Posts Tagged 'Unity Caucus'

The Crisis in the UFT Explained with a Bit of Help from Joe Hill

The Crisis in the UFT Explained with a Bit of Help from Joe Hill

It is often said that our union, the UFT, is the strongest union local in the country. It wields influence in Albany, Washington and beyond. Due to its large numbers it plays an outsize role within the AFT and by extension within the AFL-CIO.  The Presidents of our union go on to become big-time political players and this gives the impression of strength and massive influence. We can see our leaders breaking bread with billionaires and high-ranking legislators, having the ear of power, having a seat at the great tables where the decisions are made which affect the lives of millions of workers. Our union controls huge pension funds on Wall Street, our union bails the city out of financial hardship, our union manages health care for huge numbers of people and so on.

“Poor Block, he died one evening, I’m very glad to state;

He climbed the golden ladder up to the pearly gate.

He said, “Oh, Mr. Peter, one word I’d like to tell,

I’d like to meet the Astorbilts and John D. Rockefell.”

Old Pete said, “Is that so? You’ll meet them down below.”

  At the same time, on the job, it feels like the UFT is among the weakest unions in the city. When a worker encounters an abusive administrator or a gross violation of the contract, they are told to ‘obey and grieve’ (which has become something of a mantra for the UFT in recent years). We are supposed to follow the directives and contact the union office afterwards. We are then told that there is a “loophole” in the contract that allows said administrator to do as they like and so on. With each new contract negotiated by the UFT we see more time added to the workday, we see more givebacks and concessions, we see more rights stripped more pressure added and so on. This type of ‘pragmatism’ from the Unity Caucus may appear shrewd in the short run, but it is eroding the fabric of the union from within. Every day we can hear members saying: “Why can’t our union be more like the cops or the firemen? why are we so weak? why is the city always taking advantage of us? “

“Block hiked back to the city, but wasn’t doing well.
He said, I’ll join the union, the great A. F. of L.”
He got a job next morning, got fired in the night,
He said, “I’ll see Sam Gompers and he’ll fix that foreman right.”
Sam Gompers said, “You see,
You’ve got our sympathy.”

     The contradiction between the rumor and reputation of strength and the experience of weakness provokes strong feelings among the workers which are by turns repressed, accommodated, or ignored by the Unity Caucus leadership. It seems like their job is to manage our discontent instead of solving the problems that trouble us. The leadership presents itself as ‘insiders’ privy to secret information that invalidates our concerns, as ‘responsible parties’ aware of the complex machinations of city governance that the rest of us cannot and do not understand. Unfortunately for them reality was not written by Aaron Sorkin, and actions like this have serious consequences. This approach is insulting and alienating for the majority of the membership and empowering for the select few who are appointed to play West Wing while the rest of us suffer. For many outrage turns to cynicism, disengagement, apathy and even outright hostility as the recent campaign to withhold dues has demonstrated.  This approach where the union acts like another administrative body over the workers, despite all of Unity’s protestations to the contrary and false accusations against reform movements, plays directly into the hands of our enemies. When we have 25% of people voting in elections and we have a movement to withhold dues from the union for non-representation we have a crisis. 

When rank-and-file initiative is so stifled that it is forced to take the form of a self-destructive secession drive this should raise the alarm for all of us who value our union. This tendency will only grow if the leadership of the union buries its head in the sand. We need to democratize this union substantially if it is to survive. We need to shift from a union that filters member demands down to what is palatable to the employers and the donor class to a union that turns member demands into a necessity that the employer must learn to cope with. 

Those of us who have watched the decline of the UFT under Unity Caucus mismanagement and who are determined to save the union and empower the membership have United for Change in the upcoming election.  Our platform addresses many of the issues that are currently vexing the rank and file and opens the union up to the membership in a way that is responsive to 21st century problems.  

