NYSUT Executive Vice President Andy Pallotta urged members to keep fighting to improve the lives of students, educators, health care professionals and working families.
"Member engagement for political action should be our number one priority, and we need all 600,000 of us to participate," Pallotta told the more than 2,300 RA delegates.
"A mobilized, active and informed rank-and-file union, one that works with coalitions to create the working conditions our members deserve and the schools our communities need, is unstoppable," he said.
"It takes being active. It takes believing we can win. And, above all, it takes courage."
Those ABCs, he said, are something NYSUT's retirees — those who built the union into what it is today — know very well.
"Our retirees know the struggle it took to get us the rights we now enjoy," Pallotta said. "These members went on strike, they paid enormous financial fines and some even went to jail, all so that we could enjoy the rights we too often take for granted. And, they continue their activism as our daytime army, running phone banks and embedding themselves in political campaigns." Now, he said, the union's newest members need to continue the work of those who came before them.
Pallotta thanked members for their activism that resulted in numerous victories, including: stopping a back-door voucher scheme; getting $1.5 billion dollars in education aid; stopping student data from being transmitted to inBloom; securing limits on testing; winning increases in TAP and community college aid for students; stopping a hike in retiree contributions for Medicare; ensuring charter schools will be subject to state comptroller audits; and, after more than a decade of fighting, finally winning passage of the Safe Patient Handling Act to protect health care workers.
Those victories notwithstanding, Pallotta said, the union must continue moving forward with courage to protect our professions and the labor movement.
Pallotta — pointing out the new state budget includes language prohibiting test scores from being used against students — said NYSUT must continue to fight to secure the same protection for educators.
"If the Common Core tests are indeed ‘premature and unfair' for students," as Gov. Cuomo acknowledged, Pallotta said, "you tell me how can this junk science be used against teachers?
"We cannot stay silent. We must speak up, and if they can't hear us, we may need to scream. It is time for us to show them we are unstoppable."