NYSUT members know first-hand about the toll it takes on children who come to school hungry and how cuts to schools are diminishing supports for those children.
"You are part of a powerful legacy of social justice... You ARE social justice warriors!" said NEA Executive Director John Stocks, urging members to keep fighting to lift wages for low-income families, and to bring community health programs to every corner of New York.
When students come to school with stomachs grumbling, the 1 percent doesn't see them or know their names. "But we do. We know them, we feed them, we teach them, we comfort them. They're on our school buses, in our cafeterias and in our classrooms," he said. "We stand up for them."
Today in America, nearly 16.5 million children live in poverty, Stocks said - that means one in every five children in our classrooms. Even more devastating, he said, 1.6 million children experience homelessness each year.
The only effective answer to organized corporate power in America is organized labor, Stocks said. That is why the 1 percenters are trying to destroy the labor movement. Corporations can buy the politicians, he said, who "make it easier for their corporate friends to turn public education into an industry for profit. Money in politics is crowding out the voices of ordinary Americans."
Stocks said we can amplify those voices through our continued social activism, including the union's work to address fair trade, bullying, the education of women and girls, farm worker justice, education for DREAMERS and LGBTQ rights.
Members must also have the courage stand up against zero tolerance school discipline policies that set up a school-to-prison pipeline, Stocks said. Schools must instead work toward a commitment to a culturally competent practice among all who work in the schools.