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AFT’s Weingarten: Obama’s Action Reunites Families, Brings Workers Out of the Shadows

AFT President Weingarten  (Photo by Bruce Gilbert)

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WASHINGTON—Statement by American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten on President Obama’s executive order that expands protections to millions of undocumented immigrants:

“As a union, we’ve always been committed to opening the doors of opportunity for all children, and immigration is an issue that touches every community we serve. After the House of Representatives refused to act on comprehensive immigration reform, although the Senate had passed bipartisan legislation, President Obama—as he did with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and as many of his predecessors have done—is using his legal authority to secure our nation’s borders, to help keep families together and to expand our economy.

“A great and diverse nation, founded by immigrants seeking a safer, more prosperous life, continues to deliver the promise of the American dream. Yet our broken immigration system has hurt millions of students and families. We continue to hear heartbreaking stories of kids who don’t know if their parents are coming home or have been deported. We hear from teachers whose students stop showing up for school after their parents are sent to a country these children have never called home. Our nation’s children are counting on us. We must unite, not divide, families. The president’s plan will give many of these families the security of knowing they can stay together, and it will bring many workers out of the shadow economy, ensuring higher wages for all. We remain eager for Congress—especially the Republican-controlled House—to take legislative action and show unity on an issue so personal to American families.”

The Colbert Report Highlights The FREE KEENE Robin Hoods

Screen shot of the Colbert Report 11-19-14 show on Free Keene
Screen shot of the Colbert Report 11-19-14 show on Free Keene

Screen shot of the Colbert Report 11-19-14 show on Free Keene

Last night the Colbert Report covered something that we in New Hampshire have been talking about at length for years, the Free Staters, specifically Free Keene.

The Colbert Report focused on the Free Keene Robin Hooders and their harassment of parking attendants.  The NH Labor News was one of the first to break the story about the harassment of Keene police officers in our story, “Free Keene from ‘Free-Keene': A Story Of Harassment In The Workplace.

I am glad to see that The Colbert Report is bringing some national attention to the outrageous and threatening actions of the Free Keene Robin Hoods.

Wall Street Deals Costing Schools, Municipalities Billions

"Wall Street - New York Stock Exchange" by Carlos Delgado

"Wall Street - New York Stock Exchange" by Carlos Delgado

“Wall Street – New York Stock Exchange” by Carlos Delgado

Educators, Parents, Communities Demand Transparency and Accountability 

WASHINGTON— Following a new report detailing how Wall Street sold toxic deals to school districts and municipalities that are costing communities billions in fees, interest and other payments, educators, parents, community members and local officials have joined together for a Day of Action in cities across the country. They are demanding transparency and accountability to ensure taxpayer money is being used to invest in schools and communities, not to enrich Wall Street.

“These deals are robbing schools and kids of desperately needed resources at a time when budgets have been cut to the bone and our schools are already being asked to do more with less,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “Parents, educators and communities deserve basic transparency and accountability—both from the banks that continue to peddle these toxic deals, and from those officials who locked communities into spiraling debt and fees. Putting this money back into the classroom could mean more teachers, nurses and social workers; restoring art and music; creating community schools; and wrapping services for kids and families around schools.”

The report, issued by the Roosevelt Institute, details how banks sold school districts and state and local governments predatory financial products like interest rate swaps and capital appreciation bonds—products that were laced with hidden costs and hidden risks, and in many cases were designed to fail—as well as charging exorbitant fees for products and services.

These deals are affecting schools, towns and cities across the country. For example, in Philadelphia, schools will lose more than $161 million as a result of 10 interest rate swaps. Los Angeles is now spending $290 million a year in financial fees—more than the entire city budget for maintaining its streets and highways. The Chicago Tribune this month detailed how the Chicago Public Schools will likely lose $100 million on a complex financing scheme. Detroit entered into a series of complex financial deals that has left the city $1.6 billion in debt. And the Peralta Community College District in California is paying $1.6 million a year in interest rate swap payments—the equivalent of 320 classes.

AFT members and leaders nationwide joined with parents and community members today to call for greater transparency and accountability.

“Philadelphia’s budget crisis is no coincidence. It’s the partial result of Wall Street banks rigging the game in their favor at the expense of schools, communities and students,” said Philadelphia Federation of Teachers President Jerry Jordan, who is an AFT vice president. “The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center estimates that our city’s schools have lost more than $161 million as a result of 10 different toxic swap deals. We call on the School Reform Commission to restore critical services by holding Wall Street to account for the money it has cheated our schools and students out of.”

