On February 10th, I attended the UFT’s Maternity/Child Care workshop at the downtown Brooklyn office and sat in a packed room filled mostly with pregnant teachers there to find out their options upon the birth of their children. There are not many, and those that exist are appalingly inadequate. The birth parent can either take six to twelve weeks of unpaid leave or apply for a leave of absence in which she uses 30 sick days from her CAR to “pay herself” for the time off. There is nothing in place for the non-birth parent except applying for unpaid Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or taking what personal days they can and hoping their principal doesn’t criticize them for it. As a soon to be father I was disgusted by the lack of substantive parental leave for both parents and every single person I talked to was in agreement.
As is typical for the UFT employees that are beholden to the ruling Unity Caucus, the speaker in charge of this event blamed the inadequate parental leave on the DOE bureaucrats, saying “Some man at the DOE decided six weeks off is enough.” The reality is that the UFT’s current leadership shares much of the blame for the “you’re on your own” parental leave since they have failed to make this a negotiating point in recent contracts. In fact, the 2014 contract forced teachers who are on medical or parental leave who are our most vulnerable members to wait two years for their next retro payment if they were on leave as of October 2015. When a resolution was introduced at the Delegate Assembly in support of loaning members on parental or sick leave interest free, a Unity Caucus representative from Queens viciously attacked the proposal, saying “People need to plan ahead before they go on leave” and calling on refusing to even vote up or down on the proposal. This is the kind of callous indifference that Unity Caucus leaders have shown year after year toward the members whose dues pay their salaries and whose votes have kept them in office. Members are not only denied basic human rights like paid parental leave, but are lectured and condescended to when they request even a small change in how members who take time off to care for a newborn are treated.
UFT Solidarity, the newest caucus of the United Federation of Teachers, is and will continue to be a new voice for long awaited change for rank and file educators. Everything that will improve the lives of teachers both in the classroom and in life, from smaller class size to paid leave to real democratic participation in the workplace and within the union, will be on the table when new contracts are negotiated. Our slate of candidates for the 2016 election include tested, tried and true veterans who are working and retired teachers, not career bureaucrats who have forgotten the daily struggle. Two of our candidates are soon to be new parents who are personally invested in better child care policies. If you want a greater voice in the union that your dues pay for, and if you are tired of wondering where the UFT leadership is when teachers are attacked and treated poorly year after year, vote UFT Solidarity for a more perfect union. Hope is Here.
Sign the petition below to support Paid Parental Leave. We support and will be marching with our union brothers and sisters in March in support of Parental Leave and the Breast Pumps that the Affordable Care Act calls for for our members. See the link below for details: