ALBANY, N.Y. March 30, 2009 – Some 2,500 delegates to New York State United Teachers' annual convention will fill hotel rooms and enjoy the best of what the Buffalo-Niagara region has to offer when they arrive in town Wednesday, spending an average of $815 per person on food, lodging, entertainment and transportation.
NYSUT, the state's largest union, is holding its Representative Assembly in Buffalo for the first time since 1993. The Buffalo Teachers Federation joined NYSUT in September 2006 when NYSUT and the National Education Association of New York unified as one, statewide labor organization.
"We are thrilled to be bringing our statewide convention to Western New York," said NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi. "The city of Buffalo – especially Mayor Byron Brown and the Buffalo-Niagara Convention & Visitors Bureau – have pulled out all stops to welcome us, and help make this an enjoyable and productive meeting for NYSUT delegates and a successful four days for local businesses. The city has worked harmoniously with our local affiliates with the kind of collaboration our leaders are known for."
Iannuzzi said the convention theme – "Speak up, Speak out" – is particularly appropriate as Western New York weathers a deep recession and essential public services, such as education and health care, face deep cuts. "Union members and educators have been at the forefront, speaking up and speaking out, for our schools, the environment, working families and the poor," Iannuzzi said. "That tradition of advocacy continues in Buffalo."
"We're thrilled that NYSUT has returned to Buffalo for its annual convention," said Richard Geiger, president of the Buffalo Niagara Convention & Visitors Bureau. "We are rolling out the red carpet for the thousands of convention delegates who will be in town to participate in one of the largest citywide conventions to come to Buffalo in some time. We intend to make their stay in Buffalo nothing short of memorable."
The NYSUT convention will begin Wednesday with a special, two-day meeting of nearly 400 local union presidents and retiree leaders. The union's Representative Assembly formally begins Thursday evening and, over the three days, delegates are anticipating addresses by Iannuzzi and other NYSUT officers; U.S. Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand; State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli; Rep. Steve Israel, and state Education Commissioner Richard Mills. American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten; state AFL-CIO President Denis Hughes; and state Labor Commissioner Patricia Smith are also expected.
Iannuzzi said delegates have fully booked 11 hotel properties in and around Buffalo for nearly 4,000 "room nights" at an average of $150 per night. In addition, NYSUT has reserved buses and shuttles to transport delegates from their hotels to the Buffalo Convention Center and back at a cost of some $40,000. Delegates are also expected to spend heavily on meals, entertainment, souvenirs and transportation.
The Convention & Visitors Bureau estimates delegates will spend an average of $815 while in Buffalo, making the estimated economic impact of the four-day event on downtown an estimated $3.5 million, including direct spending and the "multiplier effect" of tourism dollars spurring additional purchases by the travel and lodging industry to satisfy the additional demand.
While doing the work of the convention, the 2,500 delegates are expected to debate some 50 resolutions, ranging from calls for a greater investment in higher education to incorporating more "green" practices in schools and classrooms. Delegates will also discuss education reform initiatives and the state budget.
When the convention is not in session, NYSUT and the Buffalo-Niagara Convention & Visitors Bureau have worked to showcase the region to out-of-town delegates, including hundreds from Long Island and New York City and other downstate school districts.
Five buses will bring an expected 350 delegates to Niagara Falls on Friday evening. The city is inviting the others – more than 2,000 delegates and guests – to enjoy Friday evening in the Chippewa Street entertainment district, where restaurants will be rolling out the welcome mat for union delegates.
In addition, students at South Park High School and Highgate Heights Elementary School have decorated two fiberglass buffaloes as "art pieces." The buffaloes will be displayed throughout the convention as examples of the art work of some of the city's many talented students.
On Friday afternoon, when just 90 minutes separates convention sessions, the city's tourism officials have worked with downtown restaurants to ensure they are ready to handle a crush of hungry delegates quickly. In addition, students in the Erie Community College culinary program will be preparing hundreds of fresh box lunches for NYSUT delegates to purchase.
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.