April 02, 2022

Union work: Delegates set course for the future

Source:  NYSUT Communications
Holding a photo of her transgender son, Tanya Forget-Truesdell of Edwards-Knox Service Employees Association spoke in favor of a resolution condemning the recent wave of anti-LGBTQ legislative measures.
Caption: Holding a photo of her transgender son, Tanya Forget-Truesdell of Edwards-Knox Service Employees Association spoke in favor of a resolution condemning the recent wave of anti-LGBTQ legislative measures. Photo by El-Wise Noisette.

Urgently calling for action and funding to support NYSUT’s Future Forward agenda, Representative Assembly delegates approved a wide range of resolutions to guide the union’s advocacy in the coming year.

In convention action Friday and Saturday, RA delegates considered 29 resolutions and approved three special orders of business. In all, 17 resolutions were approved, seven were defeated, four were referred to the Board and one was ruled out of order.

Many of the resolutions call for programming and funding to make NYSUT’s Future Forward initiative a reality. These include resolutions to:

  • repeal the state’s onerous receivership law, removing the punitive consequences of testing for students, teachers and schools alike;
  • support community schools, advocating for additional funding and supporting the hiring of community school directors/coordinators to align community services with student and family needs;
  • strengthen and diversify the educator pipeline, advocating for scholarships, career ladders for teaching assistants and other support staff; fellowship and residency opportunities; Grow Your Own programs and improving the educator certification process;
  • advocate for resources to hire much-needed counseling and mental health staff; educators for English language learners and special education students; and at least one registered professional nurse in each school building.
  • call on schools to address the digital divide; and
  • implement shorter, developmentally appropriate grades 3–8 assessments. The resolution urges NYSUT to work with NEA and AFT to support efforts at the federal level to allow grade span testing instead of grade-by-grade testing; and allowing local screenings and progress monitoring to be used to meet federal requirements rather than statewide assessments.

Delegates approved three special orders of business: one in support of the people of Ukraine; another calling for federal funding to address school and community violence; and a third urging NYSUT to condemn the wave of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and support LGBTQ educators and students.

In other action, delegates approved a resolution supporting legislation and programs to assist and educate the public about Sickle Cell Disease.

UFT leader Janella Hinds spoke passionately on behalf of a resolution to support positive inter-student relationships, consent education and eradication of domestic violence and sexual assault. “We can teach our children how to be in healthy relationships … how to be respectful and how to love with kindness and honor,” she said.

Other legislative resolutions call for support of paid family leave, building public renewable power by expanding the New York Power Authority; and prioritizing solar eclipse protection and education. Another resolution in support of libraries calls for a certified librarian/media specialist in every school and providing resources to protect school and classroom librarians from censorship.

For higher education, delegates supported a resolution to advocate for legislation to add a non-voting faculty member to the Board of Trustees for Community Colleges.

Under pensions and retirement and organization issues, delegates approved resolutions urging NYSUT to advocate for legislation temporarily allowing Teachers’ Retirement System members to have a salary increase greater than 10 percent in their final average salary calculation.

Schenectady FT’s Juliet Benaquisto, a teacher-member on the New York State Teachers’ Retirement System board, explained that many members lost income during the first year of the pandemic, but then gained it back this year. This measure would temporarily allow such members to have a salary increase greater than 10 percent in their pension calculation.

Delegates also approved a measure urging NYSUT to educate members including part-time and adjunct workers about opportunities to maintain their membership through breaks of service and into retirement.

A resolution opposing the privatization of Medicare was amended to urge NYSUT to continue its fight for federal and state legislation to provide affordable health care for all and to support local unions as they seek expanded coverage options for in-service and retiree members through collective bargaining.

“It’s a shame that health care is linked to employment,” said West Seneca TA’s Joe Cantafio, a NYSUT Board member. “(Health care) is a priority. It is a human right and a civil right.”

Delegates referred a number of resolutions to the NYSUT Board of Directors, including measures calling for an additional SRP retiree and retiree directors on the NYSUT Board and a task force to discuss retiree voting disparity. The Board of Directors will also consider advocacy to allow community colleges to establish and grant bachelor’s degrees.

Delegates also approved amendments to NYSUT’s Constitution and Bylaws to adopt gender-neutral pronouns.