March 3rd Bowling for Thea Bowman community outreach event, I happened to stop by the local one-hour photo shop to drop off some photos. I recognized the woman at the head of the line. It was Jackie Womack, the top fundraiser for our Thea Bowman event.

I nudged my way up when I noticed that the developers were paying special attention to a few photos of Jackie. Completely incapable of minding my own business, I started asking questions. "What a beautiful photo of you, Jackie. What's the special occasion? Hey, what are all these papers about an awards jubilee?"

At first, she didn't want to tell me, but I soon pulled the good news out of her. Jackie had been selected to be honored with a Harriet Tubman Humanitarian Achievement Award. Jackie is one of just twelve women in the entire state to receive this most special award!

"My goodness, Jackie! Why didn't you say something?" I declared. Jackie isn't the kind of person who looks for recognition for her kind and charitable works. I decided then and there to do it for her.

The kind and charitable works are many. Born and raised in Utica, Jackie has a long history of supporting her community. A member of the Hope Chapel A.M.E. Zion Church for over 25 years, Jackie has served as Deaconess for 15 years and is President of the Deaconess Board-the highest rank below her pastor, who nominated her for this award.

In this capacity, she serves as a role model for her church and community by regularly contributing to and supporting organizations such as Utica Head Start, March of Dimes, YWCA, Thea Bowman House, American Cancer Society, Rescue Mission, the Prison Fellowship Tree Program, and Hospice Care--to name a few.

As a representative of Hope Chapel A.M.E. Zion, Jackie regularly visits terminally ill and room-bound patients in local hospitals. She prays with the patients to provide strength and comfort-often seeing them more than their own family members are able to, often after a long day of work here at MVCC, often right up until their last breath.

I asked Jackie why she was hesitant to tell me about this award that day at the photo shop. She replied, "Harriet Tubman was a strong woman of faith to break the law, make her own rules, and put her life on the line to bring others to salvation. I can only hope to lead such an inspiring life."

She'll never admit it, but I believe that Jackie Womack leads just such a life.

Educators Meet Legislators
by Mike Sewall

As many of you know, the PA has been increasingly active in local politics, as the College budget crisis continues to affect us all. To this end, we have been arranging for PA members to speak during the open-mic sessions at upcoming Board of Legislator meetings, so that they can learn what good things are happening on our campus.

President Searles has written a formal letter of introduction to the Honorable Gerald J. Fiorini, Chairman of the Oneida County Board of Legislators, to initiate the project. I share the following excerpt from her letter, to give you a sense of our goals:

"The PA is rightfully proud of the many initiatives and accomplishments of our members--the faculty and professional staff of MVCC. Some legislators may not be aware of MVCC's extraordinary range and depth. Others might like to know about the fine educational backgrounds and specialized training of our faculty and staff. Creative writers, award-winning coaches, textbook authors, officers of international professional organizations, widely-respected artists, psychologists, engineers, and economists, among others, are working at MVCC. And we'll help you to get acquainted with these professionals one by one. Many good things happen every semester at MVCC. We're looking forward to sharing some of them with you."

Our focus, then, is on the positive, on the good things that the faculty and staff of MVCC bring to the people and the businesses of the Mohawk Valley. By having a few PA members speak at each public open-mic session at upcoming Board of Legislator meetings, we hope they will be better educated about the myriad ways in which our institution contributes to the betterment of the region.

So the emphasis is on education and the stage is set. This is where YOU come in! We're still looking for volunteers to speak-for only a few short minutes-at upcoming meetings. Please look at the following schedule and contact me if you wish to share with your local elected officials some details about your expertise, your achievements, and your accomplishments.

  • May 15 @ 2 pm
  • May 29 @ 7 pm
  • June 12 @ 2 pm
  • June 26 @ 7 pm
  • July 10 @ 2 pm
  • July 24 @ 7 pm
  • August 14 @ 2 pm

All meetings take place on Wednesdays at the County Office Building. Contact me at for further information. Consider joining us for one session. It's just one more small way that you can contribute to your PA.

On community outreach and the philosophy of unionism
by Luther Riedel

As the April sky showers us with reminders of the impending end of the spring semester, I think about my first year as Chair of the Community Outreach Committee.

