Later today, more than 2,000 NYSUT delegates will pack the Albany Capital Center for the start of the union’s Representative Assembly. But make no mistake: when the curtain is officially lifted to kick off NYSUT’s 47th annual policymaking convention, it will hardly be business as usual.
Yes, there will be speeches. There will be resolutions debated and passed. And there will be constituents honored for their unyielding commitment to their profession and the labor movement.
But, this year’s assembly will also be sending a message to the likes of the billionaire Koch brothers and other deep-pocketed anti-union forces who set out to dismantle the nation’s public sector labor movement with the U.S. Supreme Court Janus case.
So, when NYSUT President Andy Pallotta bangs the gavel opening this year’s assembly this evening, it will not only signal that it’s time to get down to business. It will also mark a call to arms and send the message that any attempt to weaken or chip away at unions will be met with a full-scale resistance.
“I am proud to say that despite attempts to destroy organized labor,” said Pallotta, “our union is stronger than ever before.”
NYSUT members rose to the occasion to disprove those who predicted the union’s strength would wane in the months following the Janus decision, which ruled unions could not impose mandatory dues.
In fact, not only was NYSUT not weakened. Janus reinvigorated the union’s commitment to organizing and activism.
Perhaps nowhere was that activism more on display over the past year than in NYSUT’s continuing fight to correct the state’s flawed testing system and unfair teacher evaluation process. Correcting the tests will be an issue front and center during this year’s assembly. Learn about NYSUT's "Correct the Tests" campaign.
Delegates also will hear Friday from American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and Democratic presidential candidate, Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio. Immediately following the congressman’s remarks, Ryan and Weingarten will hold a town hall Q&A with a small group of NYSUT members. Learn about the AFT's presidential endorsement process.
Saturday will feature of full spate of speakers, including State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, New York State AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento and Assembly Education Committee Chairman Michael Benedetto. Also addressing delegates Saturday will be NYSUT Executive Vice President Jolene DiBrango, Second Vice President Paul Pecorale and Secretary-Treasurer J. Philippe Abraham.
This year’s RA also marks NYSUT’s first at the Albany Capital Center. NYSUT inked a five-year contract to hold its policy-making conventions in the city through 2023. NYSUT’s Representative Assembly has not met in Albany since 1987, when the union outgrew available hotel and meeting space. The opening of the ACC in 2017, as well as the construction of new downtown hotels, means that Albany now has enough meeting space, restaurants and hotel rooms to accommodate the union’s Representative Assembly.
“We look forward,” said Pallotta, “to celebrating union values and the democratic process, and discussing policies that will ensure strong public education, health care, human services and unions.”