Oct. 16, 2014

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UUP wins prestigious AFT award

uupdate 10-16-14

Read the AFT press release

UUP and NYSUT officers pose with AFT President Randi Weingarten, second from right, at an Oct. 16 ceremony for AFT's Prize for Solution-Driven Unionism award. From left are NYSUT Vice President Catalina Fortino, UUP Vice President for Professionals Philippe Abraham, UUP President Fred Kowal, Weingarten, and UUP Treasurer and Downstate Medical Center Chapter President Rowena Blackman-Stroud.

UUP was selected as a first-prize winner for its ongoing battle to save vital health care services and jobs at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn. The honor, which UUP shared with PEF, comes with a $25,000 prize.

The award is given to affiliates nationwide who come up with “innovative, inspiring and collaborative solutions” to difficult situations. UUP Secretary Eileen Landy compiled and submitted the award application to AFT.

“We deeply appreciate this honor," Kowal said. “Keeping Downstate open and operating as a full-service, state-operated hospital has been, and continues to be, a priority for UUP.

"Working with our members, community and faith-based leaders, AFT President Randi Weingarten, our sisters and brothers at NYSUT, PEF and CSEA, and Brooklyn legislators, we have protected our members and fought off numerous attempts to close and privatize this hospital," he continued. "This is proof of the power of buildilng coalitions with the community.”

Weingarten, who spoke at several Brooklyn rallies for Downstate earlier this year, lauded UUP and PEF for their efforts.

“UUP and PEF were instrumental in creating a community effort to ensure that those who have the least continue to have access to high-quality healthcare in their neighborhood. This was a monumental, but ultimately successful, effort by the unions and their indefatigable community partners,” she said.

Involving the community

Working with the SUNY Downstate Coalition of Faith, Labor and Community Leaders, UUP has staged numerous rallies and events over the past two years to draw attention to the situation at Downstate and the hospital's importance to the community.

"This is a wonderful honor for UUP," said Blackman-Stroud, who was instrumental in assembling the Downstate Coalition and has helpled lead the union's fight to keep the hospital open and operating. "We are proud to be recognized by AFT for our efforts."

More than 400,000 patients are treated at Downstate yearly and thousands go there daily for care. As a state-operated public hospital, Downstate provides care for those who can’t afford to pay for health care, or who require specialized medical procedures other hospitals don’t offer.

This is the second AFT award that UUP has received this year. In July, UUP and the Professional Staff Congress/CUNY won the Lawrence Gold Professional Issues Award for their collaborative work to slow full implementation of the edTPA student teacher certification requirement.

The Prize for Solution-Driven Unionism was created in partnership with the Albert Shanker Institute and the AFT Innovation Fund. It's given annually to honor extraordinary accomplishments that exemplify the AFT's mission of reclaiming the promise of high-quality public education, healthcare and public services for students, families and communities.

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