While I would love to believe that these things couldn’t happen in New York, we’re seeing alarming evidence that they can. Two cases in point:
- The Attack on the Triborough Amendment: As you’re well aware, the Taylor Law prohibits New York public employees’ unions from striking during a protracted series of contract negotiations. To keep the playing field level, the Triborough Amendment protects us by ensuring that all the terms of an expired contract remain in effect (including raises built in to existing salary schedules) until a successor agreement is ratified. Many voices are calling upon the governor and the state legislators to abolish the Triborough Amendment, reasoning that it reduces the motivation of unions to bargain in good faith. There is currently a bill in the Assembly to this effect: at present, it has only one sponsor and two co-sponsors. However, the clamor continues.
- The Attack on Teacher Tenure: Two lawsuits have been filed in New York State seeking to abolish teacher tenure on the grounds that they deny students the right to a sound basic education. The first, brought by the New York City Parents Union on July 3 and the second, Wright v. New York (supported by former CNN anchor Campbell Brown) on July 28, are being combined in the courts.
What is NYSUT doing about these assaults? Your VOTE-COPE money is used by NYSUT for political action: to identify and support candidates for state office who agree with NYSUT positions on these two issues (among others) as well as to support lobbying efforts by NYSUT, particularly in the legislature. As for the lawsuits, State Supreme Court Justice Philip Minardo recently granted a motion by NYSUT to intervene in the defense of current teacher tenure rules. Many people feel that the suits will not be successful here in New York...but should they fail, the next step will surely be to seek legislation to weaken or abolish teacher tenure protection, which brings us back to lobbying.
What is GNTA doing? For many years, we’ve actively participated in lobbying: Vice President Jennifer Snyder has been our representative to Albany on the “Committee of 100." Political Action Chairs Michelle Sorise and Patti Crisafulli have organized a number of initiatives for GNTA members in the last couple of years; they also work to create partnerships with other locals as well as community members. Finally, as your President, I’ve met several times with our local legislators to discuss matters of concern to us as educators.
But NYSUT and GNTA are nothing without our members. Our strength is in direct proportion to your visibility when it comes to issues affecting teachers. And so, this year, we ask you to do at least one thing to make your voice heard politically. Details about our Do One Thing campaign can be found on gnteachers.net. The stakes for our profession—in fact, for public education—have never been higher, and we are all responsible for our future.