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September 2017

 

It's what we do: Standing up, speaking out, getting active
Sean Tvelia

 

FA members at Trump protest
On July 28 the FA joined a number of other unions and community coalitions to speak out about the presidential visit to the Grant Campus. Rallying dozens of FA members and holding the banner at center are FA Vice President Sean Tvelia (left) and President Kevin Peterman (right, in hat).

Being an academic unionist means there are no summers off. And that’s a good thing.

Sure, I like to hang out at the beach with my kids as much as anyone, but the need to come together and fight for the future of our union has never been more critical.

This summer was particularly busy from a union perspective, as FA leaders and activists were busy supporting union members’ need to express themselves and defend their rights.

Supporting our Teamsters colleagues

In mid-April, before we even dared dream of summer sunshine, our Teamsters colleagues at Clare Rose went on strike.

The FA was there on Friday, June 30, alongside numerous other unions affiliated with the Long Island Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, during a mass demonstration in East Yaphank outside the Clare Rose facility.

FA delivers donation to Clare Rose strikers
FA President Kevin Peterman, in red, presents a check to Teamsters Local 812 in support of their strike against Clare Rose. From left are local 812 Recording Secretary James Surdi, Kevin Peterman, Teamsters President Ed Weber, Suffolk County Comptroller John Kennedy and County Legislator Kevin McCaffrey.

As a result of working men and women banding together in solidarity, boycotting products distributed by Clare Rose and spreading the word, on July 14 the Teamsters announced they had won the strike with a tentative agreement. The contract preserved contributions to the workers’ pension plan and maintained their wages despite management’s original offer to slash both.

Here’s the best part about the Clare Rose strike, though: While plenty of Long Island workers showed up in support of the Teamsters, in the 82 days of the strike, not a single one of the 130 union members crossed the picket line.

Protesting the presidential visit

July 28 brought even more of our SCCC colleagues out to protest. This time it was the presidential visit to the Grant Campus. The FA was joined by the CUNY Professional Staff Congress, United College Employees of FIT, New York State United Teachers, the Long Island Federation of Labor and the Long Island Progressive Coalition.
Speaking to the crowd, FA President Kevin Peterman said:

This speech is a slap in the face to our diverse student body, who come to Suffolk to transform their lives. Rather than speaking for the working people he pretends to represent, President Trump instead decided to further an offensive and divisive political agenda.

The students at Suffolk, many who work two part-time jobs and have a full load of classes, and the professors who teach them, are raising their voices to say that Donald Trump’s hateful rhetoric has no place on campus.

Faculty brought signs and spoke with news media about their personal and professional motivations for protesting. Assistant professor of sociology Dr. Misty Curreli was interviewed by National Public Radio, whose reporter approached her because she was holding a sign asserting “My students are not criminals” in response to student fears of deportation.

liberty, justice, respect sign at Trump protest
A sign from the July 28 protest about the
presidential visit to the Grant Campus.


During her interview, Curreli noted that she came to the protest to show support and give voice to her extremely hardworking immigrant students. She said, “I personally know students who have stopped coming to school because they are undocumented and they find traveling to and from campus to be too risky. Even with reassurances that college campuses are relatively safe places, they cannot take the chance of being deported to a country that they either don’t know or fled from because of violence. This breaks my heart and it makes me afraid for their safety.”

Curreli went on to explain that she wants these students to know that their professors support them. No matter where they come from or what their citizenship status is, they deserve to be in our classrooms.

Susan DeMasi, Grant Campus librarian, was inter-viewed by NBC News Channel 4. She said, “I’m protesting his visit because I don’t think he really cares about our community—and I grew up in Brentwood so I take it a bit personally.”

Referring to the recent instances of violence by the MS-13 gang, DeMasi explained, “He’s exploiting the violence and the tragedies and using it to further his own racist agendas. I’m proud to stand with the union and so many others. The strong showing from our union members is inspiring.”

The FA applauds and supports all of our members’ speech about these important social issues, as long as they remain civil and respectful of others’ opinions.

Constitutional Convention: VOTE NO

Your FA leaders have also been busy this summer developing various means by which to spread the word about voting NO on Election Day this November on the New York State Constitutional Convention.

We’ve been working with New York State United Teachers on this and letting people know to visit this informational website: NoNewYorkConvention.org.

In addition, we are using VOTE/COPE funds to provide lawn signs, pins and car magnets that say “VOTE NO” on the convention. We ask for your help in spreading the word!

Proponents of the Constitutional Convention are selling it as a “people’s convention,” giving the impression that everyday New Yorkers will be serving as delegates to modernize our outdated constitution.

Nothing could be farther from the truth! At the last convention, the delegates were largely Albany political insiders and lobbyists because the same election laws apply. These delegates were double dipping because they got paid their government salary twice. Then, after all of their “hard work,” every single one of their proposed changes were voted down by the citizens of New York.

The total estimated minimum cost of a convention now is hundreds of millions of dollars. Is lining politicians’ pockets really the best way for us to spend that money? Clearly not.

New Yorkers VOTED NO on conventions in 1977 and 1997—and for good reason. We need to do the same in 2017.

Screening Suffolk County legislative candidates

Finally, in late August, our political action team spent several days screening the candidates for the Suffolk County Legislature. We met with over two dozen current candidates for the eighteen-member legislature on Tuesday, August 29, and Wednesday, August 30.

Our endorsements are always based on an incumbent candidate’s past support of education and labor or, for the non-incumbents, on their stated beliefs.
All endorsements are reviewed and approved by the Executive Council, as they were—unanimously—at our EC meeting on Thursday, August 31.

The full slate of endorsements will be announced in the October issue of The WORD for your consideration.

So that’s how we spent our summer vacation: working hard to represent and protect our members to the fullest extent.

legislative screenings 1 legislative screenings 2
On August 30, 2017, during our legislative screenings, Kevin Peterman, left, speaks with Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (center) and Legislator Rob Calarco (at right). Both photos are courtesy of Dante Morelli.
The FA Political Action Committee—the six officers plus Bruce Seger and Kim Ng Southard—meets with (head of table, from left) Legislators Kevin McCaffrey, Leslie Kennedy and Tom Muratore.