This Decade in Albany 2010 - 2019

Every Friday, "This Week in Albany" brings you the biggest legislative and political news from the preceding week. Over the past decade, there have been many major issues of importance to CSEA members - some positive, and some negative.

In this special production, we take a look at how "This Week in Albany" covered the 10 biggest stories of the 2010s.

10. Tom DiNapoli Elected State Comptroller (2010)

In February 2007, the state legislature, in defiance of then-Governor Eliot Spitzer, selected Assemblyman Tom DiNapoli to fill the vacancy created when State Comptroller Alan Hevesi resigned after pleading guilty to corruption charges.

DiNapoli ran for election for his first full term in 2010. As a true friend of labor and an effective steward of the New York State Common Retirement Fund, CSEA strongly supported the Comptroller during his first statewide run, and every run since then.

CSEA Endorses Tom DiNapoli for Comptroller

As Appeared in This Week in Albany, July 30, 2010

"CSEA was instrumental in helping to establish the state retirement system in 1920 and since that time, the state comptroller's stewardship has always mattered to us" Donohue said. "As we prepare to begin our second century we have total confidence that Tom DiNapoli will maintain the traditions of New York's best comptrollers, while leading the system forward to meet the needs of today and tomorrow."

9. The Fall of Schneiderman

In May 2018, The New Yorker broke a story about four women that had accused New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman of physical abuse.

The reaction to the story was swift, as Schneiderman resigned within a day and the legislature appointed an interim successor later the same month.

The legislature would go on to appoint acting Attorney General Barbara Underwood to fill the remainder of Schneiderman's term. Letitia (Tish) James was then elected in 2018 to serve a full term.

Attorney General Schneiderman Resigns

As Appeared in This Week in Albany, May 11, 2018

New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D-Manhattan) resigned from office this week after The New Yorker reported that four women accused the Attorney General of physically abusing them.

New York Solicitor General Barbara Underwood was appointed as acting Attorney General on Tuesday, becoming the first woman to serve as State Attorney General. While the office will be on the ballot in November, the process for filling a vacancy in the position resides with the state legislature.

When a vacancy occurs in the office of comptroller or attorney general, the two houses of the legislature, by a joint ballot, can appoint someone to fill that vacancy. This means that a candidate would need at least 107 votes from the 213 state legislators to be appointed. In practical terms, Democrats in the state assembly have an outsized influence in this process if they vote as a block. There are 104 Democrats in the assembly.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie has announced that the legislature will hold joint interviews with candidates next week. At this point, there are many candidates for the job without any clear front runner.

Underwood Appointed

As Appeared in This Week in Albany, May 25, 2018

A joint session of the State Legislature voted to appoint acting Attorney General Barbara Underwood to finish Eric Schneiderman’s term. The State Legislature voted 190-1 in favor of Underwood. Underwood will remain AG until the end of the year.

8. "Stay Tuned"

In January 2015, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara announced the arrest of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on corruption charges. At the end of his press conference announcing the arrest, he urged the public to "stay tuned" for news on more public corruption investigations.

Within six months, Albany would see the leaders of each house of the legislature indicted and removed from their positions of power.

Assembly Leadership Change

As Appeared in This Week in Albany, January 30, 2015

In what can only be described as two days of political wrangling, the Democratic members of the Assembly decided that the current Speaker, Sheldon Silver, must resign his position by Monday or they will present a resolution to oust him.

This decision began a mad dash as to who would replace Mr. Silver, who has held the post for over 20 years. Initially, Assemblymembers Cathy Nolan, Joe Morelle, Joe Lentol, Keith Wright, and Carl Heastie all declared that they would run for the top spot. As of this writing, members Wright, Lentol, and Morelle have withdrawn from the race, leaving Ms. Nolan and Mr. Heastie.

Mr. Heastie, who is from the Bronx and is currently the Chair of the Assembly Labor Committee, would become the first African-American to hold the position. Ms. Nolan, Chair of the Assembly Education Committee from Queens, would become the first woman. As of this writing it appears that Mr. Heastie is in the lead.

A formal vote is expected on February 10, but the vote could happen sooner. In the interim, Majority Leader Morelle will be the acting Speaker. Stay tuned.

Assembly Elects a New Speaker

As Appeared in This Week in Albany, February 6, 2015

Bronx Assemblyman Carl Heastie became the first African-American Speaker of the Assembly when he was voted into the leadership position by his colleagues this week.

It was originally expected that Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle would act as temporary Speaker until an election to permanently replace Sheldon Silver was held later in February. Those plans changed quickly as the various factions of the Democratic majority, including Mr. Morelle, coalesced behind Mr. Heastie over the weekend.

Mr. Heastie is the first new Speaker that Albany has seen in 21 years.