Detroit Federation of Teachers President Keith Johnson, also an AFT vice president, added, “The predatory lending schemes contributed to the urban blight in Detroit as families lost their homes only to see them boarded up. While Detroit may one day recover, many of these families will have no such luck.”

In Chicago, Chicago Teachers Union Vice President and Acting President Jesse Sharkey responded to the report, saying, “The mayor and the school district need to be as tough on their banker friends as they are on our neighborhood schools. In 2013, CPS closed 50 schools to ‘save money’ at the same time that banks and investment houses like Loop Capital and Bank of America were making millions from excessive fees and complicated swap deals of dubious legality. The banks owe us a rebate of hundreds of millions of dollars, which we should invest in 50 sustainable community schools with robust wraparound services, restorative justice programs, low class sizes and sufficient staffing levels.”

And in Los Angeles, United Teachers Los Angeles President Alex Caputo-Pearl said, “Our school district, city and county are being systematically gouged by Wall Street. Last year, Wall Street banks made more than $200 million in fees at the expense of LA taxpayers. Our city stands to lose an additional $65 million from a toxic interest rate swap deal from the mid-2000s. We will call on the Los Angeles Unified School District to conduct a thorough analysis of its dealings with Wall Street so we can see where the banks are charging too much and we can work to get the schools LA students deserve.”

Read the full report here.

AFL-CIO Summit Focused On Real-World Job Skills And Economic Prosperity

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Career and Technical Education/Workforce Development Summit Focuses on Effective Pathways to Graduation, Real-World Job Skills, Economic Prosperity

Vice-President-Joe-Biden-to-Deliver-Remarks-for-AFL-CIO-AFT-Career-and-Technical-Education-Summit_blog_post_fullWidthWASHINGTON—Career and technical education and workforce development create multiple pathways to high school and higher education graduation, real-world job skills and economic prosperity, speakers including Vice President Joe Biden said today at the first Career and Technical Education/Workforce Development Summit. It was co-hosted by the American Federation of Teachers and the AFL-CIO.

Vice President Biden said school-employer partnerships provide a path to a middle- class life. “These partnerships provide a seamless transition so folks can go from a classroom to a job, and from job to job within the industry they’re in,” he said, adding, “We have to maintain and enhance our workforce so we have the most sophisticated, best-trained workforce in the world.”

Summit speakers emphasized that today’s CTE programs are very different from yesterday’s vocational education programs. CTE has been reimagined to bring together all the players needed to make it succeed—students, teachers, businesses and other employers, and higher education institutions.

“CTE has the promise and potential to help equip a new generation of workers with the skills and knowledge needed for the jobs of today and tomorrow, and to forge a new path to college and life,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “It’s a way for our high schools, community colleges and other higher education institutions, and businesses to coordinate and align so they can create and sustain good, middle-class jobs.”

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said short-term challenges are flat wages and lack of jobs, while the long-term goal must be to regain America’s competitive edge.

“Workforce development won’t be a cure-all, but it is a necessary ingredient. What we need is a full, comprehensive system for lifelong learning. I’m talking about everything from high school programs to community colleges to apprenticeship programs to on-the-job learning. We all benefit when workers develop transferrable skills, so we can move among employers if we want and grow as professionals throughout our working lives,” Trumka said.

AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler said CTE and workforce development are a fundamental part of America’s infrastructure. “It’s as basic to our economy and our communities as building roads and bridges. In fact, workforce development is a bridge—a bridge to our future, to the workers, jobs and technology of tomorrow, to our success as individuals and industries, and to our competitiveness as a nation.”

Alexis Smith is a graduate of the Toledo Technology Academy and now studying biomedical engineering at the University of Toledo.

“My experience at Toledo Tech opened up the doors of opportunity for me to delve into my passion,” Smith said. Of other former and current CTE students speaking at the summit, she said, “We are Exhibit ‘A’ for the power of CTE to engage us in our studies, to help us secure a bright future and to have fun at the same time.”

Among the corporate leaders at the summit validating the importance of CTE programs was Snap-on Inc. Chairman and CEO Nicholas Pinchuk.

“We are in a global competition for jobs,” Pinchuk said. “The single best weapon is CTE. We need to outskill the competition.”

Weingarten noted that for CTE to fulfill its potential, more businesses need to partner with educators and schools to offer a path forward for students with internships, apprenticeships and employment opportunities. This was reinforced in a survey of 570 CTE teachers that the AFT released today.

