January/February 2021 Issue
December 19, 2020

Union sees path forward with new slate of educator-lawmakers

Author: Ned Hoskin
Source: NYSUT United
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mannion and pallotta
Caption: The now-former West Genesee Teachers Association President, now-Sen. John Mannion (pictured with NYSUT President Andy Pallotta) joins several other educators in the state Legislature.

After years of hard work with many months of active support from members of NYSUT and other unions all over the state, new state Sen. John Mannion finally broke through in Central New York’s 50th Senate District.

Sworn in Dec. 16 in Albany, the Democrat has been the longtime president of the West Genesee Teachers Association and a NYSUT political activist.

“It’s an honor for me and my family,” the science teacher said, “but it’s a victory for working people in Central New York who will finally have a senator who can bring our voice and our values to Albany.” Mannion is a product of the NYSUT Pipeline Project that helps identify, train and support local union members who are interested in running for office. He joins several other members in the state Legislature, most of whom came through the pipeline.

Sen.-elect Jabari Brisport, D-Brooklyn, and Assemblymemberselect Chantel Jackson, D-Bronx, and Bill Conrad, D-Tonawanda, also will be sworn in. They join re-elected members of the Assembly Pat Burke, D-Buffalo, and Monica Wallace, D-Lancaster, among others who are members or former members of the statewide union.

Having educators who are also labor leaders and activists in the halls of power is essential, said NYSUT President Andy Pallotta, as fiscal support for public education, from pre-K through graduate school, seems to be one of the first things sacrificed when budget negotiations at the statehouse heat up.

These educator-lawmakers “know how many educators we’ve lost and the impact on students and communities,” Pallotta told the State of Politics blog recently. “So they will be ferocious when they are fighting for the schools and for the communities NYSUT-backed winners help secure unprecedented ‘supermajority’ in State Senate throughout the state that will be impacted by negative budgets.”

Veto-proof supermajority

Two years ago, Democrats rode a mid-term wave to seize control of the state Senate in New York. But the moderating thumb of the executive branch weighed on their ability to move significant parts of their agenda.

In the weeks following this year’s elections, as mail-in ballots were tallied and results were certified, the scales tipped.

When NYSUT-backed freshman Democrat Sen. Pete Harckham declared victory on Dec. 3 in the lower Hudson Valley, Democrats took a veto-proof supermajority in the Senate for the first time ever. Dems also control the state Assembly and hold every statewide elected seat.

Democrats had set a goal in 2019 to emerge from the 2020 elections with 42 seats and a two-thirds supermajority, meaning they won’t need to rely on Republican support to override gubernatorial vetoes.

When Mannion finally won his race in Senate District 50 the following week, they exceeded their goal with 43 seats.

“We worked hard to support the incumbents and candidates who share our agenda, our values and our vision,” said Pallotta. “The historic veto-proof majority ensures that these allies will be able to pursue the policies and programs that best serve our communities, students and patients, as well as the NYSUT members who worked so hard.”

Over the past several years, a number of NYSUT-backed legislative initiatives have passed both houses of the Legislature, only to die on the governor’s desk.

In the wake of the 2020 U.S. Census, this advantage also means Democrats will be able to draw new district lines in 2022, if their supermajority is still intact. As of today, three Senate Dems are running for local office in New York City in 2021.


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