UFT President Michael Mulgrew warned the Delegate Assembly on April 17 that anti-union forces looking to take advantage of last year’s Supreme Court decision in the Janus v. AFSCME case have begun their efforts to weaken New York City public school educators’ collective power.
One of the groups, New Choice New York, has been urging teachers — via social media and email — to opt out of the union, telling members “you have a right to give yourself a raise,” Mulgrew said.
Just that day, he told the body, the union had received two calls from members who had been contacted by the group.
Mulgrew said the group would use any means necessary to sway UFT members.
“They are going to lie to convince our members to do something that obviously is not in their best interest,” Mulgrew said. “And members who do so won’t realize it until it’s too late.”
The union waged a campaign last year before the June 27 Janus decision to inform members about the groups behind the lawsuit seeking to deprive workers of their ability to come together and have a voice in the political process and at the bargaining table.
UFT members representing the union went door to door to engage in one-on-one meetings with members to explain the facts. Membership teams in schools also met with members in the workplace.
“Their goal is to destabilize us,” Mulgrew said. “They don’t expect to do it all at one time. They are looking to get 3 percent this year, another 2-3 percent next year and, after 10 years, it’s 30 percent fewer members.”
Mulgrew added that UFT members have thus far stood strong and united. Before the first day of school, fewer than five Department of Education-employed UFT members had dropped their union membership while 2,600 new hires had signed union cards.
“I think we’re going to have to meet with members again,” Mulgrew said. “We’ve come too far to let our enemies win this battle.”
Mulgrew praised chapter leaders for helping to empower their schools by submitting their consultation committee notes to the union. He said 52 percent of chapter leaders had recently done so. He reminded the body that the information in those notes provides documentation of issues that the union can take to the DOE to make effective changes.
“Thank you for taking your leadership roles seriously,” he said.
Many delegates raised their hands when Mulgrew asked if any school chapters were considering enacting a School-Based Option for the 2019–20 school year to modify contractual articles or to create positions not automatically allowed under the DOE-UFT contract.
“That’s another positive sign toward empowering members,” he said.