Dan Lupkin
UFT Chapter Leader
PS 58 – Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn

What is a union for? Why do we belong to one? In these times of looming national “Right to Work” laws that are likely to impede or cripple the ability of labor unions to sustain themselves financially, it seems like a relevant question to ask ourselves. Is a union for Meet the President dinners? Patronage jobs in exchange for political loyalty? Social media campaigns? What are we getting in exchange for the hard-earned dues we pay to the UFT?

Protecting members from abuse by management is a core function, if not THE core function, of a labor union. If a chapter leader or delegate speaking out and organizing against an abusive administrator is subject to retaliation with impunity, what chance is there for a rank-and-file member to actually exercise their contractual rights? The abuse of staff, students, and parents that has been going on, unchecked, at Central Park East 1, an elementary school in East Harlem, is indicative of a union local decayed to the point of paralysis, and so out of touch with its membership and their concerns that it is approaching complete irrelevance. During the 4/19/17 UFT Delegate Assembly, a second attempt to introduce a resolution on behalf of the staff, parents, and students of the CPE1 was quashed by the UNITY caucus leadership of the UFT, who instructed their loyalty oath bound delegates to vote against even putting the pleas that the school’s elected delegate (himself the victim of multiple and scurrilous investigations in retaliation for his activism) were making on behalf of the embattled stakeholders on the agenda for the next meeting. Having briefly consulted with UFT President Michael Mulgrew, Bronx District Rep Howie Schorr listed a number of steps that the UFT had taken to address the issue, and said it was up to the Department of Education to fix the problem.
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May Day is a national day of protest for immigrant and labor rights, dating back to the mass 2006 demonstrations to defend immigrants against the Republican congress and over a century of labor mobilization for International Workers Day.
Today, May Day will be even more urgent as the Trump administration accelerates its deportation machinery, and prepares assaults on union rights.
Here are 10 simple things that you can do in your school chapter on Monday, May 1st.
A Day of Action Toolkit – Ten things you and your coworkers can do to celebrate May Day
  1. Ask your colleagues to all wear red in solidarity. Wear stickers celebrating labor and immigrant rights [Here are stickers for Avery 5163 labels]
  2. Take photos of your chapter together and post on social media with the hashtag #MayDay – check out examples here.
  3. Ask local immigrant rights organizations in your neighborhood to come and speak to students, parents and staff. Hold an immigrants and labor rights teach-in. Make the Road NY, Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant RightsICE Free NY, and New York Immigration Coalition, to name just a few.
  4. Involve the Parent Association in your activities – ask what support immigrant families need, how they can be involved in showing solidarity 
  5. Ask teachers to plan lessons around labor and immigrant rights themes. See the TeachDream toolkit here.
  6. Email Chancellor Fariña to support the UFT demand for for a immigrant liaison in every school to help students and families with immigration issues. 
  7. Gather a group to join UFT members from around the city at Union Square at 4pm – look for the MORE banner. We will be then marching to the labor-endorsed rally at Foley Square, which begins at 5pm. Feminist contingents who organized the International Women’s Strike on March 8 will also be participating and connecting women’s with immigrant and labor issues.
  8. Involve neighboring schools! If you need help connecting to schools in your building or neighborhood – email us to find out who nearby is involved
  9. Organize a field trip of students (with administrative approval, of course) to the daytime immigrant rights events at 12 in Union Square. 
  10. Hold a picket / demonstration for Labor and Immigrant Rights at the beginning of the school day. Show your teachers’ unity by all walking into work simultaneously. 

 

By Marcus B. McArthur, UFT Executive Board, City As School HS

On March 22nd at the Panel for Education Policy Meeting (PEP), the DOE Chancellor and other appointed cronies, sat doe-eyed as teachers, alumni, parents, and community members spoke out against Central Park East 1’s wrecking-ball principal and the unjust closing of J.H.S. 145. A neighborhood zoned school in the Bronx, J.H.S. 145 occupies the same building as a Success Academy charter school, the test-prep suspension factory run by Eva Moskowitz, leading Wall Street’s charge to colonize our schools. J.H.S. 145 was designated a “renewal school” in need of resources and institutional support to meet the needs of the children served by their community. They were promised resources. They were promised three years to right the ship. The resources never came. The DOE cut their turn around time by a year.

One more betrayal and counting…

 

The Chancellor offered little beyond the absurd declaration that these decisions were made “with the best interests of the kids at heart.” Translation: Eva and her hedge fund backers want more space and rather than paying rent for a political rival, we prefer to throw under the bus an under resourced school serving a politically expendable community. I have news for our elected officials.

 

Expendability will no longer be tolerated!

 

At the UFT Executive Board meeting two days before the PEP, MORE and New Action urged the UFT leadership to shorten the March 22nd Delegate Assembly to rally delegates and chapter leaders at the PEP against these betrayals of our public school system. I argued that we live in extraordinary times that require extraordinary responses. Normal protocols and rules of political engagement no longer apply. Our “elected officials” do not respond to our congenial ‘seat at the table’ politics, where our mayor accepts our endorsement with one hand, while his Chancellor stabs us in the back with the other. Take note that our leadership voted down our call to action.

