September 2010
August 22, 2010

Short Takes: Empowerment Act

Source: NYSUT United

Empowerment Act

NYSUT members can feel justly proud of their role in staving off the Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act, which the Legislature failed to approve as part of this year's budget.

However, the fight to defeat the act is not over, and members should stay vigilant.

The act included a number of proposals, including a provision that would allow campuses to set their own tuition rates and to set differential tuition for different programs. It also would authorize private-public partnerships that would set the stage for outsourcing public employee jobs.

NYSUT opposes the act, noting it would turn SUNY and CUNY into a two-tiered system and block access to low-income students.

Defeat for farm workers

The Farm Worker Fair Labor Practices Act made it on to the floor of the state Senate, where it was defeated, 28 to 31.

A compromise between farm worker advocates and the Farm Bureau, the bill would have granted farm workers a voluntary day of rest, collective bargaining protection for workers on large farms, overtime, unemployment insurance and workers' compensation.

Advocates, including NYSUT and the state Labor-Religion Coalition, have long worked to see the measure approved.

55/25 option stands

A state Supreme Court ruling that validated Chapter 45 was great news for NYSUT members who took advantage of the early retirement option that allows retirement for those 55 and older with full benefits after 25 years of service. Although the plaintiff — Empire State Administrators and Supervisors Association — is appealing, it does not have automatic stay of the decision, so the ruling stands unless a higher court decides otherwise.

Focus shifts to ESEA

Now that the Jobs bill is complete, Congress might begin work on reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act prior to recess.

Both houses had begun a series of hearings on different aspects of the law. Union leaders are waiting for language to be released from House and Senate committees.

Educators were outspoken when the Obama administration released a blueprint that would carry forward the worst elements of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, including an over-reliance on testing and a strategy to improve low-performing public schools by turning them over to private operators.

NYSUT and its national affiliates opposed the initial reauthorization plan for placing too much focus on states and districts competing for funding, rather than providing resources based on need.

Delegates to NYSUT's annual convention in April voted to urge Congress to support traditional formula funding.

9/11 deadline nears

Workers and volunteers who were in the vicinity of Ground Zero after the 9/11 terrorist attacks must register by Sept. 11 for possible future workers' compensation.

"Only by registering now will they be eligible for compensation and medical treatment if they become ill down the road from their exposures at the World Trade Center," said Joel Shufro, executive director of the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health.

Strike continues at Mott's

Striking Mott's workers in Williamson, on the shores of Lake Ontario, are a living testament to growing corporate greed.

Famous for its apple products, Mott's is part of the highly profitable international Dr. Pepper Snapple Group. It forced a strike last spring by demanding givebacks, including a $1.50-an-hour wage cut, reduced 401(k) contributions and weakened retirement benefits for some 300 members of the United Food and Commercial Workers union.

NYSUT members and locals have joined the community in rallying around the strikers, helping distribute fliers to shoppers and urging people to send the company a message that its actions are unacceptable.

Go to www.nobadapples.org to send a protest e-mail to Mott's management or join a Facebook support group.