CSEA blasts SUNY over Empowerment Act

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The Civil Service Employees Association, a state union, blasted State University of New York Chancellor Nancy Zimpher for a letter she released today, saying it wrongly gives the impression there is “broad labor support” for the SUNY Empowerment Act.

The legislation, which is pending in the Senate and Assembly, would give SUNY the authority to set its own tuition without needing approval from lawmakers, it would relax oversight of purchases before they are made (known as pre-audits), and would make a number of other changes. It’s unclear whether it will be approved by the Legislature, which is still negotiating a budget with the governor. The fiscal year began April 1.

“There is no broad labor support when the major union representing SUNY (non-faculty) employees is not in agreement!” CSEA President Danny Donohue said in a statement. “Today’s tactic is intended to steamroll actions that need much fuller examination and debate.” He accused Zimpher of attempting a “power grab intended to outsource more work to private contractors and further undermine the very concept of real public higher education in this state.”

Zimpher’s letter announced that 24 major corporations and associations and the Building and Construction Trades Council support SUNY’s new strategic plan and the legislation.

“We thank New York’s top employers and labor unions for this strong message of support of the Empowerment Act and The Power of SUNY,” Zimpher said in a statement. “These leaders understand better than anyone that we need bold action to spark the state’s economic recovery, and they recognize SUNY’s capacity to drive innovation, growth and a better quality of life in our communities.”

Gov. David Paterson proposed the Empowerment Act, which he said would “create jobs, reinvigorate our state’s economy, and allow our state university system to be nationally competitive — all at zero cost to taxpayers.”

The supporters, who wrote a letter to the Legislature, are BBL Construction Services, Center for Economic Growth, Central Hudson Energy Group, Columbia Development Companies, Delaware North Companies, Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, First Niagara, Frank Murken Products, IBM Corporation, Independent Health, Kaleida Health, Eastman Kodak, Long Island Association, Long Island Contractors’ Association, MOOG, M&T Bank, Nassau-Suffolk Building Trades, New York State Business Council, The Pike Company, SEFCU, SIRGA Advanced Biopharma, WelchAllyn, and Xerox.

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