Somewhere in the next few weeks, probably after Labor Day, union members throughout New York State will have heard the first alarm bells about the November vote on whether to approve a Constitutional Convention for our state. Hopefully those warning signs will get the message across that if the convention is approved it would be a major threat to the survival of all unions.
I was a member of the State Assembly back in 1967 when the last convention was held. I took the time to watch the proceedings of the convention and can say from firsthand experience that it was not a pleasant sight. Quite a few of the selected delegates were very cool to preserving pension rights, the need for workers compensation payments and the Worker’s Bill of Rights in the current law.
Because the leaders of the 1967 convention made the mistake of putting the suggested propositions into one package the convention was voted down in large numbers. But the lessons of 1967 have been remembered by a few people. When a vote took place in 1997 on whether to hold a new convention it was voted down in big numbers.
The mood of the nation is not very promising if we were to have a convention approved. Today there is more outside money than ever before and the movement to have right to work states is growing slowly. What happened in Wisconsin was a warning sign that outside forces could try to kidnap a convention and take some drastic steps.
The pro-convention groups will tell you that a convention is the best way to clean up government as if the legislature is paralyzed. It is a simple fact that during the last 100 years over 200 amendments have been made to the constitution by the legislature. This November there will be a proposition to take away the pensions from elected officials who have been convicted of a crime relating to their office. We don’t need an expensive convention to clean up New York.All we need is vocal citizens who demand changes in election laws.
I have been leading the fight against a convention for the past few years. My book “Patronage,Waste and Favoritism, a Dark History of Constitutional Conventions” has become popular reading for groups around the state. It is available for free on www.nyconcon.com Please read it and tell your brothers and sisters in the union movement that they don’t need to get out the pitchforks but they must start spreading the news about the dangers of a Constitutional Convention and get their friends and neighbors to vote “No.”
Mr. Kremer is a 23 year veteran of the State Assembly and was the Chair of the powerful Ways and Means Committee. He is President of Empire Government Strategies in Uniondal N.Y. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.