These are volatile political times and public education is under attack.
Reductions in state support for our schools and institutions of higher
education are having a direct and serious impact on the programs and services
we provide. The tax cap law put into place in 2011 compounds the problem of
funding quality education in this state. Politics impacts every school district
and public higher education institution, and the working conditions of every
school employee, because laws and regulations affecting every member’s
terms and conditions of employment are passed by lawmakers and
implemented by government agencies in Albany and Washington, D.C. The
union’s Legislative Department drafts, introduces and lobbies for bills affecting
state aid to schools and colleges, licensure, tenure, occupational health and
safety, education standards, health care, pension and retirement.
New NYSUT members should know that we welcome your involvement in
political action. New members are often most at risk of layoffs in difficult fiscal
In the past, NYSUT secured legislation to establish an early retirement option
for members and an incentive for public employees that will save money and
jobs and allow members to retire earlier. In recent years the union has been
able to stave off cuts to our schools, kill dangerous proposals such as vouchers
in Albany, and protect tenure rights.
NYSUT lobbied for and won sweeping changes in the way violence is to be
reduced in our schools. The groundbreaking safe schools legislation requires
all school districts to establish codes of conduct to ensure that our schools are
safe places in which to teach and learn.
NYSUT also secured legislation to guarantee automatic cost-of-living pension
increases for its public sector retirees — even future retirees like you. State aid
to our schools helps keep your class size down, invests in your professional
development and keeps property taxes stable. A significant percentage of an
average school district’s budget is funded by the state and therefore working to
secure additional state funding is an important goal for NYSUT.
NYSUT’s Legislative Department lobbies state and federal representatives to
help retain professional enhancements we fought for and won. Support for our
public schools comes from the efforts of hundreds of grass-roots lobbyists. This
statewide, grass-roots network of member-volunteers, called the Committee
of 100, adds local political impact to NYSUT’s effort. Members who want to
influence issues directly affecting their lives, including pensions, job security,
and health and safety, are encouraged to talk with their local president about
becoming part of the Committee of 100. Members fighting for issues affecting
their lives and schools is a proud tradition dating back to the mid-1970s, when
a group of 100 local leaders came to Albany to fight for pension legislation.
NYSUT strongly encourages each local to organize a political action team to
meet with lawmakers, to be the core of letter-writing campaigns and to operate
phone banks at school budget time and during the fall elections. This activity
is coordinated by a network of political action members, one in each New York
State Senatorial District.
The NYSUT Member Action Center, an online
tool to connect a grassroots community of activists
interested in education, health care and other
issues affecting working people and families, also
supports political action. Activists include classroom
teachers, college and university faculty and
professional staff, school bus drivers, custodians,
secretaries, cafeteria workers, teacher assistants
and aides, nurses, health care technicians, parents and more. All are dedicated
to staying engaged, keeping informed and taking action on important issues.
Visit the MAC at mac.nysut.org. Member support makes NYSUT’s political
action the most effective voice in politics.
Your statewide union has a political fund-raising arm called VOTE-COPE.
VOTE-COPE is NYSUT’s non-partisan action fund that coordinates the voluntary
contributions of members and supports NYSUT-endorsed candidates
and campaign committees that are pro-public-education and pro-labor. No
NYSUT dues dollars are used to support candidates or campaign committees.
NYSUT sends rebates to local unions based on a percentage
(up to 40 percent) of the contributions VOTECOPE
receives from that local union’s members. Those
rebates can be used in local activities such as school
board races and for passage of school budgets. Ask your
local president how to participate.
Learn more about VOTE-COPE at www.nysut.org/votecope.
Registering to vote
We’re a mobile society. The average NYSUT
member moves several times in the course of
his or her lifetime. Last year alone more than
50,000 NYSUT members switched residences.
One of the most important things to remember
about moving is that it may affect your ability
to exercise one of your most basic rights —
the right to vote. NYSUT sends voter registration
forms to new members and to individuals who have
had a change of address. We encourage you to register
to vote. We also think it’s important to enroll in a political
party — and it doesn’t matter which one. Being involved in primary campaigns
is often as important as voting in the general elections.
You can get information
online at www.elections.state.ny.us.
Voting in primary and general elections is essential to keeping our representative
democracy healthy and strong. Volunteering to work in NYSUT phone
banks and on political campaigns is critical if we are to exert influence beyond
our classrooms, cafeterias and health care centers.
Voting on school budgets
Many of us live and work under the terms and conditions of employment bargained
collectively with our public employer. It’s important to support school
district budgets and the programs and services we provide by being organized
and showing support when the budgets come before the voters. We may not
always work in the same school district we vote in, but voting to support school
budgets helps each and every union member in your community. Our local
unions frequently endorse candidates for election to local school boards. Be
sure to support the pro-labor, pro-public-education candidates on the ballot.
Great programs and services often begin in the ballot box.
Benchmark Polling Group
NYSUT has a full-time polling center that operates to gather information
about our profession from those in the profession. We frequently poll members
on Regents exams, the effects of higher standards, the state and condition of
our schools and the affordability of higher education. We want to know what
you are thinking as NYSUT members, and the Benchmark Polling Group is but
one more way to listen to your concerns and desires.
The Benchmark Polling Group will never try to sell you anything. We are
trying to assess from our members the current state of public education in New
York and who, if anyone, you prefer to vote for in elective offices.
What Every NYSUT Member Should Know About...