Those of us who have dedicated our lives lately to going to schools to tell the membership that there is a real alternative to Michael Mulgrew’s Unity Caucus now have to spread the word to get out the vote. In the 2013 UFT election, less than 1/5 of active UFT members voted. This is pitiful. We can do better. My wife and I have penned this letter to our schools and friends. Much of it is based on what we have heard in the schools from many members. A member driven union needs to fight for what membership wants. Please feel free to reproduce and share.
If we are to have any chance of denting the Unity machine, everyone who reads thismust reach out to every UFT member they know (word of mouth, phone, email, social media or carrier pigeon) to urge them to vote MORE-NEW ACTION.
As many of you know, ballots for the UFT election were mailed out on May 5. One should be in the mail at home. The strength of a union comes from a membership that is willing to be engaged in standing up for themselves. One of the simplest ways to become activated is to vote in union elections. As you look over the ballot, we urge you to place an [X] in the MORE-NEW ACTION box and then drop it in the mail to easily vote for hundreds of union activists who will make the UFT a stronger union.
If we are elected, we would never consider accepting a contract where members have to wait over a decade until 2020 to fully receive raises and retroactive money that other city unions (police, fire, sanitation, DC 37, etc…) were given between 2008 and 2010. Singling out educators to wait for raises and back pay while the city has record surpluses of $6 billion and NYC is creating more jobs now than ever before is a slap in the face to educators. UFT President Michael Mulgrew and his Unity Caucus allowed this to happen. The pattern raises that Mulgrew accepted for this round of collective bargaining in 2014 for city employees is 10% over 7 years, the lowest pay increases in a contract of our lengthy careers. All unionized city workers are basically stuck with Mulgrew’s pathetic deal. Mulgrew/Unity needs to be held accountable.
In addition, in the 2014 contract the UFT and other city unions agreed to healthcare savings but they wouldn’t tell us what they were. We found out recently that members on GHI and HIP have had co-payments for emergency room care tripled from $50 to $150 while urgent care co-pays have risen to $50. Some members who are on HIP are seeing co-payments of $10 for the first time as HIP’s network for free care has dwindled by a third. These are not the last of the savings as next year we have already agreed to an additional $1.3 billion. These health givebacks recur forever.
Unfortunately, our choices are to keep increasing co-pays, which hurts the people who need medical care the most, or to start charging everyone a healthcare payroll deduction. An honest union leader would have told us all of this when the contract came up for a vote so we could vote with our eyes open. Mulgrew has not been up front and should be ousted.
The teacher evaluation system is a disaster. We are rated now on subjective cookie cutter 1-4 Danielson rubrics along with results on unreliable student test scores on exams that were not designed for rating teachers. If we are rated ineffective for two straight years, the burden of proof for tenured teachers shifts to us in dismissal hearings. This amounts to teachers being guilty until proven innocent and is truly un-American. Mulgrew-Unity refuses to push for repeal of the evaluation system. If you elect MORE-NEW ACTION, we will work to create a fair evaluation system.
School secretaries, guidance counselors, social workers-psychologists and paras continue to have workloads expanded while absent teacher reserves have weaker due process and the army of lawyers hired by the previous administration at the Department of Education continues to help administrators make life miserable for UFT members in many schools. Some schools are plagued with abusive, vindictive, viscous and/or incompetent principals and assistant principals. Useless paperwork is out of control. Close to half of newer teachers are forced to sign extensions of probation letters. Many non-tenured teachers have been dismissed and had their careers ruined. Mulgrew has no answers to any of this other than to try to buy off politicians with contributions in a corrupt political system.
An engaged UFT membership fighting for what it wants is the answer to the problems that plague the system. Union power comes from the rank and file, not the leadership. There are close to 200,000 UFT members. Imagine the strength if we activated ourselves to truly fight for our rights and our schools. We can envision class sizes actually being lowered!
A robust, active and engaged membership will become a reality only if we elect a union leadership that pushes for it. The time for Mulgrew making back-room political deals where membership loses and out of touch leadership wins more perks for themselves is over. Give yourself a voice by voting for the entire MORE-NEW ACTION slate!
Camille Eterno, Candidate for UFT Secretary
James Eterno, Candidate for Academic High School Vice President