April 11, 2013

Delegates defend Downstate Medical Center, take action on a wide range of resolutions

Author: Matt Smith
Source: RA Reporter

NYSUT was urged Friday to turn up the heat on its already-aggressive campaign to keep SUNY Downstate Medical Center a fully operating state-run hospital and beat back any effort to privatize the facility - a union-busting move that would cost thousands of jobs.

"This is about protecting jobs of thousands of our members," said Rowena Blackman-Stroud, United University Professions SUNY Downstate chapter president, as she successfully urged delegates to approve the resolution. "It's about fighting against the union-busting of public-sector unions, and providing essential health services" to the diverse community that resides in the area.

Professional Staff Congress President Barbara Bowen said the idea of privatizing Downstate is similar to what is happening in public education now, with private-sector interests looking to bust unions and turn a profit in a traditionally non-profit industry.

Language in the state budget opens the possibility to the privatization of Downstate. Blackman-Stroud said if such a move happened, the possibility would then exist for the same to happen at the SUNY hospitals at Stony Brook on Long Island and Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse.

NYSUT's College and University Committee also introduced a resolution passed by delegates that directs the union to press the governor and state Legislature to provide 40 percent of the costs at all community colleges as required by state law. Additionally, NYSUT will oppose any state budget initiative that would base community-college repayment plans on student income, as has been proposed in other states.

On the legislative front, delegates directed NYSUT to continue working with other unions, such as the AFL-CIO, on protecting the Triborough Amendment and collective-bargaining rights. Delegates also passed a resolution urging NYSUT to intensify its advocacy for quality pre-K and full-day kindergarten programs, and make lobbying for the continued funding of those programs a top priority.

Resolutions ranging from keeping schools safe and fighting childhood obesity to expanding career and technical opportunities for students and protecting workers from exploitation were adopted.

Also passing was a measure directing the union to establish a task force charged with assessing the impediments to services and protections often encountered by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered members and to help other unions expand their support of LGBT members.

"We need to get off this test-prep train to nowhere and teach kids ... how to respect one another," said United Federation of Teachers member Alfred Gonzales in support of the LGBT resolution.

"As a union, we should support this (resolution)," said Martin Adams of the West Irondequoit Teachers Association.

A measure urging the State Education Department and Board of Regents to recognize the importance of a new comprehensive school counseling program based on national standards passed, as did another asking SED and the Regents to support reasonable student-to-school counselor ratios of 250-to-1.

Delegates voted to have NYSUT continue its efforts to modify and improve the new Annual Professional Performance Review system and consider establishing a task force charged with studying and improving the evaluations law.

Health care resolutions also were adopted Friday. Delegates directed NYSUT to assist locals in negotiating additional compensation for RNs certified by professional accrediting organizations in specialty roles. Another resolution, meanwhile, urged the union to help locals negotiate contracts that provide necessary time for RNs to adequately teach patients about their health care needs. The union was also directed to foster, along with its affiliates, an education campaign to prevent the abuse of prescription medication.

Under the Safe Schools and Campuses resolution that passed, NYSUT was called on to urge the governor and Legislature to provide adequate current-year funding for security upgrades recommended by local and state review of existing school safety plans. The union was also urged to join with local and state policymakers to support secondary school courses that address the obesity epidemic.

A directive was backed to encourage NYSUT's labor relations specialists to recommend that local leaders include professional development language in contracts covering School-Related Professionals. The union was also called on to work with its locals to educate the public on doing away with the term "entitlements" in reference to benefits earned through a lifetime of work.
NYSUT was urged to work with its national affiliates and other unions to defend existing defined benefit plans and to explore establishing similar plans for all workers.

Resolutions were also passed ordering the union to urge New York City to settle the lawsuit brought by the "Central Park Five" and issue the men wrongly imprisoned in the 1989 rape case with a fair settlement, and to recognize the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.