Lee Cutler, NYSUT secretary-treasurer, said in 1973 - the year of the first Representative Assembly - NYSUT rose to the occasion by honoring a workers' strike and moving the RA from Kaimesha Lake in the Catskills to Montreal.
And now, just like then - when the fledging leadership of a newly merged state organization had to respond to the unexpected - NYSUT is being strategic in its response to "an all-out coordinated assault on public education and unions," Cutler said in his address to convention delegates.
Just as former leaders under the stewardship of then-President Tom Hobart pulled NYSUT through some dark financial times, Cutler pledged that current NYSUT leaders would bring the statewide union through the fiscal crisis that has been dominating the world economy for five years.
He said that, because of a cut in state support to education, NYSUT has lost 30,000 full dues equivalent members, which translates to lost revenue for the organization.
"Every one of those jobs is a human face," he said.
He thanked delegates for agreeing to a dues increase at the last RA, even though locals were struggling with membership losses, funding shortages and low morale. At that time, NYSUT promised to do its share to improve its budget woes, and Cutler said much progress has been made.
He said the organization has strived to be a role model in fulfilling its mission to streamline expenses, and support members and provide services without laying staff off.
Cutler said NYSUT expects "substantial progress toward a balanced budget in our next fiscal year."
He said NYSUT is investigating new ways "of doing our core work" to meet rising needs effectively and to serve members, build membership, fend off attacks against labor and unions and balance budgets.
The union believes in the work of its Leadership Institute and Local Action Project to teach younger members how to step into leadership positions, and to inspire locals to reach out to their communities to show them what unionism is all about.