Facing the threat of the U.S. Supreme Court case Janus v. AFSCME headed the agenda at the New York State United Teachers’ annual Representative Assembly on April 27–28.
NYSUT, the UFT’s state affiliate, gathered more than 2,000 delegates in Buffalo to adopt policy positions for the 600,000-member union and to honor the hard work and achievements of members throughout the state.
The UFT breakfast drew hundreds of delegates and union leaders, many sporting shirts announcing “I’m Sticking With My Union” in defiance of right-wing attempts to turn public employees against their unions through the Janus case.
“We have to make sure we’re speaking to each and every member and make sure they understand what is at stake,” Mulgrew said at the breakfast.
In a speech to the delegates, NYSUT President Andrew Pallotta explained the threat the Janus case poses. “This case is a blatantly political and well-funded plot to use the highest court in the land to further rig the economic rules against everyday working people,” he said. “They hope to undercut the interests of millions of workers by depriving their unions of the funds they need to function.”
Pallotta cited past union victories, such as the overwhelming defeat of a state constitutional convention on the 2017 ballot, as evidence of the labor movement’s ability to weather the challenges ahead.
The convention featured an awards ceremony honoring members and union leaders for exceptional work. NYSUT acknowledged Anne Goldman, the UFT vice president for non-DOE members, with its “Not for Ourselves Alone: The Sandy Feldman Outstanding Leadership Award” for her groundbreaking work organizing nurses in New York City. Margaret Dalton-Diakite, the UFT’s paraprofessional coordinator for Manhattan, was one of NYSUT’s two School-Related Professionals of the Year.
Also, Alicia Schwartz, a member of the Federation of Nurses/UFT, was named Health Care Professional Member of the Year for her work in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria, and UFT Retired Teachers Chapter member Millie Glaberman was honored as one of the Retirees of the Year for her political action efforts.
The Representative Assembly is NYSUT’s highest policy-making body. The delegates approved a number of resolutions, including a special order of business expressing support for the Asociación de Maestros de Puerto Rico and other trade unions in their fight to save public education in Puerto Rico. Privatization advocates have seized on the devastation wrought on the island by Hurricane Maria to close public schools and erode teachers’ rights.
Evelyn DeJesus, the UFT vice president for education and a NYSUT board member, made a heartfelt plea for the resolution from the floor of the assembly.
“We’re saying enough is enough, no more!” DeJesus said. “This is inhuman and should not be allowed!”
The NYSUT delegates also approved a resolution declaring solidarity with graduate student workers at Columbia University, who staged a week-long strike in response to union-busting efforts by the university.