June 2011 Issue
May 23, 2011

Locals in Action: Foothills Area Council of Teachers

Source: NYSUT United
Caption: Locals coming out to support the public employees in the Katonah-Lewisboro district included Bedford, Hastings, Mahopac and the Yorktown Congress of Teachers. Photo by Maria R. Bastone.

Foothills Area Council of Teachers

The Foothills Area Council of Teachers, made up of eight Adirondack area teachers unions, held its first fundraising event in May with a charity run at Schoharie Central School. The council includes Schoharie TA, Middleburgh TA, Cobleskill-Richmondville TA, Gilboa-Conesville FA, Berne-Knox-Westerlo TA, Sharon Springs TA, Jefferson TA and Duanesburg TA. The group raised $3,000 for the Children at Risk Response Team of Schoharie County.

"We were very pleased by the turnout," said Martin Messner, Schoharie TA president, noting about 70 of the 230 participants were members of the council's teachers unions.
"Everyone had a great time."

The Schoharie local is graduating this year from NYSUT's Local Action Project, and part of its campaign was to found a coalition of districts in the area to foster better communication and relationships among NYSUT locals. Out of this plan came the Foothills Area Council of Teachers. "One of the focuses of the group is large community service events, and we decided this event would be a great start to help improve our communities and this state, and highlight how teachers are an important part of the local community," Messner said.

Saratoga Adirondack BOCES Employees Association

After his crew of volunteers finished a community garden project constructing 32 raised garden beds and hauling compost and sod earlier this spring, Bert Weber, Saratoga Adirondack BOCES EA president, announced: "Another union job, under budget and ahead of schedule."

Twenty-five retired and active SABEA members turned out to turn over dirt and haul 300 wheelbarrows full of topsoil to make a garden at the Village Green Housing Complex in Glens Falls.

The site was identified through a state Department of Health grant to Glens Falls Hospital to create healthy places to live, work and play. Garden plots will be available to apartment residents on a first-come, first-served basis.

The criteria for the garden grant specified that it had to be built by volunteers; that's where Weber stepped in. A retired horticulture and landscaping teacher from the Washington Saratoga Warren Hamilton Essex BOCES, he is now community garden coordinator for Cornell University Cooperative Extension of Warren County.

Members of the local SABEA crew sawed, hauled and screwed together 1,050 linear board feet of rough-cut wood for the beds, then filled them with 38 yards of topsoil/compost. "I couldn't think of a more dedicated group and a more deserving project," Weber said.

Oneonta TA, UUP Oneonta

Educators from pre-K through post-grad teamed up at a forum last month to discuss how the labor movement can continue to make progress in the face of anti-union legislation and policies.

Co-hosted by the Oneonta Teachers Association, led by Tim Nobiling, and the SUNY Oneonta United University Professions chapter, led by Bill Simons, the discussion focused on the ties among the economic crisis, the attacks in Wisconsin and labor's response. Along with members from the host local unions and NYSUT staff, educators from several NYSUT locals, as well as CSEA, Teamsters, firefighters and other unions participated.

"Public employees have what everyone else should have," said Cary Brunswick, editor of www.oneontatoday.com. "Public employees have to help those without the benefits they have."

Michael Lynch, a NYSUT labor relations specialist and Oneonta city council member, said he saw "true solidarity" during his four days in Madison at the height of the protests.

Even though the Wisconsin governor excluded police and firefighters from his anti-union bill, he saw them stand with the rest of labor. "Everyone knew that if you went to Ladder #1 in Madison at noon each day during the protest, you could march with the firefighters and their bagpipes to the Capitol," Lynch said.

Ed Quinn, UUP's membership development director, was also in Madison. He met mayors at the protests who said the governor's bill was something they never asked for.

He showed his photos of the protest, including a Teamsters union 18-wheeler with the slogan "The rights which labor has won, labor must fight to protect" painted on its side.

"We don't do this enough," Lynch said, applauding the teamwork of the Oneonta teachers and UUP campus leaders in organizing the forum.

Katonah-Lewisboro District TA

A "sea of teachers" supported the Katonah-Lewisboro staff unions, led by Sandra Grebinar and Jeani Granelli, who protested the hiring of an anti-union superintendent from Wisconsin in late April.

"This is not about Wisconsin or New York. This is about those in power abusing that power," NYSUT Secretary-Treasurer Lee Cutler told those who met outside the high school before a board meeting to hire Paul Kreutzer.

Kreutzer, the New Berlin, Wis. schools superintendent, has a track record of anti-worker policies, long before he stood with Gov. Scott Walker on collective bargaining.

"We have done our research and know the decision the Board of Education is about to make can destroy a school of excellence," Cutler said, then leading the crowd in chants of "Not Here!"

The school board voted 7-0 to hire Kreutzer. He starts July 1 with a starting salary of $245,000. "I'm not coming here as a union buster," Kreutzer told the New York Times.

When asked why he wanted to move to Westchester County he described himself as "upwardly mobile."