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May 11, 2019

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Kowal, delegates chart new course at Spring DA


uupdate 5-11-19

A year ago, UUP members gathered for their Spring Delegate Assembly with the Janus decision looming in the U.S. Supreme Court, and the fate of public-sector unions hanging in the balance.

What a difference a year can make.

“I am filled with hope today,” UUP President Fred Kowal, above, said in his May 10 address to delegates at the 2019 Spring DA in Albany, striking a tone that reflected the upbeat mood of the policy-making body. “I am fully committed to victory for all of us in this great union for generations to come. This sacred labor summons us as never before. Let us begin.”

Delegates approved UUP’s 2019-20 budget, honored Old Westbury Chapter President Martha Livingston, and approved a pair of resolutions at the DA, held May 10 and 11 at The Desmond in Albany.

Political action to target SUNY funding

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The nearly 300 delegates at the DA needed no urging to plan their next moves, with the goal of continuing to strengthen the union. Dominating their discussions throughout the weekend was Kowal’s pledge to put a new political push by UUP out front and center.

The goal: full funding of SUNY. With the hiring of a new UUP political director, Dan Brown, Kowal promised to start working now to build community coalitions across the state and connect with legislators in their district offices to dramatically increase the union’s presence and clout in Albany.

Yes, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned decades of precedent and ruled last June that public sector unions could no longer collect agency fees in lieu of dues from employees in their bargaining units who had never signed a membership card. But throughout the DA, members noted the many successes since then that counter the Janus decision.

They include: UUP’s strongest membership numbers in decades, literally only a handful of membership defections following Janus, a healthy and balanced budget, and an organizing effort that has engaged a new generation of UUP leaders.

Memorials, awards, resolutions

During the plenary sessions, delegates approved two special orders of business that paid tribute to two beloved members who recently died: Carlos Vidal, a longtime chapter officer and delegate from Stony Brook HSC; and Fayez Samuel of Farmingdale, an advocate for part-time employees for whom a prestigious UUP award to part-time academic and professional faculty is named.

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Livingston, above, a longtime activist and dedicated UUP member, was the recipient of the Judith Wishnia Advocacy Award, which recognizes UUP members who have advocated tirelessly for UUP, labor, equity and humanity.

Delegates also applauded the outstanding work of their colleagues with the presentation of UUP’s annual journalism awards, which recognize print and digital journalism by chapters. The Phillip H. Smith “Best of the Best” Communications Award went to Daniel Scott Marrone of Farmingdale for his compelling writing on contemporary and historic labor topics.

Delegates approved two resolutions, one of which calls on UUP to oppose U.S. military intervention in Venezuela and to make that opposition known to the New York’s Congressional delegation and to U.S. Labor Against the War.

The other calls on UUP leaders to work with affiliate unions in pressing for the New York State Legislature to pass the Fossil Fuel Divestment Act, which would require the state comptroller to divest the state Common Retirement Fund from fossil fuel companies.


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