NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi called upon delegates Thursday to make their collective voice heard loud and clear at a massive rally on June 8 in Albany to fight for the future of New York's public education system.
Addressing a packed convention hall of unionists - who rose to their feet and hailed his impassioned call to arms - Iannuzzi urged members to descend upon the Capitol to "cry out with one voice" on behalf of students, educators and public service professionals who have been under the relentless attacks of those aiming to destroy public education.
The rally, he said, is "a fight about the truth - not the lies we suffer through every day. It's a fight about the future of public education and getting it right!"
With his voice growing hoarse as he shouted above the delegates' applause, Iannuzzi said the fight was "about celebrating, not demonizing, educators ... it's a fight about informative assessments, not the tyranny of obsessive standardized testing ... it's a fight about funding for pupils and teachers, not Pearson and testing!"
Pointing to the statewide union's many successes of the past year, Iannuzzi said NYSUT members - at the polls and through protests, petitions and pens - have been heard on a range of issues, from the need for equitable education funding and disaster relief to demanding an end to the state's testing obsession.
Paraphrasing President Barack Obama - who said at his inauguration in January that it was time "to complete the journey" Iannuzzi told delegates: "We know and they need to know in Washington and in Albany - the journey cannot be completed without our voice.
"It cannot be completed without the voice of unions, it cannot be completed without the voice of public workers, and it cannot be completed without public education."
Iannuzzi reminded members that, despite their success, "our enemies are powerful." He noted the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the landmark Citizens United case "gave billionaire bullies unfettered access to the media to spread their lies with a greater degree of extortion than has ever existed."
Yet, while that may provide them a pulpit, Iannuzzi - quoting Ghandi - added that "the human voice can never reach the distance that is covered by the voice of conscience."
He said "our collective voice is that collective conscience - and it speaks loud and clear."
As he did a year ago, Iannuzzi again stressed our "voice" not be "wasted or depleted frivolously through unbridled passion," but instead be "used efficiently and effectively by balancing reason with passion."
Iannuzzi said public educators' voice "speaks for students in rural, suburban and urban districts suffering from poverty ... for dreamers seeking access to affordable higher education ... for minimum-wage earners and the middle class" and for public service professionals in education and health care.
The NYSUT president told delegates that, in re-electing President Obama, they had reason to be proud.
"Through your tremendous hard work, we beat back a conservative, hard-line, anti-public-service, anti-union and anti-middle-class national ticket," he said.
Unlike our enemies, who seek to amass power through dishonorable means, he said the union's collective voice "speaks for finding solutions, not placing blame."
"We've used our voices well, and we've raised our voices. But to complete the journey, we must continue to use our voice," Iannuzzi said. "There is still much more to do."
That work will accelerate at the rally in Albany June 8. Further details about the rally will be posted on www.nysut.org as they become available.