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December 2015

 

Looking forward
Kevin Peterman

 

kevin peterman
Kevin Peterman addresses attendees of the NYSUT Community College Luncheon, which included both SUNY community college presidents and NYSUT community college local presidents. (photo by Marty Kerins)

As we close out another year, let’s see how much progress we have made with our advocacy and activism.

The college had three groundbreakings: the Learning Resource Center at Grant in May and two in September: the Health and Wellness Center at the Eastern Campus and a STEM building at Grant. This was an amazing achievement for the college and our students.

Our involvement in last month’s elections was historic. Every candidate from the County Executive to all eighteen Suffolk County Legislators we endorsed won!

On November 13, before the start of the 37th Annual NYSUT Community College Conference in Cooperstown, there was a NYSUT Community College luncheon. The purpose of the working lunch was to bring administration and labor together to discuss the 2016-17 state budget.

first time attendees
First time attendees at the NYSUT Community College Conference included, clockwise from top left, Joan Wozniak (Media Services), Katelynn DeLuca (English), Fabio Montella (Library), Adela Johnson (Accounting) and, at center, Marcial Gallimore (Business). (photos by Marty Kerins)

All community college presidents, all community college union presidents, SUNY leadership and NYSUT officers were invited to participate. While not all invitees were able to attend, we did have the largest group we have ever had attending this annual event. The larger community colleges (both union and administrators) were there as well as Johanna Duncan-Poitier (SUNY’s Senior Vice Chancellor for Community Colleges) and NYSUT’s Executive VP Andy Pallotta, VP Catalina Fortino and Secretary-Treasurer Martin Messner.

At the luncheon, Dr. McKay and I spoke about the benefits of joining forces to increase awareness and funding from both the state and county. We gave examples and discussed our coalition with the building trades as well. After the luncheon Randall J. “Randy” VanWagoner, President of Mohawk Valley CC and chair of the New York Community Colleges Association of Presidents told Dr. McKay and me that he was committed to working together to advocate for additional support from New York state.

CC presidents group
Photos from the NYSUT Community College Luncheon, which included both SUNY community college presidents and NYSUT community college local presidents, are available here. (photo by Marty Kerins)

NYSUT has set up a Higher Ed Lobby Day for Thursday, February 25, and the college presidents said they would participate and make it a joint effort. We also agreed to involve our students in the advocacy day. As I’ve said before, they can tell their story better than we can. It is also an amazing experience for the students. Last year Suffolk had the only community college students participate on advocacy day: they not only told their stories, and they were empowered. It is no coincidence that one of last year’s students, Maria Gomes, is now the student trustee on the college’s BOT!
The FA is working with VP Chris Adams and our Student Government Associations to coordinate our efforts for February 25. If you know of students who can help us advocate, please let us know. This is a great opportunity for them and helps us all.

We don’t want to end with a negative, but there is some uncertainty in 2016 because there will be a defining moment for public sector unions next year. As was mentioned in the September issue of The WORD, there is a case before the Supreme Court: Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association and the decision will be rendered on or before June 30, 2016. NYSUT has clearly defined the issue:

alice obrien
At the NYSUT Community College Conference, National Education Association general counsel Alice O'Brien briefed attendees about the Friedrichs case. (photo by Marty Kerins)

A legal case now before the U.S. Supreme Court, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, poses a potential threat to the strength of public-sector unions nationwide. What’s at stake is the principle of “fair share”—that all who benefit from union representation should share fairly in the costs of that work. The benefits of that “work” are the higher salaries and benefits that unions negotiate, better working conditions, health and retirement benefits, etc.

As we move into 2016 our advocacy has paid off. We have much to be proud of as union members, as faculty and as members of SCCC.

Alice O'Brien, general counsel for the National Education Association, was the keynote speaker at the NYSUT Community College Conference.

Activism works!

The officers and your Executive Council reps wish you and yours a happy holiday and a healthy and happy new year!