August 01, 2012

AFT Convention: Reports from the Floor

Source: NYSUT Communications

PHOTOS: NYSUT in the House

Photos from the AFT convention by Mike Campbell.

Convention motivates unionists

Secretary Treasurer Lee Cutler at the mic.

NYSUT Secretary-Treasurer Lee Cutler says that ties forged at this year's just-concluded AFT convention have the steely resolve of unity.

"I was so impressed with, not just the wide range of solidarity actions thousands of us participated in, but also the promise of more to come."

Cutler, who directs NYSUT's social justice efforts said he was inspired by the national convention’s women’s rights breakfast.

"Delegate action was so focused, something we will need as the attacks on the working class continue from so many directions," Cutler said.

The AFT delegation worked to educate voters about the need to protect collective bargaining in Michigan as well as work on urban gardens and other community-building programs.

After meeting union leaders from across the nation and hearing about the anti-union efforts they face in their states, NYSUT leaders pledged to find ways to help.

"These kinds of connections turn the convention into more than a gathering. It feeds the union movement, Cutler said.

Living the legacy

July 30, 2012

Seven of NYSUT's Not For Ourselves Alone nominees from the past two years received national honors today during the AFT Women’s Rights Breakfast, held as part of the union's convention in Detroit. Here's a link to more about the NFOA award.

vp maria neiraNYSUT Vice President Maria Neira (pictured) and Eadie Shanker, wife of the Albert Shanker, one of NYSUT's founding leaders and a past AFT president, led the contingent of New Yorkers receiving the AFT's Living the Legacy Award. Both Neira and Shanker come out of the United Federation of Teachers, NYSUT's affiliate in New York City.

The awards are given to AFT women members who have:

  • provided leadership and demonstrated interest in issues of women’s rights;
  • maintained multiple decades of involvement in local, state and national AFT affiliates;
  • worked in the trade union movement;
  • acted as mentors, coaches and role models for other women; and
  • earned recognition as a leader in her own community.

Other NYSUT honorees and their local affiliations include:

  • Jane Dickerson, Brocton Teachers Association
  • Dianne Hettrich, Sachem Central Teachers Association
  • Florence McCue, Yonkers Federation of Teachers
  • Christina Sharp, Retiree Council 43
  • Joan Skowronek, Hewlett Woodmere Faculty Association
  • Lucille Swaim, United Federation of Teachers
  • Martha Smith, Lancaster Service Personnel

Well-deserved kudos go out to an amazing group of women and labor leaders!

Vice President Biden engages AFT delegates

July 29, 2012

Vice President Joe Biden fired up AFT delegates Sunday afternoon with an impassioned defense of the nation's middle class and a pledge that the Obama administration would continue its efforts to build a strong system of public education.

Biden, accompanied by his wife, Jill, reminded delegates that President Obama and his likely challenger in the November election have very different visions of America and of the public sector's role in American society. He urged the unionists to share that message when they return home later this week and to work hard to get a pro-Obama/Biden vote to the polls on Nov. 6.

Biden's appearance at the Detroit convention followed a vote by delegates to support the AFT Executive Council's decision early this year to endorse the Obama/Biden ticket. NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi and the other NYSUT officers are members of the executive council and have been strong supporters of the incumbents' re-election.

Earlier in the weekend, more than 500 AFT delegates - including many NYSUT representatives - went door to door in the Detroit area to talk to voters about their support for a ballot initiative that would protect collective bargaining rights in Michigan.

AFT delegates re-elect officers

July 29, 2012

NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi greets U.S. Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) on the convention floor. Photo by AFT.

NYSUT's five statewide officers were re-elected Sunday as vice presidents of their union's national affiliate, the American Federation of Teachers, during the AFT's biannual convention taking place in Detroit.

The NYSUT officers - President Dick Iannuzzi, Executive Vice President Andy Pallotta, Vice Presidents Maria Neira and Kathleen Donahue, and Secretary-Treasurer Lee Cutler - won re-election in the same balloting that saw the AFT's officers returned to office: President Randi Weingarten, Secretary-Treasurer Lorretta Johnson and Executive Vice President Francine Lawrence.

Weingarten, the former president of the United Federation of Teachers in New York City, has led the AFT since 2008. Johnson, of the Baltimore Teachers Union, and Lawrence, of the Toledo Federation of Teachers, have held their offices since 2011.

