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UFT.org Home > Kudos to Farrah Alexander, PS 64, Manhattan
Jonathan Fickies There was no chapter leader at PS 64 in the East Village when teacher Farrah Alexander returned from maternity leave in September, so she stepped up to the plate.
“I know that complaining is not productive and that we should be working together, especially in a negotiating year and with so many anti-union threats facing us,” she said. “So I slowly raised my hand.”
After being elected unanimously, Alexander moved quickly to reactivate the chapter at her school, where she has been a kindergarten teacher for eight years.
“I always appreciated the importance of the union,” she said, “so I’m working hard to strengthen the chapter and protect members by improving communication at all levels.”
That January, PS 64 was chosen to participate in the pilot program for UFT membership teams. Alexander soon had a “boots on the ground” team representing all UFT members, including paraprofessionals and service providers, trained to educate PS 64 members about the anti-union Janus v. AFSCME case before the U.S. Supreme Court. Each team ambassador assumed responsibility for speaking one-on-one to eight colleagues about the case and what is at stake for public school educators.
Alexander reports that only one staff member has been “reluctant” to respond positively when asked, “Are you willing to stick with the union?”
Alexander also connected the dots for her members between COPE contributions and the union’s political power. At her first chapter meeting, armed with COPE brochures, she talked about the importance of COPE and challenged her members to contribute. She carried the day.
“I have a big mouth when I need to,” she conceded.
When she took the reins, only 25 percent of her school’s 36 members contributed to COPE; now 95 percent do.
Special education teacher Jim Illi, a membership team ambassador, says Alexander has done a great job of explaining to the membership team the importance of getting everyone on board, including younger teachers.
Their work is paying dividends.
“Our chapter meetings are better attended and more informative and responsive to members’ needs,” he said.