The annual GNTA Retirement reception was held on Wednesday, May 29 at Westbury Manor. President James Daszenski, the GNTA Executive Board, building BRC chairs and colleagues from all buildings in the district were joined by District administration and members of the Board of Education to toast and celebrate the retirement of many stalwart Great Neck lifers. We wish our colleagues well (without any jealousy!) as they prepare for a life without lesson planning, grading and early wakeup calls.
by Dana Milbank, The Washington Post
Something funny happened on the way to the labor movement’s funeral.
When Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. and his antilabor colleagues on the Supreme Court handed down the Janus v. AFSCME decision last June, unions braced for the worst. The American Federation of Teachers expected it might lose 30 percent of its revenue after the high court gave public-sector workers the right to be free riders, benefiting from union representation but paying nothing.
Instead, the 1.7 million-member union added 88,500 members since Janus — more than offsetting the 84,000 “agency-fee payers” it lost because of the Supreme Court ruling. And the union has had a burst of energy. There has been a surge of high-profile strikes by teachers’ unions in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona, Los Angeles and elsewhere. Rallies, pickets and local campaigns mushroomed by the hundreds. The union has tallied 11 organizing wins since Janus, tripled its “member engagement” budget from 2014 and nearly doubled the number of voters it contacted in 2018.
“Alito put his thumb on the scales of justice for the anti-union ideologues,” says Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. “It was a wake-up call to everyone. Everybody got engaged.”
Labor leaders ought to thank Alito — and send chocolates to the Koch brothers for bankrolling the anti-union court case. Their brazen assault, combined with President Trump’s hostility toward labor, has generated a backlash, invigorating public-sector unions and making a case for the broader labor movement to return to its roots and embrace a more militant style.
Unions had become ossified, serving as member-service organizations that offered workplace representation and collective-bargaining assistance but not much fire. Now, the existential threat posed by Janus hasn’t materialized — membership has held steady — and, instead, has spurred a renewal of activism.
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees feared it could lose 30 percent of its revenue. Instead, the AFSCME reports that for every member becoming a free rider since Janus, it has gained seven new members. It has continued to notch organizing wins (220 since July 2016, resulting in more than 22,000 newly organized members). It has also trained more than 25,000 activists over the past three years to spread the union gospel.
“Folks were writing our obituary. They thought this was going to be our death knell. They failed,” Lee Saunders, AFSCME’s president, crows. “They overreached. Now we’ve got the momentum. We’re organizing like never before.”
Back in February, when the case was argued, I suggested the justices beware the unintended consequences of their actions, lest they revive labor militancy. Alito expressed no such worry. In his scornful majority opinion that jettisoned decades of precedent, he dismissed the “loss of payments” that would be “unpleasant” for unions.
Now, in the wake of Janus, we see that there wasn’t as much anti-union sentiment in the workforce as right-wing groups supposed. Many of the agency-fee payers, the ones whose free speech was allegedly compromised because they were “forced to subsidize a union,” as Alito put it, have become full members of unions instead of quitting. AFSCME reports that 310,000 former agency-fee payers have converted to full membership since 2014. (The anti-union plaintiff in the AFSCME case, Mark Janus, who before the ruling said “I love my job,” quit his state-government job right after the decision and joined a conservative think tank.)
Rank-and-file members, meanwhile, perceiving the threat to the union, have become more aggressive in recruitment. Workplace units have organically launched everything from social media campaigns and town-hall meetings to civil disobedience and full-blown strikes. And union bosses (who had years to prepare while Janus and a predecessor case worked their way through the courts) redirected resources from member services toward organizing, engagement and high-impact community campaigns.
The overall result: Instead of the feared 30 percent drop in membership, public-sector unions held their own in 2018, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported last week. There was a total decline of just 83,000, or 0.7 percent.
Labor is still a long way from healthy, and more legal threats could blunt the renewed momentum. Lawsuits attempting to force unions to refund agency-fee payers retroactively could be ruinous. But the renewed energy following Janus points the way forward for labor: Success is to be found not in reinvention but in returning to its combative origins.
“The Koch brothers and their team . . . expected us to hide under the bed and shake in our shoes,” Lily Eskelen García, president of the National Education Association, tells me. Instead, “We stood up on soapboxes and stages and painted picket signs.”
