FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Contacts: Ashraya Gupta
NYC High School Teachers Vote for Change, Electing MORE/New Action Social Justice Slate to Union Leadership
Teachers Poised to Bring Change to Crisis-Ridden NYC Schools as National Wave of Teacher Activism Continues
NEW YORK- In an historic victory for social justice reform in the nation’s largest union local and largest school system, NYC high school teachers have created a rupture in the 56-year near-monopoly of the UFT’s Unity Caucus by electing the MORE/New Action reform slate to the union’s executive board. The victory will bring a voice for progressive change to the table in the union’s coming 2018 contract negotiations. The tri-annual election for the leadership of the UFT exposed a deep crisis in the New York City schools, with a new report from MORE demonstrating that 32% of NYC teachers are unable to make photocopies for their students when they need to, nearly one in five city educators works more than 20 hours of unpaid overtime per week, over half teach in overcrowded schools, and that behavior support, special education, ESL, and other mandated services for students are often criminally lacking.
Marcus McArthur, newly elected to the UFT Executive Board said, “The rank and file have cast a vote for more democracy, more teacher autonomy, and more justice for our schools. I look forward to representing their voice and collaborating with my colleagues on the executive board for a better public school system in NYC.”
Decaying working and learning conditions are generating a rank-and-file upsurge in the UFT, with vote totals evidencing a continued ebb in support for Michael Mulgrew’s Unity Caucus and a turn toward activism. MORE/New Action’s victory follows the growing national trend of social justice reformers coming to power in teachers union elections and leading strikes for critical improvements in the schools in Chicago, Los Angeles, St. Paul, Detroit, and other cities across the country in recent years.
MORE’s Executive Board member Ashraya Gupta said, “In a year when public-sector unions were under threat, it is heartening to see a vote for a more democratic UFT. The increase in voter turnout and the win for MORE and New Action means New York City teachers are mobilizing for the schools and city we deserve.”
Mike Schirtzer another new Executive Board member adds, “For far too long the leadership of our union has been disconnected from the real problems we face in our schools. They have signed on to one anti-public education policy after another, without watching out for the best interests of our members or the students we serve.”
Presidential candidate Jia Lee observed, “The high school win is a crack in the glass ceiling that keeps Unity caucus’ in power. Rank and file educators are galvanizing a more humane vision of our teaching conditions and our students’ learning conditions. There’s much more work to do, and I’m really looking forward to the future knowing we have principled voices on the executive board.”
While MORE/New Action’s victory for the high school board seats will bring much-needed change to UFT leadership, machine politics continue to dominate the union. In an effort to consolidate control over the union, in 2012 Unity Caucus increased the cap on retiree votes (a group that traditionally votes for Unity, since they led the union when they were in service) from 18,000 to 23,500. In 2013, retirees cast more than half the ballots for UFT leadership, with only 17% of active members voting. In 2016, 25% of in-service members voted, contributing 28,582 ballots, while 24,464 retirees voted, mostly for Unity Caucus.
The Movement of Rank-and-File Educators (MORE), is the social justice caucus of the UFT and largest force for change within the teachers union. In the 2016 elections, MORE formed a united front with New Action Caucus to challenge Unity Caucus, the bureaucratic political machine that has dominated New York’s teachers’ union for the past 56 years. Over the past decade, Unity has led the UFT into crisis, signing off on harmful policies such as overuse of standardized testing and pay increases that fail to keep pace with inflation, while the NYC public schools have decayed. MORE advocates for a vision of social justice unionism to fight for the schools New York City’s students and teachers deserve.