President’s Corner -January 2017

Happy New Year!

Even though many of us work around the school year, January always feels like a fresh start. That’s how I want to look at 2017 – as a clean slate.

In Maryland, the new legislative session is coming up and Local 500 members have a lot at stake in what happens in Annapolis.

For example, for the fourth year in a row, higher education activists are fighting to pass legislation to give collective bargaining rights to community college employees.

Also, a lot of you may have seen a recent article in the Washington Post pointing out that Maryland’s childcare subsidies are woefully inadequate – but that’s not news to the thousands of Maryland family childcare providers who are part of the Local 500 family! Any one of them could have told you that providers and parents are struggling to make ends meet under the current system.

Finally, Larry Hogan has already had two years as governor and it is time for him to get serious about addressing the challenges Maryland faces – and we are serious about holding his feet to the fire on issues like K-12 funding, childcare subsidies and collective bargaining rights in higher education!

You might also have seen how Maryland schools dropped from fourth to fifth in the nation. We are still providing a great education to hundreds of thousands of young minds – and Montgomery County Public Schools are still leading the way – but years of cuts to staff have taken their toll. It wasn’t a surprise to me to read that the achievement gap was a major reason for Maryland’s drop in the rankings. I just hope that the next time our elected leaders try to tackle the problem, they don’t take the politically expedient route of trying to solve the problem on the backs of hard working school employees, but instead look at Local 500 members as full partners, able to provide unique insights and develop creative solutions to helping close the achievement gap.

If you live or work in Washington, DC, you have to be proud of what happened last month when the DC City Council passed the most generous family leave law in the country. The Council gave a veto proof majority to legislation to guarantee private sector workers a minimum of two weeks of personal sick leave, six weeks of paid leave to care for sick family members and eight weeks of paid time off for new parents. After it leaves the Mayor’s desk, it will then be sent to Congress for approval.

It seems like so much is happening and so much needs to be done! But I feel very hopeful about this year, because I feel such an energy and sense of activism from you. I am reminded of the words of Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

I’m hopeful because we are more than a small group of thoughtful, committed people; we are the largest and fastest growing union of educators, caregivers and advocates in the Mid-Atlantic and there is no limit to what we can accomplish.

Thank you for all that you do.

 

Respectfully,
Merle Cuttitta
President, SEIU Local 500

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