With one more major event to go-the Ted Moore Run/Walk-we are wrapping up a good year of community outreach events on behalf of the PA. We have curled to benefit the food pantry and other services provided by St. Francis Outreach, we have walked and run to raise awareness of heart disease, and we have bowled for the Thea Bowman House's efforts to provide daycare and other support to the children of area families in need.

On April 29th, we will participate in the 5th Annual Ted Moore Run/Walk to raise awareness about drinking and driving.

Organizing and participating in all of these events, I think about why so many extremely busy--dare I say overworked and underpaid?--individuals make the time to support these events. Of course, most people do believe that it's a good thing to contribute to charitable organizations and to donate time and materials as needed. But where does the philosophy of a union come in?

It comes with a basic understanding of what it means to be a good citizen in a system of democracy. We believe that all humans are created equal and that all humans deserve equal opportunity at life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Is this raining a little too high minded for you?

Okay. Let's back up. A union is a group of individuals united to work for the group's collective benefit. In our case, the PA motto says it all: "United for Excellence in Education." We are unified, allied, to work for the improvement of education and services at Mohawk Valley Community College.

How does this connect to our community outreach activities? In our work to improve the quality of education and services at the College, we keep our focus on the population we serve most directly: our students. Since a significant number of our students come from or currently reside in the Greater Utica area, it's imperative that we show them just how much the PA believes in supporting our community.

In this way--by actively participating in community outreach events such as these--we demonstrate our commitment to social and economic justice, to support food pantries so that the hungry can eat, to actively advocate for awareness of conditions that negatively affect the health and lives of our neighbors. We are literally out there, working in cooperation with local organizations, to show that we take active responsibility in supporting the community in which we reside.

That's what unionism is all about. That's what our Community Outreach Committee is all about. When you see calls for participation in the PA's various outreach activities, think about these things. When you see calls for participation in the Ted Moore Run/Walk, think about how much it means to those whose lives have been irreparably harmed by the actions of a drunk driver.

Oh, and it can't hurt to pray that it doesn't rain on April 29th.

Grievance Committee Update
by Dennis Rahn

The Grievance Committee continues to be busy. Here are some of the highlights of recent grievance activity (not in order of importance).

Retirement Tier

We continue our efforts at finding evidence that will prove a unit member is in the wrong retirement tier. The ongoing investigation is complicated by records that are now 30 years old.

Web-based Courses

Student Evaluations

We have an informal inquiry about web-based course evaluations done by students.

Department Head Observation

We made an informal inquiry when we discovered that department heads have been given access to web-based sections. It was done in a way that the unsuspecting instructor and students would not know that the department head had access or was even visiting the class. This appears to be an unwarranted invasion of the classroom-snooping by over zealous department heads looking for something wrong. It is well beyond the realm of good management.

Development Monies

Some faculty who developed web-based courses were not paid in a timely fashion this spring. After the committee inquired, the payment authorizations suddenly appeared and were processed.

Class Sizes

In another web-based instruction issue, the Grievance Committee is aware that the College is changing the class size cap of web-based sections. In the current agreement covering this issue, the College informs the unit member in writing of the class size cap when the class is assigned. Bargaining unit members should remember that participating in web-based instruction is voluntary.

Parking Lot Gate Keys

The current gate keys and gate on the faculty/staff lot will be replaced. We were told this would be happening soon and is a result of the College being unable to purchase new keys. Some faculty and professional staff have been unable to obtain new or replacement keys.

Access to Candidates

A Step 1 has been filed as a result of the College not giving the Association timely notice to send information to candidates prior to their interview and offer of employment. There is a tentative agreement on how to handle "fast track" interviews.

Prescription Plan Changes

The Committee has sent a letter to the College requesting information on what appears to be a unilateral change in the prescription plan. The changes were outlined in a letter sent to all plan subscribers. The most significant change would be the requirement for "pre-approval" of some medications prior to the prescription being filled. The College has indicated it is working with Blue Cross/Blue Shield to resolve the problem.

