BENTE Union Update (11-5-20)

BENTE Union Update (11-5-20)
November 6, 2020

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Please take note of the following updates: 

FUZZY MATH: At the Board of Education Finance Committee meeting held on October 20, RCSD Chief Financial Officer, Carleen Pierce gave a presentation that cited a potential $199 million dollar deficit. This projected deficit is prior to any reduction in state aid. 

At the bargaining units’ bi-weekly meeting, Superintendent Lesli Myers-Small stated that she will base further reductions and future layoffs upon the numbers provided by the CFO. All of the bargaining units are in agreement that the deficit is inflated and misleading. We collectively expressed our opinion during a meeting today with the superintendent and it is evident that she is predisposed to believe every item the CFO presented. Our assessments, which were supported by our affiliate state and national unions, were rejected. 

The four bargaining units have joined together to take the stance that there should be no further reductions in the workforce and that the workers who were laid off in BENTE and RAP should be restored. AFSCME International has provided a summary of the budget and a letter was recently sent to the press (both are attached). 

It is also interesting to note that CFO Carleen Pierce was listed as the Treasurer in an application that was rejected by the state for Rochester Excellence Academy Charter School. Conflict of interest? 

RCSD REOPENING PLAN: SPECIAL EDUCATION/SPECIALIZED SERVICES: The superintendent has made the decision to return students in need of specialized services as of January 4. There is a potential of 800 students, but we do not know how many will return until next week. We remain hopeful that this will enable some of our members to be recalled or prevent additional layoffs. 

As for the remaining population of students, a decision has not been made yet as to when they will return, but it will not be until at least after January. 

EMPLOYEE BENEFITS OPEN ENROLLMENT: The District’s Annual Employee Benefits Open enrollment period has started and will continue until November 30, 2020. This is the time to review and make changes to your medical and dental insurance, add or remove eligible dependents, and enroll in a Flexible Spending Account. Changes take effect on January 1, 2021. 

Contribution rates of 5% for the Core Plan and 15% for the Enhanced Plan.Bi-weekly health care rates and other benefit information can be found on the District’s website by clicking on Employee Benefits.  You should take the time to evaluate which plan is best for your own personal situation. Check that your beneficiaries are up to date, make sure you are enrolled in a free $10,000 life insurance policy that is a union negotiated benefit provided by the District. These items can be found in Peoplesoft. 

EXCELLUS RALLY: For members who are receiving health insurance through the District, you (and your spouse) can be rewarded financially for leading a healthier lifestyle and can receive $175 each just by answering some simple questions. For more information, please contact the BENTE union office at 585-458-8670 or by e-mailing me directly at 

FURLOUGH DISCONTINUED FOR PARAS: Superintendent Lesli Myers-Small claimed in a staged video that the union leadership rejected a furlough agreement. In truth, the Union countered her proposed furlough and then she withdrew the District’s original offer. One of the reasons we countered the superintendent’s original offer was because it gave the District the sole authority to discontinue the furlough at the end of October (our members already had health insurance through the end of October). 

Sure enough, the District has now discontinued the furlough agreement for the paraprofessionals and has moved them all into laid off status. The reality is that we are dealing with an administration that is not treating employees with even the least bit of compassion. It bears repeating that food service workers who are currently reporting to work have been moved, demoted, and had their hours cut in half. They do not qualify for unemployment. These are cruel acts that do not take into consideration the long-term effect this has on workers who physically reported to work during the first wave of the pandemic. 

WEGMANS CARDS: As reported in the newsletter, we are asking for members who can afford to do so to donate their $10 Wegmans gift card this year to a fellow union brother or sister who has impacted by the shutdown. 

Please e-mail me at or call the union office at 458-8670 to donate your card. There are 300 members who were affected by this layoff/income reduction. The union will also use some monies for additional contributions, as we are looking to put together a care package that would include the Wegmans card. Each donation will contain a card that says “Donated By _____” to include the member’s name who made the donation. 

DAY BEFORE THANKSGIVING: As per the collective bargaining agreement, since the day before Thanksgiving has been designated a recess day this school year, all BENTE members are permitted to take a personal day. 

UNIT ELECTIONS: Nominations for each unit office took place at the membership meeting on Tuesday, October 20th. All offices were uncontended with the exception of the unit steward in Transportation and the unit steward in School Security. Information on the unit elections is contained in the latest edition of The BENTE Informer.  You must be a member of the specific unit in order to be eligible to vote in the unit election. 

TRAVELING OUTSIDE OF NEW YORK STATE: Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced new guidelines allowing out-of-state travelers to New York to “test out” of the mandatory 14-day quarantine. Travelers from states that share a border with New York will continue to be exempt from the travel advisory, however those travelers must continue to fill out the Traveler Health Form .

For any traveler to New York State from out of state, exempting the bordering states, the new guidelines for travelers to test-out of the mandatory 14-day quarantine are below: 

For travelers who were in another state for more than 24 hours: 

  • Travelers must obtain a test within three days of departure from that state. 
  • The traveler must, upon arrival in New York, quarantine for three days. 
  • On day 4 of their quarantine, the traveler must obtain another COVID test. If both tests comes back negative, the traveler may exit quarantine early upon receipt of the second negative diagnostic test. 

For travelers who were in another state for less than 24 hours: 

  • The traveler does not need a test prior to their departure from the other state, and does not need to quarantine upon arrival in New York State. 
  • However, the traveler must fill out our traveler form upon entry into New York State, and take a COVID diagnostic test 4 days after their arrival in New York. 

Local health departments will validate tests, if necessary, and if a test comes back positive, will issue isolation orders and initiate contact tracing. The local health department must make contact with the state the traveler came from, to ensure contact tracing proceeds there as well. All travelers must continue to fill out our traveler form upon arrival into New York State to contribute to New York State’s robust contact tracing program. 

You may qualify for a leave under the federal guidelines without utilizing your own leave bank during the period of time you are waiting for the test results, but you can only utilize this leave one time and it is set to expire on December 31, 2020. 

COVID-19 RCSD CASES: A list of Covid-19 cases in the city school district that is broken down by school can be found on the New York State website by clicking on Covid-19 Report Card.

FEDERAL STIMULUS: With the decline in state and local revenues due to the pandemic, it is still extremely important that Congress passes a federal stimulus package to include relief to state and local governments and school districts. 

For members who have been adversely affected through layoffs, reduction of income, or family members losing their jobs, federal unemployment insurance and stimulus checks are in dire need to keep households above water. It is our hope that after the election, something will be passed to help ordinary Americans. 

Stay safe. 

In Solidarity,  

Dan DiClemente, President  
BENTE/AFSCME Local 2419  

“The Support Staff that Supports Students”

Press Release from RCSD Unions
Letter to BOE from RCSD Unions
AFSCME Budget Deficit Summary
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