March 17, 2017
To Long Island Local Presidents and Delegates:
Over the last few weeks, our campaign attempted to work out a format which would be most conducive to having genuine, respectful dialogue with local leaders about NYSUT’s future. We hoped that collaboration between the LIPC and both campaigns would result in a format that worked for all parties. We thank Jim Kinnear on his efforts to make this happen. We wanted to meet with Long Island delegates, evidenced by the many discussions with Jim over the course of several weeks and our agreeing to move away from the originally proposed date to one more convenient for our opponents.
RESPONSE: The only other date discussed was March 16th. The conflict was not a rescheduled date in deference to the ST slate, but rather, there was a similar forum scheduled by the Directors of ED 15/16 in Westchester. In a statement read at the Westchester event (that they refused to attend), the UNITY candidates announced a different event for ED 15/16 to be hosted by the UNITY slate at a future date in Mahopac. Now they are unwilling to attend a forum on Long Island scheduled for March 21. It is not only disconcerting that the UNITY Caucus candidates seem unwilling to participate in events hosted by neutral organizations (the ED regions) in a democratically agreed upon framework (a framework that both EDs specifically asked for) but that their absence is falsely placed at the feet of ST Leadership. From the start of the campaign, ST Caucus candidates have desired open, honest debate with Andy, Jolene, Philippe, Marty, and Paul. We have been blocked at every attempt. Please see timeline at end of this response for more details on the candidate forum invitations.
We thought we had arrived at a proposal that could be agreed on by all sides, but were ultimately disappointed to learn that the LIPC steering committee, in a split vote, overruled Jim and was not supportive of the reasonable parameters we proposed.
RESPONSE: The LI forum format was the same as the one UNITY refused in ED 15/16, yet it is the format most would expect. Delegates and Presidents would like to hear from both slates at the same time. We are in the same union and face the same problems. Regions have no obligation to conduct a forum in a manner that either slate demands. The ST Caucus slate has accepted every invitation extended to us, regardless of format. It must be noted that it seems disingenuous to stand for transparency, diversity, and action when UNITY candidates suggested an hour and a half for their candidates, then a separate hour and a half for our candidates, with no opportunity for delegates, presidents, AND MEMBERS to ask questions of both slates simultaneously.
As our slate took shape, we pledged to run a clean, issue-based campaign free from personal attacks and derogatory speech about other locals with whom we disagree. The idea was simple - to have an election that didn't further divide this union at a time when it is critically important to be united.
RESPONSE: This has been a clean campaign, free from personal attack. It is simply not a dirty campaign to speak truth to power and to discuss the significant losses our members have faced during the last nine years. Union leadership requires a thick skin. The ST Caucus will never place personal sensitivities over the needs and demands of members to be able to ask tough questions and receive transparent responses.
Our opponents decided to follow a different path, launching ad hominem attacks on us and disparaging fellow NYSUT locals. As late as this past week, they asserted, falsely, that NYSUT outsourced work on an accounting system (a claim NYSUT’s own CWA president has refuted). Ignoring the corrected record, ST Caucus doubled down on their lie by posting this false claim yet again on social media.
RESPONSE: Ad hominem attacks seek to deflect from a POSITION by way of attacking a person (or in this case a caucus at best, nearly half of NYSUT membership at worst). STC was clear in our blog post: any cost-savings measures need three characteristics to be successful-- transparency, shared sacrifice, and shared vision. If the current officers had worked with staff with these three characteristics in mind, the issue never would have come up. The indisputable fact is NYSUT staff members are obviously troubled, or we never would have found out about it. Expediency is one thing; working with nonunion companies to achieve efficiency and cost-savings is the antithesis of our movement.
What we say and do as candidates matters. The public is watching, including our enemies. This afternoon, a right wing blog picked up the ST lie and used it to undermine NYSUT’s credibility as an organization. This is unacceptable.
Response: This is why we need the above three characteristics as we address the budget shortfall in NYSUT. The public is watching and mistakes will be exploited by anti-union commenters. The messenger is rarely at fault. As the blog linked to UNITY’s email points out, NYSUT management staff has been directed to utilize Certify, but the unionized staff has largely refused to use Certify as an option. STC candidate Nate Hathaway correctly points out, “We must not fall into the trap of pursuing expediency at the expense of what is right.” We need leaders who will lead by example.
