Congratulations, Christine!

We are delighted to announce that Baldwin Reading Teacher Christine Pellegrino won Pellegrino-Family-300x200Tuesday’s special election in the 9th Assembly District.

Running as a progressive Democrat in an overwhelmingly Republican district, her candidacy was a longshot, but she prevailed thanks to tremendous support from NYSUT and other unions. Members from all around (including SWRTA) made phone calls, attended fundraisers, and canvased for Christine to help get out the vote and help voters see why she was the far better candidate to represent working people.

While it’s just a single seat in an Assembly with 150 members, make no mistake – this is a huge victory. It is a victory for teachers who now have a voice within the chamber, and it is a victory for unions – showing that we can still fight the good fight and prevail.

We are very proud of Christine and wish her tremendous success.

Phone Phright?

We frequently ask members to make phone calls to our elected officials, but we know that a lot of you have a great deal of apprehension about it. The following article, from Lifehacker.com, tells you how to get past that initial anxiety and get it done. Direct calls to legislators is one of the most effective tools we have, so please check it out.

 

If you have phone phobia, you’re not alone. (I’m a recovering member of the club myself.) If the situation in this country is making you anxious, calling your reps is both a step toward a solution, and a way to give yourself a small amount of control over something. But you have to be able to actually make the call.

 

Calling isn’t the only way to be heard, but it’s one of the most effective. How do you get up the nerve to call? Cordelia Dillon at Echo Through the Fog has a friendly cartoon guide to talk you through the process. First, you block off some time on your schedule, and keep that appointment with yourself. Then you write yourself a script. The guide suggests some words to use. My own calls tend to follow this format:

Hi, I’m [name], a constituent from [place]. I’m calling to ask [Congressperson’s name] to vote [Yes/No] on [bill] because [reason].

The reason can include a personal story, or just your opinion on the most important thing about the bill. You can even skip that part if you’re not feeling up to it. If there’s no vote coming up, replace that part with “to speak out against [bad thing]” or to co-sponsor a certain bill, or whatever you want them to do. If the member of Congress you’re calling has recently done a good thing, feel free to use this:

 
 

Hi, I’m [name], a constituent from [place]. I want to thank [Congressperson’s name] for standing up for us by [thing they did].

You get the idea. I’ve never had to say anything more than my prepared speech, except to answer a question or two like:

  • What is your zip code?
  • Would you like to leave your full address so we can send you a response?

Say goodbye, and you’re done. I also like to thank the staffer for their time, especially on days I know they’re getting a lot of heat.

Is this sounding a little more doable? Dillon reminds us that it’s okay if you sound nervous. Your job isn’t to put on a perfect performance for the staffer, it’s to get your message through. As she says: “They get a lot of calls, so they don’t have time to judge you for how well you delivered your message.”

Supporting Teamsters Local 812

SWRTA members came out today to lend support to the striking truck drivers and warehouse workers of Teamsters Local 812.  As Clare Rose looks to cut salaries, eliminate pensions, and break their union, we stood up to say that we will not sit on the sidelines when hardworking men and women are having their futures and livelihoods threatened for no other reason than to add to a corporation’s bottom line.

Clare Rose Picketing

Reminder – we’re asking everyone to wear red tomorrow, (preferably your SWRTA shirt) even if you’re not joining us on the picket line. NYSUT has declared May 1st a National Day of Action. It is also International Workers Day, as well as Loyalty Day in the United States. And of course, it’s ALWAYS a good day to show support for public education.

More Information About Picketing
SWRTA will be supporting Clare Rose workers between 2:30 and 5:30 tomorrow (May 1st). Erin Schmalzle, SWRTA Grievance VP, will be the point person until around 4:30. I hope to be there from around 3:30 to to the end.

We currently have just shy of 20 people who’ve responded positively. Since a good number of them are only able to stay for a short while, we’d love to get at least another 5-10 folks to make sure we have a continuous, solid presence.  If you haven’t already done so, please reply to say you’ll join us (or just show up).

Picketing is on the West side of William Floyd Parkway, immediately South of the Expressway. Turn right onto Rose Executive Blvd. You can park along that road or in the Police Station lot (that link was incorrect in yesterday’s email. It’s now fixed.)

BRING THE KIDS!
A few people asked if it’s okay to bring kids. Not only is it okay, it’s very much encouraged. It’s good bonding time, it’s a great learning opportunity, and having kids there is a reminder that, ultimately, all of our union work has a tremendous impact on the next generation.

SIGNS
A lot of people also asked about making signs. You definitely don’t need to, but it’s a good idea. Here are some ideas:

  • Union Busting Is Disgusting
  • SWRTA Supports Teamsters Local 812
  • Clare Rose Hurts Working Families
  • Tell Clare Rose To Not Cut Workers Pay and Benefits
  • Teachers Standing With Teamsters
  • SWRTA Stands with Teamsters Local 812
  • End the War on Workers

BOYCOTT
Again, for the duration of the strike, please don’t purchase any beer distributed by Clare Rose.

LATEST STRIKE NEWS

Supporting Teamsters Local 812

Thank you to everyone who has responded so far about joining us on Monday to picket Clare Rose in support of Teamsters Local 812.

Why is it so important that we do this? There is one main reason, along with a number of additional benefits.

First and foremost, this is what unions are all about. Union members look out for one another, and when one is being mistreated, we stand together and say “this is not acceptable.” There is safety in numbers – and there is strength and power. Think of it as the grown-up version of the anti-bullying messages we give our students: be an up-stander, not a bystander.

Last year, when Verizon was threatening to freeze pensions, gut job protections, and force some workers to work away from home for up to two months at a time., many other unions – including ours – stood with them. (click the image below for more pictures).

