As local NYSUT presidents from around New York flood into Manhattan today and tomorrow, NYSUT President Iannuzzi is shifting into high gear and pulling out all the stops in his campaign to hang on to his job as the boss of New York’s largest union. Delegates representing NYSUT’s 600,000 members and more than 1,300 locals will convene later this week at NYSUT’s Representative Assembly, which climaxes with a high stakes election planned for Saturday afternoon; an election which is set to determine the future of the organization.
Candidate Iannuzzi is up against a progressive slate of leaders from around the state including Harrison Teachers’ Association president Karen Magee and NYSUT Executive VP Andy Pallotta. Iannuzzi, along with his team of incumbents, is banking on a last ditch, full court press effort to garner enough support for a win. In fact, their latest announcement, in which they claim support from 300 local unions, has been sullied by questions about their tactics (and, at times, their ability to add). It seems that some of the locals on their list are counted twice (co-presidents are listed) and others were placed on the list without their knowledge. One union president was listed as a supporter even though she had publicly endorsed Iannuzzi’s challengers; she even posted a letter on their website. And the number, 300 (hence the reference to Thermopylae), only ads up to less than 25% of the delegates who are eligible a to vote in this week’s election (NYSUT has over 1,300 locals in total). In some cases, local presidents haven’t promised to support all of the incumbents, rather they intend to vote split tickets and only endorse one of Iannuzzi’s team with whom they have close personal or regional ties. At this point, any claim of a mandate going into this election would be premature at best, or at worse reckless.
The real concern in the eyes of many leaders across the state, however, are the tactics that candidate Iannuzzi is employing in his 11th hour whistle-stop tour of New York. Last month, in an attempt to peel delegates away from their locals, he sent letters to the Buffalo Teachers’ Federation and the Rochester TA delegates calling into question their responsibility to vote alongside their leaders, Phil Rumore and Adam Urbanski. What Iannuzzi ignores is that delegates’ obligation to representation is not a service to themselves, but rather a service to their members.
Iannuzzi kicked his pressure up a notch last week when he sent NYSUT Secretary-Treasurer, Lee Cutler, uninvited to a delegate meeting in Syracuse (Syracuse Teachers’ Association President, KevinAhern, has pledged his support to The Revive NYSUT candidates). It turns out that there were less than a dozen attendees at the meeting and only a half dozen delegates present. What absolutely shocked the Syracuse delegates was Iannuzzi’s follow up letter to the meeting. In it, Iannuzzi calls into question the STA’s endorsement process.
We were surprised to learn that President Ahern endorsed the opposition on your behalf without a phone call or a discussion.
In truth, the decision to support Revive NYSUT was made by the STA Executive Board in consultation with their Representative Assembly. There was not a single dissenting voice in either body. The letter goes on, bizarrely, to suggest that delegates had been subject to some kind of coercion and/or intimidation.
All of the candidates running on the Stronger Together team understand that is unethical and unlawful for a union to discipline or otherwise use threats to restrain, coerce, or intimidate or otherwise attempt to restrain, coerce, or intimidate any member for the purpose of interfering with his/her rights.
Iannuzzi goes on to cite the Code of Federal Regulations which applies in this case. You can read the full letter here: Syracuse Appeal
These types of attacks are shameful and have no place in this election. I reached out to the leadership team in Syracuse and they made it perfectly clear, STA’s process was followed to the letter and nobody was coerced or intimidated. Any suggestion as such, either in this letter or otherwise, is a lie and possibly even slanderous.
What will Iannuzzi do next? This week will surely be heated. Our only hope will be that cooler minds will prevail and he will take a cue from his rank and file supporters. Now is the time to focus on the future of NYSUT, its strength and its members’ collective wisdom. Let’s find common ground as we move forward.
I won’t remind you what happened to the 300 Spartans at the battle of Thermopylae. Let’s hope this year’s RA isn’t quite the bloodbath.