New York, NY – Pete Meringolo is chairman of the NYS Public Employee Conference, and the former president of the Corrections Captains’ Association. LaborPress spoke to him about the work he has done on behalf of members over the years, and what he continues to strive towards on their behalf.

LP: How did your career in the Correction Captains’ Association begin and progress?

NYS Public Employees Conference Chair Peter Meringolo.

PM: I started my career in the Department of Correction in 1972.  Ten years later, I was promoted to captain.  In 1987, I was named operations captain of the Department’s Emergency Response Unit.  The unit, under my command, was responsible for restoring order during two major jail disturbances.  In each instance, I was awarded the Department’s Exceptional Merit medal for my leadership and actions.  My involvement with the Captains’ Association began soon after my promotion in 1982, when I was elected union delegate.   In 1991, I was elected union president.  I was known for being aggressive to obtain all I could for my members.   I retired from the New York City Department of Correction in March of 2007 after 35-plus years of service.

In 2000, I was elected Chairman of the New York State Public Employee Conference.  For seven years, I ran both the Correction Captains Association and the NYSPEC, which was not easy.  I continue to chair the NYS Public Employee Conference as a retiree.  [I was just] re- elected at the 2021 convention,  along with my board of officers for another three years, now making it 21 years as chairman.

LP: Please provide our readers with an overview of the Public Employee Conference.

PM: The Public Employee Conference was formed in 1977 with just 13 member unions and because of the tenacious representation of our members we have grown significantly, and can now boast more than 80 member unions and groups representing more than one million active and retired public employees.

We, as an umbrella organization, have been and are fighting the erosion of public employee benefits on many fronts.  One of our main goals is to ensure that positive legislation beneficial to all public employees is enacted.

During my tenure as chairman, it was the NYS Public Employee Conference that spearheaded and got passed the 9/11 Disability Law – landmark legislation signed in June 2005 that guarantees first responders to the tragic events of September 11 an easier time qualifying for disability pensions.  Members of the NYSPEC Board of Officers, along with myself and my legislative team of Lou Matarazzo, Bing Markee and Floyd Holloway, lobbied that legislation for over four years until it was finally signed into law. This is, by far, the most significant piece of legislation ever passed in the Conference’s 40-plus year history.  We proudly stood next to Governor Pataki at Battery Park where he signed the legislation into law.

LP: What else does the NYSPEC offer to those who join every year?  

PM: New organizations and unions submit applications to join the NYSPEC every year because it has become a powerful and prestigious conference with a significant voice in Albany.  We boast a diverse representation of both uniformed and civilian unions and groups in many different titles working together to produce positive results for all public employees.

LP: What do you see for the PEC in the future?

PM: What I see for the PEC is the continuance of growth.  As more and more unions and groups see the advantages of being a part of an organization that cares and fights hard for the future of labor.  I anticipate in the near future reaching 100 member organizations.

LP: What is the organization’s current legislative agenda?

PM: Over the years, the agenda of PEC has been to protect all the hard fought benefits public employees have received through negotiations and legislation.  We have vowed to not have the state or city balance the budget off the backs of hard working public employees.  We have fought to protect our pension benefits as well as our health benefits.  In 2020, when the pandemic hit we had to re- focus our energy on the effects of the pandemic on public employees.  So, for 2021 and now 2022, our primary goals have been to pass legislation that will afford protection to the men and women who have been going to work every day and have been on the front lines throughout the pandemic by continuing to do their job.  In 2021, we were instrumental in helping to get the COVID-19 death benefit passed.  We were also instrumental in getting needed protection from management for our public employees.  This year, we are concentrating on having legislation enacted that will provide protection for public employees from short and long term physical and /or mental effects from the COVID-19 coronavirus and its variants, including presumptive disability for COVID-related illnesses/diseases. 

It is an honor to be elected as the chairman and voice for the New York State Public Employee Conference.  It is a position I do not take lightly.  I am proud of the reputation we have forged in Albany.  It is so gratifying every year when we have our annual breakfast to see every important leader in Albany come and address the membership.  It shows the members how they care about the work of public employees.  I enjoy the relationships I have with all the key leaders in the Senate and the Assembly.  I look forward to working with the leadership and our new Governor Kathy Hochul to continue to advance legislation that will enhance the lives of all public employees and their families.


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