The result was that wages were increased, pensions and protections were maintained, and previous work rules were upheld. There’s never one single factor that causes an employer to reach a fair agreement, but pressure from the outside (including other unions and the general public) can be a valuable asset for striking workers.

Exactly a year later, we have the chance to help again. What Clare Rose is trying to do is completely abhorrent and we need to support our brothers and sisters.

In addition to the above, there are some additional reasons why we really want to have a good presence on Monday.

It builds support with other unions – Let’s face it, teachers unions have a big target on us these days. When we’re out there supporting other unions, we’re generating positive feelings among other unionists that will come back to us in the future (we heard this A LOT from CWA workers last year)

It’s in our own interest – Every union fight affects us all. If Clare Rose succeeds in breaking this union, it is one step closer to an overall reduction in union strength in this state and this country. This will have very dire consequences for us in the not-too-distant future.

It just feels good – When you’re walking on another unions’ picket line, the one thing that you’ll hear over and over is how much your presence is appreciated. These folks are in a rough place right now, not getting an income and being very unsure what the future holds. If our presence gives them a little mental boost and helps them feel they have support, then that alone should be worth the half hour or so of your time.

So please, join us on Monday, any time between 2:30 and 5:30. Stay for as little as 10 minutes or for as long as you like. The picketing is on William Floyd Parkway, JUST south of the L.I.E.

You don’t have to RSVP, but it would help to get a sense of how many folks are coming if you can reply to this email.

Tomorrow I’ll be sending out details about where to park, what to write on signs if you decide you’d like to make one, and updates about the strike.

Finally, if you’re a beer drinker, please boycott products distributed by Clare Rose until the strike is settled.

Strike Alert

As you may have heard, drivers and warehouse workers at Clare Rose (distributor of Budweiser and quite a few other beer brands) launched a strike on Sunday. This is in response to a contract proposal that would slash wages by 30% and eliminate pensions for some workers.

As with last year’s Verizon strike, there’s a lot a stake here. The company is threatening to “permanently replace” the workers, a move that would have serious repercussions, and further weaken the position of all unions – including ours.

Also as with last year’s Verizon strike, it is critical that other unions (including ours) come out and show support for the striking workers. NYSUT has already begun to have a presence, and they are asking locals to take part.

We’ll be reaching out soon with information on how you can help. Please stay tuned.

2017-18 State Budget Summary

The New York State Legislature finally reached an agreement on a state budget last week, a little more than a week past the deadline. This was the latest budget during Governor Cuomo’s time in office (although quite shy of the 2-4 month late budgets of the late ’90s and early 00’s). You can click here to see the final bill and get an understanding of why it is referred to as “The Big Ugly.”

The following is a top-line look at some of the key issues. For more detail, please see NYSUT’s detailed summary (from which this post was excerpted and modified).  For the sake of comparison, if you want to look back at what NYSUT was advocating for and what the individual houses were proposing, please see this prior post.

School Aid

  • The budget includes an increase of $1 billion in school aid, which includes an increase of $700 million in Foundation Aid and fully funds expense based aids. This is far less than is needed just to maintain everything at last year’s level.
  • The proposal to eliminate the Foundation Aid Formula was defeated.

Millionaires’ Tax

  • The Millionaire’s tax was extended for two years, without any progressive expansion.

Teacher Centers

  • Funding for Teacher Centers was restored and increased by $5.74 million, for a total of $20 million.

Charter Schools

  • The proposal to eliminate or increase the charter cap was defeated, as was the proposal to unfreeze charter school tuition rates which would have provided these schools with hundreds of millions of dollars.
  • The proposal to require school districts to reimburse charters for costs related to the employment of school-related professionals such as: nurses, food service workers and others was rejected ($124 million).
  • Charters will receive an additional $500 in funding per pupil in 2017-18 that will be paid in the first instance by the resident school district but is fully reimbursable by the state in the following school year. After 2017-18, per pupil charter school tuition payment increases are linked to the growth in per pupil spending in each school district, which is not be reimbursable by the State.

Tax Cap

  • There was no change to the Tax Cap law.

“Free College”

  • The final budget includes something that the Governor is touting as a major accomplishment, but critics say is just a gimmick to boost his progressive credentials in preparation for a 2020 Presidential run: Free tuition at SUNY and CUNY schools. Undoubtedly it will be a big help to many students who might not otherwise be able to attend college, but the program is extremely flawed, as described in this piece at Slate.com.

Union Dues Deduction

  • Union Dues may now be deducted from income for calculating State Income Tax. Previously, union dues could be included under miscellaneous deductions, which had to exceed 2% of adjusted gross income (this is still the case for Federal Income Tax). This will open the deduction up to many more people, but still only to those who itemize rather than taking the standard deduction. Estimated savings for those who can take advantage is somewhere around $75.

FOIL

  • The changes to the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) that would have made collective bargaining agreements subject to FOIL prior to their ratification by union members were not included in the budget.

NYSHIP Retiree Health Insurance Benefits

  • The Enacted Budget rejected the proposal to eliminate the reimbursement of Medicare Part B premium rates for NYSHIP retirees, as was the Income Related Monthly Adjustment Amounts (IRMAA). The Enacted Budget also preserves NYSHIP retirees’ individual (and their dependents) share of their health insurance cost, based upon their years of service and grade-level as a state employee.

Governor’s Right to Modify Budget

  • Because of the uncertainty stemming from the Federal budget proposed by the President, the State budget includes language allows the Governor to modify and limit state spending once the Federal budget is solidified. In that situation, the Legislature has ninety days to pass their own plan, and if after ninety days, the Legislature has not acted, the plan developed by the governor and the division of the budget will be put into place.