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Feb. 25, 2016

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UUP advocacy picks up steam


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Click here to view video from the Higher Ed Action Day rally

Click here to read UUP's Higher Ed Action Day press release


UUP members got off to an encouraging start with their advocacy for the union’s legislative agenda Feb. 25, visiting 10 lawmakers who told them they recognize the urgency of helping SUNY with the Maintenance of Effort bill and other crucial needs in the budget.

Members made passionate pitches for legislative support on a day that included UUP’s participation in a student rally in The Well of the Legislative Office Building in Albany. UUP joined more than 400 SUNY and CUNY students at the rally; NYSUT, the Professional Staff Congress/CUNY, NYPIRG and USS CUNY also took part.

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There, UUP President Fred Kowal, above, told the chanting crowd that the union’s legislative action plan includes a number of issues that affect students seeking to achieve their dreams: the use of tuition and fees to benefit academic programs, not operating costs; fair funding for SUNY; and an affordable college education.

“Look around this room – there are hundreds of you here, and you are all here with the same dream and the same desire,” Kowal told the gathering.

Impassioned requests, supportive answers

During their advocacy visits, members asked lawmakers to work with UUP to achieve a realistic funding level for SUNY, support for SUNY’s hospitals and health sciences centers, teacher education, and retiree benefits.

And they got back concerned and supportive responses from lawmakers.

“We’re not at a deficit anymore,” Assemblyman Joseph Giglio (R-Gowanda) told a delegation of UUP members that included statewide Executive Board and Alfred Chapter member Ray Gleason, Cortland Chapter member Dave Ritchie, and John Schumacher of System Administration. “And we still believe that what has made New York great is the education.”

Giglio cited SUNY Alfred State College, in his district.

“The Alfred graduates are coming back and hiring Alfred undergraduates, as fast as they graduate,” the assemblyman said. “We can’t produce enough.”

MOE likely in budget

Giglio also told the delegation that he expects the Maintenance of Effort bill to be part of budget negotiations. Both houses of the Legislature overwhelmingly passed the bill last year, but the governor vetoed it in December—with the advisory that it should be part of the next budget proposal. UUP has pressed vigorously for the MOE so that SUNY will have money to pay for ongoing operating costs, instead of draining student tuition to cover mandatory expenses such as utility bills.

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VP for Academics Jamie Dangler, left, and Morrisville Chapter member Jim Engle, second from right, encouraged Sen. David Valesky (D-Oneida) to push for a genuine MOE that would end the overreliance on tuition to cover basic SUNY costs and stem rising student fees. SUNY needs an endowment, Dangler noted, so that a faculty decimated by attrition can once again have a more even division between tenure-track full-time members, and talented adjuncts who bring their professional expertise from the field into the classroom.

“We hear from SUNY all the time that we need to increase the completion rate,” Dangler said. “But many students can’t graduate on time, because they are working.”

Retirees, veterans need support

Cortland Chapter member Jo Schaffer, above right, who heads the UUP Committee on Active Retired Membership, explained that the Executive Budget’s proposal for creating tiers in state contributions to retiree health insurance premiums would hit many retirees hard. And she called the fact that not all veterans qualify for a pension credit—because they served in a “conflict” instead of a declared war, or in peacetime— a “moral outrage.”

UUP members will return to Albany for additional advocacy days throughout the session. Click here to sign up or for more information.


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