As a longtime history teacher, NYSUT Second Vice President Ron Gross taught many students about the preamble of the US constitution, “in order to form a more perfect union.”
“What exactly does this mean? We should not rest on our laurels — they left the window open for progress,” he told the audience at the RA.
Gross said the pandemic, and different approaches to tackling it, have reinforced that “we have to listen to those who wish to be heard and show that we care even if we don’t always agree.”
He praised NYSUT’s more than 250,000 retirees for forging ahead and not letting the pandemic stop their fierce advocacy for educational reforms, social justice and retiree rights.
“The bond between in-service members and retirees must remain strong and our Retiree Councils need your support,” he said. “We are union for life and we must maintain our solidarity at all stages of our lives.”
The NYSUT Legacy fund, formed at last year’s virtual RA to allow members to receive recognition for their dedication to their union by their peers, has recognized 20 such leaders and collected more than $12,000.
Gross also spoke to NYSUT’s School-Related Professionals, announcing the new SRP’s Rising Initiative, which will involve NYSUT staff helping SRP locals become strong, active unions.
“Now is the time ... that our SRP’s are given the respect, dignity, salaries, and protection that has been long overdue,” he said.
Importantly, Gross singled out NYSUT’s health care professionals and mental health support staff, who have borne the brunt of the immediate and long-term impacts of COVID-19.
“They have been asked to do Herculean tasks with little time to prepare and many times without necessary resources. We are indebted to them …we must stand with them to secure better wages to attract more professionals to end their staff shortages.”
NYSUT will continue to pressure SED to address the looming mental health crisis by funding 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 5 days per week to take confidential phone calls.
If necessary, peer counselors will refer callers to the appropriate resource to obtain the support they need.
“This investment in our membership is needed now more than ever.”