Weingarten and Lawrence addressed NYSUT delegates at a breakfast meeting on Saturday, pledging to continue AFT's strong support as a national partner on important issues like student assessments, vouchers and school funding.

Other NYSUT members returning as AFT vice presidents are Shelvy Abrams, Barbara Bowen, Stacey Caruso-Sharpe, Michael Mulgrew, Phillip Smith and Adam Urbanski. All are members of the NYSUT Board of Directors.


AFT backs NYSUT, UUP in the fight to save Downstate Medical Center

July 29, 2012

AFT is joining NYSUT and United University Professions in a full-throttle campaign to keep SUNY Downstate University Center open and providing quality health services to the residents of Central Brooklyn.

AFT delegates threw their strong support behind NYSUT and its SUNY affiliate, UUP, which is led by President Phil Smith. The UUP resolution adds AFT's strength to the ongoing campaign by UUP and NYSUT to save a medical center whose quality services are vital to residents in the East Flatbush area of New York City.

The resolution noted that thousands of jobs would be at risk in Brooklyn as a result of closure. The Brooklyn-based medical center is threatened by a proposal to consolidate it with the Long Island College Hospital campus.

UUP's Smith noted that the downstate facility serves a community where more than one in five residents lives below the poverty line, two in five receives Medicaid and more than half are foreign born. The center is financially stable and has an essential academic mission, having trained more New York City physicians than any other medical school in the nation.


AFT resolution calls for a balanced approach to student assessment

July 28, 2012

It was unanimous.

AFT delegates at the union's national convention in Detroit came together as one today to approve a resolution challenging the fixation on high stakes standardized tests and affirming the importance of a balanced approach to student assessment. The NYSUT delegation led the way on the testing resolution, which NYSUT Vice President Maria Neira noted parallels a similar resolution passed at NYSUT's Representaive Assembly earlier this year.

The issue was a key theme in AFT President Randi Weingarten's address and is supported through an online petition, "Taming the Testing Burden."

NYSUT recognized at AFT convention for organizing success

July 28, 2012

NYSUT has been honored for its organizing success in higher education, helping thousands of adjunct faculty on college campuses across the state secure collective-bargaining rights.

The union was presented Saturday with the Louis Stollar Award for Advancing the Rights of Contingent Faculty during the American Federation of Teachers' convention in Detroit. Stollar - a noted labor organizer, activist and educator who died last year - was a founder and long-serving president of the local at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. The award was presented to NYSUT Vice President Maria Neira by United University Professions President Phil Smith.

Over the past decade, NYSUT has succeeded in organizing more than 4,000 adjuncts at 14 colleges and universities across the state, enabling them to have a voice in securing better pay, working conditions, health coverage, and job and retirement protections for themselves and their colleagues.

Neira noted that while NYSUT’s organizing success has not come easy, it is especially gratifying given the extraordinary challenges faced in today’s pervasive anti-labor climate in which public unions have been increasingly, and wrongly, blamed for New York’s - and the nation's - economic struggles.


AFT 'walking the walk' in Detroit

July 27, 2012

Under cloudy skies on a temperate mid-summer day, members of the American Federation of Teachers took to the streets in Michigan today, "walking the walk" to show their support for beleaguered Detroit teachers - and, by extension, all union workers whose essential rights are under attack.

After delivering a rousing keynote speech to kick off the AFT's convention, AFT President Randi Weingarten led the 3,000-plus delegates out of Detroit's Cobo Convention Center and through the city streets on a mission to send a message to Roy Roberts, the emergency manager of the city's public schools. We "demand that he bargain with us," Weingarten said.

The state-appointed Roberts has presented teachers with what the Detroit Federation of Teachers says is a take-it-or-leave-it contract with no respect for the collective bargaining process.

"By walking away from the table, Mr. Roberts walked away from our kids and the community. That's not the way to bring Detroit back. That's not 'walking the walk,''' Weingarten told delegates.

NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi and the New York delegation were front and center as activists streamed out of the Cobo Center, still discussing Weingarten's remarks. She focused on two central themes that will permeate the AFT's convention: the attacks nationwide on fundamental union rights, with more than 100 anti-union bills introduced in state legislatures, and the over-emphasis on standardized testing, which is narrowing curriculum at students' expense.

