State employees rally, protest proposed layoffs

Public employees gathered in Franklin County and across New York Monday to protest a layoff threat doled out by Governor Andrew Cuomo last week.

Cuomo has given policymakers an ultimatum - identify $450 million in workforce savings, or else he'll order the elimination of 9,800 state positions.

In Malone, state workers picketed Monday afternoon near the Rite Aid Pharmacy and at the intersection of Finney Boulevard and West Main Street.

Ken Brynien is president of the Public Employees Federation, New York's second largest state employee union. He said in an emailed statement that the statewide protests were more about "fairness and respect" than anything else.

"The governor has stated time and again that he wants to work with the unions, and we are willing to work with him where we can, but I don't think his negotiators are on the same page as he is," Brynien said.

Negotiations between union leaders and the state began in March, when the state offered the union a contract proposal - the Public Employees Federation answered back with a counter-offer, but Brynien says the state has yet to formally respond.

According to Brynien, the PEF proposal "was fair and would achieve the savings needed to avoid layoffs and preserve vital services."

"Since the state's fiscal crisis began in 2008, 15,000 state jobs have been eliminated," he pointed out. "Most agencies are beyond bare bones and services are already at the breaking point."

Speaking to a large crowd in Albany Monday morning, Brynien said that even if policymakers can find $450 million in savings and the union can agree on a contract, some 1,800 jobs will still be cut as Cuomo continues with plans to close state facilities and consolidate agencies.

"If the layoffs are allowed to happen, state services will be decimated," Brynien said.

"We will continue to fight to make sure that doesn't happen and the citizens of this state continue to receive the quality services they need and deserve," he added.

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