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NYSUT Representative Assembly

Janus challenge ‘made us stronger’

New York Teacher
Enormous room filled with people seated around tables
El-wise Noisette

About 1,800 New York State United Teachers delegates celebrated the union’s strength in the face of the Supreme Court’s anti-union Janus ruling at its 47th annual Representative Assembly in Albany in early May.

The two-day convention honored the accomplishments of members and adopted policy positions for the 600,000-member union, which is the UFT’s state affiliate.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew praised the delegates that gathered for the UFT luncheon on May 2 for their work over the past year and their role helping the union confront challenges such as Janus.

“You are the leadership of this union,” Mulgrew said. “For everything that we’ve been through, we’ve always had each other’s backs.”

In his speech to the full assembly, NYSUT President Andrew Pallotta said the state union has “avoided significant drops” in membership after the Janus decision.

“Anti-union forces wanted to destroy us, but this challenge made us stronger,” said Pallotta. “Our members are more engaged than ever and they are sticking with our union.”

Still, he cautioned that “we’re not out of the woods” and urged members to stay active.

“Our opponents are in this for the long haul, but so are we,” said Pallotta.

In addition to listening to speeches from AFT President Randi Weingarten and other union leaders and members, delegates heard from New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, U.S. Representative Tim Ryan of Ohio and New York State Assemblyman Michael Benedetto.

The convention featured an awards ceremony celebrating the achievements of members, including UFT Vice President for Education Evelyn DeJesus, who was honored with the Not for Ourselves Alone: The Sandy Feldman Outstanding Leadership Award, given to women leaders in education and labor.

DeJesus “is a fierce advocate for justice and a role model for educators of color and women in the labor movement,” said Mulgrew.

Federation of Nurses/UFT member Raquel Webb Geddes, the chapter leader of the Visiting Nurse Service of New York Chapter, received the 2019 NYSUT Health Care Professional of the Year Award for her dedication to union values and her commitment to serving patients. NYSUT also named UFT member Priscilla Castro, who works as a District 75 borough advocate, as one of its School-Related Professional Members of the Year. Another UFT member, UFT Retired Teachers Chapter Treasurer Joyce Magnus, was named one of two Retiree Members of the Year.

NYSUT’s New York State Teacher of the Year was UFT member Alhassan Susso, who teaches at the International Community HS in Mott Haven in the Bronx. Susso was previously recognized by the State Board of Regents.

The delegates approved more than 40 resolutions to guide NYSUT’s work for the next year.

One resolution approved during the convention called for NYSUT to lobby lawmakers to pass the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act, which would extend labor protections to workers on New York farms.

UFT Paraprofessional Chapter Leader Shelvy Young-Abrams spoke in support of the resolution. “I grew up on a tobacco farm,” she said. “I know what it’s like to work from sunup to sundown without any breaks.”

The delegates also voted to encourage the state Legislature or the state Department of Education to set enforceable standards for reasonable classroom temperatures and mandate that classes be conducted in an alternative location if room temperatures exceed 88 degrees or go below 60 degrees.

Related Topics: Janus Lawsuit, Union Proud