'We Are One' poster headed to Library of Congress archives
Poster design by Nicole Clayton
Colorful "We Are One" T-shirts sold fast at the RA's NYSUT Benefits and Services on Display last month in Buffalo. "It's awesome," said Maureen Singer, a school psychologist. It was her first RA, and the first for the union's LGBTQ Task Force, which was formed following adoption of an RA resolution in 2013. "Our sign here went to the Supreme Court," said Singer, pointing to a "We Are One" poster.
Several days before the RA, Patty Bentley, UUP retiree, took the poster to a large rally at the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., where the justices were hearing arguments on whether states can bar marriage equality. Many in attendance at the rally signed the poster in support.
A Library of Congress employee asked to have the poster put in the library's archives. For Bentley, a longtime college librarian, it was a proud moment. "I carried it in support of arguments about the constitutionality of marriage equality," she said. RA delegates also signed the poster.
Fallen workers honored, fight continues to improve safety
Thousands of working men and women die every year on the job. Last year, 29 workers alone died in the nine-county Capital Region. They were honored in April at a somber Workers Memorial Day ceremony held at NYSUT Headquarters.
"It's easy to forget that first and foremost we make workplaces safe," said NYSUT President Karen E. Magee. Unions, she said, ensure that health and safety measures are put in place on worksites. But until those measures are there for all people, "we haven't done our job."
The rights to a healthy and safe workplace are under attack by business owners who put profit over safety, said New York State AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento.
Unions statewide are fighting against the push to eliminate the scaffold safety law, which is about "putting aside the health and safety of workers for corporate profits," he said.
The AFL-CIO is also fighting for continued funding of the James Zadroga bill, which assists volunteers and other workers who have become ill after helping to rescue, clear and rebuild after the 9-11 terrorist attacks.
Many suffer with illnesses brought on by exposure to the numerous toxic substances at the site of the World Trade Center. The funding is set to expire in October 2016. "9-11 was a battlefield, but it was also a workplace," Cilento said.
For more about the NYSUT ceremony, visit www.nysut.org. For more information about safety on the job, visit www.aflcio.org/Issues/Job-Safety/WorkersMemorialDay.
New York state students earn high honors in national video contest
Three New York state schools boast national top winners in the 2015 Speak Truth To Power Student Video Contest. Skaneateles High School in Central New York earned a first place award for "Immigration Discrimination" and a second place award for "Choose to Help, Not to Hurt." Middle school students at New Hyde Park Road School on Long Island garnered a second place win for "Would You Fight For Peace?" Woodlands High School in Hartsdale had a third place winner for "Human Trafficking."
Sponsored by the American Federation of Teachers, the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights and the Tribeca Film Institute, the Speak Truth to Power Student Video Contest highlights human rights issues for middle and high school students through video production. Based on Kerry Kennedy's 2000 book, Speak Truth to Power: Human Rights Defenders Who are Changing Our World, student contestants from across the country create a 3- to 5-minute video featuring one of the 51 human rights defenders profiled in the publication.
"The student video contest teaches students how to be a force for change in their schools, communities and countries," said Paul Pecorale, NYSUT vice president, who oversees the union's social justice programs. "Best of all, it does it in a fun way that both encourages student creativity and underscores the importance of human rights and protecting those rights."
Launched in 2011 as a statewide competition co-sponsored by NYSUT, the contest builds on the RFK Center's Speak Truth To Power human rights curriculum, which provides lessons about human rights and social justice to more than 1 million students in the United States and around the world. The contest went national in 2013.
One grand-prize-winning entry — this year's was Bloomfield Tech in New Jersey — was screened in April at the Tribeca Film Festival. First, second and third prize winners — in two categories, middle and high school — received cash awards and an RFK Center prize package.