PCT PLEDGE

THE PCT PLEDGE IS THE OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF THE PLAINVIEW-OLD BETHPAGE CONGRESS OF TEACHERS

Volume XXXIX, No. 8 April 16, 2002

WHERE ARE THE POLITICAL HEROES?

By PCT President Morty Rosenfeld

On March 12, 2002, it was my privilege to represent the PCT at the annual Lobby Day activities of NEA/New York. My job in all the meetings I had in Albany was to convince our elected leaders and their staffs of the need for more funding for public education. One of the people I met on this trip was an education policy advisor to Governor Pataki. Like everyone else I met, the Governor’s representative was quick to point to the big increases education has received over the past few years. This year, the Governor like everyone is searching for "scarce resources."

Scarce resources is the term used by those of our leaders who can’t get the word taxes past their lips. They think that if they speak about resources, you and I won’t understand that resources and our tax dollars are one and the same thing. I was sitting and listening to the Governor’s man when I could bear his mealy-mouthed bull no longer. I told him that it seemed to me that the Governor had done an outstanding job bringing proper credit to the heroes and heroines of the 9/11 tragedy. I further told him that I though it was time for some political heroism on his part, that the people of New York State require essential services like schools and that if sufficient tax revenues were not coming in to support these services, he had to have the courage to call for some tax increases, particularly on those who have more to give. Needless to say, the Governor’s man was not thrilled with this kind of heroism for his boss. Our Governor, he told me, wanted to lower taxes.

Political courage can’t continue to be an oxymoron. Here in Nassau county we have the embarrassment of a Democratic administration calling for an almost twenty percent increase in the county property tax, the most regressive kind of tax in that two people of widely disparate incomes who happen to own the same model house pay the same tax to support county government. This kind of injustice has to stop.

The PCT Executive Board at its April meeting voted to endorse a different approach to solving the county’s economic woes. The Board voted to endorse the proposal of the Working Families Party which would not only obviate the proposed property tax increase but would give a tax cut to more than ninety percent of the residents of the county. The Working Families Party plan calls for raising $289 million in new revenue by the adoption of a one percent progressive income tax on incomes between $150,000 and $200,000 and a 2% tax on incomes over $200,000.

This is a simple and fair way to meet the financial problems of the county.

PCT members are asked to write in support of this elegantly fair and simple plan. The easiest way to do so is to use the PCT Web Page. In my latest TeacherTalk column, you will find e-mail links to Presiding Officer of the County Legislature Judy Jacobs and County Executive Tom Suozzi. Tell our representatives that you are against raising the regressive property tax. Tell them that you support the plan of the Working Families Party for an income tax on incomes over $150,000.

MATTLIN CENSURES PRINCIPAL

Chagrined at the failure of Mattlin Principal Donald Gately to recommend a very highly regarded colleague for tenure, the Mattlin membership at their April meeting voted to censure him, thereby indicating their lack of confidence in his ability to perform his duties in a fair and equitable manner.

The emerging difficulties at Mattlin will be an important subject of the upcoming middle school membership meeting on April 25, 2002.

EXECUTIVE BOARD SUPPORTS BUDGET

The PCT Executive Board voted at its April meeting to support the 2002-03 school district budget. Although the Board was disturbed by some of the priorities supported by the budget, increasing administration for example, they observed that on balance the budget did preserve the academic program.

PCT members are asked to start planning to devote some time to the phone bank operation that will be mounted to get the budget passed. Phoning will take place on May 19, 20 and 21.

NYSUT NIXES NO-RAID AGREEMENT

PALL CAST ON CONVENTION

Friday, April 12, 2002 delegates from throughout New York met in Albany at the annual NEA/New York Delegate Assembly. The Assembly is the highest policy making body of our state organization.

One of the items scheduled to be voted on was a jurisdictional or no-raid agreement between NEA/New York and New York State United Teachers (NYSUT). Under the terms of the agreement, NYSUT and NEA/New York were slated to pledge that they would not seek to attempt to take over each other’s local unions. The agreement would have also committed both organizations to work toward an eventual merger. Apparently, on the day the agreement was to be signed, NYSUT raised a series of objections that sank the deal.

