The Last Ten Years?

The following quotation is prominently featured in MORE’s election literature. And it is an astonishing statement. It shows the apparent lack of knowledge or disregard MORE has for the history of the UFT. Before we all wax ecstatic about the UFT from its founding until 2003, there are some issues we need to make MORE’s candidates aware of.

In the last ten years, in a departure from the roots of our union’s founding, the leadership has failed to organize and mobilize the membership at the time we have needed their leadership the most.” – J. Cavanagh

Working conditions have always been a major issue in the schools. Since the 1970’s members were faced with class size grievances. It was a major concern along with the loss of teaching positions and layoffs. There were numerous challenges that faced the schools. Schools and classes without adequate supplies, the lack of books and uncovered classes were common. Schools went into decline physically. While there is a hiring freeze today, over thirty years ago teachers would not be hired until one or two months after the start of school. In the mid-seventies we witnessed wage freezes. In the mid 1980’s teachers were were excessed mid-year in the high schools. Anyone teaching at that time (and there are not many left) remember the half-class loophole. A common refrain was “just leave it up to Al.”

On the social justice front, the UFT record was against community control. Albert Shanker declared himself a “certified hawk” and a group of teachers formed to oppose the Vietnam war and call for ending that unjust war and diverting military spending to social services. Later the New Action caucus would call on the UFT to demand an end to the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. During 1985, when New Action leader, Mike Shulman, was elected to be the VP for Academic High Schools one of his first actions was to call on the union to divest its pension funds from companies doing business with the Republic of South Africa. Starting in the 1990’s New Action made salary parity a priority issue and pointed out that NYC once had the highest salaries for teachers. It had fallen to one of the lowest paid in the region. Many opposition groups and independents pointed out that union democracy was another major issue in the UFT.

The lack of organizing and mobilizing the membership at the school level has been an ongoing, major concern for many more years then the ten Julie Cavanagh cites.

“The last ten years”???

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2 Responses to “The Last Ten Years?”


  1. 1 paulvhogan April 4, 2013 at 9:08 am

    I’m genuinely confused. What exactly does New Action caucus *do*?
    In other words…. I’ve been a subscriber to the newsletter for some time and it seems to me that until this election drew near communication from you to me was extremely rare.

    Now with a membership vote at hand , your emails, which were for the longest time a a trickle, are now a flood.

    I’m worried that your presence on the ballot is less than straightforward. Therefore: reassure me. What exactly is is New Action’s aim? What are its goals for the UFT? What will New Action be doing in the three year period between the election that is now upon us and the election that will take place three years hence. Will you continue to communicate with me as feverishly as you are doing right now?

    I want to know, in short, why New Action *exist* , exactly.

    • 2 Allan Lazarus April 4, 2013 at 7:25 pm

      Paul, New Action makes sure there is someone watching Unity. If there is no one keeping everyone honest, you are looking for trouble. New Action wants to make sure teachers are treated fairly. They work very hard, for no money, to do this. Although I’m retired, I remember N.A. when it first got started. Unity was more in step with the city gov’t. then they were for the teachers. Our pressure on Unity, made them change their attitude. If you don’t want to read all the material, hit delete!.

      Al;lan Lazarus


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