The teachers uniformly believe in CTE as a way to create opportunity for kids, but said they need the equipment and resources to make the work real and need more partners in business and the community to step up.

“Understanding the realities of the workplace and learning how to apply skills can only improve a student’s chance of success after high school,” a New York teacher said in the survey. A Michigan teacher wrote: “I have seen CTE classes, and the skills learned in them change students’ lives. They give many unmotivated students a reason to perform better in school, and they give many motivated students access to forms of expression and outlets they wouldn’t otherwise have.”

Weingarten noted the summit took place just a few days after the polarizing midterm elections. “CTE is a strategy that both Republicans and Democrats believe in and can agree on, so I have great hope that we can move this agenda in Washington, D.C.”

AFT Launches National Ebola Information Hotline

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AFT Launches Ebola Information Hotline for Frontline Healthcare Workers to Help Ensure All Health Facilities Have Ebola Preparedness Plans

Hotline Launched with National Print and Digital Ad Buy

Washington—The AFT, the nation’s second-largest nurses’ union, today launched an Ebola Information Hotline and national ad buy to help ensure all healthcare workers receive the resources, equipment and training to prepare for and contain Ebola in the United States.

This hotline will provide a place for frontline healthcare workers to confidentially report concerns that could put them at risk for potential exposure to Ebola, so they can protect themselves, their patients and their communities. The hotline also will support OSHA’s push to require health facilities to have Ebola preparedness and response plans.

“Our top priority as the nation’s second-largest union of nurses continues to be ensuring the safety of our communities and our nurses and frontline providers. To do so, those frontline providers need training and resources,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “In places such as the UConn Health Center in Farmington, Conn., I have seen firsthand that nurses and health professionals are working with their hospitals to put plans in place. But we know that too many facilities haven’t provided the training, support or resources needed. With OSHA mandating Ebola preparedness plans at every health facility, we wanted to create a resource for nurses and health professionals to turn to if their facility is not providing what is necessary to protect them and their communities.”

The print and digital advertising buy launches this week in Alaska, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

This is the latest step in the AFT’s local, national and international effort to combat and contain Ebola. Last month, the AFT released a three-point strategy to protect healthcare workers and communities, including:

  1. Infection-control protocols and worker-preparedness plans at all health facilities.
  2. Dedicated, specially trained teams of willing staff—including doctors, nurses, lab and X-ray technicians, and housekeeping staff—to care for potential Ebola patients, along with adequate staffing.
  3. Inclusion of frontline providers in the development and implementation of plans.

AFT locals have been working with employers across the country to implement these strategies. For example, in Washington state, our leaders worked with state officials and hospital management to put in place the right training and equipment. And at UConn Health Center in Connecticut, hundreds of workers have volunteered to participate in training. In addition, the AFT’s Ebola response toolkit at www.AFT.org continues to be updated with tools and resources both to help healthcare workers and to support  preparedness in public schools.

On an international level, the AFT has contributed money from our Disaster Relief Fund to combat and contain Ebola in West Africa, including supporting Doctors Without Borders.

AFT-NH Hosts “Working Women Speak Out” (Videos)

AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler and AFT President Randi Weingarten

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This election is extremely important to working women and their families.  Ensuring that we elect representatives who support women in the workplace was what the Working Women Speak Out event was focused on.

Issues facing working women are the same issues effected every Granite Stater this election.  AFL-CIO Secretary Treasurer Liz Shuler said, “Women’s issues are shaping up to be the second biggest issue of this election.” Working women are facing enormous challenges in our struggling economy. “Women still only make $.77 cents on the dollar compared to man, and that is a shame,” said Shuler.  In her speech, Shuler focused on reelecting Governor Hassan, Senator Shaheen, and Congresswoman Annie Kuster who all support raising the minimum wage and equal pay for equal work.  Shuler also talked about the need to pass “paid sick leave” for all workers, especially since most low wage jobs, like waiting tables, provide no paid time off when your sick.

View Liz Shuler video on YouTube

AFT-President Randi Weingarten also spoke at the event and focused how poverty and education effect working families. “Nearly half of all public school students are living below the poverty line, and one-in-four (25%) of all children nationally are living in poverty,” said Weingarten.  She also talked about how we need to ensure that we are properly funding our public school system. “The only reason we passed a nation budget was because the Republicans were embarrassed after they shut down the government,” said Weingarten. “How dare they say they support children when they cut public school budgets to give tax breaks to the 1%.”