Coordinator Agreements

We have been in discussions with the College attempting to reach an agreement that started with coordinator agreements being changed for Fall & Spring Terms 2001-02. The real issue is faculty being given accurate loads and schedules. There is an expectation in the contract that faculty will receive a schedule for Fall Term in the 10th week of class (Articles 5.7.B and Appendix E). If a faculty member has a coordinator agreement (Article 5.6.E), it may impact the individual's load/schedule. In fact this is quite common.

When coordinator agreements are for payment, the extra work may induce the faculty member to not request overload. (Requesting overloads and establishing priority happens in a very narrow window.) The College unilaterally changed terms and conditions of coordinator agreements in Fall 2001. This in effect trapped members into work for less pay. They could have refused to perform the coordinator duties, but as the window for overload had closed there was no ability to recoup lost wages.

Nota bene: Forewarned is forearmed!

For those of you expecting to have coordinator agreements next Fall Term (either for reduced load or for extra payment), the Grievance Committee urges you to ask your department head, when you get your Fall 2002 schedule, what the terms and conditions of the coordinator agreement will be. You can then make a decision about your schedule and establishing your priority for overload.

Also, please note that the contract allows either party to terminate the agreement as long as at least a 30-day notice prior to the expiration date is given.

Spring election timeline
by Arthur Friedberg

It's spring! It's that time of year for continued growth and renewed energy coming into our PA officers and committee structures. As you know, the PA committees have been more active than ever before in the past, so we're eager to keep our union moving forward in positive and productive ways.

To this end, I bring you the Spring Election.

The nomination ballots (yellow forms) are currently in your mailboxes. Please take a moment and fill out the ballot, nominating individuals that you feel would contribute well to one or more of the open seats on our PA committees. Think about the ways in which people already contribute, what are their strengths and interests, and nominate them-or yourself-to serve the greater good of the faculty and staff of MVCC.

Return your nominations ballot by Friday, April 12th to me in the Business Management Systems Department on the Utica campus or to Barbara Evans on the Rome campus.

The nominations ballot will be finalized at the General Membership meeting on the 18th (don't miss it!) and election ballots (blue forms) will appear in your mailboxes thereafter. Votes are due on May 3rd in the PA ballot boxes in the Utica and Rome campus libraries.

  • April 12: nominations ballots due
  • April 18: nominations finalized
  • April 22: election ballots to members throughout week
  • May 2-3: election ballots due
  • May PAnorama: election results announced!

Education & Training workshop: NYSUT Financial Building Blocks Seminar
by Jim Smrtic

Tuesday, April 16
3:30 to 5:30 pm

$10 fee reimbursed to the first 20 who sign up! Space still available.

For more information, contact me at or 792.5538.

Congratulations on recent promotions

At the February Board meeting, the following promotions were approved:

Career Appointment

  • Janet Visalli

Continuing Appointments

  • Robert Decker
  • Krista Hartman
  • Patricia Hirsch
  • Carmelita Lomeo
  • Nelissa Rutishauser
  • D. Joseph Stadtmiller

The 5th Annual Ted Moore Run/Walk: A special call for increased PA participation
by Cathy Hardy

April 28th @ 9 am
MVCC Utica Campus

This year, we have great hopes that the 5th Annual Ted Moore Run/Walk will be our best attended yet, as we now have the support and additional advertising power of the Oneida County STOP-DWI Program, which is presenting this year’s event.

As you know, Theodore “Ted” Moore was tragically taken from his family, friends, students, and colleagues in December 1996 through the actions of a drunk driver. Ted, a member of MVCC’s Mathematics Department from 1981 until his death, was widely known as an individual who cared deeply about his community, his students, his colleagues, and Mohawk Valley Community College. He was quick to volunteer his time, to assist those in need, to bring people with differences together.

At MVCC, Ted provided invaluable leadership as President of our own local, the Professional Association. He also was an active member of many professional associations, particularly those related to his beloved discipline of mathematics.

In his community, Ted coached youth baseball and soccer, and officiated in boys and girls basketball. Ted was also dedicated to his wife, Christine, and to their children, Derrick and Colleen. His loss deeply affected his colleagues and students at the College, a loss which continues to be felt.

