NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi, extending a gesture of solidarity, assured members of AFT Massachusetts that the labor movement will overcome the challenges it faces through strength and unity. His speech before some 300 delegates to AFT MA's state convention in April marked the first time a NYSUT president addressed the convention of another AFT state affiliate. And Massachusetts "is a good fit," he said.
The states share more than a border, he said. "We're bound by politics and a common commitment to our union ideals and the unshakeable belief that all children deserve excellent public schools," he said.
But New York and Massachusetts are also bound by state fiscal crises that threaten public education and vital community services. "We have a $10 billion budget deficit and a Democratic governor and a state Legislature who think it's fair to close the deficit by taking from those who have the least rather than asking a bit more of those who have the most," Iannuzzi said.
Massachusetts faces a nearly $2 billion budget gap and proposes $1.25 billion in cuts and savings to help close it. At the same time, lawmakers there are pushing legislation that would curtail bargaining rights over health care benefits.
Iannuzzi called on the Massachusetts delegates to stand together with unions in New York and other states and send a strong and pointed message to those who seek to render the labor movement weak and powerless: "Not on our watch!"