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My name is Aixa Rodriguez. I am an ESL teacher and I am running on the MORE-UFT slate for Vice President for Education-At-Large.

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I’m running in the 2019 UFT elections because MORE has the values and the work ethic that most closely match mine. When I heard who was running on the MORE-UFT slate, I was convinced that this was the time to put my hat in the ring. This slate is deeply involved in social justice movements and has the experience, savvy, creativity and energy needed to give voice and analysis to the issues impacting our profession. Privatization is destroying public education and teachers need to be plugged in to counter that. We can no longer just blindly pay dues to a status quo, appeasement-oriented union; in the post-Janus reality, rank and file need to participate and make our voices heard as members of our union.

Educational Justice is an intersectional issue. Every social justice issue that you hear about intersects with the problems in public education. Unions have the power to make change happen that benefits society as a whole; in housing justice, food justice, environmental justice, and racial justice. Under mayoral control, community participation is limited, democracy is limited.  Our jobs are impacted by outside realities that are out of our individual control. This is why our union has to push for justice.

When bad decisions on real estate development are made, local school enrollment shrinks, teachers get excessed, space gets taken by charter school parasites, class sizes in co-located schools rise, programs get cut, and students get a narrower curriculum. When kids become homeless, go into the shelter system, and struggle academically and socially, they bring those challenges to our schools. The kids who are hungry, sleepy, wearing dirty, unwashed clothes, and getting bullied are our students.Those conditions become our working conditions at schools that are underfunded, under-resourced and understaffed.  We teachers live and teach in that reality. We need more counselors, social workers, community workers, paras, and school aides, and therapists. CFE must be fully funded by Albany. Fair student funding is a failed formula.

When we chose to work in schools that serve struggling kids we get judged and evaluated on their progress on inappropriate tests. To survive, many teachers teach to the test even as it kills their passion and creativity, burns them out, then leads to turnover and unstable schools. The kids get a test prep curriculum and are robbed of a well rounded quality education. Our autonomy and professionalism is impacted by high stakes testing. We are blamed and scapegoated, and our schools closed, our positions lost. Those of us who get a new position are lucky. The Absent Teacher Reserve has become a next stop for many a veteran teacher. Our working conditions are impacted by the culture of testocracy compounded by funding inequities that institutionalize ageism.

As teachers we need our contracts respected, our salaries to keep up with inflation, and our schools to be well staffed, resourced and funded. We need support with discipline, smaller class sizes, prep periods that are not taken away lightly. We need an evaluation and tenure system that doesn’t push out teachers from the profession.These needs coincide with student needs for recess, small group tutoring and reading intervention, sports, clubs and electives. We have seen in the #Red4Ed movement across the nation that parents and students are our natural allies in the fight for public schools that serve all children well. Let’s join that fight.

 

Aixa Rodriguez for UFT Vice President for Education-At-Large 2019

 

 

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[Aixa taking a group selfie at the MORE general meeting in January 2019]

There is a disconnect between UFT leadership and rank and file membership. As a result, there is a void and that void has to be filled at a time when unions and labor movements are being attacked and destroyed by unfriendly forces: right wingers, ed deformers, and many of the 1% who have accumulated most of the wealth, all aggressively pushing to disrupt and destabilize public education. The UFT leadership has shown utter silence on what matters to our students, teachers, parents, and communities. I declare my candidacy with an affirmation that, when I am elected as President of the UFT in April, I will continue the fight for our schools. 

There is no mincing of words when I declare that social justice matters in public education and it matters now more than ever. The UFT leadership should not dance around these issues. That is why I am running on the social justice slate of the Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE) in the UFT elections this March. We are a collective of educators ranging from Occupational Therapists and Physical Therapists to Counselors and Social Workers to Classroom Teachers to Paraprofessionals to School Secretaries to all of the other members of our union. 

 

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In solidarity with OT/PTs for Pay Parity at Panel for Educational Policy meeting.

(Myrie on left after speaking at the podium)

 

Our caucus is also a part of a nationwide collective called the United Caucuses of Rank and File Educators (UCORE). We are fighting for social justice in many states: Arizona, California, Colorado, and North Carolina, to name a few, and here at home in New York.

