Contractually guaranteed raises to UUP members that would have started this month will instead be delayed to Sept. 30, a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic.
But a delay is unacceptable to UUP, so the union is taking a two-pronged approach to make sure that the raises come through as quickly as possible—especially as the state has also said the Sept. 30 date is subject to review, said UUP President Fred Kowal.
On July 1, the union filed a class-action grievance over the delay of the raises. Also, it is pressing federal and state lawmakers for emergency funding to SUNY to deliver the raises to UUP’s hard-working members, who have sacrificed so much during the pandemic—and in some cases have risked their lives.
“While we did not agree with or accept the state’s decision, we understand that it is driven by the state budget crisis that has developed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Kowal said. “Still, we need answers and we need a partnership with SUNY to ensure our members’ concerns are addressed before reopening.”
Nearly 2,000 UUP members and SUNY employees have signed a UUP petition calling on SUNY to hold a virtual public hearing this month to discuss their financial and health concerns prior to returning to campus. CLICK HERE to sign the petition.
“This is about our students, our patients, our communities and our SUNY,” Kowal said. “We must invest in our public higher education institutions and public hospitals to combat the overwhelming health, economic, and social justice crises that face us in New York and across the country.”
The news followed announcements in April that raises due to members of other state employee bargaining units had also been delayed, because of a state budget hole of at least $13 billion that was triggered by the economic crash of the coronavirus, and which has no clear solution. UUP raises would have started either July 1 or Sept. 1, depending on obligation.
UUP was the first New York state union to launch a campaign for passage of the HEROES Act, the latest package of federal coronavirus relief for states. The act passed the House, but it has stalled in the Senate.
On June 30, Senate Democrats proposed the Coronavirus Child Care and Education Relief Act, a bill that includes $345 billion for K-12 schools and higher education. Under the bill, sponsored by Sens. Chuck Schumer and Patty Murray (D-WA), the bill would provide $132 billion for higher education; an additional $33 billion in education aid would be left to governors to distribute.
The CCCERA has little support from the Senate’s Republican majority.
UUP members have sent thousands of letters to members of Congress, urging Senate action on the HEROES Act or a Senate equivalent. Members can still take action on this effort, and should do so, through the AFT, NYSUT or UUP’s own campaign.
Links to write a letter, make a call or volunteer to enlist the help of other unionists can be found under the Take Action tab on the upper right of UUP’s website. CLICK HERE to access the links.
UUP is also hosting a series of online town halls this summer with federal and state lawmakers, in a question-and-answer format with members. One dominant theme has been the desperate need for state funding.
Across the board, lawmakers have pledged that they will do everything possible to secure more funding for SUNY, but that they cannot do that without help from the federal government.
Barbara Lifton, a Democrat from the 125th Assembly District in Tomkins County, Cortland and two surrounding towns, summarized the plight that state lawmakers find themselves in when she spoke to UUP members in a June 16 town hall.
“We need the federal government to come in; it should have come in already,” Lifton said. “We don’t want the federal government to think we can fill this hole because we can’t. We’re on our knees right now.”