We want to meet with local leaders and delegates and have authentic, meaningful conversations about the future of our union, absent these distractions. It is vital that we do so. It is in that spirit that we invite you to meet with us on March 21 at the Radisson Hotel (110 Motor Parkway, Hauppauge) between 11am and 8pm. There will be no time limits on questions or conversations, and no topic will be off limits. Please stop by at your convenience. We look forward to meeting with you.
Response: This speaks for itself. You simply will not be able to heal the divide in NYSUT if you cannot be in the same room as those who disagree with you. We would never accept this form of discourse from our political leaders; therefore, why should we accept it from our union leaders? This attitude toward debate and discussion is harmful to members and even more harmful to the organization. At the forum in ED 15/16, the STC slate had a great deal of support, but also had their feet held to the fire. The slate did not shy away from tough, direct questions, and will be held accountable for their responses -- the same cannot be said for the UNITY slate. On the contrary, we saw this with the previous leadership of NYSUT--officers who were willing to sit on the hotseat during tough times and be accountable for the positive and negative results they delivered. This has been absent the past three years and based on their current actions, we can anticipate that the UNITY slate will continue to isolate themselves from the rank and file membership in the future. Regardless, of candidate schedules, would it not be best if both sides could meet together to answer questions posed by the membership and the voting delegates representing them? The UNITY slate seems to feel obligated to burden delegates in certain regions by asking attend multiple forums just to have a chance to sit with their candidates. Please know, the ST Caucus slate and vision demands NYSUT fight the struggles of P-16 educators, school-related professionals, and retirees. This means that we will talk with, listen to, and respond to the needs of ALL NYSUT members. We can respond tit for tat on social media or by email, but wouldn't it be more efficient and better serve the entire membership if we met face-to-face to debate before our constituents? While UNITY might be trying to divide us, we believe that we are Stronger Together!
The ST Caucus Executive Committee
TIMELINE FOR CLARITY
- On 2/18/17, ED 15/16 invites Stronger Together slate to a Candidate Forum (with the UNITY Caucus candidates) at which each candidate would be given an allotted amount of time to make a statement followed by a moderated Q & A. Candidates are asked to respond by 2/28/17.
- The STC slate was never invited to attend a candidate forum on Long Island for the date of March 16th. We understand that the LIPC was working with a number of different dates to schedule their event.
- UNITY candidates notify the Directors of ED 15/16 that they have a conflict for March 16th because of the Candidate Forum on Long Island - though, there is no forum planned in Long Island for March 16. The UNITY candidates also communicate dissatisfaction with the format.
- The STC slate is invited to a Candidate Forum on March 21 hosted by the LIPC that will give each candidate an opportunity to make a statement and then give the attending delegates the opportunity to ask questions in a moderated format. The ST slate accepts that invitation.
- Unity requests that LIPC organize their Candidate Forum on 3/21/17 in a such a way that they (Unity candidates) will not be in the same room as Stronger Together candidates.
- The LIPC, in democratic fashion, votes against Unity’s requested format in favor of a joint appearance by both slates in the same room at the same time
- The ED 15/16 Forum is held in Mt. Kisco on 3/16/17. The Unity slate does not attend. However, a statement from Unity is read aloud. Unity claims that they are unable to attend due to a prior commitment (even though according to an email to Directors of ED 15/16, they were available for a potential 3/16/17 forum on Long Island)
- In their prepared statement, Unity invites members and delegates of ED 15/16 to a SEPARATE meet and greet in Mahopac on March 29, to which the Stronger Together slate has not been invited (most are not members OR delegates of ED 15/16).
- Unity refuses to attend the LIPC forum in Long Island on 3/21/17 because the LIPC did not vote in favor of Unity’s preferred format (to be in a separate room from Stronger Together candidates or to attend at a separate time).
- Unity invites members of LIPC and NYSUT members to a SEPARATE meet and greet on the SAME day as the LIPC forum from 11am-8pm*, to be held in a location minutes from the LIPC candidate forum