July 13, 2010
UUPers work toward positive change at AFT convention
More than 70 UUPers from chapters across the state took part in the American Federation of Teachers’ (AFT) biennial convention July 7-11, using the event to further advance important higher ed issues, to become inspired by speakers such as AFT President Randi Weingarten, and to help elect AFT’s leadership.
The theme for the convention, held in Seattle, was “Building Bridges Together,” and UUPers took that to heart as some of the 3,000 delegates at the event, attending general sessions and taking part in divisional meetings focused on higher education.
UUP President Phil Smith was a featured speaker at the AFT Higher Education divisional meeting. He talked about how SUNY and CUNY have been hit with more than $800 million in state aid cuts over the last two years. “It’s especially important for us in higher education to make sure to step up and fight back,” he told the more than 300 delegates at the meeting.
Smith was re-elected as an AFT vice president at the conference, along with NYSUT President Richard Iannuzzi, and NYSUT officers Lee Cutler, Kathleen Donahue and Maria Neira. NYSUT Executive Vice President Andy Pallotta was elected to his first term as vice president.
AFT President Randi Weingarten, re-elected as AFT president, implored delegates to create a “common cause with the community” by listening, responding to and looking for ways to show community members that educators care. In her State of the Union address, she called on AFT members to become active in their communities and to work – especially in these tough economic times – with public unions to fight for public services.
“The irony is that organized labor is under assault for the very job it was conceived to do,” Weingarten said. “These hard-won, noble achievements now are seen as things that separate us from our communities rather than connect us to them.”
NAACP President Ben Jealous was among other featured speakers at the conference. He urged AFT members to come together with other progressive organizations at the One Nation March Oct. 2 in Washington, D.C. “We need to get off the couch and get our members back into the streets and make change in this country,” he said.
Delegates, such as Oswego Chapter delegate Bruce Altschuler, approved several higher ed-related resolutions, including one to push policymakers, accrediting agencies and other higher ed stakeholders to look to academic faculty and staff when it comes to defining and accounting for student success. The AFT’s new website, WhatShouldCount.org, offers the latest news about student success and accountability.
Delegates also agreed to promote an AFT report titled “Promoting Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Faculty: What Higher Education Unions Can Do,” and to use AFT’s Faculty and College Excellence campaign to address higher ed’s academic staffing crisis.
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