MORE has signed on to the community letter, republished below, in response to Andrew Cuomo’s New York Times advertisement begging Amazon to reconsider its decision about its headquarters. 

The ad was, shamefully, signed by our union president, along with a slew of corporate CEOs and only four other union leaders, in yet another example of how our current union leadership cares more about currying favor with politicians and corporations than defending the interests and rights of working people in New York City. 

MORE is also a member of the Citywide Alliance Against Displacement, which wrote the this letter about why Amazon’s retreat is a victory for New Yorkers.  

Power to Billionaires and their Corporations over Our Communities’ Future

As New Yorkers we believe every person has the right to good union jobs, safe and dignified affordable housing, strong and stable communities, a great public education, and a voice in our democracy. Because of these values, we must oppose Governor Cuomo’s failed economic development policies that give more power over our communities’ futures to billionaires and their corporations.

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I’m proud to be a UFT member, but we should not sit back and depend on top UFT officials or Mayor De Blasio to resolve problems that affect us as educators. As UFT rank-and-file members, and as working people, we have to organize from the bottom-up for the conditions that would make safe, culturally-relevant, meaningful educational work possible for all students, teachers and others in education.

 

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Above: John C. Antush, Chapter leader at City-As-School High School, MORE-UFT Candidate for Vice President of High Schools.

 

First, within our UFT chapters we can play a role in overhauling the UFT to make it an agenda-setting member-led union. MORE-UFT members and other rank-and-file UFTers petitioned in our chapters, conducted walk-ins, took to social media, and protested at City Hall to help win parental leave. We can use similar tactics on a larger scale to reverse the erosion of rights for new teachers such as longer pre-tenure probation, proliferation of meaningless tenure application requirements, and the lack of feedback and transparency when tenure applications are rejected. We can also push to restore defenses for higher-paid senior teachers, who are more likely to be targeted ever since principals were made more responsible for school budgets in 2007. Are older teachers, teachers of color, or LGBTQ+ teachers facing a higher-rate of 3020a hearings? In our chapters we can start to discuss and build momentum to find solutions for these and many other problems.  

Second, we can connect our chapters with our larger school communities including other DOE employees, parents and students, to address common issues. For example, we need a real conversation about class size. According to city statistics, in 2017, 595,000 students–over half the city’s students — were in overcrowded schools and classrooms. Encouraging Chapter Leaders to inform UFT central about class size violations is not enough. We need a grassroots movement to get at the roots of overcrowding. Active, organized chapters and school communities can start to ask: why do class size violations occur? Is it due to the structure of school funding? We can think bigger: Are legal class size limits too high? How would enforced lower legal cap sizes, with loopholes eliminated, transform schools? Another issue is staff-to-student ratios. What kinds of increases in staff are needed to ensure all IEPs are adequately serviced? What kind of staff ratios are needed to make schools safe so that effective restorative justice practices can be implemented?

 

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(Above: MORE-UFT members Annie Tan, Karen Arneson, and John Antush celebrating the victory of 83-85 Bowery tenants in Chinatown at Jing Fong Restaurant with National Mobilization Against Sweatshops and Chinese Staff & Workers Association.)

 

Finally, we can organize with others to address larger problems affecting us and other working people as a whole. Educators are scapegoated for problems of class and racism that affect students’ performance — such as the housing crisis. In the 2017-2018 school year, 114,659 of our K-12 students were homeless; one-in-ten lived in temporary shelters. How many more simply dropped out of school? I work at a transfer school. Some of our students live in temporary shelters or with friends. Many more have trouble in school because they are working jobs to pay for, or contribute to, rent. Aside from being a human rights violation and a horrible hardship that disrupts education, the affordable housing crisis impacts our job security. As student populations are displaced, school staff are excessed, depriving remaining students of arts, phys ed and the full range educational opportunities and support services. Wrap-around services, “community schools,” the Bronx plan, and “renewal school” aid are obviously not sufficient to ensure young people’s basic human right to an education. Further, many teachers cannot afford to live near their schools or even within the five boroughs. To address this problem, MORE-UFT members have joined others in the Citywide Alliance Against Displacement to organize for alternatives to De Blasio’s housing and rezoning plans, which are pushing low- and middle-income people — including education workers, students and their families — out of New York City.

