UB 2020 Plan Under Fire
by Buck Quigley - posted 2:27 pm, February 27, 2009
Here’s UB President John Simpson stumping for his UB2020 plan to “over 600 community leaders” last September at Babeville. Looks like a healthy cross-section of our community, huh? You can read the press release from the UB News Center here.
Now, the plan is coming under criticism from United University Professions, NYSUT, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the AFL-CIO and several other labor unions, expressing grave concerns about the plan’s impact on workers, and the potential for it to radically change the public nature—not only of UB, but of the entire SUNY system.
The University At Buffalo’s A-S/2020 Bill Runs Into Trouble With
Organized Labor/Union Officials Say Present Draft Is Anti-Labor
It appears New York State Assembly and Senate
bill A.2020/S.2020 – also known as the University at Buffalo 2020
Flexibility and Economic Growth Act – has been derailed due to action
taken by several representatives of Organized Labor, who described the
proposed legislation as containing no protections for a number of
Labor Standards, including prevailing wage rates on construction, and
allowing UB the opportunity to create a number of non-represented
positions, WNYLaborToday.com has learned.
The United University Professions (UUP) – which is part of the
600,000-member New York United Teachers (NYSUT) Union, the
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Buffalo
AFL-CIO Central Labor Council are at least three Labor Organizations
that had either lobbied or met with UB officials to make known their
displeasure with the bills that were sponsored by State Senator
William Stachowski and State Assemblyman Robin Schimminger.
A resolution by the UUP, including its Western New York chapters and
Winter Delegate Assembly, have gone on record as “vehemently opposing”
A-S/2020, and directed UUP leadership to reach out to all Labor Unions
in the state to “defeat this legislation and all similar proposals
that may surface.” UUP said the legislation included “provisions for
differential tuition that will negate existing Labor agreements and
lead to the privatization of UB.”
A-S/2020 reads in part: amend the education law, the public
authorities law and the general municipal law, in relation to
authorizing tuition increases for the State University of New York at
Buffalo (Part A); to amend the education law, in relation to the use
of State University of New York at Buffalo property (Part B); to amend
the education law, the state finance law and the tax law, in relation
to the ability of the state university trustees to purchase items and
enter into contracts and agreements (Part C); to amend the education
law and the state finance law, in relation to the distribution of
money received from various sources related to the State University of
New York at Buffalo (Part D); and to amend the education law, in
relation to providing that certain lease of the State University of
New York at Buffalo need not be submitted to the attorney general for
his or her approval (Part E).
“Our problems are not with the strategic vision to advance UB 2020.
We have no problem with its general principles and goals to expand
their facilities and improve the local economy. Instead, there are
real issues with the bill that need to be fixed because it looks and
smells very anti-worker. That’s an important distinction to make,” Ray
Dannenhoffer, president of UUP’s Health Services Chapter and Associate
Dean for Support Service/Pathology and Anatomical Sciences at the UB
School of Medicine, told WNYLaborToday.com.
Richard Stempniak, UUP Chapter President at Buffalo State College, who
is also involved, added: “As we continued to look at the bill, it got
worse and worse. We support the concept of 20/20, but not the bill in
its present state. This bill is anti-Wick’s and contains no Project
Labor Agreement. There’s no protection for women and minority hiring
goals. I couldn’t believe that Schimminger and Stachowski chose to
put their names on it.”
Asked whether he was surprised by what he read in A-S/2020, Buffalo
AFL-CIO President Mike Hoffert, answered, “Yes,’ and added the present
version of the bill needs to be redrafted.
“Once you take a good look at it you see no Labor protections. I know
the UUP and the IBEW are against it. Yes, we need jobs, but going the
way of the cheapest isn’t necessarily the best way to go. The
investment in construction at UB is nothing to sneeze at, but our
contention is that local Labor gets the work and the wages stay here
locally,” Hoffert said.
Buffalo AFL-CIO President Hoffert said he did speak to UB President
John Simpson, who spoke at a recent get-together of Union
representatives and delegates during a Buffalo CLC meeting, about the
problems. The answer he received, Hoffert said, was something along
the lines of, “I’m a biologist who didn’t know anything about the
specifics of the legislation.”
UUP’s Dannenhoffer said he really didn’t know who was responsible for
putting the gut-work of the A-S/2020 bill together. However, under
its proposed state, Dannenhoffer said UB would be allowed to privatize
itself and that UB could “spend any monies it receives any way it
wants, hire anyone they want in a non-Union position.” There should
be greater scrutiny when it comes to the use of taxpayer dollars on
the UB Campus, said Dannenhoffer, who added: “In this day and age,
oversight on giving out taxpayer money is not necessarily a bad
In September, Organized Labor was prominently featured in UB President
Simpson’s 2008 Community Address to the Western New York Region, which
trumpeted the benefits of the university’s ambitious plan that calls
for a $2.5 billion capital improvement project over the course of the
next 10 years – an effort that would create tens of thousands of new
At that time, UB President John Simpson touted the need for a
committed and long-term investment, as well as a call for deregulation
and relief from New York. Simpson also spoke of the need for state
elected leaders in Albany to either “get behind UB’s 20/20 plan or get
out of the way.” “This is our best hope for our region’s future. We
need support. Labor is behind it and the entire community has backed
UB 20/20 and I thank you for that. Join us in asking Albany to make
the changes and reforms and make them now!” he said.
As it continues to lay the groundwork to make UB 20/20 reality, the
University of Buffalo had reached out to Organized Labor in order to
partner with the well-known and respected educational institution’s
effort to lobby state elected officials for funding assistance. Also
meeting with UB officials were a number of local Labor Unions,
including the Buffalo Building & Construction Trades Council, the
CSEA, the Teamsters, the United Auto Workers and the United Food &
Commercial Workers, to name but a few.
“We’ve never really seen anything like this (UB reaching out to
partner with area labor organizations) happen before on this scale,”
Buffalo AFL-CIO President Hoffert told WNYLaborToday.com at the time.
“UB wants labor to join with the university in lobbying the state for
funding that would allow it to expand. Its vision of the future has
UB expanding from twenty-eight-thousand students to thirty-eight
thousand. The potential economic benefits include a range of things,
from new student housing to as much as one-thousand new and
good-paying faculty member jobs and six hundred service employee jobs.
The ancillary spin-offs are everything from construction of new
student housing to numerous local retail opportunities. This effort
would create tremendous critical mass and organized labor looks
forward to partnering with UB in helping make this happen.”
So where does the A-S/2020 situation stand now?
UUP’s Stempniak said it was his understanding UB President Simpson was
planning to reach out to NYSUT and its legislative staff to get in-put
in order to rewrite the bill, but as of late last week, NYSUT had not
heard from UB.
“The door is open. It’s their move,” Stempniak said.
Added UUP’s Dannenhoffer: “We’re looking for a reasonable solution.”
Said Buffalo AFL-CIO President Hoffert: “(Organized Labor) will help
UB draft a new proposal that contains protections for prevailing wages
and such. These types of things are very important. If not, there
will be no benefit for Western New York workers in such a bill.”