The news that the proposed jurisdictional agreement had fallen apart cast a pall over the convention. Only the staunchest opponents welcomed the news. PCT delegates were particularly saddened in that our union has been in the vanguard of the pro-merger forces. PCT President Morty Rosenfeld commented, " Failure to reach a no-raid agreement is nothing short of idiotic. How will it serve any of our members, NEA/New York or NYSUT, for the two organizations to use members’ dues dollars to pick each other off? How will those efforts lead to better salaries and benefits for teachers? How will weakening each other allow us to reign in the absurdities that are currently passing for reform in New York and the nation?"

OTHER CONVENTION HIGHLIGHTS

Despite the bad news concerning a jurisdictional agreement, the convention dealt with a number of complex and controversial issues. Key among them was a group of constitutional amendments that sought to bind representatives at NEA/New York meetings more closely to local unions. These amendments were successfully passed and will take effect in September. Currently, it is possible for members who do not have a political connection with the union in their workplaces to have leadership positions in our state organization. PCT President Morty Rosenfeld took a very active part in bringing these amendments to the convention and speaking in support of them on the convention floor.

The PCT has for some years been pressing NEA/New York to change its constitution to permit our state union to organize workers in health care, public libraries and private company school bus drivers. This has historically been opposed by those who fear that we would lose our organizational focus and/or by those who do not understand the need for solidarity with all working people. Sadly, despite a very good and spirited debate, this proposed amendment to the NEA/New York Constitution was defeated by approximately ten votes.

On a political note, after hearing a rousing speech by Comptroller H. Carl McCall, the convention unanimously endorsed the Comptroller in the Democratic primary for governor against Andrew Cuomo.

PCT resolutions supporting sanctions on public employers who bargain in bad faith, the right of public employees with domestic partners to have the same benefits as married people, the right of New York’s public employees to have union representation at meeting with their bosses, the seeking of a single tier retirement system for TRS and ERS on NEA/NY’s political agenda and legislation to permit teachers eligible to retire to continue to work while collecting their pensions as a measure to deal with the teacher shortage all were passed by the delegates to the convention.

A PCT resolution to support legislation to require mall owners to make reasonable accommodation to the exercise of free speech was amazingly defeated by a majority of delegates who apparently thought that private property should trump political freedom.

The PCT was represented at this year’s Delegate Assembly by President Morty Rosenfeld, Secretary Judi Alexanderson, Treasurer Tracey Gonzalez, Vice-Presidents Cindy Feldman, Vicki Ahlsen, Lori Stitt, CUPCT President Lillian Feigenbaum, CUPCT Treasurer Lucy Pedone, Delegate Tom Syrett, Retiree Unit Co-Presidents Helen Cohn and Joe Marcal and Retired Delegate Jacki Pekar.

TITLE IX NEWS

We are expecting to make this column a periodic part of the PCT Pledge. Our district Title IX Committee has been meeting since 1974 to help the district comply with the Title IX legislation of 1972. Although many things have changed over the years to ensure gender equity for our students, many things still need our attention.

Many wonderful things have happened this year. First, at our March meeting, we were pleased to hear that as a result of our nomination, Janie Stockhammer won the Woman of Distinction award from the Town of Oyster Bay. Congratulations Janie! Second, thank you to all of the young women and Title IX representatives from our district who attended the "Gender Equity in Education" conference at the University of Stony Brook. See your building representative for more information. Next, we would like to commend all of the fine work done to honor Women’s History Month in all the buildings. Finally, we have been working on the LeMay Watson Obey Award. There have been many nominations, see our next update to find out who won this distinctive award for a woman who has set an example in striving for gender equity.

IN MEMORIAM

Lucille Zarkower, the first president of the PCT-Clerical Unit died a few weeks ago. The work that led to the creation of the CUPCT was begun in 1967 and culminated November 25, 1969 when the membership of the PCT voted to accept the CUPCT as a functional unit of our union. Lucille led the way to this very significant day in our union’s history.

Having formed the CUPCT, the next task was to negotiate the unit’s first contract. Here too, Lucille led the way. She was always alert to the needs and rights of the clerical staff, always ready to take on all comers. We hear her hearty laugh and feel the warmth of her friendship. When Lucille retired we were organizing the PCT - Retirement unit. Lucille was right there to take a leading role. She became the Vice President of the unit and once again was forever watchful that we represent the support staff as well as the teachers. She was energetic, upbeat and excited about life and very much part of the Plainview community.

In tribute to her memory and that of all working women, a fund is being established. It will finance a yearly lecture (or art) series on "Women at Work" for the middle and high schools in Plainview. Please send checks made out to the PCT noting that the check is to be used for the Zarkower Fund. We will inform you of the program details as they evolve.

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