(Randi also spoke in detail about the effects of spending caps like the one in Nashua in separate post here.)

View Randi’s speech on YouTube

Kelly Torosian, an IBEW 2320 member and an Executive Council member of the NH AFL-CIO, took a few minutes to update the crowd on the ongoing FairPoint strike. Torosian asked for people to show their support for workers standing on the picket line by donating gas cards and grocery store gift cards.  After hearing about the current struggle of striking workers, Weingarten stated, “AFT will donate $5,000 dollars to the FairPoint workers strike fund.”

The crowd of 70 people gave a standing ovation to Governor Hassan as she entered the room, showing their support for her strong leadership in the corner office.  “Building a strong innovative economy starts with a strong public schools system,” said Hassan.  Governor Hassan also spoke about the need to “restore and improve the state minimum wage.”

Hassan also brought attention to the importance of keeping Democrats in control of the NH House and not letting Bill O’Brien regain control.  As Speaker, O’Brien cut funding to public schools, the University of New Hampshire system, and repealed the New Hampshire Minimum Wage law.

Governor Hassan also talked about the importance of having access to quality healthcare and provide low income workers with healthcare through the Medicaid Expansion. “As of this week 20,000 Granite Staters now have healthcare thanks to the Medicaid Expansion,” said Hassan.

View Governor Hassan’s speech on YouTube.

Congresswoman Annie Kuster also talked about the Bill O’Brien House and her opponent Marilinda Garcia, who was one of the select few to be a part of  O’Brien’s leadership team.  Kuster talked about her work in Congress to help working families by pushing for expanded access to healthcare, raising the minimum wage and passing a national Paycheck Fairness law.  Kuster noted that while she supports legislation that would help working women, her opponent, wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act, opposes raising the minimum wage, and paycheck fairness is unneeded legislation.

Garcia also wants to abolish the Department of Education that would virtually eliminate the federal student loan program, even though Garcia currently owes tens of thousands of dollars in Sallie Mae student loans.

View Rep. Annie Kuster’s speech on YouTube.

Laura Hainey, President of AFT-NH organized the event and spent a couple of minutes talking about working to ensure that Speaker Bill O’Brien does not regain power in Concord.  As President of AFT-NH, Hainey knows first hand the devastation that another O’Brien legislature would do to the public schools system in New Hampshire.

View Laura Hainey’s speech on YouTube.

Senator Shaheen was unable to attend the event due to a scheduling conflict — she was in Northern New Hampshire campaigning with Sen. Elizabeth Warren — her daughter Stacy gave a short speech on her behalf.  Stacy Shaheen talked about how hard her mother is working for the people of New Hampshire. “My mom is a workhorse,” said Shaheen.  “She has been working for the people of New Hampshire for a long time.”

Working families in New Hampshire need more representatives like this strong, women leaders.

Talk to your friends, neighbors and family members about how important this election is and then encourage them to vote on Nov. 4th.

AFT President Randi Weingarten Speaks At AFT-NH’s Working Women Speak Out Event

Randi Weingarten
Randi Weingarten

AFT President Randi Weingarten (center) with members of the Nashua Teacher Union (AFT-NH)

Yesterday the American Federation of Teachers (NH) organized an event focusing on the importance of this election on the lives of working women.  The event entitled Working Women Speak Out featured propionate labor leaders and Congresswoman Annie Kuster talking about the issues effecting women this election.

Below are two videos from the event featuring American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten.

View video 1 on YouTube

After her rousing speech about the importance of getting out and voting this election, Gary Hoffman, a teacher in the Nashua School District asked Pres. Weingarten about local spending caps and their effects on public schools.  Nashua is currently considering changing the way that the city calculates their spending cap and the city will vote on this Charter Amendment on Nov. 4th.  Below is President Weingarten’s response.

View video 2 on YouTube.

 

New Hampshire Working Women Speak Out AFT Pres. Randi Weingarten and AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler (OCT-24th)

AFT Pres Randi Weingarten 2014 convention (Image by Russ Curtis) -2

New Hampshire Working Women Speak Out

As we head into the final days of this crucial election campaign, the New Hampshire AFL-CIO is privileged to have the opportunity to have two of the highest ranking women officers in the labor movement visiting Nashua, this Friday, October 24th.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler will participate in our New Hampshire “Working Women Speak Out” event to discuss the importance of women in this election, what’s at stake and issues that impact women’s lives such as equal pay for equal work, raising wages, education and paid sick time.