-Ed Calamia

New Action/UFT and MORE: Support Chapter Leader and School under attack

New Action Caucus / UFT and MORE Caucus, and our representatives on the UFT Executive Board wrote to the Unity Caucus controlled leadership of the UFT, asking for real demonstrations of support for an embattled Chapter Leader (Marilyn Martinez, Central Park East 1, facing trumped up 3020a charges) and an embattled school (JHS 145, District 7, threatened with closure at the PEP, in service to Moskowitz).

 Shamefully, the leadership chose not to come to the Chapter Leader’s 3020a hearing. We hope they do better with the PEP in support of JHS 145, but if they do not, you can still attend: Wednesday March 22, 6PM, HS for Fashion Industries, W24th Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues.

March 9, 2017

Dear President Mulgrew, Vice Presidents Alford, Hinds, and Mantell and Assistant Secretary Barr:

As you know, our union, and the labor movement as a whole, is under major threat by the anti-labor initiatives promised by the Trump administration, as well as by the inevitable return of a case like last year’s Friedrichs to the Supreme Court.

In such an environment, it is crucial that the rank and file members of our union see that the UFT is at the front lines fighting to defend members publicly at every available opportunity.

There are two important opportunities to do so in the coming days that our union leadership must act on.

First, the Chapter Leader of Central Park East I, Marilyn Martinez, is facing 3020A charges which are clearly retaliatory from the abusive principal Monika Garg.  Fifty parents and UFT members attended the first two days of hearings last week.  We ask that you or Elementary Vice President Karen Alford attend the final day of the hearing this Friday, March 10 in order to send a clear message to the DOE, the arbitrator, and UFT rank and filers that the UFT supports this chapter leader. We further ask you to offer the assistance of the UFT press office in publicizing this defense.  We further ask that you intervene personally with the chancellor around this case. If we do not defend our chapter leaders publicly and strongly, we may soon not have a union to defend at all.

Second, JHS 145 in the Bronx is facing a closure vote at the Panel for Educational Policy meeting on Wednesday March 22nd. The largely immigrant school community has mobilized to oppose the closing. As unionists committed to defending public education, we must join our voices with those of parents, students and teachers in opposition to this proposed closure. The Delegate Assembly scheduled for that day should adjourn early to allow Delegates, Chapter Leaders and the union leadership to attend the nearby PEP Meeting en masse.

In Solidarity,

UFT Executive Board members high school division

KJ Ahluwalia, Arthur Goldstein, Ashraya Gupta, Jonathan Halabi, Marcus McArthur, David Rosen, Mike Schirtzer

Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE caucus UFT)

New Action Caucus / UFT

Where we agree, where we disagree

From New Action’s May 2016 Leaflet

Where We Agree

We agree that 200 lawyers at Tweed is about 200 too many. But we need leadership that tells this to Fariña, sits down, and gets something done.

We agree that the current funding formula for schools makes no sense, that principals are forced to discriminate against experienced teachers, that schools, kids, teachers all get hurt. But we need leadership that tells this to Fariña, sits down, and gets something done.

We agree that abusive and incompetent administrators are a problem. But we need leadership that restores and expands the Principals In Need of Improvement Program, resurrects the highly successful Organizing Committee, and targets principals who go after our members, leadership that brings the abusers to Fariña, sits down, and gets them out.

We agree that arbitrary extensions of probation are unfair. But we need a leadership that tells this to Fariña, sits down, and gets something done.

We agree that parents have a right to opt their children out of tests. But we need leadership that actively informs parents of this right.

Where We Disagree

We disagree with a leadership that insists that student test scores be part of our evaluation.

We disagree with a leadership that is in love with the Common Core. We disagree with one-size-fits all in math, and we can’t believe that teachers are being stopped from teaching whole books and are limited to chapters or excerpts.

We disagree with creating separate, unequal “rights” for members in excess.

And we disagree with jobs and promotions being given out based on obedience to a caucus instead of merit.

Vote MORE/New Action

Combat Abusive Administrators – Return to Fair Funding! – Get rid of the Lawyers! – Protect Probationers

Protect ATRs – Fight for Union Democracy – End “Drive By” and “Test Score” Teacher Evaluation

Support Jia Lee, Opt Out Leader, for UFT President

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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.
October 2022