2017: New York Teachers Unite or…? Executive Board Reflections

Copy of Marcusheadshot.jpgBy: Marcus B. McArthur

High School Representative on the UFT Executive Board and MORE member

On Monday, September 11, 2017, the UFT convened its first Executive Board meeting for the 2017-2018 school year. The message was clear. The close of 2017 will be a pivotal chapter in defining the future of our union and public education in New York City. Three critical issues confront us over the next four months.

  1. The NY State Constitutional Convention referendum on November 7th in which we must organize to VOTE NO! If there is a Constitutional Convention, kiss our collective bargaining rights and pensions goodbye.
  2. The Mayoral and City Council elections which are crucial to securing a new and fair contract with paid family leave.
  3. The Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court case that poses an existential threat to the strength of our union and its ability to protect NYC public schools from a Wall Street takeover. We have a decision to make.

Unite and fight or divide and die.

In his remarks to the board, President Mulgrew stated that his travels across the country this year made clear to him the extent of the damage inflicted on public education in America. He claimed that outside of New York City, with all of our struggles and challenges, it was difficult to identify other major districts thriving. Enemies of public education have succeeded in undermining the public system to open the floodgates for private profiteering. Mulgrew argued that the sole entity standing between Wall Street and the NYC public school system was the UFT.

The testimony of several veteran Adult Education teachers experiencing harassment and termination underscored the enduring threats. The picture painted was familiar to members who have experienced or witnessed abuse in the DOE: an inexperienced supervisor attacks veteran teachers in attempt to push them out through the usual tactics of failure by design, intimidation, and utilizing observations as a weapon.

As for the UFT, from my vantage point, we must reconcile the successes of our past formulas with the possibilities of a new direction for the challenges we face today. The fights waged by our UFT forebearers and the American labor movement claimed us a seat at the table of the pay-for-play politics of the American system. They secured labor rights, economic, and political gains that are the envy of much of the working class. As a union representing over 200,000 members, we are politically and financially formidable.

While we should maintain the influence that has historically served us, the UFT and the working people of our city and country, would be well served by our union committing resources and our bully pulpit to building the burgeoning left movement. At the end of the day, the dominant ideological forces of our time seek a world free of unions so the ownership class can pay workers pennies, a privatized education system ripe for pilfer and discrimination, and a decimated political opposition to implement policies that would not survive authentic democracy.

2017 is the year for NY teachers to unite in mass social movement to sustain hard won rights for workers, expand possibilities for economic and social justice for all New Yorkers, and build a winning left movement.

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