For a Fighting Union - Statement on UFT Response to Omicron
Weak testing protocols, an understaffed and disorganized situation room, and a refusal to send schools remote all led to the current spike in COVID cases in our schools. We understand that this is Mayor De Blasio's crisis. De Blasio's decision to keep schools open has directly led to thousands of students, staff, and their families being exposed to and infected by the current COVID wave.
All week long COVID cases in New York City schools have spiraled out of control and the response of the UFT, controlled by the UNITY caucus, has been ineffective at keeping our school communities safe. There has been no attempt to organize chapters to fight back; no calls for pickets, protests, or rallies; no proposals that would do anything to meaningfully pressure the Department of Education to go remote until break began or more quickly close schools that had clear evidence of COVID outbreaks. And while staff and students reported to schools all week, Mulgrew spoke to the morning news from the safety and comfort of his home.
The union leadership, and the UNITY caucus that controls it, are pursuing a strategy that’s bound to fail.
The UFT’s primary goal is to develop good relationships with politicians. Through endorsements, COPE contributions, and friendly press-ops, the UFT hopes to build enough good will among elected officials that they give us the things we need to improve (or at least maintain) our working conditions. Remember when Mulgrew called Chancellor Carranza his “brother from another mother?” But what happens when those politicians mess up? What happens when a crisis breaks out under their watch that endangers UFT members, students, and staff? The UFT is powerless to respond to it. These backroom deals silence members and take away our voice in determining the direction of our union.
The union has failed miserably (if they have tried at all) in organizing members to fight for our rights. We are not encouraged to file grievances. We are not called on by the union to disrupt business as usual when administrators harass members. We are not asked to rally together as a district, borough, or whole city to address problems that exist in more than one school. We aren’t strong because the union does not support us organizing with our coworkers and building credible power in schools.
Even in times of crisis, the union’s response is for us to file the right paperwork and that they “will take care of it.” It is clear that nothing is being taken care of – schools remain open and the virus continues to spread. Despite the inaction of our union’s leadership, the rank-and-file have taken matters into their own hands and organized to fight for their rights and safety. MORE members and allies on the United for Change slate have organized our coworkers to file grievances, hold rallies, and stage protests. While the union dawdles, we are doing everything we can to pressure the DOE to do the right thing.
It’s this kind of fighting union we want to build because only this kind of union can have a real impact on our working conditions and students' learning conditions. We need a new union leadership with a different vision. Come Spring of 2022, vote United for Change. Until then, it’s up to all of us to start talking with our coworkers about how to fight for our own safety at school. Join us for an organizing call to discuss how we keep the pressure up on the DOE and UFT leadership – register here.