Weingarten stresses importance of upcoming election
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten congratulated NYSUT members on their successful advocacy in the last year while stressing the importance of upcoming elections. The AFT last July was the first national labor union to endorse Hillary Clinton for president.
Acknowledging supporters of Bernie Sanders in the audience, Weingarten said, "Both candidates will fight for us and our values." But, she said, Clinton has a better track record of getting things done.
Weingarten remarked on the difference between this legislative session and last year's. "The scapegoating, the bashing, it didn't work," she said, because NYSUT members "changed the tone and you changed the state."
On the national landscape, she spoke about the importance of electing a Democrat in the fall to ensure fair-minded appointments to the Supreme Court. She also reminded delegates that Republican candidates Ted Cruz and Donald Trump are "waging an all-out war" on unions, public education and public employees.
Moss salutes NYSUT activism
National Education Association Secretary-Treasurer Princess Moss saluted NYSUT members for "showing the nation what unions are made of.
"You spoke loudly that New York students and schools weren't for sale," she said of NYSUT's activism in the wake of continued attacks against public education. "Thank you for your courage, your solidarity, your activism and your coalition-building."
Moss credited union advocacy for creating a sea change in public education policy. Seven new members and a new chancellor who support the voice of educators and parents are now in place at the state Board of Regents and Congress passed the Every Student Succeeds Act, actions that are "bringing sobriety to an insane atmosphere.
"We must stand together as unionists and as educators because billionaires will keep trying to elect their hand-picked candidates and bend the rules," said Moss. "But here in New York, NYSUT has become the voice that can't be ignored."
Cilento praises NYSUT for its success
New York State AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento saluted NYSUT for fighting and winning what he said were "constant, coordinated, all-out attacks on public education."
"We have 2.5 million members in the New York State AFL-CIO — we are the strongest and most successful union in the country," said Cilento. "And that success is because of the work you do."
Noting that legislators often don't fully understand the work of educators — educators who help their students "socially and emotionally" — Cilento pledged to help NYSUT members make lawmakers "see educators through the eyes of their students."
DiNapoli affirms support for NYSUT members
New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli applauded NYSUT members' efforts in turning the tide on testing as well as in persuading lawmakers to increase funding for schools statewide.
"You have made an incredible difference." He said NYSUT's work to support higher education is "one of the most important investments we can make," and urged the union to continue its work "to make the DREAM Act a reality."
The comptroller reaffirmed NYSUT's priority on transparency of charter school budgets and he spoke of the health care cost savings that unions are working toward in collaboration with management.
Schneiderman vows to stand with workers
"NYSUT did not blink. You stepped right to the confrontation," said state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. "What you did over the last couple of years is a model."
Advocating for a $15-an-hour minimum wage; reversing cuts to SUNY hospitals; achieving a 6 percent increase in state aid for public schools; supporting union and nonunion workers; and taking action in the Friedrichs case are some examples of NYSUT's sustained action, he said.
The idea of the USA, he said, is that each of us leaves our country a little more just than we found it. Unions help achieve that. "As long as you will stand up, I will stand up with you!" he said.
Slaughter urges Washington to do more
Rep. Louise Slaughter told delegates Washington must reaffirm its commitment to public education so all students are given "a fair shot" to succeed.
The Rochester Democrat made her mark by writing into the McKinney-Vento Homeless Housing Assistance Act the provision ensuring that homeless children have their health care needs met and be provided busing to schools — even if their families move to a shelter out of the district. Slaughter, who has a record of bringing high-paying tech and science jobs to her district, said lawmakers must make it a priority to ensure children have access to a quality education so there is a skilled workforce to support those jobs.
RA 2016 online
For complete RA coverage, including videos of speakers, photos and more, visit nysut.org/ra.