To be an effective chapter leader, you must regularly communicate with the members of your chapter. Remember, you are an important conduit of information from the union to its members as well as from your members back to the union.
Ways for you to stay informed
1. Attend meetings. Attend Delegate Assemblies and citywide, borough and district chapter leader meetings.
2. Read your UFT email. Read the weekly online Chapter Leader Update and all chapter leader email alerts from UFT headquarters and your district rep.
3. Read the New York Teacher and visit the UFT’s website regularly.
Ways to keep your chapter informed
1. Hold regular chapter meetings in your school or site. To bolster attendance, publicize the meeting date, time and location in advance and prepare an agenda that covers timely topics. Invite members to ask questions and raise issues, and then brainstorm how the chapter can tackle those issues. Report on your monthly consultation meeting with the principal and solicit suggestions about what needs to be on the agenda of the next one. Report on other UFT activities to your chapter and promote the union by explaining the actions and positions it takes and talking up union victories.
2. Publish a chapter newsletter. As chapter leader, you should publish a newsletter, whether printed or electronic, as frequently as your time allows and the situation requires. The weekly Chapter Leader Update is an excellent source of content for your newsletter (just cut and paste relevant parts), but always add your own school’s activities in the mix. Find out how to convert the weekly Chapter Leader Update into a substantial, personalized newsletter for your members in just a few steps.
3. Use your school’s UFT bulletin board. Every school must have a bulletin board reserved in an accessible place for the UFT (see Article 19F of the UFT/DOE contract). Keep your bulletin board useful by posting up-to-date information about the union’s activities, including budget and other legislative fights, as well as important grievance and arbitration decisions and collective-bargaining updates. Post all UFT materials on the bulletin board as soon as you receive them. Invite members to get involved in union initiatives.
4. Face-to-face communication. Personally approach members who are directly affected by the issues. Make a point of introducing yourself to new members in your school and offer them your support.
5. Hold monthly consultation meetings with the principal. Improvements in your school are up to you and your members. The principal must meet monthly with a UFT consultation committee to discuss matters of school policy and implementation of the contract (Agree. Art. 19H). The UFT chapter should decide how it wishes the school procedures and routines to be changed and give guidance to the committee that meets with the principal. Minutes of these meetings should be made available to the chapter members preferably through the chapter newsletter or at chapter meetings.
Involving your members
The best way to involve people is to distribute responsibilities. Here are some of the union positions that can be handled by chapter members in the schools.
- Department, grade or floor representatives
Each department, grade or area in your building should have a designated UFT representative. The representative’s job is to remind people about meetings; be of service to the members on that floor; disseminate information; and in general, be of assistance to the chapter leader.
- Telephone/email relay
You may need to reach members at home. Set up a relay system whereby each member can receive vital information and the burden of notification is divided among members of the chapter.
- Social life representative
Chapter life is enhanced when someone plans socials for the chapter; sends cards to members on special occasions or gets members to participate in UFT social activities.
- COPE/legislative representative
It’s important to have a point person for the chapter’s political work, someone who organizes letter-writing campaigns and lobbying efforts for important bills affecting our members and our schools; keeps the school informed on legislative matters; distributes COPE literature and educates members about the importance of participation.
The best UFT chapters publish a school UFT newsletter either online or in print. This is an excellent way to keep chapter morale high and inform and recognize membership. Obtain samples of other school newsletters as guidelines for your own. Involve artistic members in the design and good writers for articles. Include reports on consultations, reminders and items from the weekly Chapter Leader Update.
The Delegate Assembly is the highest policy-making body in the UFT. You and your delegates should attend every DA and report back to members. Remember that functional chapter members elect their own delegates. School elections are held every three years in May or June for September office. (See UFT Constitution: Article VII-3.)
- Secretary and treasurer
The chapter will need a good secretary and a treasurer so that the actions and meetings of your chapter may be recorded.
- Consultation committee
All chapters should have a formal Consultation Committee set up to meet with the principal. It may be a formal committee elected by the chapter or a group chosen by the chapter leader that has discretion in this matter. You should, however, have some organized group to meet with the principal in order to show your strength and the support of the chapter.
- Parent liaison
Some chapters have a member who serves as a liaison with parents, attends PA/PTA meetings, etc.
At the beginning you might have difficulty enlisting assistance from members of your chapter. Keep after them; the chapter leader’s job is one that cannot be done alone.
New members – Early in the school year make an effort to personally greet each new staff member in your school. Ascertain if the person is a union member. Non-members can join the union online or they can complete dues checkoff cards and give them to you. You can forward the cards to the Membership Department at 52 Broadway.
Especially important: Check with new staff members to make sure they have filed an application for salary step placement, for any salary differential and prior salary credit they are entitled to. Ask your district representative or borough office for UFT literature for new members, and for help in recruiting new members if you are having a problem. Advise new members that they should sign up for health insurance. Workshops for new teachers are held in each UFT borough office early in the fall. Ask them to sign a COPE card and explain why it is in their best interest.
Legislation and political action
Find out about how to involve your chapter in legislation and political action.