Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a labor advocate, once stated, “The labor movement was the principle force that transformed misery and despair into hope and progress…” Unfortunately, due to a variety of factors, the notions of hope and progress seem to have vanished in the 21st century world of public education. Personally, I have had the sincere honor of being a leader on my local labor union’s Executive Board for the past 11 years. Within that time, I was duly elected to represent my colleagues at both the state and national conventions. However, over the past few years, I have left each of these conventions feeling frustrated and concerned. Frustrated with the notion that our leaders believe that tremendous strides are being made within the public education system, and concerned with the overall division that exists amongst the various labor associations. Urban locals versus suburban locals; self-interests versus general well-being. I have witnessed fellow brothers and sisters from throughout the state (attempt to) express their frustrations about a variety of union, educational, and political concerns at an RA convention microphone before being silenced by the crowd or the microphone operator. In addition, a de facto “poll tax” exists for some NY locals who cannot exercise their right to vote at the RA and AFT conventions due to the high expenses associated with these events. These two examples, along with many others, have left many of us feeling flummoxed and angry. Bottom line: the discord is evident and the feelings are intense. It is time for a change.
“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen” ~Winston Churchill. These words indubitably resonate with the many NYSUT members who feel both disenfranchised and/or underrepresented by their statewide leaders. Furthermore, without any hesitation, I would like to express my full endorsement of the ST Caucus candidates, Mike Lillis, Bianca Tanis, Megan DeLaRosa, and Nate Hathaway, to lead NYSUT with a vision that will represent ALL local unions from across this great state of NY. The aforementioned leaders have a vision of what NYSUT needs to do to restore its powerful legacy and how it can get there. They understand that the imminent threat to public education is a federally funded voucher system becoming omnipresent, and it must be met with strong resistance, not negotiation. They comprehend the danger of charter schools expanding into areas that don’t want or need them, as there is no evidence to prove that charter schools educate students more effectively than public schools. They believe that students are more than a test score, and will actively fight against any attempt to increase high-stakes testing for our children. Lastly, they truly believe that leadership in a union of more than 600,000 members will work more efficiently if it is from the bottom up. With a powerful, transparent union, workers’ hope will increase, morale will rise, and progress will be made. In the end, we will be stronger together.
Michael S. Krieger
- Proud parent of two public school children
- 8th grade social studies educator
- President of the Bay Shore Classroom Teachers’ Association (Local 21-005)