Posts Tagged 'Labor Organizing'

New Action explains: We can no longer run with Mulgrew/Unity

Since the early 1980’s, New Action/UFT was the main opposition to Unity Caucus. In 1985, New Action leader, Michael Shulman, won the UFT High School Vice-Presidency, and served until 1987. New Action continued in opposition until early 2004. Perhaps our greatest achievement was making pay parity the number one issue.

The Bipartisan Years

In the Fall of 2002, the UFT came under siege by the Bloomberg administration. The attack by Bloomberg was part of the “education reformers” full- scale assault on teachers and their unions. In NYC, this followed years of attacks by the Giulliani administration (remember his threat to “blow up” the Board of Education). Recognizing the greater threat to our union and the “blame the teachers” atmosphere pervading the country and NYC, New Action decided to form a bipartisan relationship with then UFT President Randi Weingarten.

New Action/UFT had five basic demands before entering into this new relationship:

  1. Unity must establish an Organizing Committee composed of Unity, New Action members and independents to go into schools to build stronger chapters.
  2. Unity had to agree to establish a bipartisan Action Committee to build for actions in defense of members and to organize campaigns against the wave of anti-union policies on the local and national level.
  3. Unity agreed to establish an Economic and Social Justice Committee.
  4. New Action secured a promise by President Weingarten to investigate undemocratic internal union issues.
  5. Unity agreed to cross-endorse 8 New Action seats on the UFT Executive Board where we could bring up resolutions in defense of educators. In exchange, New Action endorsed Randi Weingarten for UFT President.

We, at all times, remained independent and willing to criticize the UFT leadership. The committees were established. However, Weingarten reneged on her promise on union democracy. But New Action continued the relationship.

There were many accomplishments during those years.

  • New Action and Unity teams of retirees (the Organizing Committee) helped Chapter Leaders and staff in over 230 schools.
  • Establishment of the PINI (Principals in Need of Improvement) program which exposed abusive administrators and listed 41 steps to get rid of them.
  • The establishment of a UFT Social and Economic Justice Committee led to support for the NYS Dream Act, defense of the Puerto Rican Teachers Union, union action addressing the “disappearing teachers of color” and most recently, a powerful move to combat climate change: the divestment of pension funds from fossil fuels.
  • Resolutions brought up by New Action at the UFT Exec Board including the Campaign to Defeat Bush for President that sent scores of UFT members into battleground states, an end to Stop and Frisk, which led to a powerful march, etc.

Bipartisanship Falls Apart

  • UFT leaders, going back to Weingarten, refused to send bipartisan Organizing Teams into schools where they were needed unless DR’s requested them. Mulgrew/Unity refused to mandate Organizing Teams be sent into schools where new chapter leaders needed assistance.
  • In 2010, Mulgrew/Unity agreed to President Obama’s Race to the Top that tied teacher ratings to standardized tests. New Action/UFT immediately opposed that decision. In fact, since we distributed a leaflet “A Train Wreck Waiting to Happen” New Action has issued 14 pieces attacking Race to the Top.
  • In 2014, Mulgrew/Unity ended the Principals in Need of Improvement program.
  • In April 2015, The UFT Executive Board tabled a New Action Resolution to restore the selection of UFT District Reps back to an election by Chapter Leaders.
  • In the spring of 2015, President Mulgrew and Unity Caucus decided to end the successful Organizing Committee.

There were an increasing number of other areas of disagreement including Mulgrew/Unity‘s failures to place ATR’s based on seniority, to repair the grievance machinery, to mobilize educators at the schools, and to protect unjustly fired probationers.

Why MORE?

In late summer, 2015, New Action decided to form an alliance with MORE because our policy positions were similar. Like New Action, MORE had taken principled positions against standardized tests and tying teacher rating decisions to those tests. Both caucuses supported the Opt –Out movement. Like New Action, MORE supports mobilizing the membership to fight for improvements on contractual rights and working conditions. And like New Action, MORE embraces social justice issues.

In the upcoming UFT citywide elections held this spring 2016, New Action urges UFT members to help take back our union and run with New Action. We urge all members, in service and retiree, to vote the New Action/MORE slate for a leadership that will fight for all members’ rights.

How Not to Fight the Friedrichs Case!

By Michael Shulman, Co-chair, New Action/UFT

By now most union members have heard of the Friedrichs case before the US Supreme Court. The threat is real and in the hands of this conservative court it is almost a given that the justices will rule against all unions and eliminate dues check-off . The drive behind this has nothing to do with the 10 teachers who brought this case forward. They are only tools in the hands of corporate forces that have set their sights on destroying unions and making our country union free.

Only an informed, mobilized labor force can impact on this decision. But in a move that is nothing short of incredulous, President Michael Mulgrew and the “leadership” of the UFT have chosen this exact moment to boot 27 UFT part-time organizers all retirees, from going into schools. The UFT Organizing Committee was a bipartisan effort, by New Action/UFT and then union president Randi Weingarten, brought about in 2004 to counter the Bloomberg attack on teachers and our union.

Things dramatically changed over the course of the past few years as New Action/UFT became increasingly critical of the union leadership over the teacher evaluation system. Mulgrew and Unity supported tying student standardized tests to teacher evaluations and New Action opposed it. Simply put, New Action’s principled opposition began to rankle Mulgrew/Unity. After the election of Mayor Bill de Blasio and the appointment of Carmen Farina the union, knowing the situation had changed dramatically, decided to work with the new Mayor (this was logical since we now faced a friendly Mayor). But then, without any pressure from the de Blasio administration, the UFT decided to drop the PINI campaign (Principals in Need of Improvement) against abusive administrators. New Action /UFT was indignant. By our calculations over 300 principals in the system fit this category. With mounting criticism from New Action/UFT, Unity decided to scuttle bipartisanship!

How does this relate to Friedrichs? As of October 2015 27 part-time organizers, consisting of Unity members, New Action/UFT, and independents, serving for years on the UFT organizing committee, were given the boot by Mulgrew and Unity Caucus (even though ironically 17 of them were Unity Caucus members themselves). How is that possible? Even Unity would not dare to let go only the New Action/UFT members serving as organizers. The others, including independents were axed without so much as a thank you for your service or an acknowledgment of their considerable achievements in building stronger chapters.. The result – over 220 schools serviced by this committee would not be receiving school visits to explain to members the stake we all have in fighting against the Friedrichs case and in informing our friends and families.

Short-sighted? Yes. Surprising? Guess not if we understand how Unity operates. If anything comes across clearly, we need a stronger, involved and activated union to counter this attack. But that only comes from informed, mobilized chapters. Despite the political blunder on the part of Mulgrew/Unity every member must stand together in solidarity and support the effort to collect dues should that be a consequence of the Friedrich case.

Michael is a former UFT, Vice President for Academic High Schools, a 36 year veteran of the classroom, a long time former Chapter Leader and Delegate, and current UFT Executive Board member. He intends to share his thoughts – about the past, about the present, and about the future, in this space.


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Content of signed articles and comments represents the opinions of their authors. The views expressed in signed articles are not necessarily the views of New Action/UFT.
November 2019
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