NYSUT delegates Saturday were urged to unite and mobilize against right-wing zealots seeking to dismantle organized labor and public education.
“We are facing unprecedented challenges on many fronts,” said state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. “Unions are under attack … not because they are weak. But because there are those out there who fear the strength of the American labor movement.
“You will play a critical role in what I believe is the next great American movement for equality,” Schneiderman told delegates. “You are a power in this state. Use your power and understand the strength you have.”
The state’s top lawyer said he believed historians would one day look back on this time as an era in which the federal government turned its back on working people. But, he said, the era will also be remembered as a time when unions stood in solidarity and fought back with the aid of progressive state governance.
“I will always watch out for you,” promised Schneiderman, who has brought more than 100 actions against the federal government, including standing up to the anti-public education agenda of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Census legislation that would decimate New York’s representation in Washington, and the Trump tax plan that would hurt working families in New York State.
“We fight for fundamental fairness and justice,” he said. “There has to be one set of rules for everyone.”
Comptroller Tom DiNapoli
Like Schneiderman, state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli — a longtime NYSUT ally — also told delegates that he had their backs.
DiNapoli noted he is currently working with labor to mitigate the potential damage of a negative Janus ruling in the U.S. Supreme Court. And he pledged to defend against any attack on defined pension plans of which NYSUT members are a part.
“No way,” DiNapoli said to applause. “Not on my watch!”
The comptroller said while today’s national news is dominated by stories of teachers in West Virginia, Arizona and Oklahoma rising up and fighting for fair pay and basic job protections, he takes solace in knowing New York is home to NYSUT — the nation’s strongest teachers’ union. And he urged NYSUT delegates to use that power to wage war against those seeking to weaken organized labor and cause harm to public schools.
“Public education is the pathway to the middle class,” DiNapoli said. “Public education is the door to economic security and a successful life, and teachers hold the key.”
It is time, DiNapoli said, to fight back against attacks on public employees, on the DeVos agenda, and on those working to dismantle defined benefit plans. And, he added, it is time to fight for safe schools and sensible gun legislation.
“It is time to stand up,” DiNapoli told delegates. “And I will stand with you.”
The RA’s final session began with a taped address from NEA President Lily Eskelsen, who encouraged delegates to stand in solidarity against anti-union efforts.