ALBANY, N.Y., August 26, 2008 — When teachers and other educators return to the classroom next week, conditions will once again reflect the benefits of labor-management cooperation, New York State United Teachers President Richard C. Iannuzzi said today.
"Entering the Labor Day weekend, we are seeing what labor and management can accomplish when they work together on behalf of the state's students," Iannuzzi said. "New labor agreements reflect the needs of students as well as taxpayers, and the needs of workers to earn competitive salaries and benefits to protect their families. The Taylor Law is working and, at the end of the day, this benefits children."
Iannuzzi explained, "This period of stability enables unions and management to focus on programs to continue to raise standards, improve test scores and close the achievement gap for children in poverty."
Iannuzzi, however, raised serious concerns about the most recent developments in Albany as lawmakers try to cope with New York's fiscal needs. "We cannot let election-year gimmicks and cuts to higher education undo the progress we've achieved or undermine the ability of education, especially higher education, to reignite our state's economy."
Iannuzzi said 141 local unions affiliated with NYSUT reached new contract agreements between June 25th and Aug. 13th , and contract ratification votes are scheduled in dozens of school districts for early September.
Still, Iannuzzi expressed concern that some 445 local unions affiliated with NYSUT — representing more than 10 percent of the union's 600,000 members — will begin a new academic year under the terms of an expired collective bargaining agreement. Of those, 276 contracts expired on June 30. NYSUT is also assisting 100 local unions whose contracts expired in June 2007, and 68 unions whose agreements expired in June 2006 or earlier. At the same time, 43 local unions have declared impasse and are working with mediators from the Public Employment Relations Board in an effort to reach a fair settlement.
"While we indeed are seeing many school boards and unions working collaboratively to create programs to improve student achievement, there are still some school boards that place little value on the labor of their hard-working teachers and support staff," Iannuzzi said. "These school boards do not represent the majority of New Yorkers, who understand that investing in education — paying teachers and support staff fairly — is the best way to build their communities and enhance their property values."
Iannuzzi noted NYSUT is predicting a smooth start to the school year. "Teachers and support staff are professionals who work tirelessly on behalf of their school districts and the children they serve," Iannuzzi said. "They deserve to be treated with fairness, dignity and respect at the bargaining table."
NYSUT, the state's largest union, represents some 600,000 classroom teachers and other school employees; faculty and other professionals at the state's community colleges, State University of New York and City University of New York, and other education and health professionals. NYSUT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association and AFL-CIO.