New York State AFL-CIO President Denis Hughes thanked NYSUT leaders for their indefatigable support and underscored the importance of leadership. "You provide leadership on so many different levels," he told RA delegates. "Your leadership in the classroom changes people's lives, and you make tremendous contributions within the community.
"It's an honor to be here with NYSUT, an organization that is such an important part of the labor movement," said Hughes, who cited the influence of NYSUT President Emeritus Tom Hobart and Paul Cole, retired state AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer.
To legislatively protect the rights of working men and women, strong leadership is vital, said Hughes. "The watchword in Albany is reform — pension, education and campaign finance reform."
The challenge comes in that each individual's opinion of reform is different, said Hughes, explaining that to labor, reform means gaining a greater voice in the workplace and a greater voice in the nation. "Reform is not giving the more fortunate the opportunity for greater success at our expense," he continued.
Particularly important is protecting worker pensions. "We need to make people understand that pensions provide economic security in our old age," said Hughes.
To accomplish that and other goals, it's important to have a clear understanding of what labor's concerns are and why. Without that, it is impossible to convey those views to lawmakers, he explained.
"We are the only ones who can guarantee that working men and women have a voice and that that voice will be preserved," continued Hughes, who thanked delegates for their continued activism and unflagging support. "Thanks on behalf of the NYS AFL-CIO's 2 million members. The work you do makes New York a better place to live."