When: Friday, October 24, 2014 from 3:30 pm to 5:00 pm

Where: Elks Lodge 720, 120 Daniel Webster Highway, Nashua, NH 03062

We have invited and hoped to be joined by Senator Shaheen, Governor Hassan and Congresswoman Kuster.

Please RSVP with the New Hampshire AFL-CIO at 603-623-7302 or you can sign up by CLICKING HERE

In Solidarity,

Laura Hainey
AFT-NH President

AFT and National Nurses United Praise New CDC Ebola Guidelines For Healthcare Workers

CDC-logo-4inch

CDC-logo-4inch

Today the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new Ebola guidance for U.S. healthcare workers.  AFT and National Nurses United have been pushing for more restrictive guidance to protect the millions of healthcare providers in the US.

After the news broke AFT President Randi Weingarten released the following statement:

“At hospitals throughout our nation, nurses and healthcare professionals are doing everything they can to be ready to care for whoever comes through their doors. The CDC’s new guidance for healthcare workers and the positive actions taken by the Obama administration fall directly in line with what our members called for last week: infection-control protocols and worker-preparedness plans; dedicated, specially trained teams of willing staff; and the proper equipment for nurses and healthcare professionals working in America’s hospitals.

As the second-largest nurses union in the United States, the AFT is working to keep our communities safe and healthy. That is why we are calling on the CDC to issue additional Ebola guidance for non-hospital healthcare settings and expanded guidance to guarantee wages and benefits for quarantined healthcare workers—so workers won’t have to choose between safety and living expenses. And we renew our call for hospitals to incorporate the voices of nurses and healthcare workers in the development and implementation of Ebola protocols.

We look forward to being a partner with the CDC to expand and improve guidance on Ebola or any other health issues facing America.”

The National Nurses United released the following:

National Nurses United today welcomed the call in the latest guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for “rigorous and repeated training” for nurses and other health workers responding to the Ebola virus as NNU has been urging for two months, but said some substantial questions and concerns remain.

“It is clear from the abrupt change in position of the CDC in some areas that the registered nurses have moved the country and the CDC as the nurses champion protection for their patients and articulate the vulnerabilities for themselves. Nevertheless, the optimal standards should be in place tomorrow and, regrettably, they will not be,” said NNU Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro.

With still significant questions regarding the most effective personal protective equipment, and the ongoing lack of any mandate on the hospitals to comply with the highest standards and protocols, “it is clear that nurses are going to have to continue to fight every step of the way to demand that every patient, every nurse, every frontline healthcare worker has the protection they need,” DeMoro said.

“The governing theme must be the precautionary principle, the highest safety standards in the face of this virulent disease, so that no nurses, other frontline health workers, or patients have to put their lives in jeopardy,” DeMoro said.

DeMoro noted that the call for continuous training, especially in group sessions with everyone practicing putting on and taking off the protective equipment, echoes a key demand of nurses.

“Most hospitals continue to fall far short of that standard,” she said. A national NNU survey, which now has nearly 3,000 responses from nurses in over 1,000 facilities in all 50 states and the District of Columbia found that 84 percent of nurses say their hospital has not provided education on Ebola with the ability for nurses to interact and ask questions.

Second, DeMoro called the guideline that any protective equipment leave ‘no skin exposed,’ a “direct testament to the courage of Briana Aguirre,”  the Texas Presbyterian Hospital RN who “made the incredibly brave decision” to publicly disclose that the suits at her Dallas hospital left exposed the necks and other skin of nurses who cared for Ebola-infected patients.

“Briana will be remembered as the Karen Silkwood of our time,” DeMoro said.  The gap in the suits was also revealed in a statement from Aguirre and other Dallas RNs released by NNU last week.

However, the CDC guidelines remain unclear on the most effective protective equipment, and, significantly, have their own gaping hole in the option offered to hospitals to select which protective equipment to use “based on availability” and other factors.

DeMoro called that loophole “an open invitation for hospitals to choose the cheapest protective equipment that will continue to put nurses and other health workers at considerable risk. Years of experience with our private hospital industry have demonstrated that far too many hospitals routinely put their budget goals and profit margins ahead of public safety, including in access to protective equipment.”

“We are contacting the CDC for specifics on the proper protective equipment and whether it meets the precautionary principle and the highest standard, in particular, full body coverage that prevents any blood or viral penetration,” DeMoro said.

Finally, she noted, “CDC readily admits it is not a regulatory agency. It has no authority to compel hospitals to comply with any guidelines.

