Friends and coworkers,
We were disappointed to read Chancellor Banks' outrageous email from Wednesday. Over the past few weeks, tens of thousands of educators have taken part in anti-war protests, risking arrest and police violence to support the cause of a ceasefire in Palestine. At the same time, right wing ideologues have escalated the attacks on educators, continuing a years long trend of book bans, persecution of queer teachers and teachers of colors, and attacks on unions. Across the country, and in New York City, teachers are under attack for expressing support for Palestinians. Right wing blogs and tabloids now routinely publish educators' personal information in an attempt to drive them out of their jobs. During a moment like this, New York City educators deserve strong leadership that will defend educators.
Instead, Chancellor Banks chooses this moment to warn teachers against speaking their minds. Banks' email warns teachers against "injecting [their] own ideologies or political opinions" into the classroom, echoing current attempts by far-right political groups to attack educators across the country. Even more appalling, Banks seeks to place restrictions on educators' expression of their political views outside of the classroom, on our own time and on our personal social media accounts. This represents a blatant attempt to silence educators and chill free speech. It is transparently illegal and deeply shameful. It is an open attack on our first amendment right to express ourselves and our contractual right to academic freedom.
We call on Chancellor Banks to rise to the moment, not hide from it. Future communications from the Chancellor should affirm his support for our academic freedom and our personal freedom of expression. We ask NYC educators to sign this letter to Chancellor Banks.
As the MORE caucus, we also hope that our union will make it clear that Banks' email is unacceptable. We ask UFT members and school chapters to send emails to the UFT Administrative Committee demanding UFT stand up to the Chancellor and defend any educators who are targeted for retaliation based on their support for Palestinian liberation (see template here). And we continue to hope that the UFT will reinstate Amy Arundell, who was removed from her position after expressing support for Palestine.
Finally, we want to reiterate that as the MORE caucus we believe strongly in the power of social justice unionism to create a more just and loving world - a world in which everyone lives with freedom, dignity, material security, and democratic rights. It is in this vein that we ask UFT members to sign this petition calling on the UFT Administrative Committee to heed the call of Palestinian trade unionists, and the international community, and demand that U.S. Congress and President Biden pressure Israel to an end to the bombing of Gaza and a complete ceasefire.