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December 2017


Major victories!
Kevin Peterman


FA contract provides invaluable benefits for our members
The FA contract provides invaluable benefits for our members.

By now you all know that the Constitutional Convention was rejected by a staggering majority: 83% of voters voted no! Every county in New York defeated the call for a Constitutional Convention. Voter turnout was higher than the estimated 20% turnout for an off-year election. There was nothing off year about it; there was too much at stake. As a result labor turned out in force to make their voices heard.

No one predicted such a victory. According to a NYSUT polling in June 2016, 68 percent of voters polled said they supported a Constitutional Convention. In April 2017 it was 59 percent, then 45 percent in September. Finally on Election Day only 17 percent of voters actually voted in favor of a convention.

How was this possible?

NYSUT, along with other labor groups, began a year-long, member-to-member campaign to educate members and their families about the possible issues associated with opening up the Constitution. Hundreds of NYSUT members, many of them retirees, called members throughout the state to educate and mobilize them to vote and to vote no on the proposal for a Constitutional Convention.

On Long Island more than 70,000 calls were made. In Rochester and Western New York, more than 20,000 were made by each region. In smaller districts like the North Country, Elmira and Utica, thousands of calls were also made.

There were over 200 coalition partners working to defeat the proposal as well as radio ads, television commercials and multiple mail pieces targeting the general public. It was an all-out effort and it was, in my opinion, the most successful effort by labor in many years. It gave me hope!

It showed that despite the major political issues mounting against labor, teachers and public employees, we can win—when we work together.

And win we did. As the result of a much larger voter turnout, several endorsed candidates won: George Latimer, supported by the Westchester CC Federation of Teachers and the Yonkers Federation of Teachers, defeated the incumbent Rob Astorino for County Executive. In the Nassau County Executive race, which was an open seat, the close election was won by Laura Curran who defeated former State Senator Jack Martins. Curran was supported by our colleagues at Nassau Community College Federation of Teachers.

That too gives me hope! And we need it.

In 2018 the U.S. Supreme Court will rule on Janus v. AFSCME. Here’s a general timeline:

  • September 28, 2017: Supreme Court agrees to hear Janus
  • End of December 2017: Briefs due
  • February 2018: Oral arguments begin
  • April to June 2018: Decision issued

This decision could be a major blow to public sector unions and their ability to collect dues and represent their members. According to NYSUT President Andy Pallotta, the attacks are coming from various sources:

If they win we need to make sure all faculty realize that being a member of a union—the Faculty Association—gives us the contract and all the benefits we appreciate:

  • Salary
  • Sick and personal time
  • Seniority
  • Due process
  • Promotions and sabbaticals
  • Professional development funds
  • Longevity
  • Continuing appointment.

Why do I worry about this? Because it is happening in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois. There will be groups trying to destroy unions in New York too. They will have “opt out” campaigns to convince faculty to leave the union. Going forward we face a big challenge. We need to keep the union strong and we will do it!

In March the FA will have a retreat for our Executive Council members and interested faculty to discuss organizing efforts. In addition NYSUT will have a Member Organizing Institute on Long Island to train organizers, and the FA leadership will be there!

Despite the potential for a loss in members, I’m convinced faculty know the benefit of a strong, organized and effective union. Collectively, we worked together, built coalitions, educated our members and won big in November.

We will all come together again to keep this union strong.

In 2018 we will begin planning for 2019 contract negotiations and

  • Hold departmental meetings on each campus to seek member input
  • Host public forums
  • Conduct surveys on contract suggestions
  • Solicit member-to-member input
  • Develop a contract negotiations committee with broad representation
  • Negotiate a successful collective bargaining agreement (CBA)

There is no doubt that 2018 will be challenging, but we are a mature, seasoned, strong union and we will work together to keep this union strong.

In my 35+ years as a union leader, I’ve never been more ready for the challenges ahead.

For the union makes us strong.

And activism works!