The NEA had projected a loss of as many as 200,000 members, based on previous drop-membership campaigns. Instead, the 3 million-member union is actually up 13,935 members year over year — and the increase in membership among new teachers is particularly encouraging.
Credit the Kochs, and Alito, for that. Says García: “They shook us out of some complacency.”
ALBANY — State legislators approved a bill on Wednesday to alter New York’s teacher-evaluation process, continuing a fast pace set by the newly minted Democratic majority in the Senate.
Along with teacher evaluations, the Senate and the Assembly approved the so-called “Dream Act,” which would allow state college-aid programs to cover children of adults who are in the country illegally. The Senate also passed a measure Wednesday to make the state’s 2 percent property-tax cap permanent, but the Assembly hasn't approved it.
The teacher bill was not only a high-profile issue in the 2018 legislative session in Albany but also a factor in union campaign spending to successfully end Republican control of the Senate.
The bill would end the mandate that ties teacher evaluations to students’ scores on certain standardized tests. But even supporters acknowledged it doesn’t completely unlink exams and evaluations, leaving 50 percent of a teacher’s appraisal to some measure of student performance. That prompted some critics to say the bill would have little practical impact.
The exact measures would be a subject of school board and teachers’ union bargaining. Supporters said the bill, at minimum, puts the issue back in local officials’ hands. “We are returning evaluations to local control and saying the use of assessments will be best determined at the local level,” said Sen. Shelly Mayer (D-Yonkers), sponsor of the bill. At issue is a 2015 law, championed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, that required 50 percent of teachers' annual job ratings to be based on their students’ test scores on state standardized tests. But the fact that half of an instructor’s appraisal will be based on some sort of test or assessment had some lawmakers grumbling that the bill was less than advertised.
“I liken it to the Charlie Brown cartoon where right as he is about to kick the ball, it gets taken away,” Assemb. Edward Ra (R-Franklin Square) said during the Assembly debate.
Others said any bill ending the link between assessments and evaluations would be likely to be vetoed by Cuomo. So they voted for this one, saying it’s the best practical step they could take.
“Let’s face it, if we completely repeal [the law], the governor will never stand for it and we could be moving on to something worse,” said Assemb. Andrew Raia (R-Huntington).
Sen. Andrew Lanza (R-Staten Island) called the bill “making another mistake” and Sen. Robert Jackson (D- Bronx) vowed to introduce a bill to change the 50 percent requirement. But they voted for the bill.
The Senate approved it, 60-0; the Assembly, 125-6. Assemb. Michael Fitzpatrick (R-St. James) and Ra were the two Long Island representatives who opposed it. A Cuomo aide said the governor's budget proposal, unveiled last week, includes a teacher-evaluation initiative that matches the changes contained in the Senate-Assembly bill.
Andy Pallotta, head of the influential New York State United Teachers, referenced the 2018 elections in applauding legislators: “After some lawmakers turned their backs on New York teachers the last legislative session, our members stood up, raised our voices and sent them packing. Now, we have consensus on the need to x this system.”
A leader of the “opt-out” test boycott movement said the bill, if signed by Cuomo, would have little impact.
“This absolutely doesn’t remove standardized testing from the evaluation system,” said Jeanette Deutermann, of Bellmore, chief organizer of Long Island Opt Out, a regional network of parents and educators.
“We’re not saying it has to be absolutely removed, but 50 percent is absolutely too high,” she said.
The bill to make the state's 2 percent property-tax cap permanent sailed through the Senate, 59-2. There was virtually no debate, with only a few senators speaking in favor and voting quickly.
"The purpose of this bill is to give taxpayers some certainty," said Sen. James Gaughran (D-Northport), the bill's sponsor. He said the cap "isn't perfect" and his long-term goal is to boost state aid to schools "so as to reduce the reliance on the property tax, because it is regressive."
The Assembly had no immediate plans Wednesday to follow suit on the tax cap, but Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) said it's not a sign the bill is dead. He said Democrats who control the chamber are discussing the proposal. Others suggested it could be lumped in with adoption of a state budget or changes in rent-control laws.
