A special thank you goes out to the excellent nurses, respiratory technician and health care providers at Brookhaven Hospital who took care of my mom during a recent health emergency. They are all members of NYSUT's Brookhaven Health Professionals local, led by their outstanding president, Barbara Lipski. The same health care workers who provided dedicated care stood shoulder to shoulder in silence to support their negotiations team during difficult bargaining. I'm proud to say my mom was cared for by union nurses!
Thank you also goes out to the members of the New York State Lifeguard Corps (NYSUT/UUP). Spanning waters from Montauk to Niagara Falls, they've rescued more than 1,000 visitors to New York's beaches during the summer of 2012. They're also standing strong in their contract struggle. I'm proud to know they're union lifeguards!
The same thank you is extended to members of the Uniondale Library, the Dutchess County Head Start (one of our newest locals), the Resource Center United Employees, United Cerebral Palsy Employees Union, Association of Retarded Citizens Employees Union and Just Kids — where our members have negotiated their first contracts. Union librarians, teacher aides, OTs, PTs, medical technicians and many other titles — all proud to say they're union workers!
And, of course, this month tens of thousands of unionized teachers, support professionals, academic and professional faculty as well as university technical staff — pre-K through post-graduate — return to campuses and classrooms around the state.
These members and so many others in our diverse constituencies (including our retirees who laid the foundation and now support the work of those on the job) are all good union members in good union jobs — something we all can celebrate on Labor Day.
Taking stock and going forward
The negative rhetoric and attacks on unions we are experiencing these days make it easy to get trapped in a defensive mode. Often that takes on the tenor of striking back at those who spew their lies and misinformation. Yes, these big-money bankrolled misfits deserve plenty of our wrath, but there's more that needs to be done. Indeed, our members and the public deserve more. They deserve to know the truth. They deserve to know why we are proud of who we are and what we do.
Take a look at the story on pages 12-13 that lays out an accurate appraisal of the state of public education in New York. Frankly, it just scratches the surface as to what our education members have accomplished. There are also the quiet, everyday stories of educators at all levels and in all titles making a difference in the life of a child or young adult — one student at a time.
The same can be said about the work of our health care professionals, public service providers and those we represent in the private sector. All are professionals in their own field doing what they know how to do best: meeting the needs of those they serve.
Part of "taking stock" is defining a course of action going forward. As I said before, there is more to do than just rally or lash out at our critics or those in public office who have voted to critically hinder public service, whether through devastating budget cuts or an unfair and unworkable tax cap.
We need to lead and to do so by providing solutions — to be what AFT President Randi Weingarten calls a "solution-driven union." We need to "speak truth to power" when it comes to the devastating impact decisions in Albany and Washington have had on our members and those we serve. We need to "speak up and speak out" about the work we do so well. And, we need to have a strategy that isn't about survival, but rather about succeeding.
Why? Because we are the union!