Please print copies for your coworkers, and if you are a high school teacher, bring copies to Regents’ grading sites.
Please contact us – firstname.lastname@example.org – if you would like to help distribute at the delegate assembly on Wednesday, June 20th, or if you need more copies for your school
Red State Revolt: Can it happen here?
By Kit Wainer, Chapter Leader, Leon Goldstein High School
Teachers around the United States are reviving the strike and winning. Our colleagues in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona, and now North Carolina are using the tools that were common place in organized labor at its height: mass pickets, member-to-member organizing, and shutting down their work places. They are raising national attention to how schools are under-funded and teachers are underpaid. Most importantly, they are winning. The UFT should learn from our fellow teachers around the country and lead the kinds of fights that could win us a good contract and inspire members to stay in the union.
Unfortunately, the UFT has shown little interest in doing that so far. The leadership has said little about the wave of teacher strikes. It hasn’t encouraged to us to actively support our striking brothers and sister, even though several UFT chapters have organized members to wear “Red for Ed” in their own schools. More importantly, the UFT officers have not organized any rallies or school-based actions that could involve members and encourage them to fight for a good contract.
Quite the contrary. UFT President Michael Mulgrew has continued secret negotiations with the city. Members are kept in the dark about what the union’s demands are, or what it is prepared to trade for them, even though the Mayor has already seen our contract proposals. Mulgrew is relying on his relationship with the Mayor to get us a good deal. We, the members, remain in the background.
We’ve seen this story before. For the past twenty-five years the UFT has refused to organize the members to pressure the city. Over that time period we’ve accepted contracts that have extended our work day, given up our rights to transfer or grieve observation reports, enshrined the Danielson rubric, and failed to address chronic underfunding.
We believe that the ground underneath is shifting and the UFT has an opportunity to take advantage. We know that the idea of the strike is still frightening for most UFT members. However, the recent wave of teacher strikes shows that strikes are the most effective tool unions have. The union leadership should be trying to prepare members to challenge the city by organizing contract rallies and actions within the schools such as “walk ins,” in which members wait outside their school until the start of the school day and then walk in together. Actions such as these can build members’ confidence in themselves and each other and prepare for more challenging direct actions.
Escalating actions make a strike threat credible and may lead the city to concede some of our demands..
The UFT should also launch an educational campaign so that members can learn more about how the “Red state teachers” have organized themselves and how successful strikes have been organized in the past. Instead of using the threat of Taylor law fines to frighten members, the UFT could point out that merely a 1% raise would wipe out the fines incurred from one day of striking within the first year of a contract.
The Supreme Court’s Janus ruling will pose a serious challenge to public sector unions throughout the United States. Unions will have to convince members to stay union and continue paying dues. The UFT has developed an impressive outreach campaign to speak to members and encourage them to remain in the union. However, ultimately the most effective way to win members’ loyalty is to develop actions that inspire all of us with confidence that collective action pays off and that union dues are worth it.
We believe that preparing a campaign based on member activism and a credible strike threat is the best way to win a good contract and to save our union. If you agree with us we encourage you to join MORE!