September 2012
September 05, 2012

NYSUT - Our priorities — and what you can do

Author: Deb Ward
Source: NYSUT United

NYSUT's strength relies on the energy and commitment of its members. As we mark Labor Day, it is important for all of us to be aware of the priorities ahead and ways every member can take action to continue the progress we've made.

"Union members deserve to be recognized for the very real progress achieved in classrooms, on campuses, in health care centers and in all of our workplaces," said NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi.

We know that real progress is often at the mercy of massive budget cuts, a brutal property tax cap and many anti-labor attacks, Iannuzzi said. Here's what you can do to help the union continue to move forward on its top priorities:

  • Continue to strengthen ties with our communities.

More than ever, union members must be ambassadors — educating the community about workplace conditions, informing the public about what's needed to do the job right, advocating for best practice in every arena and setting the record straight against baseless attacks by so-called reform groups such as Students First NY and NYCAN.

NYSUT's partnerships are strong and deep, embodied in service and advocacy. That statewide advocacy drills down to the grassroots level by local unions who carry the union banner — whether it's literally in a Labor Day parade or through good works in community activities. "Increasingly we see locals building on their long-standing generosity by developing annual plans for their union's community service and advocacy," said Vice President Kathleen Donahue, who oversees the union's Local Action Project.

What you can do!

Talk to your union president and see what initiatives your local can start in your community.

  • Elect candidates who support the 99 percent of us, not the privileged 1 percent. This is an urgent challenge! Strengthening education and health care will be made easier — or more difficult — by the caliber of candidates we elect this fall.

"Sometimes new members question why the union is so politically active," said NYSUT Executive Vice President Andy Pallotta. "The answer is: Who controls the learning environment for our students? The resources available for education and health care? The policies that affect retirement security, job safety and opportunities for the next generation?"

NYSUT is mounting a full court press on behalf of union-endorsed candidates (see list on NYSUT's Leader page) and redoubling its intensive get-out-the-vote efforts.

What you can do!

Volunteer for union-endorsed candidates and for regional phone banks to encourage members to head to the polls. Make sure you are registered to vote — and exercise that right!

  • Keep fighting against drastic cuts in services, programs and jobs by highlighting the impact on our communities.

The erosion of education jobs is well documented by the latest state labor statistics — the recession may be receding in the private sector, but it's ballooning in public education. Budget cuts have impacted course offerings and student access at K-12 schools, SUNY, CUNY and their community colleges; libraries, such as Erie County's closing of branches and reductions in hours; not-for-profit centers serving the developmentally disabled; and municipal services at all levels.

President Obama's defense of public service saved jobs at a pivotal time, but New York state's undemocratic property tax cap now is an obstacle to the revival of the state's economy and on communities' ability to provide quality education.

What you can do!

Visit NYSUT's Member Action Center — mac.nysut.org — and sign up to become an e-activist to receive alerts and calls for action.

  • Continue to make the case for a balanced approach to testing and hold the state accountable for anything less.

A resolution on student assessments passed at the 2012 NYSUT Representative Assembly provides a clear blueprint.

"NYSUT will continue its messaging that a student is more than a test score and that a balanced, research- based approach to assessments is essential," said NYSUT Vice President Maria Neira, who oversees the union's Research and Educational Services arm.

NYSUT has developed a comprehensive toolkit for local presidents to assist with engaging parents and the community on the need for a balanced assessment system.

What you can do!

Sign the AFT's petition to stop unfair testing. Go to http://www.nysut.org/.

  • Stand up to bullying in all its guises, and wherever it appears by using our classroom-based campaigns against bullying, our advocacy for women's issues and our support for national and international efforts on behalf of social justice.

Building on the impact of the anti-bullying law that NYSUT successfully achieved, NYSUT Secretary-Treasurer Lee Cutler heads a statewide campaign encouraging local leaders to bring the documentary film "Bully" to students and communities across the state. (See related page.)

"Bullying is an apt metaphor for oppression of the vulnerable, and NYSUT is at the forefront of social justice campaigns in our state," Cutler said.

What you can do!

Integrate social justice into your lesson plans. A calendar included in this issue can help you get started.