Our union needs to build power and exercise it. We are one of the largest union locals in the country and should be capable of fighting back against the powers that be, those who would squeeze us in the interest of tax “incentives” for the wealthy. Instead, for too long UFT leadership has acted like lobbyists towards our politicians and like customer support towards us, the members. No one has ever felt empowered by customer support.
We need choices in this election to keep the union healthy. After the Janus decision, why should new hires join? Why should current members stay? Too many members see the UFT as another deduction from their paycheck, another number to call when you give up on HR Connect, another vendor of CTLE hours. Too many members refer to the UFT as “them” rather than “us.” We need to strengthen our union by challenging leadership to do better, not weaken it by abandoning our colleagues to the whims of those who would stuff more children into classrooms and strip away our rights.
[David Price, middle, MORE candidate for at-large seat]
There are lots of things to like about the UFT, but even those benefits are tenuous because of its top-down structure. My salary isn’t bad, but I’m still waiting on some of it to come in 2020. My district rep is great, and I would vote for him to be my district rep, but wasn’t given the chance to do so. This structure creates too much distance between union leadership and the rank-and-file membership. Our leadership has a fixed mindset about how to get things done at City Hall and in Albany: support incumbents (regardless of party) and negotiate behind closed doors. We need a leadership with a growth mindset about the power of the membership.
I was hired in 2012 and thus worked two years without a contract. I was hired in the first year of Tier VI of the retirement system and thus pay more into our retirement plan than all those before me. Seven years in and still with so much to learn, I’m shocked by how this short amount of time would qualify me as a veteran in so many schools. We need a union that works to keep and protect veteran teachers, rather than using attrition as a source of “savings” in each negotiation. Paying teachers more to work in hard-to-staff schools does not solve the root problems that make them hard to staff. Allowing the city and state to construct more and more complex and expensive hoops for us all to jump through in the name of “professionalism” (CTLE hours, edTPA, etc.) is not helping to attract dedicated and diverse applicants to the teaching pool. We did an amazing job of mobilizing in the face of Janus last year and kept our numbers strong, but I worry when little is said of how many new hires have not signed a union card.
MORE is fighting to build a union that sees beyond the nitty-gritty details of our contract and beyond the parallel bureaucracy that has developed in the UFT. Our union should be building strong chapters in our schools and strong alliances in our communities. Our students are over-tested and underfunded at school, while many of them face an ever more precarious life outside of school as New York City becomes a harder place to live for all but the rich. Because we believe in our students, we must fight for them, and thus we must build a union ready to do so, even if that means taking on fights that for too long have been treated as separate from our own.