NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi called upon delegates Friday to continue making their unified voice heard in the ongoing struggle to improve the lives of working people.
In a speech that drew inspiration from John F. Kennedy, Robert Frost, Gandhi, Sun Tzu's The Art of War, and, of course, Bob Dylan, Iannuzzi urged the union to be prepared to respond to the challenges of a quickly changing environment that poses serious threats to our values, professions and those in our charge.
"Anyone, any government, any organization, any union, needs to continually re-evaluate itself, reflect, reinvigorate, retool to meet the needs of the real world, the changing world. If you're not prepared to respond to a changing environment, not busy being born, then you no longer have any relevance — you're busy dying,"
Iannuzzi said, referring to one of Dylan's most famous lyrics from the song "It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)": 'That he not busy being born is busy dying.'"
Iannuzzi said that while the national labor movement is struggling, "the whole labor movement in New York is busy being born. NYSUT, I'm proud to say, leads the way in that rebirth. We've started down the path of real change here at NYSUT."
Iannuzzi said NYSUT, because of its strong foundation and the courage of its members, was able to fight back against serious challenges.
He praised members for mobilizing and engaging with community allies, parents and activists — 20,000 of whom gathered in Albany in June, with a "resounding and unified voice ... to speak truth to power and to say 'Enough is enough.'"
"Together, we have shown our courage," said Iannuzzi. "Whether it's me saying no to Gov. Cuomo; [NYSUT Vice President] Maria [Neira] saying no to Chancellor Tisch; or you saying no to Commissioner King with your vote tomorrow of no confidence — sisters and brothers, we have demonstrated over and over that we are not afraid to speak truth to power.
"Whether it's edTPA, Common Core or safe patient handling, we can't wait for others to tell us what to do," Iannuzzi said. "These are our professions. Practitioners must define what works and what doesn't ... We must no longer stand idly by as dreams, ideals and the future are shattered by the bully's agenda."
The NYSUT president urged members to continue using the streets, the ballot box and the courts in the union's ever-present fight to create "a stable student body, a stable workforce, a stable economy and a better life for each of us.
"We can no longer be satisfied with striving for adequate resources. Those who would be satisfied with resources without equity are morally bankrupt," said Iannuzzi.
"We can no longer tolerate the wealthiest districts being able to spend 80 percent more than the poorest, or a horrific property tax cap — compounded now with Cuomo's crippling tax policies — that already allows wealthy districts to raise seven times more in revenue per student than poorer districts.
"Sisters and brothers, the labor movement and our great union have had to go through a rebirth to meet the needs of a changing economy, a changing world, a changing culture," said Iannuzzi. "A rebirth that requires a new vision, a rebirth that won't be achieved by returning to the past or dwelling on the present, but one that evolves steadfastly into the future.
"I know the NYSUT I grew up in — the NYSUT I love — looks to the future," he said.