February 2011 Issue
February 06, 2011

Advocacy in action: Act now to fight crippling cuts

Author: NYSUT United staff
Source: NYSUT United
Caption: UFT members Alfred Gonzalez and Elizabeth Perez join with other NYSUT members in supporting UUP members during a rally against cuts to public higher education. Photo by El-Wise Noisette.

Facing an Executive Budget proposal that calls for the largest cuts to education and health care in state history, NYSUT has launched a major, multi-pronged effort to fight back. And union members must get involved like never before.

"Our members and students are already sharing in the pain of this tough economy, but New York state can't cut its way out of this crisis. We need to share in solutions that maintain the strength of public education — and the public agrees," said NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi.

Rallying around the theme "Don't erase our progress," NYSUT is mobilizing to get that message out with extraordinary grassroots lobbying, a massive postcard campaign, rallies with community coalitions, media campaigns — and more.

"We're mobilizing in unprecedented ways for what is shaping up to be the fight of our lives," said NYSUT Executive Vice President Andy Pallotta, who leads the union's legislative efforts.

In a first-ever statewide advocacy event, NYSUT members buttonholed legislators in their district offices the first week of February, just two days after the governor's budget was released. "Unfortunately, it's not just our school budgets and our jobs under attack any more," said Phil Cleary of the North Syracuse Education Association and member of NYSUT's Political Action Committee. "Hard-won rights and laws that have helped so many for so long are also being targeted. This year, more than ever, we've got to use our collective strength. We've got to advocate non-stop."

Anti-union critics are exploiting the state's economic woes to float proposals that would dismantle public sector pensions and bargaining rights.

NYSUT is convening an Extraordinary Committee of 100 grassroots lobbying event on Feb. 15 in concert with BOCES Lobby Day and the United Federation of Teachers' legislative briefing. A statewide postcard campaign that personalizes the union's message about the devastating effects of proposed budget cuts will be delivered en masse to lawmakers during the Committee of 100 advocacy day in March. Cards are being distributed at union events and through local leaders in the days and weeks ahead. Be sure to fill out a card!

NYSUT activists are partnering with other advocate groups such as the Alliance for Quality Education and Citizen Action to ramp up activities and rallies in local communities and at the state Capitol.

Watch http://www.nysut.org/ for information on rallies in your area — these are opportunities to join parents, students and all concerned about public education.

Solidarity was the theme at a rally protesting the devastating cuts proposed for SUNY with NYSUT Leadership Institute graduates marching with members of United University Professions.

"If they cut the programs at SUNY, frankly they cut our students' opportunities," said Nyack Teachers Association member Tom Burns, one of 60 NYSUT members in the leadership training program.

NYSUT leaders continue to partner with the AFL-CIO and its unions in vigorously defending our positions through lobbying, press interviews and published opinion pieces that advance the campaign theme: "Don't erase our progress."

NYSUT is employing every version of media, social and mainstream, to amplify what cuts would mean —and to defend the value of our members' work.

"We are depending on NYSUT members, all 600,000 strong, to reach out to your lawmakers, your friends and your family members to let them know what these cuts would do," Pallotta.

What YOU can do

  • Use your feet. Make note of the upcoming advocacy days and rallies and contact your local president to participate.
  • Use your pen, keyboard. Send letters and e-mails on the proposed budget, the tax cap and more to lawmakers via the Take Action! link on www.nysut.org.
  • Tell your story. NYSUT has launched an identity campaign — "It's what we do" — featuring radio ads and a website devoted to members and the value of their work. Listen to the ads at www.nysut.org and encourage others to do the same. Share your story with your family, friends and neighbors.

  • Send postcards. NYSUT's "Don't erase our progress" postcard campaign personalizes the message about what students need. When you receive your postcard, fill it out and return it to your local union representative.

  • Support grassroots coalitions. NYSUT locals across the state are working with parent groups such as the Alliance for Quality Education and Citizen Action. Show solidarity at rallies in your area.

  • Be visible. Attend a city council, board of education and/or PTA meeting. Make it clear that union members are taxpayers, too, and care about the state of their communities. When you read articles in your local papers attacking public workers, weigh in on the comments section. These comments influence others and can help get our message out.

  • Give to VOTE-COPE. The union's voluntary political action fund helps with local campaigns and lawmakers who support our issues.  It's needed more than ever.