CSEA lawsuits charge Thruway and Canal layoffs unconstitutional

ALBANY, NY (08/05/2013)(readMedia)-- CSEA has filed federal lawsuits against the state Thruway Authority and Canal Corp. charging that last spring's layoff of union members working at the agencies was unconstitutional.

The suits claim the state violated CSEA-represented employees' constitutional rights to freedom of speech, freedom of association, due process and equal protection of the law when, during contract negotiations, it threatened to and did in fact, lay off CSEA represented workers, while sparing all management employees and political appointees.

"The fact that only union members were targeted proves the layoffs were meant to punish them," said CSEA President Danny Donohue. "If the layoffs were truly financially necessary, wouldn't it make sense to get rid of at least one highly-paid manager or appointee?"

As further evidence that the layoffs were politically rather than financially motivated, the CSEA lawsuits quote statements made at a Thruway Authority and Canal Corp. board meeting, held just seven days before the layoffs took place, that the agencies were "in solid shape financially" and "doing very well this year."

The union has contended from the beginning that management used the layoffs to try to unfairly influence the outcome of negotiations by attempting to coerce rank-and-file union members to pressure their union representatives to succumb to management demands. Gov. Andrew Cuomo's handpicked negotiator, Joseph Bress, is representing the Thruway and Canal management at the bargaining table.

In court documents, CSEA said the layoffs were intended to penalize its members for exercising their First and 14th Amendment rights to seek union representation and to join, support and participate in a union.

Last December, shortly after negotiations for a successor agreement between the parties had begun, Thruway Authority Executive Director Thomas Madison sent an email to CSEA represented workers threatening that layoffs would occur unless the union agreed to management's contract demands for severe concessions by April 3. Despite numerous proposals offered by CSEA in an attempt to find common ground, management would not move. The Thruway Authority and Canal Corp. laid off members of the CSEA bargaining units immediately after the deadline Madison had given the union to agree to management's terms had expired.