As the American Federation of Teachers and many other national unions organize to elect Hillary Clinton president, the PSC is also working to reshape the New York state legislature and the composition of the state’s congressional delegation.
The PSC is backing candidates at the state and national level who have shown support for funding public higher education and have been supporters of organized labor in a time of increased fiscal austerity. PSC members have been on the street and working phone banks with the goal of electing pro-union candidates.
MONEY FOR HIGHER ED
“We need to stop the starvation of public higher education,” PSC First Vice President Michael Fabricant told Clarion. Fabricant noted that union members’ repeated meetings with elected leaders last spring, in the face of devastating cuts, made the need to invest in CUNY not a distant policy issue for state lawmakers, but a pressing issue affecting many of their constituents. “We need to involve more and more union members in the work of building the political power of the union, which is the best hope for creating state investment that ensures quality and accessibility [for our students].”
Mobilizing members with CUNY students and allies, the union ultimately helped stave off a plan to shrink the state’s allocation to CUNY by nearly half a billion dollars.
“PSC’s persistence in fighting for a contract made a huge impression on the legislators,” PSC legislative committee member Cecelia McCall said. “We covered the hall so well. More lawmakers got to know the union and the leadership of the union. Everyone was waiting for the contract to be settled between the University and the PSC, and [the legislators] were all ready to approve it.”
The goal for the PSC is to increase the Democratic and progressive presence in the state Senate in order to advance a progressive pro-CUNY and pro-labor agenda. The union plans to build on the momentum of the last year and help push for a comprehensive maintenance-of-effort bill that would ensure that Albany covers the cost of mandatory cost increases, which includes contractual raises, at CUNY and SUNY.
This election has the potential to eat into the Republicans’ grip on the state Senate, as the outcome of key races in Nassau County in Long Island and in the Hudson Valley could give progressive Democrats more power. PSC activists campaigned in hotly contested primary battles this September, where pro-charter groups were backing various Democratic candidates.
PSC members have participated in get-out-the-vote activities including phone banking. Going into the November 8 election, PSC and its parent union NYSUT will continue to push for candidates who support public education. Some key endorsements in the state and federal races are listed below.
TODD KAMINSKY for State Senate, District 9
(Covering a southern portion of Nassau County, including Long Beach, Lynbrook and Oceanside.)
In a tightly contested race this past spring, Todd Kaminsky was elected to fill the seat left vacant by ex-GOP Senate Leader Dean Skelos, who was convicted on federal corruption charges last year. Kaminsky, a former federal prosecutor, won by less than 1,000 votes against his Republican opponent, personal injury attorney Christopher McGrath. Months later, the two face each other again. Kaminsky has also placed himself as a friend of public education, while McGrath has gotten substantial support from charter school and other privatization advocates.
ADAM HABER for State Senate, District 7
(Covering Northern Long Island, including Mineola, Port Washington, Floral Park and parts of Hicksville.)
Adam Haber and Republican candidate Elaine Phillips are vying for a Senate seat vacated by Republican incumbent Jack Martin, who is running for a congressional seat. Haber also has the backing of the New York State AFL-CIO and, as a former Roslyn school board member, he has vowed to fight for more investment in public schools and to reform Common Core.
ZEPHYR TEACHOUT for U.S. Congress, NY’s 19th Congressional District
(Covering the Hudson Valley and Catskills region.)
Zephyr Teachout, who ran against Andrew Cuomo in the 2014 gubernatorial primary, is vying for the congressional seat vacated by retiring Republican incumbent Rep. Chris Gibson. Teachout, a constitutional law professor at Fordham Law School, is a strong proponent of public education. In 2014, she coauthored the report “Corruption in Education: Hedge Funds and the Takeover of New York’s Schools,” which education commentator Diane Ravitch described as “powerful,” “shocking,” and “well-documented.”
Teachout has also decried cuts to K-12 education and the crippling student debt that many college graduates carry. On the first week of school, Teachout tweeted to teachers, “Thank you for being there at the heart of our society, caring so passionately about helping children learn and become who they can become, and treating each child as an individual, bringing different challenges and gifts.”