March 18, 2019

NYC unionists on a mission to Albany

Author: Ned Hoskin
Source:  NYSUT Communications
UFT lobby day
Caption: A packed house of volunteer "lobbyists" at the Empire State Convention Center. Photo by Ned Hoskin.

With a dais busting with high-profile union presidents and officers, emcee Anthony Harmon turned the tables and introduced the audience, calling them “the biggest, baddest trade unionists this side of the Mississippi River!”

Harmon, staff director for the United Federation of Teachers, was talking about the hundreds of grassroots volunteer members of the UFT who came to Albany Monday to share their front-line stories of conditions in New York City classrooms with state lawmakers.

After a quick lunch and an uplifting briefing with leaders, the lobbyists-for-a-day set out to push for the state to fund what they know works — things like Teacher Centers and Community Learning Schools, which provide medical and social services in schools where they make a difference every day.

NYSUT President Andy Pallotta reminded them that UFT, NYSUT, the Board of Regents and education groups across the state were united in calling for a $2.2 billion increase in education funding. Both the Senate and Assembly recommended nearly doubling the governor’s insufficient K-12 aid proposal, which shows “that united front is moving the debate.” But budget negotiations continue, with an April 1 deadline.

In meeting with lawmakers, give credit where it’s due, Pallotta said: “Thank them for restoring the funding for Teacher Centers, which the governor wants to eliminate... and thank them for passing APPR legislation to end the mandate that test scores be part of a teacher evaluation.”

The Empire State Plaza Convention Center was chock full of activists from every borough of New York City.

“God knows what we’re doing up here is his work … or her work,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew. “It is because of the people — including parents and lawmakers — in this room that the state has continued to invest in public education. The problem is, the need is great.”

American Federation of Teachers President Randy Weingarten introduced a social media campaign called #FundOurFuture. Saying the Trump/DeVos agenda in Washington, D.C., aims “to make the rich richer and the poor poorer,” she called on New York “to continue to put working- and middle-class people first.”

The leaders called on state lawmakers to increase revenue by expanding the millionaires' tax and closing the carried-interest loophole that gives hedgefunders tax breaks ordinary people don’t get. This could raise several billion dollars a year for education in the state.

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