Cuomo successfully shepherded the tax cap through the legislature in 2011, his first year in office. It requires a 60 percent “supermajority” vote for any school district or local government board to raise annual property taxes more than 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower. The law does contain some exceptions for local economic growth that don’t count against the cap. Since its implementation, 2 percent overrides have been rare.
Rather than make it permanent, lawmakers have always renewed it a few years at a time. It is set to expire in 2020 but typically has been linked, for practical political purposes, with rent-control laws, which expire this year.
From the files of "don't shoot the messenger," The Empire Plan has adjusted some of the copay fees that we pay out-of-pocket, and raised the level of our combined annual deductibles. Happy New Year.
Some key changes to note:
In-network doctor's visit now has a $25 copay.
In-network urgent care visit now has a $30 copay.
Emergency Department visit now has a $100 copay.
Enrollee combined annual deductible $1250, per dependent.
If you’re an educator who had your federal TEACH Grant converted into an interest-bearing loan, you may be eligible for debt relief. The Education Department announced a plan in December to give teachers a second chance to have their loans converted back into grants if they can prove they met the program’s teaching requirements.
“What a relief,” said Morgan Jackson, a special education teacher in the Medina School District, who was slated to begin repaying nearly $17,400 in converted loans in January. After successfully submitting her TEACH Grant paperwork for the past two years, in June the Medina Teachers Association member was told her paperwork submission was one-day late, which automatically converted her grants to loans. Her requests for reconsideration fell on deaf ears.
“Thank you to everyone who spoke up and fought this battle,” she said. “I’m forever grateful.”
TEACH Grants require educators to submit paperwork annually for four years certifying that they teach in a low-income school. However, the paperwork is notoriously confusing and if participants submitted it late, or had missing information, they saw their grants converted into loans.
For details, visit www.studentaid.gov/teach-reconsideration.
According to labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta, unions matter much more than most of us think.
“I think young people are skeptical of unions because they don’t know what unions are,” she explained. “The reason that young people don’t understand about labor is because we don’t teach labor studies in our schools. Young people don’t know how did we get the eight-hour day? How did we get the weekends? How did we get unemployment insurance? Disability insurance? How did we get public education? Social Security? Safety standards? These are the benefits that working people have, that were fought for by labor unions and people who died to get these benefits.”
Huerta is a lifelong activist for workers’ civil rights. Alongside Cesar Chavez, she helped organize the 1965 Delano grape strike, which brought national attention to the plight of farm workers. Through her life, she has remained a strong critic of inequality.
“Working people are the majority of the people in our United States of America,” she said. “Labor unions are the ones that really create the middle class. If we eliminate the middle class, then we don’t have a real democracy, because the majority of people in the United States are workers.
WATCH THE VIDEO BELOW:
Property tax levy growth for local governments with fiscal years that close on Dec. 31 will be capped at 2 percent for the 2019 fiscal year, according to State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. This figure affects the tax cap calculations for all counties, towns, fire districts, 44 cities and 10 villages.
"For these local governments, allowable levy growth will be 2 percent for the first time since 2013," DiNapoli said. "Despite the possibility of increased tax revenue, municipal budgets will still be vulnerable to rising fixed costs and potential federal funding cuts. Local officials should proceed cautiously when crafting their spending plans for next year."
The tax cap, which first applied to local governments in 2012, limits tax levy increases to the lesser of the rate of inflation or 2 percent with some exceptions, including a provision that allows municipalities to override the tax cap.
During the 2014 through 2018 fiscal years, municipalities with a fiscal year ending on Dec. 31 had their levy growth capped at less than 2 percent.
For a list of allowable levy growth factors for all local governments, visit: http://www.osc.state.ny.us/localgov/realprop/pdf/inflation_allowablegrowthfactors.pdf
Find out how your government money is spent at Open Book New York. Track municipal spending, the state's 145,000 contracts, billions in state payments and public authority data. Visit the Reading Room for contract FOIL requests, bid protest decisions and commonly requested data.
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Wednesday dealt a major blow to organized labor. By a 5-to-4 vote, with the more conservative justices in the majority, the court ruled that government workers who choose not to join unions may not be required to help pay for collective bargaining.
