Want a say in the UFT? Before you leave for Spring Break, vote UFC!

In 2019, active member turnout in the UFT elections was 17.7%. Our teachers and other educational professionals are overwhelmingly proud unionists, so why this low turnout? It can’t just be the ballot, which can easily be filled out. It can’t just be the lack of electronic voting as an option. It’s bigger than that. The reason, I think, that so few vote is because Unity Caucus has trained us to think that unionism is about UFT leadership ‘doing the work,’ not us. Or as they put it in their updated campaign slogan, “we do the work so that you can do your work.”

To be clear, United for Change is not just critical of Unity’s work. We’re critical that they monopolize the work. We’re critical that their service-oriented version of unionism divorces rank-and-file educators from decision-making over their working conditions. And to be clear, that’s Unity’s model: ‘don’t worry about the union stuff, we’ll do it for you.’ We aren’t encouraged to organize; we’re encouraged to call 52 Broadway and hope someone picks up the phone to answer a query or solve our grievance in 6-60 months. And it’s not just that the UFT is focused on understaffed offices for day-day operations. Even with democratic decision-making, educators are rarely consulted. Case and point: this year, as usual, even Unity’s At-Large Executive Board candidates are filled primarily with the names of paid staffers, whereas UFC’s corresponding slate is made up entirely of rank-and-file teachers (and a few particularly active retirees). After 60 years of being told that union decision-making is for paid staffers, not teachers, no wonder so many of our educators end up opting not to fill out and mail their ballots.

Don’t get me wrong, we’ll keep a qualified staff at 52 Broadway. Their work is essential, and in many ways hiring likely needs to even be expanded. But we’ll bring the teachers back into the United Federation of Teachers. For far too long, the message has been paid staffers detached from the classroom do the work and make the decisions. United for Change thinks you should start having a voice. So, if you want to have a say in what your working decisions look like, before you go on your vacations today, make sure to send out your ballot and mark an X under the “United for Change Slate.” We’ll shift the union from the opaque bureaucracy it too often resembles, into the transparent democracy it deserves to be.

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