The ongoing contract dispute between the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA) and the Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) returned to the news when the union recently organized workers to picket two big events in Lake Placid, the opening day at Whiteface Mountain and the Stars on Ice.
While the union is stepping up its media presence with plans to hold more rallies to bring attention to the fact that there’s been no contract between ORDA workers and the CSEA, ORDA officials have been tight-lipped about the matter.
Here’s a message to both parties — get a contract done.
It’s time for ORDA to step up to the plate, get back to the negotiating table and make sure a contract gets done. Having so much time go by without a contract for workers who make the Olympic venues operate like a well-oiled machine only serves to lower worker morale. ORDA officials continuously praise its workforce — and rightfully so — so now they should let actions speak as loud as words by aggressively working for a contract for its workers.
Union representatives at the CSEA must also be realistic about its demands.
Kathy Garrison, the regional president of the CSEA, listed some of the union’s grievances in a recent report on WNBZ radio following the pickets. While the News certainly is sympathetic to area worker’s needs during hard economic times, and applaud the workers’ efforts to champion their cause, there are some issues discussed by Garrison that need to be addressed.
Garrison says that workers “make very little money here” and “many work two or three jobs.” Well, that’s life for many people who live in the Adirondack Park, that’s nothing new and a reality of living here. Wages aren’t as high here as in other parts of the state and many Park residents must find secondary work just to make ends meet. It’s just a fact that people choose to live here due to the quality of life in the Adirondacks.
She also says that “It’s a bunch of millionaires who sit on the board and they won’t even come back and bring 50 cents to them.” The financial status of board members has nothing to do with what a board can offer in regard to salaries. Residents of New York City don’t expect any such concessions from millionaire mayor Michael Bloomberg.
The CSEA says its workers haven’t received raises in years. There are many workers throughout the country who can say the same thing. Some workers who have lost their jobs, including the 900 New York state workers who have recently been targeted by Gov. Paterson to be axed — would gladly forgo raises just to have a job.
It is still possible for the state jobs supplied by ORDA to be put on the chopping block. Not long ago governor-elect Andrew Cuomo visited state-run Sunmount in Tupper Lake with an ominous message of cuts to be.
The union also used Whiteface Mountain’s recent accolades such as being named the east’s top resort by readers of SKI Magazine (for off-hill activities) and the east’s favorite resort by SnowEast Magazine as a bargaining chip. The fact is that Whiteface was given those distinctions NOT just for the mountain, but for the Region as a whole, which is partially due to Main Street Lake Placid having such a plethora of activities, from shopping to a variety of attractions on Mirror Lake, and the outstanding job the visitors centers in Wilmington and Lake Placid do to market the region.
ORDA’s workers may indeed deserve a raise — as do other workers throughout the nation — but that shouldn’t be a deal breaker. That said, the CSEA shouldn’t stop fighting to help its members — and ORDA shouldn’t stop praising its workers. But the seemingly never-ending story of a contract dispute must be resolved for the benefit of the entire region. It doesn’t bode well when unhappy workers must brave the elements to make their stand in public.
Only ORDA officials know the real issues on why there has been no contract since March — as they are legally bound not to speak publically — so little commentary can be made on ORDA’s position. But with more union rallies planned, the battle between the CSEA and ORDA will remain in the public’s eye. So, get back to the table and work out a contract.
The union’s beef that ORDA seems to be dragging its feet on getting a contract done might be justified, but the union should also face the hard realities that are prevalent in today’s economic world.