 

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(Above: MLK Day 2018, Educators Against Displacement)

 

By organizing in our chapters to push back erosion of our working conditions; by uniting in our school communities with students, parents and other DOE employees around common issues like class size; and by organizing with other working people around larger issues we hold in common, like opposing housing and rezoning policies that displace our communities, we can fight for conditions that will make meaningful educational work possible and help establish the schools our students deserve.

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  

 

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MORE Caucus members running for UFT office  

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

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

 

 

We need change in the UFT, and we need it now! #VoteMORE2019 for a member driven union when the UFT election ballots go out in the mail on March 25th.
United, we can achieve our vision!

http://morecaucusnyc.org        http://tiny.cc/joinmore

I’m a special education teacher at a Brooklyn high school, so I spend lots of time in meetings: meetings with co-teachers, meetings with parents, IEP meetings, meetings with paraprofessionals and speech therapists, department meetings, meetings with guidance counselors and social workers. I spend my lunch periods meeting with 12th graders to help them with their research papers and I spend my preps meeting with 9th graders to help them with…all the things 9th graders need help with. Running for union office means even more meetings, and if I’m elected to the UFT Executive Board, there will be meetings, meetings, meetings. Oh, and I forgot to mention: I kind of hate meetings. So, why am I running?

Our union’s leadership, the Unity Caucus, says that New York City teachers are doing well. In some ways, they’re right. We get paid pretty well. Our benefits are very solid. Our union contract is incredibly valuable and every teacher, paraprofessional, service provider, and other school employee needs to make sure that (especially after the Supreme Court’s terrible Janus decision), we keep our membership up to date and we work together to keep the union strong.

But if things are so good, why do so many veteran teachers say that things in our schools are worse than they’ve ever seen? They’re not talking abut pay and benefits. They’re talking about the fact that teachers are under attack and our UFT contract is not enough. It doesn’t protect us from the absurd, arbitrary humiliations that we’re subjected to daily under the Danielson rubric. Actually, Unity Caucus loves Danielson. UFT President Michael Mulgrew has called the Kafkaesque experience of having our teaching subjected to Danielson “a model” that should be used “statewide.”

Teacher evaluation isn’t the only problem. Our students with disabilities are woefully under-supported and the union’s mechanisms for enforcing compliance are a joke. Teachers who fight for our special ed students are routinely harassed and intimidated by administrators who threaten our livelihoods because we fight for our students. I know. It happened to me back at my first Brooklyn high school.

Teacher pay and benefits might be okay, but they’re not enough. The UFT doesn’t just represent teachers. Our union sisters and brothers who work as occupational and physical therapists are paid tens of thousands of dollars less than other school workers with comparable workloads and responsibilities, and they recently voted down the contract that Unity tried to force on them. And they’re not just frustrated about their low salaries: their working conditions are often abysmal. Many of them don’t even have designated workspaces. They deserve MORE.

We all deserve MORE. We work in a city that just gave Amazon — one of the richest corporations in the world — a $3 billion tax break, while our schools run out of paper and other basic supplies. Unity keeps telling us how great we’re doing, they keep telling us we’re winning, but every teacher I know is overworked, overtired, and overstressed. Veteran teachers keep saying things are the worst they’ve ever seen.

The Mayor’s not going to fix our schools. Unity won’t fix them either; they seem to think that all we care about is the size of our paychecks, but teachers care about MORE. Our union leaders should fight for more; vote for MORE-UFT and that’s what we’ll do! We’ll fight for smaller classes, for time to plan lessons, for clean buildings with adequate workspace, for an end to Danielson and abusive supervision, for a commitment to equity at every level. We may not win every fight right away, but we’ll never tell hard-working teachers that we should be grateful that we can (barely) cover the rent.

I don’t want more meetings, but I’m running for union office for MORE-UFT because I believe our schools should be better. And I believe the only thing that can fix our schools is teachers, OTs, PTs, and paraprofessionals coming together to demand what we deserve: We deserve MORE.

by: Will Johnson
Special Education/English Teacher

UFT Elections Frequently Asked Questions

Why does the UFT have elections?
Federal labor law requires union elections- LMRDA Title IV: “Every local labor organization shall elect its officers not less often than once every three years.” UFT is required to adhere to federal labor law.

