June 11, 2020
United University Professions knows that New York State and SUNY can be a force of transformation during a time when our nation and state are in the middle of multifaceted crises: A pandemic, economic depression and social upheaval caused by institutionalized violence against people of color.
“The time for bold, wide-ranging change is now,” UUP President Frederick Kowal stated, “As Martin Luther King Jr. said, ‘The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.’ However, there are moments in history when we need to step up and push, or that arc won’t bend. Now is the time that our union and the SUNY system need to lead the way in instituting and pursuing change through legislation, SUNY policy, and education.”
These essential changes have already begun in the New York State Legislature. In a June 9 press release , UUP thanked the Legislature for its actions on police reform bills, and urged lawmakers to approve all of the proposals backed by the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, & Asian Legislative Caucus, including repeal of the 50-A provision that allows police department to block public access to disciplinary records; criminalizing police choke holds; charging 911 callers who make false accusations based on race, gender or religion with hate crimes; the banning of racial and ethnic profiling by police; and requiring state police officers to wear body cameras.
“The Memorial Day death of George Floyd, an unarmed, handcuffed black man who died after a police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes, has lit a fire in America that will not be extinguished until racial injustice and inequality is snuffed out,” said Kowal.
“We must seize this opportunity and send an unmistakable message that America will no longer turn away at the sight of racial inequality or shrug at the reality of climate injustice or discrimination against people of color or those who don’t fall neatly into biased societal norms,” he continued. “The passage of police reform measures by the Legislature is a good first step. But we cannot stop there.”
UUP believes the time is now to institute real, substantive change to begin to address systemic racism through changes to the health care system, addressing the climate crisis, and expanding diversity and educational opportunities. These efforts require the continued advocacy and activism of UUP members in all areas of New York State. Our struggles for a safe work environment in the Coronavirus Era and a financially strong SUNY to ensure that we can continue to deliver high quality education and health care to our students and patients are all part of these efforts.
UUP’s plans include:
- Health care reform, including backing universal health care that is publicly funded; an aggressive expansion of medical care access through expansion of state-funded clinics linked to SUNY’s public teaching hospitals; developing medical services at Downstate to include expanded maternal and child care — to help alleviate the massively disproportionate maternal mortality rates affecting African American women; a Medical Educational Opportunity Program; and reducing the cost of SUNY medical education to attract a larger population of medical care providers.
- Requiring that the next SUNY chancellor come from an underrepresented community and that 25 percent of SUNY faculty, staff and administration be from African American, Latinx and Native American communities by 2025.
- A commitment of union resources to inclusivity training for UUP members, their families, and communities.
- Improving the affordability of a SUNY degree through a cap on tuition and fees through 2025; the doubling of funding and student enrollment in opportunity programs; and the closure of the TAP Gap.
- The implementation of UUP’s NY25 plan for using SUNY as a catalyst for the redress of climate change. This proposal would employ hundreds of thousands of people, and would expand programs in green technology, create microgrids on SUNY campuses and accelerate the achievement of a carbon neutral status for SUNY. The link between COVID-19 and communities with poor air quality and high levels of pollution has been established; addressing this is an urgent situation.
If not now, when?
“People have seen and had enough,” said Kowal. “The time has come to make reforms across all of society that will achieve lasting, positive change.”
UUP will be working with our allies on a number of events and activities. Planned actions will be shared and updated on UUP’s resource page: https://uupinfo.org/resources/fightracism/ .
“As a state and nation, our focus needs to be on justice and equality during these incredibly difficult times. As institutions across the country are failing us, it is time to lead the change, reform the institutions, or eliminate those that refuse to be part of progress,” Kowal stated.