Our students and educators deserve schools with low student to counselor ratios. Our schools deserve more counselors and restorative justice coordinators. Each school must be rated on the equitable hiring and retention of Black, Asian and Latinx educators. Culturally Relevant Curriculum must be implemented in each school and measured by the Scorecard developed by NYU. In addition, resources must match the demographics of student populations in individual schools. The UFT does not have a contract that addresses pay parity for Occupational Therapists and Physical Therapists. The UFT leadership has used parliamentary maneuvers to avoid a vote from the  UFT Delegate Assembly on the Black Lives Matter at School resolution two years in a row. Our schools and our students deserve better.

It’s time to change the leadership when members in every borough are subject to harassment from supervisors.  Forget about the “strong contract” emphasized by leadership when probationary teachers and vulnerable staff members are scared to file a grievance and when chapter leaders and district representatives are unsupportive. Calls to activate and publish the names of abusive administrators have been ignored. I will have this list ready on Day One when I am elected.

Please look at what is happening around you in the communities where you work. Is there systemic racism and oppression?  Is there gentrification? Are any of your students homeless? Are students’ suspensions on the rise? Do you have space for art, music, a library, and an OT/PT room at your school? What about oversized classes? Are you nervous to talk about any of this? Are your ICT classes in compliance? Does the paraprofessional have a duty free lunch? Are you being forced to have meetings on your lunch? Are you being asked to give up your preps? Do your children have adequate materials and resources? Would you like to advocate for your students, but you are scared?

The MORE slate is here to advocate and agitate. Under our leadership, we will lead the UFT to the position where our working conditions will equate with our students’ learning conditions. 

Thank you for the work that you do for our students. 

 

Dermott Myrie for UFT President 2019  

 

Myrie Aixa Kevin Jia photo

MORE Caucus members running for UFT office  

(Front- Aixa Rodriguez- right, Jia Lee -left)

(Rear Kevin Prosen- left,  Dermott Myrie-right)

 

 

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PRINTABLE PDF: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B_rTIKQeq2LLMzd2UUc0b3pjNHVNUVh1ZUVrWjc1Y05BTEsw/view?usp=sharing

 

As New York City gives away billions to Amazon and sits on billions in budget surplus we still have an underfunded and segregated school system, and raises in the recent contract fell behind the pace of inflation.

 

UFT Members and NYC students deserve better. Join MORE in our fight for:

 

    • Fair funding for all schools
    • Reversing the givebacks on health care
    • Strong protections against harassment and abuse
    • Parity for all titles, including OT/PTs
    • More diverse teaching and support staff

 

  • Adequate counselors, social workers and other support staff for students

 

 

Here is what educators around the country were able to win by taking action in the street as the wave of teacher rebellions spreads across the country.

  • In Washington State, teachers strikes netted raises of up to 10% this fall
  • West Virginia teachers and school support workers earned an immediate 5% pay increase statewide
  • Arizona teachers won a 19% pay raise after a 5-day strike.

 

Carranza calls Mulgrew his brother from another mother, the City has a budget surplus, and a teacher strike wave is sweeping the country with massive public support. In the meantime, Paraprofessionals make subsistence wages, and Occupational and Physical Therapists lag behind their colleagues by tens of thousands of dollars. If this is what we get in good times, what happens when we get another Bloomberg or Giuliani? Now is the time to organize and fight for MORE.

 

Get in Touch with MORE:

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more@morecaucusnyc.org

@morecaucusnyc

http://morecaucusnyc.org

Call: (347) 766-7319

 

What is wrong with the UFT leadership’s strategy and how can we fix it?

 

The UFT’s longtime strategy has been to cultivate relationships with “friendly politicians,” by supporting them in elections, lobbying on their behalf, and supporting legislation those leaders want. Perhaps most importantly, they guarantee labor peace.

But as a result, the leadership is hesitant to take any action that might upset these politicians, like holding rallies or even going on strike.

The limits of this strategy are apparent in our new contract. We have a Democratic Governor who is eager to show his progressive credentials. Our mayor is the most progressive NYC has had in decades. The city has a surplus of $4 billion. Yet despite all this, we still got wage increases below the rate of inflation and were forced to make givebacks in our healthcare. So even in the best of circumstances, this strategy is limited at best. What will happen if those circumstances change – like say in a recession?

