Tag Archives: Barbara Bowen

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.