In his address to delegates at the 50th annual NYSUT Representative Assembly, President Andy Pallotta acknowledged the union’s great past and future potential.
“We stand on the shoulders of giants!” he said, urging all the retired members in the audience to stand.
“I’ve been around long enough to agree with history teachers who say: ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,’” he said, emphasizing the celebration of 50 years as New York State United Teachers.
Pallotta announced a new statewide initiative called “Our Legacy, Our Future” that will document, preserve and share NYSUT’s history.
Most importantly, he said, it will include opportunities for leaders and members to share their personal memories and stories.
Two years into the pandemic, he said, “this second year ... seemed even more challenging than the first.
“This year we are fighting to press the pause button on APPR for another year,” he said.
Pallotta also reported that NYSUT is fighting for repeal of the receivership law. “This miserable law,” he said, takes “a school that is struggling and makes things worse.” He thanked all NYSUT members and leaders for “doing everything you have done, for getting our kids back in the classroom safely.” Pallotta said the teaching profession faces many challenges in the next 50 years, and the union will lead the way in facing them.
He also announced a new NYSUT campaign to “Fix Tier 6!” noting that after the flawed Tier 4 was enacted 40 years ago, labor worked for 24 years for tier equity, and won. More than a third of the membership is in Tier 6. “It won’t be quick or easy, but that fight begins today.” (See page 3 for Tier 6 gains in the newly enacted budget.) Executive Vice President Jolene T.
DiBrango had two simple words for RA delegates: Thank you.
“For some of you, you’ve heard these words a lot over the past two years for the awe-inspiring work you’ve done to serve New York’s students and patients,” DiBrango said.
“For some of you, you haven’t heard those words nearly enough.” DiBrango thanked members for embracing the union’s Take a Look at Teaching initiative, which aims to diversify the profession and encourage more people to consider careers in education. She noted NYSUT activists have successfully advocated for changes to the state’s certification process.
She praised members of the NYSUT Women’s Committee, under the leadership of member co-chairs Aisha Cook and Leslie Rose. “NYSUT women are working to ensure that all students learn about the impact women have made in our society,” DiBrango said.
Second Vice President Ron Gross praised NYSUT’s retirees for forging ahead and not letting the pandemic stop their fierce advocacy.
“The bond between inservice members and retirees must remain strong,” he said.
Gross announced a new SRPs Rising initiative, aimed at helping SRP locals become stronger and more active. He also singled out NYSUT’s health care professionals and mental health support staff. “They have been asked to do Herculean tasks with little time to prepare and many times without necessary resources.” NYSUT will continue to press for appropriate staffing of nurses, psychologists, social workers and counselors in hospitals and schools.
And for members, the union will be launching NYSUT Lifeline, with trained peer counselors staffing the phones five days per week to take confidential phone calls.
Secretary-Treasurer J. Philippe Abraham announced that, “There will be no dues increase for this year,” noting that the union remains fiscally strong and continues to offer members value through its Member Benefits programming.
“In the coming months, NYSUT Member Benefits plans to launch, on a pilot basis, a no-cost legal program to help members who fall in the lower portion of the salary scale,” he said, explaining that making quality legal advice available to members is important during contentious times.
Abraham also highlighted NYSUT’s social justice initiatives, including the “Many Threads, One Fabric” series and the new Social Justice Academy.
“Throughout the 50-year history of this organization, we have made great strides, while enhancing the professions in which our members serve,” said Abraham. “The future of this union is bright!”
For full coverage of the RA, visit nysut.org/ra.