 

To get better contracts and improve our working and living conditions we need a new strategy that prioritizes building strong chapters at every school so members are organized and ready to take action both at the school and city-wide level.

 

Well before the expiration of the new contract our union should launch a member-driven campaign to set contract goals and decide on a course of action to win those goals. Borough and city-wide rallies can develop a sense of union solidarity and collective purpose. Finally, as a union we can appeal to various community organizations through joint actions which link our contract campaign to a collective effort to fund our schools and make our city livable again.  

 

Why we need to build independent rank and file organization: Join MORE today!

 

Only a stronger base of rank-and-file teachers, counselors, paras and all education workers, knit together in a common organization that can share strategies and mobilize our coworkers can push the union leadership to alter its approach, and eventually lead the union in a different direction entirely.

 

We have seen what a tremendous difference this kind of organization can make in Chicago and Los Angeles.  This spring and fall, the teachers rebellion was led by educators building up their rank-and-file networks so they could engage in workplace actions.

 

United, we are stronger – that’s why you should check out our website and find out how you can help now – www.morecaucusnyc.org.  Whether it’s something as simple as passing on a leaflet to an interested coworker in the teachers’ lounge, making a monetary donation, or organizing a solidarity photo for our brothers and sisters in struggle elsewhere in the country, your actions can make a difference.

The new UFT-DOE contract makes no change in the 50-year wait for lower class sizes, a fair grievance procedure, and a rational job security process, among other issues. Newer teachers will still have to endure 4 or more years of harassment and hundreds of pages of tenure application paperwork, the DOE and administrators will still have the same ability to skirt the contract while chapter leaders and union members are held accountable for small offenses, and the general class size limits of 34 students in high schools will not budge a bit.

While the UFT should be applauded for negotiating minor improvements in the number of observations, the overall agreement is a readymade rhetorical exercise in the “students first” claims of education “reform” advocates who really just want to cut resources and spending from public schools. Press releases by both the De Blasio administration and the UFT leadership of Michael Mulgrew proclaimed that the tentative collective bargaining agreement goes beyond teachers and workers and instead focuses on improving the work of students in schools.

I, and many other teachers, care equally about learning conditions as we do about working conditions, because we have come to the conclusion that the two, at their core, are symbiotic, if not essentially the same. However, the details of the agreement seem to indicate this potential contract would be a continuing disaster for students, parents, and educators alike. While there are steps towards a more rigorous arbitration process over class size violations, it is unclear how much on-the-ground conditions will change, as administrators are already able to ignore legal limits during pivotal periods early in the year, and all the contract does is shift around some numbers and add more bureaucratic committees of UFT-DOE collaboration.

Notably, there are no reductions in the class size caps for K-12 courses, which run as high as 34 students in general education high school classes and 50 students in music and physical education high school classes. This is despite many assurances to teachers from   UFT leaders that class size was indeed a priority in these contract negotiations. As the Movement of Rank-and-File Educators has predicted for the past year, there was never any real commitment to lowering class size. Union leaders have admitted as much, saying that the city made it clear it wouldn’t be on the bargaining table.

Unfortunately, this is the type of position from which our union decided to bargain, instead of organizing the membership of educators to publicly demand a better contract, as has happened in states all over the country with teacher strikes, or at least strike readiness. The decision was to cave on core issues and assume that the allegedly progressive mayor would give a good deal. Instead, it is a deal riddled with givebacks such as a pay “raise” that doesn’t match inflation, second-tier healthcare for new teachers, prescreening psychological “stress” tests for new teachers, and an increase in remote education programming.

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While class size reductions would be a broad programmatic change that could benefit all students, the tentative contract instead includes more of the band-aid measures that have marked the warm 5-year marriage between the UFT and De Blasio, a marriage with a parsimonious attitude towards effective spending on education.  

In 2014, the De Blasio administration announced the beginning of the Renewal Schools project, which focused on funneling massive amounts of money, sometimes carelessly, into schools which the city had identified as low-performing. At the time, the UFT applauded the administration as rational and just, as if anything other than big Bloomberg-era austerity cuts and overt charter expansion was a blessing.

