The president of the AFL-CIO in New York praised NYSUT for challenging the constitutionality of the state's property tax cap, saying his union fully supports the courageous legal challenge. "We support you and I know parents and communities across this state support you," said Mario Cilento. "We want to thank you for that and we will be with you every step of the way."
NYSUT sued the state in February, asserting the property tax cap - which requires school districts to obtain a 60 percent super majority vote in order to pass a budget increase of more than 2 percent - prohibits schools from providing a sound, basic education and deprives individuals of their voting power. Cilento said the cap is hurting students, teachers and districts.
NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi earlier this week pledged to delegates that the union would press its legal challenge as far as possible. In expressing the AFL-CIO's support for the NYSUT tax cap challenge, Cilento said it is important for labor to work together and build long-term relationships, adding that "our diversity is our greatest strength."
Noting that a top strategy of labor's enemies is to pit unions against one another, Cilento said labor is most successful when it bands together and works from a level of "shared concern."
"This has always been the way we have been able to fight back and level the playing field," he said. Cilento also praised NYSUT for its fight against the state's testing obsession. Cilento told delegates he signed NYSUT's parent petition as both president of the state AFLCIO and father of two daughters, ages 8 and 10. The petition calls on the State Education Department and Board of Regents to use this year's state assessment results on the Common Core curriculum only to evaluate the implementation of the standards and not in highstakes decisions affecting students and teachers.
Cilento, whose sister is a teacher in Peekskill and whose mother worked as a School-Related Professional in New York City, told delegates that each evening as he sits with his family for dinner, he can see the value of their work in his own children. "If you could see the reverence in their eyes for their teachers and what their teachers do for them," educators would never be subjected to the onslaught of public attacks to which they so often are, Cilento said. "We need to make our elected officials understand."