UFT Leadership’s Contract Teach-in Legacy is to Sue Members for Organizing

I was cautiously optimistic about the contract teach ins. So were a lot of people in the UFT’s progressive opposition. We had questions, to be sure — doubts. As I put it in January, “We need to make sure that the ‘teach in’s in our schools are not just infrastructure for an undeserved ‘yes’ vote, but a true means for chapters to think about what the contract means to them – and what sorts of contracts are worth that ‘yes’ vote.”

Unfortunately, the materials UFT gave us did resemble propaganda for a yes vote. They overstated the power of our current contract, slid over give-backs that have weakened it over the years, and made the negotiating process for a new contract seem much too fool proof.

Then, on the eve of the Teach Ins, I published this: “Luckily, at this point, we have some new materials. The good folks over at MORE published a much better version of the UFT’s official powerpoint. It looks to resemble the original powerpoint well enough that it could be switched out without any new planning.’ I used this powerpoint at my own chapter’s teach in. It allowed me to tailor that event in an honest way that provoked real discussion amongst rank-and-file members.

Then, a few weeks ago, MORE got a cease-and-desist letter from a law firm to which the UFT pays millions of dollars in our dues money. They were threatened not to use the UFT logo in their materials, which I now understand were written by individual MORE members and not even authorized by MORE itself. Opposition was stunned. Norm and James already published good think pieces on this, so I just have one extra point today.

This is the work going on at 52 Broadway. UFT leadership did nothing to stop DC37 leadership from committing us to a sub-inflation pattern. No matter how much we organize at this point, we’re going to be stuck with sub-inflation wage increases below the non-unionized U.S. average. I’ve written a lot about this (here, here, and here), but the main point is this: when well-paid DC37 leaders, who Mulgrew has described himself as talking to ‘all the time,’ put us in financial jeopardy by championing a bad pattern, UFT leadership does nothing. However, when opposition unionists try to organize members to help UFT get a critical mass of rank-and-file members ready for a contract fight, they get challenged to be sued, using our dues money. See the difference?

This is the legacy of our teach ins: actual organizers were given cease-and-desist letters by the UFT’s law firm, while our union leadership sat on their hands and let our real wages plummet.


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