NYSUT President Karen E. Magee pledged NYSUT's full support in helping its higher education affiliates win what she called Governor Cuomo's war against public education and the labor movement.
"We are at war, period," Magee said Sunday as she addressed nearly 300 members of United University Professions at the union's delegate assembly. "This is a governor who believes if he attacks us, he can prevail and then attack the collective bargaining rights of every union member in New York state. Well, he's in for a rude surprise."
UUP represents the 35,000 academic faculty and staff of the State University of New York's state-operated campuses. UUP leaders see many of the same controversies that have plagued the pre-K-12 public schools now extending to the state's public colleges and universities, including a demand that colleges be held accountable for graduation rates and the job placements of their graduates, and a new teacher certification process that has been likened to the flawed implementation of the Common Core State Standards.
Although many of the polices NYSUT's higher education members oppose originate with the State Education Department, the SUNY Board of Trustees and the SUNY central administration, it is widely held that these bodies are acting in concert with the governor's wishes for greater control over all public education, including public colleges and universities.
That is why it is so important for higher education members to be activists, Magee told the gathering.
"Our plan is to harness the outrage our members feel right now, and take back the profession our members love so much," she said. "We're in the fight of our lives."
NYSUT Executive Vice President Andy Pallotta also told UUP members that "when you're in a war, you need allies, and do we ever have allies in UUP."
He urged delegates to get their chapters involved in UUP advocacy efforts, and the overall efforts of NYSUT, using the tools on the NYSUT Membership Action Center (MAC). The MAC can be accessed through the NYSUT website — www.nysut.org. He urged members to use the MAC to send letters and emails to state officials on legislative matters important to NYSUT.
He also encouraged delegates to sign up for NYSUT text alerts so they can be informed about critical, breaking issues. NYSUT members should text 38470 to be included.
He reminded delegates that the governor has refused to use any of the one-time $5 billion settlement with Wall Street banks for public education, and that alone should galvanize them to action.
"Now we have over $5 billion in this state, and what is he going to do with it?" Pallotta asked. "Tax cuts and infrastructure. Not a cent for education."