NYSUT members stormed Jones Beach in Wantagh July 21 in a show of support for state lifeguards, who've been working under the terms of an expired contract for nearly eight years.
The rally organized by the New York State Lifeguard Corps - which is affiliated with NYSUT and United University Professions - took aim at Gov. Paterson for his refusal to conduct negotiations with the 1,000-member union despite having approved new contracts with other public bargaining units in recent months.
Marching along the beach's boardwalk , NYSUT members joined the hundreds of rallying lifeguards in demanding that Paterson administration officials resume contract talks.
"We fully recognize and take seriously the economic challenges confronting the state," said New York State Lifeguard Corps President Bruce Meirowitz. "But, to go nearly eight years without a raise is too long by any measure."
Working together with NYSUT's media-relations team, the lifeguards' protest attracted large-market media attention, with Newsday and Long Island-area television news outlets reporting on the union's struggle. Long Beach Democratic Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg, himself a lifeguard for several decades, also attended the rally in support of the union.
The Lifeguard Corps, which has conducted hundreds of beach rescues and saved countless lives over the last several years, has been working under a contract that expired in 2003. Negotiations with the state officially began in July 2009, but Meirowitz said talks in recent months - without any explanation from the Paterson administration - have been stuck at a standstill.