There was a feeling of strength and unity at the RA in Buffalo this past April. NYSUT and its members came together after numerous victories in a transformative year for many locals. Locals achieved success in asserting political action with a no vote for the Constitutional Convention and in engaging members in anticipation of the Janus decision. NYSUT Executive Vice President Andy Pallotta’s announcement that the Assembly introduced Bill A10475 rallied the Delegates. If approved by the Senate, A10475 would overhaul the state’s current evaluations system and would prohibit state officials from requiring state test scores in teacher rating systems. Pallotta urged Delegates to be proud and strong and continue the fight, “We have to fight and make sure everyone’s with us. We need to start calling and sending faxes and asking members of the Senate, Where are you on this bill?” Pallotta assured Delegates that the new bill preserves the key elements of local control. He explained, “If you have something you like, you can keep it. If you don’t like it, you can create something new.” Use the link to see the full text of Bill A10475.
Delegates’ strength and union pride were praised and encouraged by invited guests.
New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli spoke about the value of public education, “Public education is the pathway to the middle class. It is the door to economic security and a successful life, and teachers hold the key.” DiNapoli warned it is time to fight back against attacks on public employees, on the DeVos agenda, and on those working to dismantle defined benefit plans. He assured delegates, “It is time to stand up, and I will stand with you.” Mario Cilento, President of the New York State AFL-CIO, urged members to build upon the momentum, “Labor is under attack like never before. We have to speak with our members, not to them, so they become educated and then mobilize. If we do this together, with a strategy that makes sense, we will be successful and members will know their voices matter.”
The RA is NYSUT’s annual policymaking convention and it was action-packed. Delegates approved 27 resolutions, five special orders of business and referred 14 resolutions to the NYSUT Board of Directors for further action. One resolution failed. There were a number of resolutions against state testing. Delegates approved one resolution demanding they slow down the rush to computer-based testing calling for the SED to provide research-based studies on the validity of the computer testing. In another testing matter Delegates called for SED and the Board of Regents to adopt a clear policy prohibiting schools from punishing or stigmatizing students whose parents opt them out of testing. Other resolutions were related to higher education, health and safety, pensions/retirement, social justice, political action and civil rights. A full list of resolutions can be found at the ink below.
Note: Some information from this article was gathered from the NYSUT Website.
The Building Rep as Organizer
(This workshop is part of the building rep core curriculum)
In these times, internal organizing is probably the most important job
of a union representative. This workshop will help union leaders and
representatives to increase and refine their member engagement skills in
order to build the locals capacity and power. Included will be training
on one-on-one conversations, data collection, leadership identification,
and how to resolve workplace problems using organizing tactics.
Tuesday, July 24, 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM
Nassau Regional Office Conference Center
1000 Woodbury Rd., Suite 214
Woodbury, NY 11797
Members can register for this workshop at the following link:
The registration deadline is Friday, July 20, 2018
Experts from NYSUTs Research & Education Services depart will provide
information and guidance to teachers and teaching assistants dealing
with New York States increasing complex certification requirements.
Following a general presentation, attendees will have the opportunity to
have individual meetings with our presenters to discuss their particular
Tuesday, August 14, 2018
Nassau Regional Office Conference Center
9:00 AM - 12:00 PM
1000 Woodbury Road - Suite 214
Woodbury, New York 11797
Members can register for this workshop at the following link:
The registration deadline is Friday August 10, 2018
Keeping Accurate Membership Records Workshop
One of the things we learned in doing our member re-enrollment campaign this year is that there are often glaring discrepancies between the membership records maintained by locals and NYSUT. Member records errors can result in problems on many levels – locals being assessed inaccurate dues amounts, difficulty contacting members in emergency situations and, perhaps most important of all in the post-Janus era, potential legal liability for your local and NYSUT if dues are withheld from people you thought were members, but in fact aren’t. This workshop will provide training on membership record keeping best practices to help you avoid unnecessary problems and keep your local running at peak efficiency.
Thursday, July 19, 2018
Nassau Regional Office Conference Center
1:30 PM to 3:30 PM
You can register for the conference at the following link:
Registration deadline is Tuesday, July 17th, 2018
On Wednesday, May 23, the GNTA held its annual retirement dinner to celebrate its members as they are about to end their careers and education and are about to start new chapters to their lives. As always, BRC, BCG and SDM building chairs were invited to attend the reception at Westbury Manor as our guests, with thanks for their service to the union.