We have all heard Governor Cuomo, over the last month or so, talk about reopening and what living and working in New York State will be like going forward. The phrase he uses continually is "reimagine New York". The way people do business, the way schools operate, and, yes, the way our courts function will be different. With the recent use of "virtual courts", where judges and other court employees are working from home, we already get a glimpse of the "reimagining" of NYS Court operations. This is just a glimpse and, make no mistake, it will be evolving. We don't know what the future holds and what affects "reimagining" court operations will have on our members and our next collective bargaining agreement (CBA).
One really must remember that our CBA encompasses more than just economic issues such as percentage raises and longevity bonuses. Section 9.5c, for example, speaks about paid leave for quarantine and Section 9.5g speaks of paid leave for extraordinary circumstances. Both these sections of the contract are being utilized during this pandemic and have been beneficial to our members since March 17, when the Suffolk County Courts merged all essential court operations to Central Islip. In "reimagining" court operations we will have to look to the future and incorporate protections for our members in the next CBA, in ways we would never have considered prior to the issues of Covid 19. As our current CBA expires on March 31, 2021, we will need to be proactive and not reactive, and begin laying the groundwork and developing new ideas for a new CBA, as early as this fall, prior to sitting down to negotiate with management. We ourselves will have to "reimagine".
It is with this in mind, as well as personal health issues unrelated to Covid 19, and putting the "future needs" of the Suffolk County Court Employees Association ahead of anything else, it is with a very heavy heart that I have decided to retire, effective June 25, 2020. My original plan was to retire next March, two months before the end of my term, but I think that would be irresponsible of me, considering the fast and continually changing landscape that Covid 19 is presenting, coupled with the distraction in dealing with my own health. It would be irresponsible for me to tell you that I have your backs going forward, but only until March. The membership deserves better than that. The reality is that we don't know where this virus is going to take us. We don't know if there is going to be a second or a third wave. We don't know how our membership is going to be affected by this in the days, months, and years ahead. Leadership needs to come from a leader who will be able negotiate the minefield of Covid 19 now, and be there in the days, months, and years ahead to see things through. The Leader of the Suffolk County Court Employees Association should be someone who will be able to, not only maneuver through the minefield of Covid 19 but also, "reimagine" and take this membership into a post Covid 19 era in which it will be much stronger and more protected than ever before. For reasons mentioned above, I am not in a position to be able to do that.
The Suffolk County Court Employees Association is a unique union in that its 850 members consists of 102 different titles. I did my best over the last 5 years to represent each of those titles fairly and equally. Every decision I made was made considering the ramifications that decision would have on the other titles. I hope that I succeeded in representing all titles well. It is also my hope that my successor will do the same to try his or her best to not favor one title over another. It has been my greatest joy and honor to be your President over the last 5 years. I was blessed to be able to work with Charlie Markert, Joey Gagnon, Carmen Palermo, and Danielle Vios. Our Executive Board is second to none. I thank all of them for their support in helping this Association accomplish some amazing things.
Finally, I would like to thank the entire membership of the Suffolk County Court Employees Association for allowing me the privilege of being your voice before local management in Central Islip, OCA in Manhattan, and the State Legislature in Albany. The members of the Suffolk County Court Employees Association are the Heartbeat of the Courts. Each and everyone of you will be in my prayers. May God bless you and keep you safe all the days of your life.