Dozens of CSEA members were in front of the county office building in White Plains Monday, fighting for jobs on the chopping block as part of the 2013 Westchester County Budget.
Holding signs that read "America Wants to Work" and "Bring Jobs Home", union members marched in a circle beneath the county board of legislature chambers. Union members said they are fighting to keep more than 100 jobs that are slated to be eliminated at year's end.
"It's unconscionable what's going on here," said Billy Riccaldo, CSEA south regional president. "It's a travesty to this county, it really is."
County Executive Robert Astorino was critical of the CSEA, which is the largest union among county workers, in early budget proposals this year. The county executive's initial budget in November called for the elimination of 189 positions, but 30 jobs were restored in the budget approved on Dec. 7.
Astorino blamed union leadership for refusing to contribute to health care, which he said left the county with no choice but to eliminate positions.
Teri Rella of Mamaroneck is one of the county employees currently slated to lose her job. She is still hopeful that some kind of resolution can be found that will keep her employed next year.
"These are workers who live in Westchester, they need to feed their families and they need to work—they want to work," she said. "Laying people off just isn't the answer."
The 2013 budget would cut staffing in the social services, parks, public works and public safety departments, among others. Karen Pecora, a local CSEA president, said she is urging the public to call on their local legislators to discuss bringing back some of the positions. County Democrats have been able to restore positions at the last-minute in the past, she said, and there is still hope that can be the case for 2013.
"We've had it every year," she said. "The legislators seem to always find the money."
Riccaldo added that picketing this time of year is nothing new for union members, many of who have faced the possibility of being laid off for several years in a row now.
"This is probably the toughest time of the year for all of us because we have to go through it every year with every budget," Riccaldo said. "It's probably the hardest part of this whole job, is walking with my members who are possibly going to be laid off because of a budget."