Charged-up delegates get ready to make policy

The convention floor, a few hours before the start of Representative Assembly 2014.

On many street corners in Manhattan right now, you can find someone hawking the ubiquitous black umbrella for $5. Buyers are seeking protection from the rain, just as NYSUT members descending on the city for the start of the 42nd Representative Assembly are seeking the protection that their union provides.

Attacks on public education, gross underfunding, anti-union propaganda and the growing gap between the rich and the poor are propelling delegates through the revolving hotel doors to take action at the RA. Teachers, School-Related Professionals, retirees, health care workers, school librarians, social workers and other delegates are gathering strong in lobbies to register for the convention, get their badges and get to work voting on resolutions and taking action in support of schools, students, laborers and those in need.

Prior to tonight’s opening session, presenters have set up booths to educate delegates about programs that can help them make life decisions about issues such as long-term care, or to let them know that NYSUT has a social services program to help members with life’s challenges.

The convention hotel is filled with the clamor of members from all over the state greeting each other again.

“Hello!” rings out again and again as unionists hug and renew acquaintance and purpose. Some meet several times a year on NYSUT committees addressing civil and human rights; social justice; women’s history and other concerns. Some meet as members of the Small and Rural Locals Committee or the Health Care Professionals Council. Some have met at rallies in the past few years, sharing shoutouts for increased funding for public schools. Many express anger and frustration at working so hard to meet unfunded mandates and doing more with less and less, all while watching students struggle with fewer services and programs.

Many, many of the NYSUT members walking through the doors today left their families and local communities for the weekend of business, but not without first making sure that hundreds of backpacks were filled with weekend food for their students in need. They see the firsthand cost of income inequality and reach out to help.

That’s what motivates and inspires these delegates, ready to begin their union work together.

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