May 2017 Issue
April 28, 2017

'Con con' would cost NYers a lot more than money

Source: NYSUT United

This is the seventh in a series about key reasons why an upcoming referendum to hold a state constitutional convention must be defeated. The series examines topics — collective bargaining, public pensions, forever wild provisions, public education and social welfare obligations — that would be at risk if a state constitutional convention was held.

Seventy-one percent of likely voters in New York State still know nothing about the critical ballot question they will be asked in November, according to recent polling. And, time is winding down.

This Election Day — Nov. 7 — just about six months from now, voters will decide whether New York State should redraft its constitution.

Should the referendum pass, citizens could feel far-reaching adverse effects for decades:

  • critical funding stripped from public schools;
  • permanent loss of vital public employee pension protections;
  • workers denied collective bargaining rights and the right to join a union;
  • decimation of environmental regulations.

That's why union leaders are working earnestly to educate NYSUT members and the public.

Stopping a so-called "con con" was an urgent topic among delegates to last month's NYSUT Representative Assembly and local and retiree council presidents attending their pre-RA conference. The union knows it has its work cut out.

"While NYSUT members are slightly more informed than the general public … our numbers are nothing to get excited about," NYSUT Polling Center Manager Nicki Richardson told local and retiree leaders during a conference session.

NYSUT's work in opposition to the convention has been effective, thus far. Since the union began messaging on the issue, support for a convention has dropped 14 points — and among union households, support has fallen particularly fast, Richardson said.

NYSUT needs its members to spread the word about the "con con" — and fast — in their communities and among their friends and families.

The one message that resonates more than others?

A constitutional convention would be a BIG waste of taxpayer money. Though estimates run the gamut, it is safe to say hundreds of millions would be spent to pay more than 200 political insiders and an untold number of consultants. They would be reimbursed for expenses and paid a salary equivalent to a state Assembly member — $79,500 —whether the convention takes 60 minutes or six months (the convention has no time limit).

And, consider: sitting lawmakers, both state and local, are likely to be convention delegates, so they get to double dip into the state payroll.

Without a doubt, the prospect of a constitutional convention has created some strange bedfellows — thrusting progressive and conservative groups together in opposition to the proposal while some 'good government' groups support the idea, claiming a "con con" is needed to bring "ethics reform."

Baloney, union leaders say.

The fact is, matters such as ethics reform and other legislative changes can be made — and have been made — through the amendment process, said NYSUT Senior Legislative Representative Peter Savage.

What's more, unlike a constitutional convention, the amendment process doesn't cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

"It costs nothing at all," he said.

What you need to know

Learn more about the perils of a constitutional convention and what you can do to educate yourself and others.