 

Make no mistake about it, every neighborhood public school, serving every working-class racial, ethnic, and religious community that populates our city, is threatened by the proliferation of segregated, Wall Street backed, union busting charters. Furthermore, the enduring culture of dictatorial leadership fostered by the Bloomberg era DOE, has bred a new generation of catastrophic principals that are destroying democratic school communities across the city. Fifty-seven years ago, after enduring years of egregious injustice in the workplace, our union drew a red line and said no more. This is our generation’s opportunity to do precisely that.

 

The democratic pageantry of PEP meetings, where we implore unelected bureaucrats to represent the will of the people, must be recognized for the colossal sham that they embody. The bureaucrats attend simply to maintain appearances—the guise of democracy in the midst of an oligarchy. Their body language and unresponsiveness communicates their disdain louder than the few words they may muster the energy to utter. PEP meetings exemplify the farce of mayoral control where the voice of parents, teachers, and students can be ignored unchecked. With each school closure, co-location, and rogue administrator run amok, our union leadership’s support of mayoral control becomes more absurd by the day.

 

In 1857 in front of an audience of American Abolition Society members and allies, Frederick Douglass offered a prescient message that we, union members and teachers, should heed:

 

“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress…Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing on the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning.”

 

Have our political elites yet breached the threshold of injustice and wrong to which we quietly submit?

 

Have we yet recognized that those who profess to represent our interests, but attempt to pacify us, want rain without thunder and lightning?

 

Have we yet devised a set of cogent demands that will trigger genuine resistance?

 

The time for revolt is now.

 

Full issue of latest DA newsletter is here

 

 

How do we think a department of education should respond to teachers who consistently advocate and organize their community around policies for educational justice?

In Chicago, the governing elite go after the teacher. Sarah Chambers, special educator at  Maria Saucedo Scholastic Academy and co-chairwoman of the Chicago teachers union’s special education task force, has been speaking out against the devastating cuts that have led to many of Chicago’s public schools to be out of compliance in providing special education services. Under Mayor Rahm Emanuel, millions of dollars in budget cuts have meant millions diverted to corporate interests. Sarah has been at the forefront of exposing the privatization efforts in Chicago. Her fearless and relentless commitment to justice, for all public school students and educators, landed her a letter of suspension from the Chicago Public Schools earlier this month. While specific charges are still being contrived by officials and pending a hearing date, she cannot return to her school community or school.

Watch Sarah speak out at this city budget hearing : 

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CPE1 UFT members and supporters at the last Executive Board meeting

By Peter Lamphere, Chapter Leader, Gregory Luperon HS

Parental anger boiled over at a Harlem elementary school as parents, demanding the resignation of a principal who has targeted tenured teachers and lied to parents repeatedly, occupied the school auditorium and remained overnight despite a massive police presence inside and outside the school. The action was preceded by a four hour SLT meeting attended by over 100 families, teachers and local politicians where they presented their demands and then proceeded with the sit-in when principal Monika Garg replied that she answers only to her superiors, to her superintendent and to the chancellor. Supporters rallied outside the school for hours. The parent activists at CPE 1 have blamed mayoral control for leading to continuous examples of ignoring the stakeholders.

Sixty percent of families at Central Park East 1 signed a letter stating no-confidence in the leadership of Garg.

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Please sign this petition and help to defend Sarah Chambers. Sarah Chambers has been a tireless advocate for Special Education Students in Chicago. Now she is under attack.

 

MORE-UFT stands in support of A628/S579, a bill to help workers collect stolen wages.

As educators and school workers in the New York City public school system, we see the devastating impact that long hours and low wages have on our students’ families and their lives. When parents have to work long hours for low wages, our students sometimes have to go without necessities — adequate meals, warm coats in the winter, even permanent housing. Many children must take greater responsibility in the home for taking care of younger siblings or the elderly and disabled. This can lead to missing school, lack of rest, anxiety, depression, and makes participation in school communities harder. If parents are not even paid wages owed these problems are compounded.

As unionists and members of the United Federation of Teachers we find it outrageous that employers can get away with failing to pay workers wages they are legally owed. If there is no enforced floor in legal working conditions, inequality will increase and working and living conditions for all working people will deteriorate.

As unionists, educators, workers and residents of New York, we will not sit by while exploitative employers refuse to pay people for work they have done. If scofflaw employers can get away with hiding or transferring assets to avoid paying these stolen wages, then workers cannot collect the money they are owed, even if they win an award in court.  A628/S579, Securing Wages Earned Against Theft (“SWEAT”) brings New York law up to the same standard as other states that provide legal tools so that workers can make sure their employers will pay them once they are awarded a judgment in court.

Sincerely,
The Movement of Rank and File Educators-United Federation of Teachers
MORE-UFT

"Pass the SWEAT Bill Now"