December 2011 Issue
November 22, 2011

NEA leader tells SRPs to stay strong, stick together

Source: NYSUT United
NEA Vice President Lily Eskelsen, left, urges more than 250 NYSUT members at the School-Related Professionals conference to stay united in the face of adversity.

NEA Vice President
Lily Eskelsen

NYSUT members and other unionists must continue to be vigilant against attacks on their professions and the middle class, said Lily Eskelsen, vice president of the National Education Association, one of NYSUT's national affiliates.

Eskelsen, former Utah Teacher of the Year who began her educational career with a job as a lunch worker in a school cafeteria, was the keynote speaker at NYSUT's 33rd annual School-Related Professionals Leadership Conference. More than 250 SRPs from around the state participated in the conference, where 25 sessions where offered, including workshops from NYSUT's Education and Learning Trust.

Speaking of the powerful forces at work — the wealthy who "want to take away the gains" unionists have made — Eskelsen painted a vivid picture of the anger some politicians and big business have directed toward unions and unionists.

And some ideologues, she said, have managed to turn union workers into a "privileged class in the eyes of their middle-class neighbors." This results in conflict between "middle-class workers who have a union and middle-class workers who don't," said Eskelsen. The resulting infighting masks some of the real culprits of the recession: non-regulation of Wall Street and the rich not paying their fair share of taxes.

"The only power we have is in our numbers," said Eskelsen, encouraging solidarity. "The only power we have is when we stick together. They want to hurt us, but they are also hurting the families that we serve and that are counting on us.

"You are determined, you are caring, you are unstoppable," Eskelsen told the SRP leaders, adding that members are not facing the struggles alone. "We will stand together. We are going to organize. We are going to be stronger."