New CSEA Benefit

CSEA is offering members a new Accidental Death and Dismemberment Benefit. There’s no application to fill out, no premiums to pay. There’s no cost to you. The following links provide forms for your accidental death benefit certificate and beneficiary forms:
Accidental death certificate of insurance
Accidental death beneficiary form*

*NOTE: Once you print this form, please return the signed copy to:
CSEA, Inc.
Attn: Insurance Dept.
143 Washington Avenue
Albany, NY 12210

At Last… Our Contract Is on the Way

Good news: Actual copies of our contract are finally on their way!

The extension of the contract through 2016 was approved by a 62-2 vote of the general membership on August 20, 2013.

The Library’s attorney submitted the draft of the contract to the Library Board on October 14.

The draft was delivered, in portions, to the union for review between November 20 and November 23 and returned to the attorney with corrections on December 23.

The corrected draft was finally returned to the union on March 7 and approved by the Contract Negotiating Committee on March 14.

The contract was signed on March 20 by Richard Riis on behalf of the union membership and on behalf of the Library by the Director and President of the Board of Trustees on March 20 and 21.

The contract is now on its way to CSEA for the signature of our Labor Relations Specialist and to be printed and bound. The print run will be larger than in past years, so there will be plenty of copies for distribution to all parties, departmental offices and to the Business Office for distribution to future employees as they are hired.

When the printed copies are in our hands a general membership meeting will be scheduled at which the contracts will be distributed. All members will receive a copy regardless of whether or not they can attend the meeting.

Once again, a huge thank you on behalf of the Executive Committee and the entire union membership to the Contract Negotiating Committee – Dave Berner, Joanne Genovese and Kim Seliger – for their hard work and dedication during this painstaking and protracted process.

CSEA Scholarships

CSEA awards 24 annual $1,000 scholarships under the Irving Flaumenbaum Memorial Scholarship and Thomas H. McDonough programs. In addition, Pearl Carroll & Associates LLC and MetLife each sponsor one-time awards of $2,500 to the top 2% of academic achievers, based on high school average, class rank and SAT scores. These scholarships are available to graduating high school seniors who are children of CSEA-represented employees in New York State.

Applications are available to print out HERE. Richard Riis also has a limited supply available upon request. Filing for a Flaumenbaum scholarship automatically puts an applicant in consideration for the Pearl Carroll & Associates LLC and MetLife scholarships. One application is good for all scholarships.

The filing deadline is April 30. Winners will be announced in June.



Pete Seeger, 1919-2014, The Singing Voice of the American Labor Movement

Folk music legend and lifelong labor union activist Pete Seeger has died at age 94. We remember him with this article, first published in the May/June 2007 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.

Pete Seeger: Activist, Master Songsmith

Even if you’ve never been to a labor rally, a civil rights demonstration, or a folk music concert, chances are you’ve been touched by the music of Pete Seeger.

The Weavers in the early 1950s: From left are Pete Seeger, Lee Hays, and Fred Hellerman, with Ronnie Gilbert in the foreground.

For more than six decades, this gifted performer has traveled the world spreading messages of unionism, social justice, and peace. Many of the songs Seeger wrote or popularized are now part of the American cultural fabric, and along the way he has inspired countless labor, anti-war, civil rights, and environmental activists, as well as a diverse range of musicians.

Born in New York City on May 3, 1919, Seeger is the son of classical music teachers whose ancestors included Mayflower descendants and abolitionists. Though educated in private schools, his family was not wealthy. To earn spending money, Seeger sold a student newspaper he produced, and sometimes shined shoes.

Folk Music Awakening

Seeger’s future as a folk musician was forged in 1936, when his father took him to an Appalachian music festival in Asheville, NC. On that trip he first heard five-string banjo playing and enjoyed performances by many artists he came to admire, including “Aunt Molly Jackson.”As Seeger recalled in a 2006 interview, “She sang, ‘I am a union woman/just as brave as I can be/I do not like the bosses/and the bosses don’t like me.’ And that was how I began to hear folk music.”

He got a scholarship to Harvard, where he studied sociology and waited on tables in one of the school’s dining halls. In 1938, the college sophomore dropped out and began to travel, mainly by rail or by hitchhiking. He immersed himself in all forms of American folk music: bluegrass, gospel, blues, ballads, sea shanties, etc.

