May 27, 2011

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Workers rally for rights


Speaking before a crowd of nearly 300 in Oneonta, UUP President Phil Smith tells fellow unionists to stand strong in the face of continuing political attacks that seek to undermine workers’ rights.

“Those of us in the organized labor movement worked hard to win the rights most American workers take for granted: a 40-hour work week, safe working conditions and the right to retire with dignity,” exhorted Smith. “We will not stand by while others seek to take our rights away.”

The May 26 rally, co-sponsored by UUP, NYSUT and the Oneonta Teachers Association came in response to attacks on workers’ rights and collective bargaining in states such as Ohio, where unionized public employees are now barred from negotiating health care, sick time or pension benefits. In Wisconsin, a new law strips public employees of their right to collectively bargain on anything except wages, and calls for almost all public workers to contribute more to their pensions and health care coverage, changes that amount to an average 8 percent pay cut. The unionists want to stop similar measures such as one proposed in New Hampshire from coming to New York state.

Smith joined NYSUT Executive Vice President Andy Pallotta and unionists from UUP’s Oneonta Chapter, members from several local teachers unions, CSEA and the Teamsters at the rally. Pallotta urged the crowd to get lawmakers to reject the proposed 2 percent property tax cap which he said would decimate funding for K-12 public schools.

Speakers also called on lawmakers to restore funding cuts for public colleges and schools.

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