With the NYSUT Representative Assembly just weeks away, final preparations are in high gear for the union's annual policy-making event. Confirmed guests include Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown; U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli; and the leaders of NYSUT's national affiliates, Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers; and Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association.
This year's RA takes place in the midst of ongoing attacks against labor and collective bargaining. Although unions helped create the middle class, and today help maintain a dignified working life and retirement for middle class workers, the labor movement is in a fight for its very existence — from the attacks on retirement security to the diminishing state support for education and health care.
NYSUT is standing up to the onslaught, fighting for the rights of its members and to uphold collective bargaining. And the union — along with thousands of members — is taking action to reclaim the American Dream. But to reverse these trends, NYSUT must intensify its efforts to shape public opinion, regulations and legislation. And that kind of activism requires a union that's collectively active, and financially strong. With these challenges in mind, the NYSUT Board of Directors and officers have recommended adoption of a proposed dues increase to keep NYSUT a powerful voice on behalf of members. (See previous page for additional proposed constitutional amendments.)
Like many organizations, NYSUT's finances are constrained by forces that, to some extent, are beyond its control, such as the state's tax cap.
"We have aggressively dealt with those issues that are within our control," said Lee Cutler, NYSUT secretary-treasurer. "We have made cost savings a way of life at NYSUT. However, it's not enough to allow us to remain a force to be reckoned with in the battle we fight on your behalf."
To lessen the impact, minimum earnings for full dues payers will increase from $30,000 to $32,000 annually, and dues categories for lower earners will expand proportionately.
"For the last 40 years, we have been an effective voice for the women and men of our membership and we have no intention of backing down now," said Cutler. "Together we will ensure that NYSUT remains a strong and vibrant union."
As the RA draws closer, remember to check the NYSUT website at www.nysut.org for updates.