Organizing, Not Capitulating – How Would United for Change Lead the Union?

 Organizing, Not Capitulating – How Would United for Change Lead the Union?

“On day one of a Camille Eterno presidency, if there is a school that is deemed unsafe by our Union experts including our people working within a particular school building, not the paid shills at the Department of Education, I will go to that school myself or have one of the other officers outside the building. We will be screaming as loud as we can to parents, UFT members, and students that the UFT experts have deemed this school building to be unsafe and we recommend you do not go inside. If it is deemed unsafe by our people in the middle of the day, we will advocate that we all leave immediately! I don’t give a damn about the anti-strike provisions of the Taylor Law. Our lives matter more!”United for Change Presidential Candidate, Camille Eterno

In an email to members on Sunday, January 2nd, President Mulgrew informed members that he “advised” mayor Eric Adams that a temporary remote would be best for schools in 2022. However, the mayor disagreed. And that was it. It was a short but telling insight into how the UFT is run by Michael Mulgrew and the UNITY caucus. The union can advise or suggest but ultimately is unwilling or unable to use its power on behalf of its members. As the 2022 UFT elections approach, it’s worth it to ask why this is the case. And how United for Change would do things differently.

Over the past 20 years, the UFT has become increasingly committed to collaborating with the DOE and the mayor who controls it. Rather than enforce clear, fair contract language, the union wants us to participate in joint DOE/UFT committees. Rather than organize events or actions, they want us to file paperwork. This style of collaboration with the boss allows the union to avoid tough fights that might put them in conflict with the politicians they support. It also keeps UFT members complacent and apathetic. Instead of seeing our own power in action, we are disempowered.

But this isn’t the only way to run a union. UFC candidates recognize that our power as a union comes not from collaborating with the boss. Rather, it comes directly from union members and our ability to join together, speak with a collective voice and fight for ourselves and our students when necessary.

Rather than emphasizing media appearances and friendly chats with the mayor in the most recent COVID wave, a UFC-led union would be listening to members to get their perspectives on what they need and want, and what our schools need in order to be safe. We would be sending district representatives into schools to help chapter leaders organize and take action together. We would help chapters file grievances when their health and safety are clearly put at risk, and we would take those grievances all the way to the chancellor. We would organize informational pickets, walk-ins, and phone zaps. We would be calling for district, borough, or city-wide rallies and enlisting the support of parents and community members. We would work to ensure that every school has a competent chapter leader that doesn’t do the principal’s bidding, so that the next time a crisis confronts the school system, we are ready to respond.

From the fight for safe schools during the pandemic to the effort to save retiree healthcare, and our work to organize strong chapters at our schools, candidates on the UFC slate have shown we have both the knowledge and skill to run our union effectively.
President Mulgrew and the UNITY caucus do all they can to convince members that their way is the only way. When in fact, it’s just what allows them to preserve their own power, their generous salaries, and their working days far from a COVID classroom.

UFC has a different vision, and now UFT members will have a different choice for a better union. When your ballot arrives in the mail this spring, vote United for Change.

A Better Union. A Fighting Union. Better Schools.