September 25, 2017

EDUCATION AUTUMN: Seasons change, leaves change, but the message remains the same

Author: Ned Hoskin
Source: NYSUT Communications
education autumn

Maybe you answered the door this summer to see a smiling face and make a personal connection with your statewide union. If you didn’t, you might just get a visit in the weeks leading up to Election Day.

“We’re building on the success and momentum from Education Summer by growing this statewide network of member organizers who take a leading role in the campaign to promote our members’ rights and fight for educational justice,” said NYSUT President Andy Pallotta.

NYSUT member organizers knocked on more than 33,000 doors and had some 8,500 face-to-face conversations with other NYSUT members to discuss the value of their union during July and August. For many, it was illuminating.

“People tend to think of NYSUT as the solver of problems,” said Robin Parente, a new member organizer from Chittenango TA. “But the truth is, we are all NYSUT.”

As NYSUT continues the Member Organizing Institute into Education Autumn, another 60 union members have stepped up to hit the pavement and be the face of the union for thousands of members who may not have yet had a personal relationship with their statewide federation.

Over the weekend, the Autumn Organizing Institute provided intensive training in member engagement, house visit organizing skills, use of advanced technology tools, leadership, and union and community issues.

“You all are about to engage in a very pure expression of unionism: member-to-member direct action, in a very personal way, going into people’s homes and talking about the value of the union,” said NYSUT Board member Don Carlisto, who is working to coordinate the complex matrix of thousands of scheduled home visits all over the state.

Organizers met and spoke with other NYSUT members about important issues like the constitutional convention vote in November, the value of being a member of a union and other struggles to improve our schools, our professions and support for our school communities.

education autumn
MEMBER-TO-MEMBER: Sally Lord of Ulster County BOCES chats about the constitutional convention with Wendy Ashline of North Colonie Teachers Association. Photo by Rebecca Miller.

They visited with Capital District-area members in their homes, mobilized supporters and identified grassroots leaders, all while helping to build the movement for great schools and colleges for all.

Leading up to Election Day on Nov. 7, organizers will continue to discuss the importance of voting NO on Proposition 1.

“I truly believe we’re going to win this fight on the constitutional convention,” Carlisto said. “But we’re also going to make sure that each and every member sees union value, and when we look back on these initiatives, we’re going to say that this was the game changer, the fact that members put feet in the street to connect with other members.”

One of the new organizers posed the question: How can we fight the threats to unions if the U.S. Supreme Court decides against labor rights in the Janus decision in the upcoming session. The case, ultimately could render every state in the nation a “right to work” state.

Addressing the volunteers Saturday, AFT President Randi Weingarten said: “This is how you do it, what you’re doing here today,” pointing out that face to face is the best way to grow the union movement, especially now.

"People want to know that there is value in the union.”