(ALBANY, NEW YORK) - Bernard Washington, a member of the Syracuse Teachers Association (STA), rose to his feet to address new Assembly member Pamela Hunter (Democrat-Syracuse) about a $15 Minimum Wage. A Food Service Worker in the city schools, Washington started at $2.35 an hour 34 years ago. Now he makes about $23 an hour, but only because he works three jobs in the district. He spoke on behalf of many like him, who work so hard, yet struggle to provide. "We need this now," he said, "to help us support our families. I have a wife and four children. We ‘need it to be able to take care of our families.’"
No matter how big the Committee of 100 grows, no matter how many halls are clogged and elevators are overloaded at the Legislative Office Building, no matter how many extra chairs can fit in lawmakers' offices, it's all about those face-to-face moments that truly advance the Union's priorities.
Want to know about the effects of the undemocratic and crushing tax cap, which starts at 0.12% this year? Here's one story: The programs that enrich students' experience at Islip - music, art, technology and STEM - "are going to have to be cut this year," said Cheryl Brown of Islip TA, unless state aid makes up the difference. She explained to Assemblywoman Kimberly Jean-Pierre (Democrat-Lindenhurst) that Islip's tax cap is -2.05 - a negative figure. Think about it: The district would need a 60% supermajority to approve a budget proposal that cuts its levy by 2%.
Want to know a hidden value of Teacher Centers? Ask Yonkers Federation of Teachers' Samantha Rosado-Ciriello, who met with Andrea Stewart-Cousins, leader of the Senate Democratic Conference. Ciriello noted that when Teacher Centers were funded at $40 million in 2008, they served 181,000 Teachers. At last year's level of $14 million, they served 110,000. This year the governor proposes cutting the funding to zero, even though Teacher Centers provide training that's mandated and essential to the profession. "This is a service ‘nobody else offers’," she said. "Where are we going to go?" And one more thing, she said, pointing to her husband, YFT's Mike Ciriello, sitting next to her. "We met through the Teacher Center, so please keep funding them!"
Such stories help lawmakers see how their funding decisions affect Working People and they add up to progress.
"This is a beautiful sight," said NYSUT Executive Vice President Andy Pallotta, looking out over more than 800 grassroots activists who recently gathered the evening before the Committee of 100 lobbying visits. "This room is packed! This is what we are and who we are - a strong, wonderful and beautiful Union!"
NYSUT President Karen Magee thanked the volunteers for stepping up and "doing what's necessary in leading the way and moving the agenda forward for the organization.”
“You will model that tomorrow when you have those one-to-one conversations with elected officials," Magee said.
And that they did.
In this annual rite of Spring, NYSUT Members rained real-life stories on the legislators who were elected from their own communities.
They explained how the decisions made in this state budget process affect the people who live, work and vote in their districts.
They shared how the combination of insufficient state support and the tax cap are killing the future of communities all over the state.
To Read This Labor News Story in its Entirety, Go to: www.nysut.org/news/2016/march/committee-of-100-volunteer-lobbyists-for-a-day-put-a-face-on-union-priorities