Why should I vote?
The UFT needs an active membership participation to advocate effectively for the educators, students, and families of New York City! Now more than ever we need to show that we’re ready to bring every member’s voice to the table to fight the well-funded attacks targeting public schools and communities. If you are happy with our union’s direction, then vote for Michael Mulgrew and his Unity Caucus. If you believe we need new leadership, vote for the MORE slate. Either way, we urge you to vote in order to keep our union strong.

What is a caucus?
A caucus is a group of people with shared concerns within a larger organization, similar to a political party. There have been many caucuses in UFT’s history, but Unity caucus has been in uninterrupted control of our union since it began over 50 years ago.

Who is MORE?
The Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE) was formed in 2012 by a diverse group of active UFT members working in all five boroughs, from kindergarten through 12th grade and adult education. Through their experiences as educators, activists, and advocates for our students, MORE members became frustrated by UFT President Mulgrew and his Unity Caucus allowing our collective strength to deteriorate. Our members come together because we know; “Our working conditions are our student’s learning conditions.” We believe in a educated, engaged,  and mobilized membership that will fight for the schools our members and children deserve.

How Do I Vote?
Ballots will be mailed to your home address on March 25th from the American Arbitration Association. You will need to fill out the ballot, place it in the included prepaid, pre-addressed return envelope, and place it in a mailbox. It needs to arrive at AAA by April 16th at 5:00 p.m.

Will the UFT, my Chapter Leader, Principal or anyone else know how I voted?
No, not unless you tell them.

What if I don’t get a ballot in the mail?
If you do not receive a ballot by mail or if your ballot is damaged or tampered with, contact the American Arbitration Association before April 8th (5 p.m.) at 800-529-5218 or email boswells@adr.org. If you have moved you can notify UFT by going here: https://secure.www.uft.org/health-benefits/update

Do I have to vote for an entire slate, or can I pick and choose from each slate?
A slate is a group of candidates that were nominated by a caucus to run for positions on the ballot. MORE is running one slate. Michael Mulgrew and the current UFT leadership run as Unity. You can vote a “straight ticket/slate” by marking one of the boxes at the top of the ballot next to a slate name. You can also “split your ticket,” by marking boxes next to candidates of any slate. Most members vote for an entire slate by marking an X for one slate. Please keep in mind that if you try to vote for a slate and one or more individual candidates, your ballot will be invalidated.

Can UFT members place campaign materials in staff mailboxes in your school and other public schools?
Yes, You have the right to place union literature in the mailboxes within your school or within any other school, as long as you don’t do it while you are on duty. You can do it before or after school, or during your lunch period. Show the secretary, or any administrator who asks, the Department of Education memorandum which spells out your right to place election literature in the mailboxes. Do not agree to leave the stack with the secretary, the UFT chapter leader, or anyone else. You have a right to put them directly in the mailboxes. Difficulties? Email us at more@morecaucusnyc.org

Are these elections divisive and weakening our union?
No! elections bring many different perspectives to the table. There have been caucuses in the UFT since our founding.  Each caucus has different ideas for how to lead our union and each caucus deserves to have its voice heard. UFT elections are the chance for you to choose your leaders, which is the foundation of any good organization or government. We do not want to live in a country without elections, nor do we want a union leadership that is not democratically elected. UFT elections are healthy, because they allow for you to have a voice and a choice in who leads our union.

How can I help MORE?

  1. Vote and let others in your chapter know that they need to vote too! Host a ballot breakfast, lunch, or after-school party in your school. Email more@morecaucusnyc.org for more info.
  2. Distribute our election literature in your chapter and share with your UFT friends.
  3. Join us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @morecaucusnyc.
  4. Join MORE– for a small donation you can help keep our election campaign strong. We have to design and print fliers, rent space for meetings, and hold election related events- all of which cost money. Go to http://tiny.cc/joinMORE  to get involved!
  5. Sign up for our weekly email list here and text updates.
  6. Get involved, come to an event- check our listings at facebook.com/morecaucusnyc or email us to set up a happy hour or after-school meeting near you!
  7. Share this FAQ with your friends 

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