NYSUT Secretary-Treasurer Martin Messner highlighted NYSUT's fiscal upswing and encouraged members to make their voices heard in the November presidential election.
"It gives me great pleasure to report that NYSUT is fiscally strong and getting stronger," said Messner, who cited a union surplus of $5.4 million, and a NYSUT pension plan funded at 86 percent, up from funding levels of 61 percent in 2011.
He attributed the increase to the hard work of the union's financial staff, and praised the work of his entire team, from information technology, to the print shop, building and grounds, member benefits and travel. "Improvements don't happen in a vacuum, nor are they blind luck," said Messner. "These are first-rate creative professionals who strengthen NYSUT every single day."
NYSUT, he said, avoided a "financial Armageddon" after the Supreme Court's split decision on the Friedrich's case, owing to the unexpected death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. With a right-to-work ruling all but certain by the then-conservative majority Supreme Court, a move that would have "forever changed NYSUT" by weakening its ability to advocate for members and fight for the middle class, Messner underscored the importance of the upcoming presidential election.
"For the first time we have a real chance to change everything," he said, extolling a future free from the threat of right to work, an end to Citizens United and environmental regulations benefitting big oil, and from future rulings like Bush v. Gore.
"Picture a future where the 99 percent actually have 99 percent of the power, where the right to vote is absolute, regardless of your ability to afford a driver's license or the color of your skin," said Messner. "Or how about a future where we go on the attack and challenge the so called right-to-work laws … challenge gerrymandering … and challenge the buying of elections."
This is a future that is almost in our hands, a defining moment of our generation, he said. "The one thing that stands in our way is a Donald Trump or a Ted Cruz."
He encouraged delegates to fight to ensure a Democratic victory in the upcoming presidential election. "This is our time, this is our moment, this is our chance," Messner said. "Fight for our future, fight for our profession, fight for our children, fight for your union and fight for a progressive Supreme Court."