The nature of Ted’s death elevated concerns about the ongoing problem of drinking and driving. The theme for this event, “None for the Road,” reflects our campus community’s emphatic opposition to driving while under the influence of alcohol. MVCC honors Ted's memory with this run/walk event to raise funds for the Ted Moore Memorial Scholarship Fund, an endowed scholarship that will support deserving MVCC students in perpetuity. In addition, each year, a portion of the proceeds from the event are awarded to an area agency whose mission is drug and alcohol abuse prevention and treatment.

Please join us in the 5th year of this terrific campus and community event! It is open to the public, but we especially encourage PA members-MVCC faculty and staff-to participate in recognition of Ted’s commitment to and work on behalf of our union.

Announce this event in your classes and urge your students to participate with their family and friends as well. The event will be conducted rain or shine. Several community agencies will have exhibits and information booths set up in the gymnasium on the day of the event. Awards will be presented to the top three finishers in the various age divisions for both male and female participants.

Information and registration forms are available in the Office for Institutional Advancement, PH366. Whether you run or walk, please be there!

State reaches health care whistle-blower deal
source: NYSUT’s The Bottom Line

Editor’s Note: The April 10, 2002, edition of New York Teacher reports that the Governor Pataki signed this whistle-blower measure into law on April 2nd. This is a tremendous victory that protects us all. You’ll note in the article below that the law’s language extends this protection to those health care professionals who work in public universities as well.


March 15, 2002 ~

NYSUT helped negotiate language that will become law as the governor and legislative leaders reached agreement on a bill to protect health care whistle-blowers from employer retaliation.

“This is a victory for every New Yorker who needs health care,” said Alan Lubin, NYSUT executive vice president. “Protecting nurses and other health care professionals also ensures that patients are protected.”

The bill would protect workers who speak out publicly based on a “reasonable belief” that violations or conditions could endanger patients.

Current law protects against retaliation only if the employee has actual knowledge of wrongdoing. Hospitals could face a fine of up to $10,000 for retaliating against whistle-blowers. NYSUT worked to include in the bill a new state fund for improving the quality of patient care, with all the fines collected to go to that fund. NYSUT also negotiated language to protect health care professionals in public and private universities.

“No one fought harder for this bill than NYSUT and its Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals,” Lubin said. The FNHP Advisory Committee is chaired by Dorothy Meinecke of the United Federation of Teachers. The economic crisis in health care precipitates working conditions that are less than ideal and less than safe.

“Cutting costs can mean cutting corners,” Lubin said. Cutting corners leads to inappropriate assignments and unsafe workloads for overworked staff. Nurses must be free to “blow the whistle” on these practices without risking their licenses.

“In the end, this is about making sure that the push to cut costs doesn’t cost any lives,” Lubin said.

TV-Turnoff Week: April 22-28
source: NYSUT’s The Bottom Line

The national non-profit group, TV-Turnoff Network (, is cranking up publicity and materials to help families reduce TV viewing, particularly at certain times, like during meals and right before bedtime.

The group encourages parents to indulge in creative alter-natives such as: encouraging kids to read, draw, play games; select shows in advance and choose no more than six hours of programming for the week; record shows so children watch only the ones they want, not a bad one stuck between two good ones; try a TV-free day or week occasionally; and don’t let kids channel-surf.

Rome School Rally!

Rome School for the Deaf
May 2nd at 3:15 pm

Please join us at a rally to support Public Employees Federation (AFT and SEIU) members at the Rome School for the Deaf. We will be walking with our union brothers and sisters who have been negotiating their contract since April of 1999!

Contact Ellis (x5528) for directions or carpooling.

PA Scholarship deadline approaches
by Ellis Gage Searles

If you know a worthy student who could use $1,000, send that student our way! The PA Scholarship is awarded each year to an eligible MVCC student.

The submissions are reviewed by the Internal Communications Committee, which then makes a recommendation to the Executive Board. The deadline for applications is Wednesday, May 1st, with the award being made at the start of the fall semester.

Applications may be submitted to the MVCC Office of Institutional Advancement. To be eligible, students must:

  • have completed at least 30 credit hours
  • have a GPA of at least 3.0
  • submit two letters of recommendation
  • write a 500-word essay on one of the following topics: The Importance of Labor Unions in American Society or The Value of a Community College Education. The essay of the scholarship winner will then be published in PAnorama.

Please announce this in your classes. Make sure your students know about it. Don’t let them miss this opportunity.

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