State Senate Leadership Change

As Appeared in This Week in Albany, May 15, 2015

On Monday, state Senator Dean Skelos (R-Nassau County) resigned his position as Temporary President and Majority Leader of the State Senate following his arrest on federal corruption charges last week.

Senator John Flanagan (R-Suffolk County) was elected as his replacement by the majority conference. Flanagan was first elected to the Senate in 2002 following a 16 year stint as a member of the State Assembly. He was most recently the chairman of the Senate Education Committee.

7. Fighting Layoffs

From 2009 through 2011, CSEA fought bitterly against layoff threats from multiple Governors. The State workforce was spared from broad-based layoffs, but the Office of Court Administration moved forward with staff cuts.

Paterson Announces 898 will be Laid Off

As Appeared in This Week in Albany, October 29, 2010

On Thursday, Governor David Paterson announced that 898 state employees will be laid off this calendar year. Paterson said that the state workforce needed to be reduced to fulfill the $250 million in workforce savings that he proposed in this year’s budget.

CSEA pointed out that state operations have been so decimated that there is no way that further cuts wouldn’t harm the public. In fact, Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Alexander “Pete” Grannis was recently fired after exposing the impact that layoffs would have on his department. CSEA will fight any layoffs and has reiterated that the no-layoff pledge that Governor Paterson agreed to last year was a binding agreement.

CSEA Press Release, December 6, 2010

“The layoff plan is nothing but political spite for CSEA holding him to a negotiated contract and his no-layoff pledge as his administration mishandled every opportunity for cooperation,” Donohue said.
“The governor should think long and hard about whether he wants to end his administration with 900 employees following him out the door on Jan. 1 and leaving a lasting legacy of failure,” Donohue said.


Under threat of layoffs for up to 4,500 CSEA members, a contract including layoff protections was agreed to in June 2011.

Governor's Press Release, June 22, 2011

CSEA President Danny Donohue said "These are not ordinary times and CSEA and the Cuomo Administration have worked very hard at the bargaining table to produce an agreement that balances shared sacrifice with fairness and respect. CSEA stepped up to help produce the Labor savings that Governor Cuomo sought while the Governor responded to CSEA's concerns about job security along with a wage and benefit package that recognizes the pressures on working people. I have known Governor Cuomo for many years and I know that his commitment to organized labor and working families is deeply held and second to no one."

6. The Second Contract

Governor's Press Release, June 20, 2017

"CSEA and the Governor's administration worked to produce a tentative agreement that is fair to public service workers and taxpayers alike. We held the line, in a very tough environment, in order to provide a comprehensive health insurance program that protects working families across the state, and pay increases that help working families keep up with the rising cost of living," CSEA President Danny Donohue said. “It is an agreement earned through tenacity and hard work, which provides long-term stability for workers and the daily operations of our state. We are very proud to have reached this point for our members who often go unrecognized for the contributions they make in our communities every day."

CSEA Members Ratify New Contract

As Appeared in This Week in Albany, August 11, 2017

CSEA members ratified a new five year contract with the state that provides annual 2 percent raises, improvements to the longevity payment structure, and double-time overtime pay for those working in the Office of Mental Health and the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities to control the excessive mandated overtime rampant in that sector.

All of our four state bargaining units (Administrative, Institutional, Operational and Division of Military and Naval Affairs) individually approved the agreement.

“Our negotiating team worked tirelessly to secure a well-rounded agreement that provides hard-earned cost-of-living increases while keeping health insurance expenses reasonable for working families,” said CSEA President Danny Donohue. “This contract is the product of members negotiating as a team for what is fair, and it recognizes the exceptional value of your innumerable contributions across the state. You are the often-unrecognized backbone of our communities.”

The governor signed the legislation into law late Tuesday, along with a separate contract bill for CSEA’s agreement with the Office of Court Administration.

5. Solidarity Forever

In 2011, the labor movement witnessed the most concerted and well-funded attack on working men and women that we had seen in decades.

Shortly after taking office, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, with the backing of wealthy corporate elites, introduced legislation to strip public employees of most of their collective bargaining rights.

CSEA stood with our brothers and sisters in fighting this attack on the labor movement.

Next Step in Wisconsin: Recall All Foes of Labor

The Chief Leader, March 18, 2011

Danny Donohue, president of the Civil Service Employees Association, an AFSCME affiliate, said, “A state that once led the nation towards a better understanding of the value of labor-management dialogue has now seen its government take questionable action in the dark of night to snuff out good-faith negotiating...Let this be a call to action to the American middle class not to take any of our rights for granted.” The CSEA has sent staff members to Wisconsin to help fight the effort to end collective bargaining.


It would take a decade of fighting to push back against the draconian policies established under the Walker administration, but as the decade closes there is light at the end of the tunnel.

