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April 2017

Collaboration
Kevin Peterman

 

The FA strongly urges members to vote NO to the Constitutional Convention this November. Learn more in this article and at NoNewYorkConvention.org.

As we approach the end of another successful semester we need to continue to warn you of the concerns we are facing. Like it or not there are forces working to change the system as we know it. 
 
As I mentioned last month—and I feel it needs repeating because Election Day is not that far away—we need to start focusing on the most important item on the ballot: the Constitutional Convention. 
 
It is more important than the candidates on the ballot. Our local county legislators will also be on the ballot and we will be voting for those candidates as well. But the vote on whether we will have a Constitutional Convention will have long-term consequences and it must be defeated!

Why? According to NYSUT’s fact sheet:

Under the New York State Constitution (Article 19, §2), the people of the Empire State are asked every 20 years a seemingly simple ballot question: “Shall there be a convention to revise the constitution and amend same?” These 12 simple words will appear on the top of the ballot on Nov. 7, 2017, and could have a huge impact on NYSUT members and every citizen of the state. 
 
The Constitution establishes the fundamental rights we enjoy as citizens of New York State:

  • Guaranteeing the right to a free public education (Article 11, §1)
  • Prohibiting reductions in public pension benefits (Article 5, §7)
  • Rights to workers compensation (Article 1, §18)
  • Rights to be a member of a union and bargain collectively (Article §17)
  • Requiring that the state provide for social welfare needs (Article 27, §1)

So this November we will be working to defeat the call for a Constitutional Convention and we will be working to elect our endorsed county legislators.
 
To be successful we need to collaborate with our K-12 colleagues, other higher education locals, all our brothers and sisters in the labor movement and our family and friends. We need to make everyone aware as to what is at stake. It will not be easy. As noted by Sue DeMasi's article about the Con Con in this issue, there is big money supporting a Constitutional Convention.
 

On April 6, FA President Kevin Peterman, second from right, joined recently elected NYSUT President Andrew Pallotta, left, and other union activists at the LIU Brooklyn rally. (photo by Raymond Hodges)

We will need to be more involved. We will need more members and friends speaking out to make our voices heard. We need to do more to help others who are being challenged like we did in the beginning of April in Brooklyn.

Several NYSUT officers and faculty joined LIU Brooklyn faculty and students demanding that LIU management bargain in good faith and settle the contract with its faculty. It was not fun. It was cold and rainy and yet, despite the terrible weather, we knew in order to prevail we need to collaborate to keep the rights we have all worked for all these years. Last September LIU Brooklyn locked out the faculty for one week. The lock out ended because there was a similar demonstration to the one we just had in April. Through collaboration we made a difference.
 
As most of you know, the proposed health and wellness facility at the Eastern Campus was in jeopardy last month. The construction bids for the facility were $4 million above what was in the capital budget for the project. Timing was critical because capital projects for SCCC are funded 50% by Suffolk County and 50% by New York State. 

The Health and Wellness Center on the Eastern Campus will provide the only public indoor pool on the East End; funding efforts were successful thanks to the collaboration of unionists, college administration and county and state elected officials.

In order to get the $2 million of additional money in this year’s state budget, the county first needed to commit its $2 million share. That was only possible if the county passed the funding at its April 4 meeting. Since this needed to be done quickly, the county executive needed to issue a certificate of necessity on April 4; when a resolution is introduced with one, it needs twelve votes to pass.
 
The resolution, IR 1266 (the additional funding for the health and wellness building), did pass. It was not easy; it took the collaboration of county and state legislators, town supervisors, Long Island Federation of Labor leaders, college and FA leaders and good old-fashioned advocacy.
 
In order to complete the process, the state needed to appropriate its $2 million share. So on Sunday, April 8, as the state budget was being finalized, Senator LaValle and Assemblyman Thiele advocated for the needed state funding. Again, with collaboration we made a difference.
 
This June the county will be voting on SCCC’s 2017-18 operating budget. We will again need to advocate and collaborate to get the appropriate funding for the college and its students.
 
We need to work, advocate and collaborate to retain the benefits we worked so hard for, to get the appropriate funding needed for SCCC and to stop attempts to dismantle collective bargaining rights.
 
Activism works!