Will the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) Endorse Cuomo For Governor?

Mercedes Schneider, a Louisiana blogger, who really doesn’t like AFT President Randi Weingarten continues her jabs by criticizing Weingarten for the AFT state affiliate endorsement of Connecticut incumbent Governor Malloy.

Malloy is being opposed in the Democratic primary by Jonathan Pelto, a former state legislator, an active blogger and a member of the Network for Public Education, as are Mercedes and moi.

In an earlier blog Mercedes felt Weingarten would support Andrew Cuomo for Governor.

I know very little about Connecticut politics – friends who are teachers in Connecticut are not fans of Malloy. I do know a lot about New York State politics.

New York State is an AFT state; Connecticut has both NEA and AFT locals with most teachers belonging to NEA locals. The seven hundred plus local teacher unions belong to the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), the state affiliate. NYSUT receives a share of member dues dollars and provides lawyers and labor relation specialists to assist in negotiating collective bargaining agreements and serves as the lobbying arm of the locals in Albany.

The 600,000 NYSUT members include members from the “big five” (NYC, Buffalo, Syracuse, Rochester and Yonkers), the suburbs, the vast stretches of rural NYS and the college locals, college teachers working in colleges in the City University (CUNY)and State University (SUNY) systems along with nurses and other workers affiliated with schools.

Political endorsements are made by the local presidents at an endorsement conference that takes place in mid-August.

All state-wide offices (governor, attorney general and comptroller) the 150 members of the Assembly and 63 members of the Senate will be on the November ballot. Party candidates will be selected in a primary election on September 9th.

New York State politics is complicated.

The Democrats control the Assembly by a wide margin, the Senate is divided into three factions: the Democrats, the Republicans and the Independent Democratic Caucus (IDC), a group of five Democrats who, in conjunction with the Republicans control the Senate agenda.

The third party is the Working Families Party (WFP), the party is a faction that broke away from the left wing of the Democratic Party and is controlled by a number of labor unions. In a close vote the WFP endorsed Cuomo

In 2010 Andrew Cuomo was elected governor, almost by acclamation, and, for the first time in forty years, the Democrats gained control of the Senate. Instead of passing a host of liberal legislation the Democrats self-destructed. Two successive Democratic leaders of the Senate were deposed by fellow Democrats and both are now under indictment for financial improprieties.

The state teacher union, NYSUT, did not make a gubernatorial endorsement in 2010.

Cuomo has been an enormously powerful governor; he has astutely manipulated both Democrats and Republicans to pass his agenda.

At the top of the list are the Marriage Equality Law and the SAFE Law (gun reform), sweeping gun reform legislation. Highly controversial is the 2% Property Tax Cap, popular with taxpayers, unpopular with school districts and teachers. Schools in New York State are primarily funded by local property taxes, with a wide disparity between districts. The legislation especially impacts low wealth districts and has resulted in layoffs and cuts in local school programs. The law has placed pressure on teacher unions, contractual raises have been in 1-2% per year range with some reductions in health coverage.

Cuomo also supported new pension tier that will reduce benefits for future new employees.

The teacher evaluation law had substantial teacher union input – the plan is a multiple measures plan – all teachers in the state will receive a score: 60% based on supervisory observations based on an approved rubric, 20% a “locally negotiated” tool and 20% based on growth in student test scored compared with teachers teaching “similar students.” At the end of the first year only 1% of teachers were rated “ineffective.”

NYSUT has been advocating for the phase-in of the plan arguing that the new Common Core standards phase-in has been inconsistent around the state – the governor may agree to a one-year delay in the impact of the law.

UPDATE: Cuomo and NYSUT agree on a “safety net” for teachers in the “ineffective” and “developing” categories http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2014/06/8547559/cuomo-compromise-affects-evaluations-low-rated-teachers.

Cuomo’s Republican opponent is pro-life, pro-gun, pro-tax cuts, pro-voucher, the antithesis of policies supported by NYSUT.

The leadership of NYSUT is newly elected – in a hotly contested April election the slate led by Karen Magee defeated the incumbent slate.

To claim that Weingarten will determine the gubernatorial endorsement in New York is absurd. Local presidents are fiercely independent, no one, not Randi Weingarten or anyone else is going to tell Barbara Bowen, the President of the Professional Staff Congress, the union that represents teacher in the City University, who to endorse.

In the complex world of politics union locals make deals that are beneficial to their members – if members oppose the deal the union ballot box is an alternative. While writing in Louisiana the support of VAM may be the deal breaker, agreements in retaining jobs or negotiating contracts may be more important in the rolling hills of New York State.

My own uninformed opinion is that NYSUT will not make a gubernatorial endorsement; however, I’m not the guy at the bargaining table trading this for that.

I do know the leaders of many New York State locals – their endorsement decision be based on getting the best deal for members – as it should be.

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5 responses to “Will the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) Endorse Cuomo For Governor?

  1. NYSUT will likely not endorse. NYSUT will likely abstain and leave room for others to endorse.

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  2. Just to help you understand Weingarten’s influence… She was the UFT president and the aft president at the same time at the beginning of her tenure as aft president… She directly manipulated the recent NYSUT elections… At her direction the aft is paying the salary of the NYSUT transition person, Alan Lubin. Lubin was the UFT appointed Nysut EVP who retired from NYSUT because he could not get along with Iannuzzi…. Nysut says that their local presidents make the endorsement choices at their August conference but that is not entirely true… Nysut has already made endorsements and the presidents have not met yet for one and I don’t believe there is one president that supports Cuomo but NYSUT will not come out against him and has not found anyone to run against him…NYSUT also “allowed” it’s largest local, the UFT, to manipulate the WFP endorsement of Cuomo… Bowen like the other ” big five” locals were promised more perks for their locals if they threw their votes to the revive slate…. I don’t know what Bowen got, but one of Ahern’s perks was that he got a seat on the Nysut board.. Nysut may not endorse Cuomo, but they won’t oppose him either because the UFT needs a relationship with him and the current NYSUT leadership and Weingarten care more about a relationship with the UFT than they do the rest of the NYS locals because without UFT’s votes they can’t get elected… Not endorsing is not the same as opposing and the majority of NYSUT local presidents oppose Cuomo…. July is a big month for Weingarten because she’s up for reelection at the aft convention… Maybe Mercedes Schneider knows what she’s talking about… Just maybe…..

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  3. A small correction: New York State has both AFT and NEA affiliation. NYSUT sends delegates to both conventions. At the last NYSUT RA, one thing that all factions could agree on was their disapproval of Governor Cuomo. The UFT generally goes along with the Working Families Party, but of course members can vote however they like. In this case it may be a case of holding one’s nose and choosing the lesser of the evils. We don’t like Cuomo, but a Republican in Albany would be worse.

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  4. DOC, my post on the AFL-CIO endorsement refers to the upcoming US presidential nomination.

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  5. Whether prompted by pressure from grassroots groups and well-funded political action committees, or simply by a realization of what is involved in the sweeping K-12 reform, Common Core has become a hot button issue within the GOP. Several Republican governors, including some rumored to be considering 2016 White House runs, have turned against the plan and critics have coined a loaded term for it that lays bare the political divide: “ObamaCore.”

    Political funny of the day.

    I don’t know whether John White, vehemently opposing Gov. Bobby Jindal’s break from the Common Core, is turning red or blue.

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