A naturally gifted “split tenor,” he learned to play the five-string banjo, and became acquainted with folk legends Woody Guthrie (This Land Is Your Land, This Land Is My Land)and musicologist Alan Lomax. Lomax hired Seeger for the Library of Congress’s Archive of American Folk Song, where the young musician’s job involved visiting migrant camps, churches, union halls, and rural communities.

In 1940, Seeger, Guthrie, and fellow musicians Millard Lampell and Lee Hays formed the Almanac Singers, which at times included folk legends Burl Ives, Leadbelly, and blues greats Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee.

Union Songsmith

The band popularized now-classic union anthems such as Solidarity Forever, We Shall Not Be Moved, and Which Side Are You On? They also wrote and recorded The Talking Union Blues,an organizing song for the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). Enjoying considerable commercial success, the group also performed pacifist tunes in the run-up the war.

Seeger was drafted in 1942, and tried to become an Air Force mechanic. But FBI scrutiny of the Almanac Singers’ politics — including Seeger’s association with the Communist Party — resulted in his spending much of the war picking up cigarette butts at an Army base in Mississippi. He was eventually assigned to a unit entertaining the troops stationed in the Pacific.

In 1947, Seeger and Lee Hayes formed a new group, the Weavers, with Ronnie Gilbert and Fred Hellerman. The band found great success with chart-topping hits such as Kisses Sweeter Than Wine, On Top of Old Smoky, and Wimoweh (The Lion Sleeps Tonight). The Weavers made Leadbelly’s Goodnight Irene a No. 1 hit in 1949.

Civil Rights

Martin Luther King Jr., Pete Seeger, Charis Horton, Rosa Parks, and Ralph Abernathy in front of the Highlander School in 1957. Horton is the school founder's daughter.
Martin Luther King Jr., Pete Seeger, Charis Horton, Rosa Parks, and Ralph Abernathy in front of the Highlander School in 1957. Horton is the school founder’s daughter.

Despite its mainstream success, the group was condemned by conservatives. Threats led concert promoters to cancel Weavers performances, often at the last minute. In one famous incident on Aug. 27, 1949, near Peekskill, NY, a mob wielding baseball bats — probably organized by the Ku Klux Klan — tore down the stage. Thirteen people who had planned to attend the concert were seriously injured.

The Weavers rescheduled the performance — a benefit for the Civil Rights Congress that also featured Paul Robeson (the noted African-American singer, scholar, actor and activist) — for a week later. On Sept. 4, with security provided by union volunteers, 20,000 people enjoyed the show. Following the event, however, a police roadblock enabled a mob to assault people departing in their cars. The car carrying Seeger and his family was attacked by rock throwers.

Amid what was becoming an ugly political climate during the early days of the Cold War, Seeger and Hays penned If I Had a Hammer, an optimistic paean to the power of individual activism. Written in 1949, it became a Top 10 hit in 1962 for Peter, Paul, and Mary, and it soon became a standard for civil rights marches and Catholic folk masses.


Seeger near his home on the Hudson River. Stenciled on his banjo: “This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender.”
Seeger near his home on the Hudson River. Stenciled on his banjo: “This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender.”

Despite their popularity, the Weavers were among the victims of Sen. Joe McCarthy (R-WI) and his anti-Communist crusade.“Blacklisted” by the government, radio stations, and major record labels, the group disbanded in 1953. Seeger supported his family with solo-act appearances on the college circuit and at folk-music gatherings.

In 1955, Seeger was forced to appear before the House Un-American Activities Committee. He confounded the panel by refusing to answer its questions based on his First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and association — not by invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, as other reluctant witnesses had done.

The Weavers reunited to play a sold-out Christmas Eve concert at Carnegie Hall in 1955 and played together intermittently until 1958. Seeger, however, began to devote more time to the civil rights movement.

In 1957, while visiting the Highlander Folk School, a training center for union and civil rights leaders in rural Tennessee, Seeger performed a version of a late 19th-Century gospel tune that had been adopted by union coal miners and tobacco workers: His rendition of “We Shall Overcome” prompted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to remark, “That song really sticks with you, doesn’t it?”

The song soon became an anthem for the American civil rights movement, and it has since been adopted by freedom struggles around the world.

Other Signature Tunes

Joined by Stevie Wonder, Seeger performs during his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. He won a Grammy the following year.

Seeger is perhaps best known for two other songs he wrote in the 1950s. Borrowing a few lyrics from a Russian folk tune, he composed Where Have All the Flowers Gone?, which became a pop-chart success for the Kingston Trio. In Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season), he adapted verses from the Bible (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). It became a number one hit for the Byrds in 1965.

