Hundreds gather for Save Our Services rally in Albany, NY

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New York state public employees and their supporters packed the "well" of a state office building on Jan. 29 to call for an end to the downsizing and privatizing that threatens jobs as well as essential public services.

PEF Rally

Organized by the New York State Public Employees Federation, the Save Our Services rally was attended by members of several public employee unions, including the Civil Service Employees Association and the New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association.

Rally speakers included state legislators as well as AFT President Randi Weingarten, PEF President Susan Kent, United University Professions President Fred Kowal, New York State United Teachers Executive Vice President Andrew Pallotta and New York State AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento. Kent, Kowal and Pallotta are AFT vice presidents.

The message to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was loud and clear: Labor will fight to protect public employees and the professional and valuable services they provide to citizens and communities. "We all stand united—trade unions and public sector unions—speaking with one voice. And this is our message: Stop diminishing and dismantling and destroying services," said Kent, who lashed out at the governor for not including the state Legislature and unions in his decisions.

Kent (pictured below) said the rally was just the first step in the fight to save state services.

PEF Rally - Susan Kent

Instead of privatizing and outsourcing services, the governor should give state employees and their unions "a place at the table and rely on their expertise and ideas," Weingarten said.

People want the government to help them move up the ladder of opportunity, and "the people we represent are the ones who help create that ladder of opportunity," said Weingarten, adding that it was a fight over priorities—between investing and austerity. "There are two roads [the state] can take," the AFT president said. "You can take the road of cut, cut, cut, or you can invest and rebuild."

After the rally, PEF delivered thousands of petitions to the governor, all in support of the union's Save Our Services campaign. [Roger Glass, Albany Times Union/Photos by Timothy Raab]

January 31, 2014