AFT's petition campaign makes the point that tests should "inform, not impede" teaching and learning.

AFT celebrates 'Everyday Heroes' Martin Messner and Joe Satriano

July 27, 2012

AFT President Randi Weingarten with honorees Martin Messner (left) and Joe Satriano (right). Photo by Mike Campbell.

Congratulations to Martin Messner, president of the Schoharie Teachers Association, and Joe Satriano, a retiree of the Roslyn Teachers Association, for being recognized this morning as 2012 Everyday Heroes by the American Federation of Teachers. Read the full story at the NYSUT blog.

AFT VIDEO: The State of Our Union

July 27, 2012

This video, which kicked off the AFT convention in Detroit, highlights the past two years of AFT championing democracy, economic opportunity and high quality public services for students, families and communities. Approximately 18 minutes.

Weingarten unveils 'solution-driven unionism' at AFT national convention

July 27, 2012

AFT President Randi Weingarten kicked off the American Federation of Teachers national convention in Detroit today by advocating "solution-driven unionism," a new vision of unionism that advances solutions focused on uniting union members, the people they serve and the communities in which they live.

In her keynote address, Weingarten said that America's workers face a new normal-with severe budget cuts jeopardizing public education, healthcare and other critical services; families losing more than 30 percent of their wealth during the economic crisis; and more than 100 bills introduced in state legislatures to demonize and attack public employees and undermine public services.

"This new reality-this new normal-demands an entirely new approach to unionism," said Weingarten. "An approach that is relevant and appropriate to the 21st century. More than ever, we need to act in innovative, creative and new ways-simultaneously refuting our critics, advancing our values, connecting with community and proposing solutions. That's solution-driven unionism." READ MORE AT AFT.ORG.

Pre-Convention News and Events

UPDATE: July 26, 2012

NYSUT officers heading delegation to AFT convention in Detroit

NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi and fellow officers Andy Pallotta, Maria Neira, Kathleen Donahue and Lee Cutler are leading a delegation of NYSUT representatives who will be front and center at the AFT Convention July 27-30 in Detroit. AFT, led by President Randi Weingarten, has planned a busy schedule that includes policy-making; mobilizing for the upcoming elections; delegates participation in “AFT Gives Back” events to benefit the community; and events to demonstrate delegate solidarity with their brothers and sisters in the Motor City, one of the major battlegrounds in the fight over union rights and public education. What’s at stake for Detroit? Bedrock issues, including loss of collective bargaining rights and imposition of contract terms. That underscores the importance of the upcoming presidential election, and delegates will be mobilizing in support of that essential AFT priority. For a summary of convention activities see the tentative convention schedule.

AFT Convention delegates to rally outside Detroit public school headquarters

NYSUT delegates to the  2012 AFT Convention will be among the thousands of educators joining the Detroit Federation of Teachers as they rally outside the city’s public school headquarters to demand regular bargaining sessions.

AFT ‘healthy living’ event promotes nutritious food and exercise

Just as NYSUT has led the charge to enhance the health of New York’s students through its “24/7 Let’s Go!” program which promotes better nutrition and increased exercise, AFT leaders spent the eve of the union’s 2012 convention in Detroit Thursday at a community-garden event to promote “healthy living through healthy foods.” 

AFT Convention starts Friday

Some 3,000 delegates from across the country are gathering in Detroit for tomorrow's opening of the AFT's 82nd convention. The Motor City and the state of Michigan—where AFT members are fighting to maintain high-quality education and other public services in the face of difficult economic and political trends—provide an apt setting for the meeting. The AFT's State of the Union, which is prepared before each convention, looks back at the challenges the AFT has faced over the past two years as well as the union's successes in areas such as organizing, politics, and maintaining our members' economic well-being and professional dignity. The publication also includes highlights from each of the AFT’s membership divisions. At this year’s convention, delegates will address how our members are playing a leading role in improving the institutions where they work and the communities where they live in the face of unprecedented attacks on workers, while pioneering innovative solutions to address the needs of students, patients, educators and our communities. They will hear from education, labor, community and political leaders, as well as AFT President Randi Weingarten and Vice President Joe Biden; vote on policy resolutions that address such priority issues as standardized testing, job creation and healthcare reform; and engage in their own community service activities in Detroit.

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