MORE’s goal is to transform the UFT into a powerful and democratic union. We want a union that will energize and involve rank and file members, invite them to think strategically and craft union strategy, to take initiative and to lead. We believe that a democratic union led by rank-and-file members will be in a better position to mobilize members to fight for good contracts and for a vision of social justice.
Our efforts to transform our union must begin at the bottom – at our school sites and in our chapters, not at the top. The current leadership of the union is bureaucratic and risk-averse. But our immediate task is to activate members in order to present an alternative. Chapter leader and delegate elections, set for spring 2021, will be an important stage in that effort. Chapter leaders cannot transform members’ consciousness all by themselves., but they do influence the way members conceive of their union and their role within it. And a network of MORE chapter leaders can organize for a union that empowers members rather than limits them.
In September 2020 MORE members showed what we could accomplish with a couple dozen chapter leaders and a few hundred rank and file activists. We were able to carry out dramatic protest activities around the city and even to organize several chapters to refuse to enter their school buildings. That was enough to draw media attention and force the mayor and the UFT leadership to respond. Had our caucus had one hundred chapter leaders and activists in hundreds of schools our actions would have been even more impactful and we might have been able to keep school buildings closed.
We believe that MORE members should run for chapter leader. Members generally speak to the chapter leader when they have any union-related ideas. The opportunities to discuss union strategy with members are countless. Chapter leaders can model democratic chapter meetings and organize members to protest. The UFT leadership does not encourage chapter initiative. But MORE chapter leaders have organized pickets, marches, letter-writing and phone-zaps.
Chapter leaders also have unique opportunities to network with other chapter leaders at monthly district meetings, which are rare cross-building organizing opportunities in a union that discourages horizontal communications between activists. Both chapter leaders and delegates also are part of monthly delegate assemblies where there is (limited) opportunity to advocate for union-wide actions and policy, and meet other UFT activists. Those who feel they cannot make the commitment to be chapter leader, or are in a school in which the chapter leader is an ally, should consider running for delegate.
MORE will offer ongoing support to those who want to run for chapter leader this spring. We already had our first training session and plan to maintain a support group for those who are running so that we can share experiences and challenges and learn from each other. We plan to continue that mutual support with new and experienced chapter leaders next fall. If we can win leadership in enough chapters this spring we will be in a much better position to influence union policy, educate, mobilize and organize our coworkers, and to develop a practical rank and file alternative to the current UFT leadership.