The results are in, and for those of us in opposition very little went as we had hoped. Voter turnout for the 2016 UFT election increased to 25%, which is up from 2013 but still pathetically low considering that the UFT takes $1,000 and up out of our yearly salary. Given what members pay to be represented by a union, they must take a stronger role in guiding and shaping who runs that union. The UFT has increasingly disappointed members with the protection it offers in return. The more we find out about the 2014 contract which forces us to wait until 2020 to get the retro pay we earned back in 2009, and which raises our insurance copays on many medical procedures, the less happy we are with it.
Although the UFT’s ruling Unity Caucus lost control of the high school executive board to fellow opposition caucus MORE/New Action (congratulations to them,) they retained the Presidency and VP slots with around 3/4ths of the vote. Those of us who have followed UFT news and read the fine print on contract and agreements know what this means: three more years of defeats sold to us as victories, three more years of a union that fails to fight against test scores in our evaluation and three more years of complacency while teachers are abused by vindictive administrators and pushed into the ATR pool and neglected.
None of this means that we should give up hope or the struggle for a more perfect teacher’s union, however. In its short existence as a caucus, UFT Solidarity can already point to a number of achievements that have aided teachers in the classroom and informed them of the need to revitalize the UFT:
● UFT Solidarity now has 147 official members and is growing rapidly thanks to outreach on social media, by mail and our many campaigns on behalf of rank and file teachers
● Our “eight minute video that all teachers need to see,” which shows UFT President Michael Mulgrew arguing in favor of changing our evaluation system to the current test score based MOSL system, has been seen 31,360 times as of this writing.
● Our educator’s toolbox has allowed members to inform themselves of the current contract and special education regulations and to file complaints and grievances if they are facing a problem.
● Our ‘Opt Them Out’ app has assisted parents wishing to push back against excessive standardized testing by refusing to subject their own children to it.
● Our ‘Administrators in Need of Improvement’ page has put pressure on vindictive, abusive administrators to back off or face an organized, energized opposition. This is all work that we had to do because the UFT’s leadership will not take action or even admit that there is a problem.
Despite not attaining slate voting status in the UFT election, our candidates received 1,300 to 1,500 votes in the May 2016 election. These are not the numbers we had hoped for, but enough to continue growing and building and pushing for the issues that matter to classroom teachers. As long as we have a system which gives abusive administrators free rein, as long as we have an ATR pool ignored by their union, as long as we have a contract that is not adhered to in schools because DOE officials can get away with violating it, we must continue to organize, mobilize and push back against a system that does not protect teachers. For us to do the noble work of educating children for a brighter future, we must be safe, respected and valued in our schools. We must and we shall continue the work of fighting for better conditions, greater teacher autonomy and a contract that is truly for educators. Thank you for your support, and we look forward to building on the gains we have made. Hope is here!