July/August 2019 Issue
June 21, 2019

Strong legislative finish shows union strength

Author: Ned Hoskin
Source: NYSUT United
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committee of 100
Caption: Erin Smith, Depew Teachers Organization, makes a point at the Committee of 100 in March. Photo by El-Wise Noisette.

NYSUT members used their voice last November to elect state Senate candidates who share their concerns for public education, for labor and for social justice.

With a new progressive majority controlling the Senate, the union’s agenda began to move soon after the legislative session opened in January. Lawmakers agreed to fix the broken teacher evaluation system right away. Finally!

In a strong finish as the session wound down, union members checked off many more victories.

Lawmakers passed bills to allow districts to install school bus stop-arm cameras, institute new workplace violence protections in our schools and provide fair labor protections for School-Related Professionals (see Support School Staff article).

They also passed bills to give a break to districts facing punitive financial penalties, help community colleges find qualified criminal justice faculty, ensure equal pay for equal work, protect patients from exorbitant emergency room bills and enact basic labor rights for farmworkers.

“These victories are a testament to the tireless advocacy of NYSUT members, whom we will continue to fight for in Albany,” said President Andy Pallotta.

“With school districts forced to make tough budget choices this spring, we will continue the fight for adequate resources for our schools. We will continue the fight to address the TAP Gap that has squeezed our SUNY and CUNY systems. And we will continue the fight to empower hardworking women and men across New York State,” he said.

Farmworkers

Exempt from most labor protections afforded to all other workers, agricultural employees will now have collective bargaining rights and a mandatory day of rest. The bill will also require overtime to be paid after 60 hours of work per week.

Criminal justice faculty 211 waiver

Community colleges value the expertise of retired law enforcement personnel to teach in criminal justice degree programs. This bill eliminates the waiver requirement for faculty members who are collecting a public safety pension, making it much easier to recruit the best instructors.

Climate change

Lawmakers reached agreement with the governor on a climatechange law that could make New York a leader on environmental issues, creating jobs and altering the state’s energy profile. It targets 100 percent renewables by 2040 and 85 percent fewer carbon emissions by 2050.

Final cost reports

NYSUT won several district-specific bills to correct paperwork errors that had resulted in punitive financial penalties, which fall on taxpayers.

Lawmakers recognized the system requires flexibility when an inadvertent clerical error causes the loss of necessary school aid or results in an avoidable financial penalty. Without this remedy, districts faced difficult budgeting choices that would negatively impact student programming and services.

Patient protection

NYSUT joined a coalition of organizations that won passage of the Patient Protection Act, which defends patients from excessive hospital fees and helps end surprise bills for patients who wind up in out-of-network hospital emergency rooms.

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