An anonymous MORE member
How to take back your union rights by rejecting a poorly-thought-out SBO in 4 easy steps:
- One Clear Conversation: Make sure your chapter is having one, single, conversation
At my school, we went from having UFT meetings in the evenings since August (via video call) to having UFT meetings during our three different lunch periods (just for this SBO vote). If your Chapter is having three different meetings, there are three different conversations happening. This is a divide-and-conquer technique. Push back and request from your chapter leader a single time when the whole chapter can meet together. Most people are happy to get their lunches back, anyways.
If you don’t feel comfortable with the SBO before the vote or you still have questions, ASK for a meeting from your chapter leader! They will be more responsive as it is right before an SBO vote, and information and clarity are parts of the democratic voting process that the UFT is upholding. This is especially effective if you do it with a group of colleagues.
- Clarity and Precision of Language: All of the chapter members need to actually understand the SBO.
Ask for all the details to be added to the wording for clarity’s sake. For example, is this SBO in effect until the last day of the school year (yes) regardless of whether we are remote or in person in Spring (yes, unless you write a clause that specifies a change if there is a switch between remote/in person
- Vertical and Horizontal Communication: Use the phone contacts and friends you have in the school to coordinate and communicate about the vote.
My UFT Chapter Leader hides the personal email list of staff in a series of Google Groups that they have made, so rank and file members are not able to reply-all. Find other ways to reach out to your colleagues. I was able to text my colleagues on my same grade level (“horizontal”) as well as a team that is vertically present in the school (Pre-K – 5, “vertical”) to call out the SBO as eroding our rights and a dangerous precedent to set, as well as something we don’t want to HAVE to do for the rest of the school year. I clarified the facts to them around this SBO:
- There is no hard deadline to file an SBO, just pressure from DOE and UFT to Chapter Leaders. Why rush this process? Just ask your colleagues what they think the rush is– some interesting conversations result.
- SBOs must be agreed to by many parties, yes, but that doesn’t mean we have to accept the first suggestion that the chapter leader makes. If it doesn’t work for us, we shouldn’t vote for it.
- Remind your exhausted, overwhelmed colleagues to think about the context that this push is being made in. I texted out a quote from longtime chapter leader Kit Wainer (thanks Kit!): “If we agree to a lousy SBO because the school doesn’t have adequate staff for the default model, then we are absorbing responsibility for the DOE’s failure.” I also wrote specifically to encourage them to vote no, asking them to send admin and our chapter leader back to come up with a more reasonable proposal.
- Delay the vote.
If confusion reigns, there should not be a vote. Let your chapter leader know that the membership demands clarity, demands additional meetings, and with that additional time, reach out to as many colleagues as you can, and ask them to reach out as well. The chapter leader is not the locus of power or control in your school—the members are!
It’s your union! It will only fight for what you demand! There is a VOTE on an SBO for a reason. Membership must agree through an open and democratic process; it’s not a mandate from above, which is how it has been painted at my school. If it’s a lousy SBO, reject it. The sky will not fall if the SBO vote is delayed, or if an SBO is rejected, nor is there a hard deadline for the SBO (and anyway look at what the DOE has done with all of its “hard deadlines,” so please…).