May 01, 2015

Messner: Union taking steps to stay as strong as ever

Author: By Darryl McGrath
Source: NYSUT United
Caption: Photo by El-Wise Noisette.

In the face of increasing threats against public education and the right to bargain collectively and organize, NYSUT Secretary- Treasurer Martin Messner assured members the union is taking all necessary steps to stay strong.

That strength starts with fiscal stability, and the union is healthy financially for the first time in four years, Messner reported. In the past year, NYSUT went from a $1.6 million deficit to a $1.7 million surplus — a swing of slightly more than $3.2 million. The NYSUT pension plan is also stronger. For the first time in eight years, it is funded above the 85 percent mark. And NYSUT reserves have increased from $27 million to $30 million.

"This Supreme Court has been all too willing to sell out the working class to the 1 percent, and we have to be prepared for them to do it again," Messner said.

"Just over a year ago, we set out an ambitious agenda that included fiscal accountability, generating savings and providing additional services by transferring resources from headquarters to the field. I am happy to report that, by all accounts, we have achieved success."

Messner pledged to continue increasing the union's strength so it can protect members.

"Make no mistake, we are at war and this is a war of attrition with well-funded opponents: billionaire hedge fund managers, extreme elements of the right wing, for-profit testing companies, and most notably, Gov. Andrew Cuomo," he said.

"We have a true opportunity in this fight. Members are engaged in a way we have never seen before. People are ready to act. This is work that can be done. It is work that must be done. With your help we will have the boots on the ground, money and resources to pull it off."

Messner asked all graduates of the NYSUT Leadership Institute for help with organizing in the weeks and months ahead. And, he announced that NYSUT's Local Action Project — LAP — is expanding.

"LAP training will soon be available in every single regional office in the state," Messner said.

"Locals will be able to access a 'mini-LAP' and benefit from a crash course in strategies to combat the onslaught of attacks aimed at public education."

LAP offers intensive training in leadership development, organizing and mobilizing to NYSUT locals for three successive summers. Demand for such training is growing, he said.

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