The last year has been a tough one for teachers with the state and city, which can always find money for corporate welfare, but somehow come up short when paying salaries and giving us retirement benefits. But our cause endures, and I stand here, ready to reach out to anyone willing to work for the benefit of our teachers and coordinators. I’m focused on the following priorities for our new contract:
- Remuneration for the hundreds of hours our members have worked every year without pay or for just a tiny fee.
- Medical benefits for anyone who has no other coverage.
- Protection of seniority in assigning hours and courses.
- Structured opportunities and training to assist our union members in advancing through the hierarchy of the City Colleges.
- Fair pay for our education and expertise, and for cost-of-living increases.
- Earned paid time off that is proportional to hours taught and years of service.
- We should also be given the same respect and opportunities that are given to the “faculty” of the City Colleges…because if we are not faculty, what are we?
But my most important goal is to hear from you. What are your needs? Where should we draw a red line, and what should we be willing to be flexible with? That’s why a survey is coming out to make sure that your interests and wishes are respected. That’s why elections have been scheduled for the first time in our union’s history, and you will be asked to vote for contract negotiation campus reps, as specified in our constitution.
In the short time that I’ve been President, we have accomplished much:
- The termination of any attempts by the City Colleges to enforce biometric sign-ins and sign-outs by our members until they are bargained for at contract negotiations.
- CCC’s acknowledgment that our union is the sole representative of all work done within the Adult Education program. It is because we had nothing like this in our contract that foundation studies were whisked away, and transition specialists were assigned to a different union.
- We are scheduled to meet with CCC about our coordinators. When more coordinators are back on our campuses helping our students and helping our teachers, they will help us increase retention and recruit effectively.
- And what also has been accomplished is CCC’s acceptance of our union delivering professional development to our members.
I also need to mention:
- Our outstanding website, www.afscme3506.org.
- Our “Afscme3506.org” Facebook page.
- Our orientation manual for new teachers.
- Our annual evaluation of our local campus administrations.
- The very high-quality “Knowledge Up” newsletter, which has essays by our teachers and students, news updates, and resources.
I’m very proud of the outstanding job that our Chief Steward, our Secretary, our Treasurer, and our Vice President have done. It makes me feel fortunate when we go to meetings as a team (the old days of private meetings and private deals are gone), and the CCC administrators openly acknowledge our team’s professionalism.
They make all of us look good, and they earn respect for our profession and our worth. That’s why we were asked to be involved in the central office’s upcoming administration assessment and new teachers’ orientation.
I would also like to mention the unpaid contributions of Carlos Aulet, our Associate Chief Steward (a position left unfilled for years, since it pays nothing but requires much work), who has crisscrossed the city on your behalf, and Kathleen Duffing Baker for doing a great job at managing and editing our Facebook page and our newsletter for free.
Many of our Stewards have fought hard and have successfully defended our rights with renewed rigor and professionalism. Our union spent the last 10 to 15 years with only one certified steward (Linda Ollins), without a trained executive board, and without a trustee’s review of our finances. For a long time, some of our officers had this attitude: “The less I know, the fewer the responsibilities I have to carry out, while I make bigger claims of expertise.” We finally have a board and a group of stewards who have completed their training and are fully certified, and a new group of trustees who are ready to get to work.
But at the end of the day, it all comes down to standing up for each other and being true to our vocation and our students. Some years back when I was just coming into this world, J.F.K. (a man spoiled by the power and wealth of his father but seasoned by a superb education and his war service) said, “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” At that moment, he invited every American to participate in creating our common future, a proposition that possibly cost him his life. But that’s a proposition we can’t escape.
Are this world, this country, the communities where we live, and the places we work dwellings of our design and bastions of our humanity? Or are they incidental parts of time and space? We, too, must answer those questions. We might keep our thoughts to ourselves, yet our students and our neighbors, whether we like it or not (because we are teachers), want our answers.
“War is hell, when will it end,
When will people start gettin’ together again
Are things really gettin’ better, like the newspaper said
What else is new my friend, besides what I read
Can’t find no work, can’t find no job my friend
Money is tighter than it’s ever been
Say man, I just don’t understand
What’s going on across this land
Ah what’s happening brother”
(From Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Happening Brother”)
With these thoughts I invite you to fully participate in the life of our union and to stand united for what is right. Because, brothers and sisters, we must answer those questions.
Nominations for Steward will take place on April 23rd at Malcolm X, from 12:30 pm to 1:30pm. Elections will follow, provided there is more than one candidate, from 1:30 pm to 4:30 pm.
Nominations for Steward will take place on April 25th at Wright, from 11:30 pm to 12:30 pm. Elections will follow, provided there is more than one candidate, from 12:35 pm to 4:35 pm.
I would also like to make sure that you join me in our Special Nominating Meeting at Arturo Velasquez Institute on April 27th at 3:30 pm, as it regards to potential elections for vacant Steward/lead positions and Contract Negotiations Committee representatives (as per article 6 section 3, article 8 section 9).
AFSCME 3506 President