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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 email@example.com. 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 firstname.lastname@example.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?
- 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 email@example.com for more info.
- Distribute our election literature in your chapter and share with your UFT friends.
- Join us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @morecaucusnyc.
- 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!
- Sign up for our weekly email list here and text updates.
- 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!
- Share this FAQ with your friends
Get a printer-friendly version of this FAQ here
The UFT/DOE Bronx Plan is a step in the right direction, but it is not the whole story. Genuine collaboration between chapter leaders and administrators, not just the appearance of it, will be key to creating schools New York’s students, parents, and teachers deserve.Continue Reading...