At his first RA as a NYSUT vice president, Paul Pecorale told delegates he was part of "an amazing year of discovery, challenges, successes, failures, wins and losses."
His role as vice president is to direct critical programs and services for NYSUT members, such as health care, social services, SRPs, retirees and health and safety.
"What ties all of these programs together is the underlying notion, principle and goal of social justice," he said. "It is the central focus … Labor unions and social justice are threads of the same cloth."
Social justice, he said, is economic justice, educational justice and political justice. Union advocacy and activism are essential to make that justice a reality in classrooms and campuses, and in health care centers.
"Our most critical social justice issue is the protection and preservation of public education," he said. "Not one of us is immune to the deep changes in our professions and workplaces."
Pecorale showed videos of NYSUT members expressing concern for the need to educate children about respect for all and ensuring people have equal access to education and retirement security.
Good health care is also a social justice issue. NYSUT advocates for proper nurse-to-patient ratios, a school nurse in every building, effective safety practices and proper training.
Protecting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are important tasks, Pecorale said, to defend attacks on social safety nets.
Ensuring the health and safety of all workers and students is another vital issue. Unsafe buildings and environmental atrocities threaten that safety.
Economic injustice hits School- Related Professionals hard. In challenging economic times, they are often the first to be laid off.
"You are the first to recognize a child's hunger, a family's need for social services, and access to affordable health care and housing," he said.
To further advance its mission of social justice, NYSUT collaborates with many partners, he said, getting involved in rallies, lobbying and forums to raise minimum wage and fight poverty, to secure rights for farmworkers, to improve the criminal justice system, to protect the rights of LGBTQ and to advocate with the Alliance for Reclaiming Our Schools.
"Social justice is everyone's responsibility — our collective duty," Pecorale said.