Monday, March 27, 2017

NYSUT Presidential Candidate Michael Lillis Comments on NYSUT Finances

In response to our recent coverage of NYSUT finances -
and our concerns that ST Caucus was paying attention, NYSUT ST Caucus presidential candidate sent us this response:

Norm,
Thanks for your reporting on NYSUT budget issues and the upcoming elections. I'd like to give you the heads up on where ST is on the NYSUT budget issue. 

We have been concerned for sometime over NYSUT's finances; this is why we opposed raising the number of officers from four to five, two years ago. There is a lack of confidence in the reporting of the current leadership. At last year’s President’s Conference, Martin Messner’s budget report indicated NYSUT was on a stable financial footing. 

A couple of months later, however, during PSA negotiations, the officers claimed NYSUT was facing a financial crisis. Therefore, leadership’s budget discussions seem to be more about political messaging than they are about guaranteeing NYSUT will be stable in its vision and capability moving forward.

We have two platform positions that deal with NYSUT's financials directly. First, we are proposing reducing the number of officers from five to four. This would be a 20% reduction in officer salaries and expenses. Second, we are proposing reducing officer salaries by 15%. Though these efforts in isolation will not be adequate to restore NYSUT to fiscal stability, they are necessary precursors to any meaningful discussion with NYSUT staff.

We have been clear that any fiscal reorganization within NYSUT requires transparency, shared sacrifice, and shared vision. The current NYSUT leadership lack these, and are simply not up to the task of bringing fiscal order without negative fallout that could impact members. The most recent PSA negotiations are evidence of this.

We must also look at the metro funding rebates. Five of the largest locals in the state are reimbursed 32% of their dues as they decline field services, but they receive additional rebates to bring the total in some cases to 50%. PSA, for example, gets 50% of their dues reimbursed, or at least they did when Dick was President. He did this to prevent them from disaffiliating. We have made many requests to NYSUT to get current reimbursement data, and they have not been forthcoming. Instead, they have referred us only to public disclosure documents.

We must also remember that NYSUT's economic future is not just a fiscal issue. In the near future, members may have the right to refuse dues payments. To protect the organization, we must transform NYSUT to be focused on member advocacy. I've only been at this for a little over twenty years, so I'm not sure what NYSUT was like at its inception, but I believe we have lost our focus. Our advocacy seems to be more about the perception of being power brokers on the state and national levels, and not in representing teachers, aides, bus drivers, and professors. We have ceded control of the conversation to education reformers, and we have failed to correct the record.

If members are going to keep paying dues, they need to see us engaging in fights that have meaning to them. This is probably the most important variable in NYSUT's future.

In short, we are aware of the uncertain economic situation within NYSUT, and we have grave concerns that if not addressed properly, this house of cards could come tumbling down, leaving members vulnerable to the worst of the political winds out there.

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