National Outlook

As Appeared in This Week in Albany, November 9, 2018

Two vehemently anti-union Governors were defeated on Tuesday, with Wisconsin's Scott Walker (R) and Illinois' Bruce Rauner (R) both being soundly defeated.

4. Tier 6

From rallies to TV ads to all-out lobbying efforts, CSEA battled the creation of a new pension tier in the depths of the Great Recession.

Dark Deal Includes Outrageous Political Boondoggle - The Labor Press, March 23, 2012

CSEA Ramps Up Campaign Over Tier 6 "Dark Deal" - This Week in Albany, March 30, 2012

At the end of the day, Tier VI was passed and signed into law despite CSEA's best efforts.

However, CSEA was successful in fighting back some of the worst aspects of the original proposal, including a provision that would have moved new public employees into a 401(k)-style defined-contribution retirement plan.

3. Con Con

The entire labor movement won a major victory in 2017 when a ballot question regarding a state constitutional convention was resoundingly defeated.

Constitutional Convention

As Appeared in This Week in Albany, November 9, 2017

CSEA members won a major victory on Tuesday when the constitutional convention ballot proposal was defeated by an unprecedented margin.

This victory was a culmination of over a year of continuous efforts of CSEA members and activists to educate members and the general public and turn out the vote against the proposal.

When the Siena College Research Institute released its first poll of voters’ feelings on the constitutional convention in April, 63% of voters supported the idea of holding a constitutional convention. By November, polling showed that support was down to 25%. By election night, opposition to a constitutional convention reached an all time high. Unofficial election night totals from the State Board of Elections showed that the proposal was defeated by a margin of 83% to 17%. Not a single county voted in favor of the constitutional convention.

“Without CSEA and our allies voting NO on the constitutional convention, there’s a good chance we’d all be on the hook for a very expensive and dangerous ride. When it comes down to it, this is just another example of how important labor is in protecting our rights, and the rights of our families and friends everywhere. This is a very proud day for CSEA,” President Danny Donohue said.

The overwhelming “no” vote shows how strong unions can be when we stand together. Thank you for all that you did to earn this victory.

2. Janus v AFSCME

As Appeared in This Week in Albany, June 29, 2018

This week, the United States Supreme Court overturned over forty years of precedent when it ruled against the union in Janus v AFSCME. The 5-4 decision provided that members of a public sector bargaining unit who choose not to join the union cannot be required to pay a “fair share” or “agency fee” for the costs of collective bargaining. The ruling essentially institutes a nation-wide “Right-to-Work” policy in the public sector.

This case was never anything other than an attack on labor unions and the voice they provide working men and women in the workplace.

CSEA President Danny Donohue said, “This case wasn’t about fairness or free speech. It was a scheme to destroy unions and silence working people. I can tell you right now, it’s not going to work. CSEA has been around for more than 100 years and we’re here to stay.”

CSEA has already begun fighting against these attacks on hardworking union members.As part of the 2018-19 New York State budget, CSEA worked closely with Governor Cuomo to pass legislation to help fortify unions against this decision. That new law helps protect union members by:

  • Requiring employers to notify the union when a new employee is hired and allow a union representative to meet with new employees.
  • Providing that when a member returns to work after a voluntary or involuntary leave, they will automatically be reinstated as members.

Further, President Donohue stood with Governor Cuomo this week as the Governor signed an Executive Order to protect the personal information of public employees. “When the Governor does the right thing we are more than willing to stand shoulder to shoulder with him,” President Donohue said.

The Governor stood strong with CSEA this week, saying “Let me be very clear: the flame of the labor movement burns stronger than ever here in New York. And so long as I am governor of the State of New York, the labor movement will continue to deliver on the promise of the American Dream.”

The Executive Order will protect State employees against harassment and intimidation from anti-union organizers by prohibiting state agencies from disclosing the private information of public employees, including home address, personal phone numbers, and personal email addresses. The Governor said that he will also advance legislation to provide the same protections to municipal employees.

CSEA will continue to fight against these attacks on our members and everything that we stand for.

Stay union. Stay strong. Never Quit.

1. CSEA Members

The biggest story of the decade is the continued activism and advocacy we see every day from CSEA members.

From elections to legislative campaigns, in victory and through difficult times, CSEA members and activists are the backbone of our union.

Your efforts are what make our advocacy effective at the State Capitol in Albany, in Washington, D.C., and in our local governments.

Thank you for everything you did this past 10 years, and we look forward to what we can all do together over the next 10.

In solidarity,

The CSEA Legislative & Political Action Department


Created with images by Trust "Tru" Katsande - "Ford Fireworks at Detroit River" • Rob Martinez - "Capital Building Staircase in Albany, NY."