News stories

UFT to new hires: We want you!

Lecturer in classroom speaks about benefits in front of new members Deidre McFadyen

New hires learn about their health benefits in a workshop conducted by the UFT Welfare Fund on Aug. 20 at the start of DOE New Teacher Week at UFT headquarters in Manhattan.

Women filling out forms Jonathan Fickies

New teachers Kristen Rooney (center) of PS 182 and Ashley Veda (right) of PS/IS 217, both in Manhattan, prepare to fill out their UFT membership cards at the Aug. 20 event.

The UFT extended a welcoming hand to new hires in August as it launched an enrollment drive in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Janus v. AFSCME case.

The union organized a book giveaway for new teachers on Aug. 11, [see Starting off by the book] had a strong presence at DOE New Teacher Week in mid-August and held open houses at UFT headquarters and borough offices at the end of the month.

More than 1,000 new teachers crowded Shanker Hall at union headquarters on Aug. 20 at the kickoff to New Teacher Week, which is designed to provide new educators with the practical tips and support needed to hit the ground running on Day One.

The day began with encouragement and advice from officials representing the UFT and the Department of Education, traditional partners in organizing the week’s program, followed by a daylong series of information sessions and a new hire expo with resources of every kind. The UFT held workshops that day on UFT Welfare Fund supplemental health benefits, union-won pension benefits and certification.

Teachers had the opportunity to sign up for a wide range of three-hour morning and afternoon workshops scheduled throughout the rest of the week in the union’s Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens and Manhattan borough offices.

One of the busiest hubs on opening day was the UFT’s site for signing up new members. New teachers seemed aware of the importance of joining the union, especially in the wake of the high court’s Janus decision in June depriving public employee unions of automatic dues collection. Right-wing billionaires hoping to break the back of the U.S. labor movement financed the court case. The union sign-ups continued throughout the week.

Even before he signed a membership card, new teacher William Pace announced that the UFT had already lent him a hand. The union stepped in to help him untangle a bureaucratic certification snafu that threatened his new job as music teacher running the keyboard lab at Bronx Compass HS.

“I understand the union fights on our behalf and advocates for us and that’s why I asked the UFT for help,” Pace explained. He wondered aloud why he had waited 10 years before switching from a parochial school “where there was no protection.”

Because Wayne Cole doesn’t want a career like his friends who are teaching in Georgia — “their hands are tied and nobody looks out for them,” he said — he sought a job in New York City public schools and signed up for “the support I’ll get as a union member.” Cole is a new special education math teacher at the Cinema School in the Bronx.

At the morning ceremonies, Chancellor Richard Carranza spoke of teaching as a “noble, dignified profession” and advised the new teachers to “speak up when you need help. We are never in this work alone.”

Chosen to share her expertise and enthusiasm for teaching, Rosario Orengo, a 14-year veteran social studies teacher at the Urban Assembly Unison School in Brooklyn and a winner of the DOE’s Big Apple Award for teaching excellence, advised the beginning educators to be able to “adjust for the moment and to understand cultural differences,” noting that they are starting their careers in the largest and most diverse school system in the country.

In her welcoming remarks, UFT Vice President Karen Alford, who leads the union’s new member initiative, assured the standing room-only audience that the UFT would be there for support for the long run, not just during New Teacher Week.

“Know that we have your back,” she said, “and that we are with you on this journey that you are just beginning.”

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