“That is why we will continue to insist that Congress and the White House should mandate all hospitals meet the optimal uniform, national standards and protocols in order to safely protect patients, all healthcare workers and the public,” DeMoro said.

The public is invited to join that call by signing an NNU petition online at:

http://www.nationalnursesunited.org/page/s/national-nurses-united-urges-you-to-take-action-now?utm_source=nnu&utm_medium=btn&utm_campaign=petition

AFT Announces Winners of 2014 Prize for Solution-Driven Unionism

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WASHINGTON—The American Federation of Teachers announced today the winners of its second annual Prize for Solution-Driven Unionism, a competition among AFT state and local affiliates to shine a light on innovative, inspiring and collaborative solutions to tough problems.

Two first-place prizes were awarded: Milwaukee Area Technical Federation, AFT Local 212, won for its solution to lagging graduation and course completion rates, while the other prize will be shared by the United University Professions and the New York State Public Employees Federation for their successful campaign to save Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., from privatization and to promote investment in the facility and actually expand healthcare in Brooklyn. The AFT’s Prize for Solution-Driven Unionism—which was created in partnership with the Albert Shanker Institute and the AFT Innovation Fund—comes with $25,000 for each of the two winners.

“These unions thought outside the box and worked with community partners to come up with innovative, and ultimately successful, solutions to seemingly intractable problems,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “Solution-driven unionism is about fighting for ideas that help the people we serve and that help our communities thrive.”

AFT Local 212 and Milwaukee Area Technical College:
Working Together to Enhance District and Community Engagement

Milwaukee Area Technical College’s graduation rate had been under 50 percent, and its course completion rate at about 65 percent, when members of the Milwaukee Area Technical Federation, Local 212, developed a program to enhance student and teacher engagement in the learning process as a means to improve student completion. Among other successful solutions over the past several years, the program created more ways for students to engage with faculty and community. The Center for Engaged and Service Learning, for example, provides many opportunities for students to do service work in the community.

From 2008-2011, MATC had an increase of 378 graduates, to 2,394 students, and is on schedule to graduate 3,900 by the year 2020. The overall course completion rate (defined as the percent of students completing a course with a C or better) rose between 2009 and 2012, with the most significant improvement for courses in the 200-level transfer courses.

MATC President Vicki Martin praised union-management collaboration, noting the expansion and impact of engaged and service learning as a way to enhance student success. “Results show that this work is a shining example of how great things can be achieved when we work together for the common good of students and the community that we serve,” Martin said.

The Campaign to Save Downstate Medical Center

For more than two years, members of the United University Professions and the New York State Public Employees Federation worked to keep the State University of New York’s University Hospital at Downstate Medical Center from being privatized. University Hospital is the state-run teaching hospital connected to Downstate’s medical school and treats nearly 400,000 patients each year, regardless of patients’ ability to pay. Privatization threatened the healthcare safety net for an extremely poor and diverse population, along with the jobs of 3,000 people represented by the United University Professions.

UUP and PEF realized that the fight to solve the problem of healthcare in Brooklyn required a strong alliance with patients, medical students, parents, alumni, faith and business groups, and other unions and community allies. As a result, they created the Coalition of Faith, Labor and Community Leaders, which organized mass rallies, legislative meetings, community forums and a media campaign.

The unions also devised the “Brooklyn Hospitals Safety Net Plan,” which called for developing decentralized, comprehensive ambulatory care centers staffed by retrained personnel from the inpatient services of Downstate and 14 other Brooklyn hospitals. These outpatient centers would serve about a half-million underserved, underinsured or uninsured Brooklyn residents and are intended to be a national model for training medical residents in comprehensive ambulatory care. Funding could well be secured from a Medicaid waiver, and the unions will be helping to oversee the plan’s implementation.

Downstate Medical Center remains a public, full-service hospital for the residents of central Brooklyn. SUNY Downstate, including the medical school, remains viable. While approximately 65 positions were cut, the campaign was successful in preventing even greater job losses and maintaining access to healthcare for all who need it.

“UUP and PEF were instrumental in creating a community effort to ensure that those who have the least continue to have access to high-quality healthcare in their neighborhood. This was a monumental, but ultimately successful, effort by the unions and their indefatigable community partners,” Weingarten said.

This is the AFT’s second annual Prize for Solution-Driven Unionism. The 2013 winners were the New York Performance Standards Consortium—39 diverse New York state public high schools that received waivers from four of the state’s five standardized exams to emphasize project-based instruction—and AFT Connecticut, for its cost-saving Health Enhancement Program.

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