Delegates approve special election at virtual DA

UUP delegates approved a temporary constitutional amendment at a special virtual Delegate Assembly Sept. 25 that will allow the statewide election to take place without any in-person voting—an unprecedented step caused by the coronavirus pandemic

The 322 delegates at the Special Virtual Spring Delegate Assembly resoundingly approved the temporary constitutional amendment, with a 97 percent vote in favor of the change. Nominations can be emailed or mailed, and ballots will be submitted by mail. Details about the election will be available soon.

Delegates also approved the UUP budget.

The next virtual DA is expected to be held in January 2021; details will be announced. The original Spring DA could not be held, given that it was scheduled just weeks after the abrupt shutdown of the SUNY campuses last March.

UUP President Fred Kowal opened his address to the delegates with a moment of silence for UUP members who have died during the pandemic. He then urged SUNY to work with the union to prepare for the university’s spring semester. The strong working relationship forged between UUP and SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras, who took office Aug. 31, bodes well for that cooperation, which Kowal said will be needed if SUNY is to prevent further campus closures because of coronavirus outbreaks. SUNY Oneonta has already closed for the rest of the fall; Oswego is completing a two-week closure.

“SUNY, I’m speaking to you directly now,” Kowal said. “Do it right, do it comprehensively and do it for as long as necessary.”

In commending the membership for its response to the pandemic, Kowal noted that no one could have predicted that 10 months would pass between last fall’s DA at the Westchester Hilton in Rye Brook, which has since closed because of the pandemic. In that time, the union has faced its greatest difficulties ever, with members at the hospitals risking their lives to treat COVID-19 patients, and other members throughout the system admirably rising to the challenge of last spring’s shutdown of the SUNY campuses and an overnight conversion to remote instruction..

“Many of us in this great union are meeting the call; unfortunately, our national leaders are not,” Kowal told delegates. “Our members were risking our lives right from the start.”

Kowal pledged that UUP will continue to vigorously advocate for members, many of whom face unresolved issues involving telecommuting, challenges with childcare, and delays by the state on negotiated raises, as well as on discretionary salary increases and salary compression payments. So far, SUNY has avoided systemwide retrenchments.

Kowal reminded delegates that the rapidly approaching presidential election could provide a rapid change for the better with the state budget.

The state faces a $14.5 billion budget shortfall, but Kowal said that his frequent conversations with Malatras indicate that the chancellor is doing everything possible to avoid having that shortfall decimate SUNY, as similar state budget crises have done to colleges and universities elsewhere around the country. /p>

“He believes, and I hope it’s true, that we could get through this, but so much rides on what happens Nov. 3,” Kowal said.