In 2018, the UFT and DOE have now announced the so-called “Bronx Plan”, which is similarly a band-aid measure. It focuses on certain struggling schools, claiming to give workers higher pay and more control, but also involving vaguely worded parallel structures to the main collective bargaining agreement,  leaving open threats to the security and solidarity of workers. Further, it does nothing to address the 100,000 NYC school children who are homeless, many of whom live in the Bronx. Nor does it address the 595,000 NYC students who attend overcrowded schools

The UFT, meanwhile, announced on October 11 that it wanted to convene an emergency session of its Delegate Assembly the next day, in order to recommend this agreement be presented to the overall membership for approval. However, the document was  over 60 pages and most DA members did not have time to adequately review this, let alone work the “emergency” assembly meeting into their schedules. [Why was it an emergency? That’s unclear. The current contract wasn’t going to expire for months.]

The union leadership is attempting to fast-track an agreement that its members are not even familiar with yet, and which lacks any progress on issues such as class size, which is demanded by and benefits teachers, parents, and students alike. At a time when New York’s mayor is a self-proclaimed progressive in the largest city in the country, we should be pushing for a bold contract. The UFT needs to mobilize membership to demand the DOE make a contract that doesn’t include more meager raises and band-aid programmatic changes. Of course, with ballots rushed and due by the end of the month, chances are this conversation and mobilization won’t happen. However, as more rank-and-file members become aware of the lack of democracy and the lack of any real progress in our bargaining agreements with the city, the tides could shift and this wave of apathy could wash away, along with many of our union and city government leaders who lack vision and bold ideas.

 

Andrew Worthington is an English and special education teacher and the chapter leader at PACE HS in Manhattan.

Print and distribute copies of our contract response flyer for your workplace!

Summaries of our 3 main concerns and our 6 contract priorities are below.

MORE-UFT will be holding a Contract Conference on Saturday 10/27. Details for that are below too.

 

MORE-UFT SAYS VOTE NO!

Let’s start organizing for the schools NYC deserves!

Here are three reasons to demand a better contract:

  1. Pay: the raises average 2.09% at a time when inflation is 2.2%. This is a pay cut! And the paltry “raises” are paid for by givebacks that create a two-tier health care plan for the first time.
  2. Conditions: There are no significant gains on any of the issues of concern to working members such as class size or abusive administrators.
  3. Solidarity: In the post-Janus world, we must inspire new members to join us. The UFT did not mobilize or organize us or build a sense of solidarity in a fight for a good contract. This deal will not inspire newer teachers to join the union.

The new UFT-DOE contract only continues our 50-year wait for lower class sizes, a fair grievance procedure, and a rational job security process, among other issues. While the UFT should be applauded for negotiating some improvements in the number of observations, the overall agreement is yet another ed-reformer empty promise to put “students first” at the expense of UFT members.

Besides, let’s not imitate Congress and vote on something we haven’t even been given the time to read!

 

DON’T SETTLE FOR LESS!

Contract Conference – Sat. 10/27 – 1pm-4pm

Organize for:

  1. Fair raises. A raise that doesn’t even match inflation is a pay cut.
  2. No healthcare givebacks. Not all health plans are created equal, and forcing new teachers onto a more restrictive insurance plan will only make attrition worse.
  3. Lower class sizes. If the city can subsidize luxury high-rises, then it can pay to build more classrooms and schools. We’ve waited 50 years!
  4. Paid family leave. Parental leave was a long-deserved victory; it’s time we give the same consideration to our fellow educators caring for an ailing family member.
  5. Increasing teacher diversity. Our students need to see themselves reflected in the adults they see at school, and the city needs to build a system to support this.
  6. Administrator improvement plans. Abusing teachers, staff, and students should result in consequences, not promotions.

Join the Movement of Rank-and-file Educators at our Contract Forum as we fight for the contract UFT members deserve:

WHEN: October 27, 2018, 1pm-4pm.

WHERE: James Baldwin High School, 351 W 18th St.

We’ll have trainings on how to organize with your coworkers, make your voices heard, and win the victories that NYC students and our members deserve.

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