The U.S. Supreme Court on Feb. 26 heard spirited arguments in the Janus v. AFSCME case, a lawsuit aimed at starving public-employee unions, including the UFT, of the funding they need to provide services to and advocate for workers.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor summed it up after the Janus attorneys argued to the court that all collective bargaining in the public sector is political. “You’re basically arguing to do away with unions, because you are ... saying every single employee decision is really a public policy decision,” she said.
The lawsuit is the culmination of a decades-long, coordinated campaign by conservative groups to debilitate unions, one of the few strong advocates for workers.
“The Janus case is bankrolled by right-wingers who want to cut salaries, dictate working conditions and roll back 50 years of hard-won civil and workers’ rights,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew. “That’s why they are going after one of the remaining institutions that stands up to them — unions.”
AFT Wisconsin President Kim Kohlhaas told her story, about what Wisconsin public school educators gave up when they lost collective bargaining rights, at a series of meetings with classroom teachers, UFT staff and press and at a packed Delegate Assembly during a recent two-day visit.
AFT President Randi Weingarten and Lily Eskelsen García, the president of the National Education Association, were met with locked doors at the U.S. Education Department on Feb. 8 when they attempted to deliver more than 80,000 report cards grading Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on her first year in office.
Betsy DeVos has visited just 36 schools in her first year as U.S. education secretary — and only about half of those have been traditional public schools, which educate the vast majority of American children.
To commemorate the one-year anniversary of DeVos’ appointment on Feb. 7, UFT members across New York City celebrated their public schools during National Public School Week on Feb. 5–9. Many used the hashtag #PublicSchoolProud on social media to show off pictures of their celebrations.
At many schools, educators pointedly invited DeVos to visit and see for herself the amazing work that public school educators do.
“New York City has one of the strongest education systems in the country, and somebody in her position should be willing to come and see it firsthand,” said Nicole Foglia, the chapter leader at PS 191 in Floral Park, Queens. “We have fantastic children, and I don’t think people realize the amount of work these children do and the progress they make.”
Jason Garofalo, who teaches math at Marble Hill International HS in the Bronx," makes a point of prizing students’ wrong answers. “I want them to be unafraid to make mistakes, because that’s what math is all about,” he says. “The whole process of making mistakes is how we learn.”
When his principal unilaterally increased the teaching load of teachers of severely emotionally disturbed students in his multi-site high school, P 754 Chapter Leader Freddie Cole immediately filed a grievance — and won.
More than 20 blind and visually impaired students ages 5 to 21 competed in the third annual New York City Braille Challenge on Feb. 10 at P 721 in Elmhurst, Queens, hoping to score enough points to move on to the final round in California in June.
School secretaries had a chance to network with colleagues from throughout the city and enjoyed workshops presented by the UFT and the city Department of Education at their annual seminar on Jan. 27 at UFT headquarters in Manhattan.
A colorful Sing for Hope piano, which spent the summer in Brooklyn Park, now has a home at Pathways to Graduation HS, where it "fills a desperate need for a positive focus and helps our music program grow,” says one teacher.
“Don’t be asleep when it comes to the political climate we’re engaged in,” said Anthony Harmon, the UFT director of parent and community outreach and the event’s organizer, explaining the Stay Woke theme of the 15th annual UFT African Heritage Committee Awards Dinner on Feb. 2.
The 12th volume of NYSUT’s academic journal Educator’s Voice is seeking proposals for articles that showcase practices or programs in any grades on the topic of culturally responsive teaching. The deadline is June 15.
Kim’s story of what happened to teachers in Wisconsin after the Republican governor gutted collective bargaining rights for public employees is a wake-up call to anyone thinking “it can’t happen here.”
At one middle school in Queens, a unique program is fostering a culture of empowerment aimed at these young girls. Girl power is not only alive but vibrant at MS 125 in Woodside, thanks to Girls Who Code.
It’s a challenge to make sure students are doing meaningful work while also giving them opportunities to engage with one another. Throughout my career as a history teacher, I’ve found success using educational protocols to help my students interact.
Two years ago, public employee unions and all of organized labor narrowly escaped a bad decision by the Supreme Court in the Friedrichs case when Justice Antonin Scalia died. But as my predecessor Tom Pappas always reminds us: “The bad guys never go away.”
Now, as part of the ongoing national nightmare and with the appointment of conservative Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch to fortify the right wing of the Court, we are anticipating the worst in the Janus v. AFSCME case.
Janus, an Illinois public employee backed by conservative organizations, objects to paying union dues, challenging the long-established fair-share doctrine of labor law affirmed by the Supreme Court in the Abood decision of 1977.
That decision affirmed that any member of a collective bargaining unit who benefits from a contractual agreement must pay his or her fair share of the costs incurred by the union in procuring such worker benefits. That individual is called an agency fee payer.