These and other Seeger songs fueled a folk-music revival in the mid-1950s that lasted through much of the 1960s. By the late 1960s, however, Seeger became uncomfortable with the cultural radicalism and the generational divisions it fostered. In the 1970s he shifted his focus to environmental issues, most notably an effort to clean up the Hudson River that features his 107-foot sloop Clearwater, a floating classroom, laboratory, and stage.

Despite the shift, Seeger has remained a familiar presence at folk-music gatherings and anti-war and labor rallies. Today, at 88, the author of more than 100 songs, countless stories, and time-honored manuals on banjo- and guitar-playing is still healthy and active. Although his voice has developed a quaver, he can still be coaxed to take the stage to tell stories or lead a sing-along.

Get Fit in ’14


Union families can get fit and save money by using their Union Plus discount with GlobalFit. Enjoy the lowest rates on new memberships at health clubs and gyms including 24 Hour Fitness, Curves, Anytime Fitness, Sport & Health, Bally’s Total Fitness, and more. Average savings is about $200/year with the lowest price guaranteed.

Click this link to find a participating gym near you.

An Important Message, Part 2

We are pleased to report that our inquiries into a situation of some concern alluded to in yesterday’s post have been addressed to the satisfaction of the union.


Congratulations to Dina Muhlenbruck, daughter of member Carolyn Muhlenbruck of the Commack Branch. Dina was a big, big winner on TV’s “Wheel of Fortune,” which aired on December 27. Way to go, Dina!

Click on images to enlarge.

2014 Salary Schedules

The new contract has been proofread by all parties and returned to CSEA and the Library’s attorney. While we wait for the Board to approve the few minor corrections, we have extracted the 2014 salary schedules from the contract to distribute before the start of the new year, as promised at the December 6 General Membership Meeting. Copies of those three pages have been emailed to all members for which we have email addresses. If you failed to receive an email, please send your address to Richard Riis and those pages will be sent to you.

We appreciate the monumental work of Jean DeLauro and the Payroll Department in compiling the new schedules, which now include a breakdown of salaries by year, bi-weekly pay period and hour.

Many thanks again to Dave Berner, Joanne Genovese and Kim Seliger for their work on behalf of all of us in poring over this 43-page legal document word by word, number by number looking for typos, errors and omissions. In this line of work, nitpickiness is definitely a virtue.


Show Biz Note

Tune your television to channel 7 at 7:30 p.m. tonight to watch member Carolyn Muhlenbruck’s daughter compete on “Wheel of Fortune.” Good luck, Dina!

Important Updates


The new contract has been proofread by all parties. There are some minor corrections, mostly typographical, to be made. Until those corrections are made, we cannot print and distribute the contract. However, as announced at the December General Membership Meeting on December 6, the salary schedules for 2014 will be emailed to members this week.

Sunday Schedule

The Sunday work schedule for January – May 2014 will be finalized by the Sunday Schedule Committee this Friday and sent out at the earliest possible opportunity afterwards. Beginning this season, all requests for schedule changes must be made to Richard Riis (or Sheila Doherty in his absence) no later than noon on Friday. Communications after that time must be made directly to that Sunday’s PIC for the building for which you are scheduled; PICS will follow the necessary steps to fill vacancies. The schedules, which will emailed to all at the beginning of the season, will be updated as needed and viewable on the staff K Drive, as are contact phone numbers, weekly sign-in sheets  and all Sunday-relevant matter.

NYSHIP Opt-Out Buyout

There is at this time a dispute between CSEA and NYSHIP over the definition of “other coverage” for employees who wish to opt out of NYSHIP coverage.

Unlike for plan years 2012 and 2013, the State of New York and CSEA have not reached agreement for 2014 to allow CSEA-represented employees to qualify for the opt-out payment if the other coverage is provided by a NYS employee. As everyone saw in the recent Library memo, there is no buyout payment for 2014.

CSEA (and other labor organizations) are contending that coverage through an employer other than NYS, such as a municipality, school district or public benefit corporation, qualifies as “other coverage”.

Members are advised to follow all instructions in the Library memo and await the outcome of the CSEA-NYSHIP dispute. Please, no inquiries of the Executive Board; we know nothing more than you do at this time. We have asked CSEA to keep us apprised and as we learn of developments we will promptly pass them on to the membership.


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