Filled with renewed hope, marchers head home
Supporters of public education and workers’ rights clambered back onto NYSUT buses about 4:30 on Saturday afternoon from RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C.
Time to go home. Time to lift weary feet from the pavement around the mall at the Lincoln Memorial and find a seat, rest up on the long ride home to Long Island, the Capital Region, to Buffalo and Rochester, and get ready for work or the unemployment lines on Monday, and ready for the Nov. 2 election.
Seth Cohen, former local president of the Troy Teachers Association, said the rally was part of history. “I’m hoping people will see it in the media and be energized that things are moving forward. Unity was a great message.” The Troy City School District has experienced tough times. Even though many were called back after layoffs this spring, 30 positions were still lost. Special education and the library took hits. Now only one librarian serves six elementary schools.
Cliff Brosnan, a member of the Saratoga-Adirondack BOCES Educators Association, said his local’s members have wondered why NYSUT endorses candidates. The rally, he said, showed him. “It’s not about telling people who to vote for. It’s educating them about where the candidates stand on our issues.”
Rick Mahlstedt, North Warren TA, a former Teamster, has been a teacher for 20 years. Despite his many years as unionist, he was still taken by the rousing support people showed for unions at today’s rally.
Activists gear up for Saturday's march
Some are leaving at 11 p.m. tonight - NYSUT members and supporters from the western part of the state who will be boarding buses in the dark from Buffalo and Rochester to begin the pilgrimage to Washington, D.C., for the Oct. 2 One Nation March. Activists from the Capital Region are leaving at midnight. Others are leaving at 5 a.m. sharp from points on Long Island or Westchester County.
"I feel like it's important at this time that the voice of labor, that's been discredited and been getting kicked on, is heard," said Steve Reich, who will be on the road at 3:45 a.m. Saturday to catch his 5 a.m. bus, along with his 14-year old son. "We should be able to provide health care and a decent education."
Reich, a social studies teacher and track coach, is president of the Valhalla Teachers Association.
"I'm really excited about this," said Jeanne Claire Cotnoir, social studies teacher and president of the Briarcliff Teachers Association. "This is my chance."
"I agree with the values and principles that I read from One Nation. We have to stop pointing fingers."
The One Nation March will feature human rights and civil rights leaders, labor leaders, environmental and peace activists, faith leaders, celebrities and sports figures all marching together to help Put America Back to Work and to Pull America Back Together.
Cotnoir said with NYSUT organizing buses and sending members from all over the state "It's such solidarity." She read about the march on a flier at the NYSUT Leadership Conference this past summer.
"I'm thrilled that there's been a lot of discussion and NYSUT is actively participating. It's putting your money where your mouth is. It sets an example," Cotnoir said.
"I want to have our voices heard. I really just want to help," said Elena Van Lare, president of the Brockport Teachers Association. She is getting on the bus with her husband, Joshua, a teacher from Rush-Henrietta Educators Association, and two children. The four of them traveled across the country earlier this year to attend the AFT convention in Seattle.
"We just want to have adventurous learning experiences all the time," she said.
Carla McLaud, president of the Pine Bush Teachers Association in Orange County, will be boarding a bus from Monroe-Woodbury High School at 5 a.m. with colleagues.
"One of the main reasons I'm going is in support of public education and jobs," she said, noting her district has lost 50 jobs. "It's really a critical situation. We need to do something to strengthen the economy."
Physical education classes at her school are now up to 50 students. Social workers and psychologists have been cut.
"I'm pretty proud of people coming from my local," McLaud said. "It's not just leadership. People came up to me and said they want to go."
"I do feel it's important for us to go. This is a unifying thing," said Kathy Southerton from Stony Brook Health Science Center, president of that local chapter of United University Professions. "We want to move the nation forward, not be divisive. We need to put some contrast out there."
Southerton also knows enough to pack a lunch and bottled water.
"I was at the inauguration a year and a half ago and we couldn't move! It was hard to come by food," Southerton said.
She said the One Nation March is the same day as the last day of UUP's Delegate Assembly in Buffalo, yet some members are going to fly from Buffalo to Baltimore and then head to the rally.