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The dissident slates of the United Federation of Teachers announced Nov. 17 that they have joined forces as one caucus, United For Change, in order to defeat the union’s longtime President Michael Mulgrew in the spring election.
In a press release, the group charged that throughout the pandemic, the UFT “failed to keep unsafe schools closed, failed to listen to its members, and failed to secure fair pay, benefits, and protections...United for Change is composed of school workers who want to see a fundamental shift at the top of their union after entrenched, increasingly undemocratic and unaccountable, single-party control.”
A 6-Decade Dynasty
The Unity caucus has held leadership of the UFT since the early 1960s. Mr. Mulgrew has been the union's President since 2009 after predecessor Randi Weingarten left to devote all her energies to leading its national parent, the American Federation of Teachers. He was elected to a full term a year later, and received 38,591 votes—or 86 percent of the vote—during the union’s most-recent election in 2019.
Six of the opposition slates—the Movement of Rank-and-File Educators (MORE), UFT Solidarity, New Action-UFT, the Independent Community of Educators (ICE-UFT), Educators of NYC (EONYC) and Retiree Advocate-UFT—formed United For Change to pose a greater challenge to the current leadership, which has maintained the union's standing as arguably the city's most-powerful labor group.
The new faction unites the goals of moderate and progressive caucuses: reducing class sizes, improving pay for Paraprofessionals and therapists, and fostering a more-democratic union.
Annie Tan, a member of the MORE caucus who previously taught in Chicago Public Schools, said that she was “inspired by the examples of Chicago and Los Angeles that won many more protections than New York because they have unions that listen to their Teachers and members.”
'Failed Against COVID'
Michael Shulman of the New Action slate believed that the union “has failed us in the fight against COVID, failed to reduce class size, failed to fight to improve our unequal pensions, and failed against abusive administrators. We need a proactive union that fights to improve our working conditions and end our segregated school system.”
Eric Severson added that “UFT Solidarity’s logo is ‘we have your back.’ We believe this new coalition does just this.”
In response to the formation of the new caucus, UFT spokesman Dick Riley said that “the UFT is proud to be a vigorous democracy.”
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