Thousands of CSA Members Rally For A New Contract At City Hall
Thousands of CSA members rallied near City Hall on Oct. 30. It was a huge turnout and an overwhelming show of support by members for their union as President Mark Cannizzaro and his team continue the ir efforts to hash out a contract with a recalcitrant city government.
Mr. Cannizzaro gave a thunderous speech in which he took the city to task for offering many platitudes about the great job that school leaders do, all the while holding up a family leave policy that would benefit some of CSA’s most vulnerable members. “Platitudes are nice, but it’s your support here today that fuels us,” he told the crowd.
He hammered home the fact that the constant micromanaging of principals, combined with chronic underfunding of schools, ultimately leaves students unsafe. He cited some statistics from a recent survey of our members that CSA commissioned. “Seventy percent of you believe you are not given the resources you need to keep your students safe,” he said. “Twenty eight percent of those surveyed are satisfied with the direction the DOE is taking.”
More than a dozen elected officials also spoke at the event, including City Council Education Chair Mark Treyger, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.
Council Member Treyger noted the casual way the Mayor and Department of education breed programs and initiatives, each one creating new supervisory demands on already bureaucratically burdened school leaders. He recited a litany of “for-all” programs, from Pre-K For All, to College Access For All, to Algebra for All, and after each one, said, “There’s a school leader for that.”
“You cannot have equity and excellence for all without a fair and just contract for CSA members,” he said. “You cannot have a fair system if consultants are making more money than starting assistant principals. As a member of city council’s budget negotiation team, I know for a fact that there are resources in the budget right now to deliver a fair and just contract and the City Council does not work for the Mayor of New York. We work for you!”
Comptroller Stringer also registered his disdain for the notion that budgetary constraints should hold up a contract for CSA members. “We’re going to make sure this whole city understands that without you, we do not have a future,” he said. “We can afford this. I’ve got the books! There’s a whole lot of waste. Maybe we don’t have to invest in the bureaucracy — maybe we’ll invest in the people who invest in our kids. When we invest in you, it’s a multiplier for our economy and our city and this is the best deal in town.”
A host of labor leaders addressed the crowd, including CLC President Vinny Alvarez, DC 372 VP Donald Nesbitt and UFT VP LeRoy Barr and Janella Hinds, UFT’s VP for High Schools.
Barr and Nesbitt offered powerful and general testimonials about how members of our unions often fight each other in individual cases but in the end we are all members of a working class that is fiercely devoted to educating the city’s children. “We can’t do the work we do without the people who lead our schools,” said Barr. “We are family.”
Mr. Nesbitt, whose union represents school aides, lunchroom workers, school crossing guards and parent coordinators, gave a heartfelt take on the same theme. “Some have asked the question, ‘Why would we stand with the administrators, the people who may discipline our members?’” he said. “You are leaders who wake up every day and give your all for the 1.1 million children in NYC, children who are in transitional housing, children who are in broken households. You treat them with love, you treat them with dignity, you treat them with respect as they attend school. And yet when you ask for fair conditions for yourself and for your own families, you are told no, this going to cost too much.”
CSA’s rally coincided with another union event that began a few yards away in City Hall Park: The Transit Workers Union Local 100, which is engaged in protacted and acrimonious negotiations with the Metropolitan Transit Authority. Leaders of each union pledged support for the other at their respective events.
Throughout the event, a spirit of unity and excitement coursed through the crowd. Nancy Russo, a retired AP and fierce unionist, was one of CSA’s early members who was present at the creation of the union, and she delivered a short address that spoke to her desire for the union to continue growing stronger as new generations of educators enter the ranks. “It’s often said that you stand on our shoulders, and that gives you a view of the future, unobstructed,” she said. “Tonight, I ask you to step down from our shoulders and let us stand shoulder-to-shoulder with you in this fight for a fair contract. Know that we stand with you, and we’ll welcome all of you when you cross over the line to where we are.”
Jessica McKenna, an assistant principal at PS 247 in Brooklyn, joined her principal, Christopher Ogno, in making the trip to City Hall. Ms. McKenna, a teacher for more than 20 years and an AP for about two, noted that she had been on her feet since 7 am but that it was crucial to be an active member of her union.