In a wind-blown, snow-flecked, glass-enclosed conference room high up in New York City’s Fashion Institute of Technology Friday night, NYSUT President Andy Pallotta turned up the heat.
Speaking of the Janus v. AFSCME case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, Pallotta said, “This is a real threat — this is not a drill — this is an existential threat to the labor movement. “
Pallotta told the NYSUT Higher Education Policy Council, chaired by Roberta Elins of United College Employees at FIT, that the Koch brothers, the Mercer family — the right-wing billionaire class — took note of NYSUT’s overwhelming success in defeating the New York constitutional convention referendum.
They know, he explained, that the union is committed to using the same grassroots tactics to continue its perennial push for great public schools and colleges, economic opportunity for all, and civil and human rights.
“NYSUT is a target” for the 1-percenter political activists, Pallotta warned. “We are the ‘big, bad union’ and we are in their way.” It’s going to be a very challenging and exciting year leading up to the midterm elections in November, he said.
With Executive Vice President Jolene DiBrango and Second Vice President Paul Pecorale, Pallotta urged all the locals represented at the meeting to continue their one-to-one efforts to meet with every union member, and ultimately to ask them to “stick with the union.”
The Supreme Court has scheduled arguments in Janus on Feb. 26. Professional Staff Congress President Barbara Bowen said the PSC plans to rally outside the court in Washington, D.C., that day. The AFT plans meetings Feb. 24 in the nation’s capital and will coordinate protesting. Pallotta said NYSUT is going to coordinate with the AFL-CIO on a robust demonstration, as well.
Higher education, meanwhile, faces numerous challenges related to funding, adjunct faculty, immigration, harassment, hazing, opioid addiction and even racism on campus. While known for her advocacy on charter schools, unqualified Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ agenda also includes the destruction of higher education, said Nicole Hochsprung of the AFT, who presented on national issues.
“It’s no accident that higher ed is such a battleground,” she said.