Introducing the Working Conditions Challenge!

Our union has a delegate assembly (DA) problem. In the last three years alone, DA resolutions seeking substantive policies to improve the working conditions of our membership have been outnumbered 3:1 by purely symbolic proclamations and political endorsements. In 2021, only a single resolution was passed by the DA that directly dealt with actual working conditions for UFT members.

As chapter delegates at DAs, we are elected and entrusted with the solemn responsibility to first and foremost deliberate and forge collective member-driven decisions to improve the conditions in our schools. Our school members are clamoring for bottom-up action, not simply reports and position statements from 52 Broadway. But, in increasingly scripted meetings, we see less and less debate about what the UFT’s policies/strategies should be on improving working conditions or benefits.  We are now seeing delegate assembly meetings where 0-1 resolutions are brought to the floor for a final vote.  

Instead, we hear reports and dicta on what Michael Mulgrew says union policy will be – like accepting curriculum mandates instead of fighting them, acquiescing to the DC37’s sub-inflation wage increases, or working with the City to reduce our healthcare benefits by 10%. When educators are finally given a chance to debate, we’re rarely given the opportunity to discuss union matters. Instead, at best, we hear debate-less resolutions on which we vote unanimously that ‘apple pie tastes great.’ And at worst, we debate external geopolitical events that only divide our membership and make it harder for us to work together to identify/solve UFT issues. 

It’s time to beat the script and begin representing the heart and soul of our union — our members. At a recent Executive Board meeting, Michael Mulgrew publicly proclaimed that he ‘only does the will of the DA,’ that resolutions passed there become official policy. So instead of tossing him pieces of apple pie, or geopolitical poison pills, we should do right by the educators who elected us and put forward some UFT policies for our union leadership to implement. 

The Challenge and Call to Action

That’s why we are posing the ‘working conditions challenge.’

From December to June of this 2023-24 school year, we encourage all chapter leaders and delegates, with input from their school staff colleagues and communities, to bring creative solutions to the everyday challenges we are facing in our classrooms and schools. Your chapters know best what those resolutions should look like, but if you want some ideas, here are some below. (And if you have others please leave them in the comments!). 

We need creative, member-driven resolutions and policy changes to deal with:

  • Abusive school administrators
  • Lack of say in the principal hiring process
  • Micromanagement and excessive paperwork
  • Curriculum mandates / implementation
  • Ending austerity school budget cuts, increasing funding and supports 
  • Safety, health and emergency measures and protocols 
  • Specific actions to fix Tier 6 pensions, sooner than later
  • Due process for non-tenured teachers, safeguards against discontinuance
  • Ending the “tenure Olympics” created by Cuomo, Klein, and Bloomberg
  • Living wages for our paraprofessionals 
  • Improving healthcare benefits, not accepting diminished care in exchange for “cost savings” for the City 
  • Extending paid parental and family leave so that it matches the benefits of most New York workers
  • Oversized caseloads for counselors, school psychologists, and other titles
  • Hiring more special education teachers, counselors, nurses, and social workers
  • Reforming ‘fair’ student funding and returning to unit costing
  • Reinstituting seniority transfers
  • Restoring the right to grieve letters in the file
  • Implementing real consequences for administrators who repeatedly violate class size limits with collectively bargained guarantees
  • Reforming the teacher evaluation system.
  • Ensuring safe, equitable and responsive schools 
  • Ending systems that perpetuate reliance on high stakes standardized testing
  • Ending bureaucratic largesse, waste and budget mismanagement 
  • Ending unilateral mayoral control of our schools, with emphasis on community and educator voice and empowerment in our schools’ governance.
  • Enforcement of state law mandates regarding libraries in every school and ELL guidelines
  • Improving our family and community relationships
  • Addressing root causes to our teacher shortage crisis
  • Increased union democracy and participation

The list goes on. What else do you think we need to address together?

Let’s roll up our sleeves and get to the people’s business! 

Thank you for all the work you do, already.  We see you!

Download & Print The Challenge

Note: We are also proposing the “Resolution to Strengthen Democratic Decision-Making at the UFT Delegate Assembly” to ensure the people’s business comes first!

Nick Bacon is a co-chairperson at New Action Caucus. He is also an elected member of the UFT executive board

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