By now you should have received your union membership card in the mail — a first for the UFT. And you should have received an email invitation from me to download the UFT app — another first.
The membership card and the app are all part of our efforts to improve how we communicate and work together on behalf of members. This past year, we have been overhauling our technology with an eye to streamlining member interactions with the union, saving you time and providing more effective services.
On the back of your membership card you will find your new six-digit UFT member identification number. This unique UFT ID number is different from your employee ID number or your NYSUT ID number. You’ll use it to register for UFT events, classes, workshops and conferences, and we’ll also ask for it when you visit or call a UFT borough office, request union forms or contact the UFT Welfare Fund — in fact, you should be using it whenever you interact with the union.
The UFT app contains the digital version of your membership card. The QR code in the app — a square barcode that contains a matrix of dots — can be scanned at UFT events or when you visit a UFT borough office. On this app, you can also register for CTLE classes, update your address, export UFT events to your personal calendar, call a union office or the Welfare Fund, and stay informed about the union’s campaigns.
We also turned our power to advocate for 180,000 members at the bargaining table into purchasing power to negotiate special member-only discounts. We told local and national merchants that we’d promote their businesses on our new app if they agreed to offer a discount to all UFT members and to accept the membership card as proof when they require an ID card for verification.
The list of vendors that have agreed to offer special discounts to UFT members is growing each week. Among the companies that have signed on so far are Skechers, Ann Taylor LOFT, the Metropolitan Opera, Michaels, A.C. Moore and Enterprise car rental. If you have ideas about vendors you think we should approach, or if you have a question about using the UFT membership card to obtain a discount, email the union at email@example.com or call UFT customer service at 212-598-9512.
These technology changes at the UFT are coming at a time when union membership has never been more important.
The rights and benefits we enjoy as UFT members have been easy to take for granted over the years. Even in difficult times, we’ve managed to protect our hard-won gains, thanks to the strength of our collective power as a union. We’re lucky to live in a city and a state with a long history of union activism and progressive leadership when it comes to the rights of working people.
Others have not been as lucky. West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky and Arizona have destroyed the ability of educators to be part of the political process and protect education funding because they have decimated their unions. As a result, the public schools in these states are severely underfunded and there is no money for raises, pensions or health benefits.
These teachers are walking off the job, saying, “Not only do we need a raise, but we’re not going back until you fund the schools.”
The fact that all of those states have right-to-work laws that make it hard for the labor movement to gain traction enabled lawmakers to starve education budgets and treat their workforces badly.
We heard firsthand in February from Kim Kolhaas, the president of AFT-Wisconsin, about what it looks like when collective bargaining rights are stripped away by an anti-union legislature and governor. “Your union is as strong as your membership is engaged,” Kim said at the time. And the good news is that we see teachers are more engaged than ever in those states where unions were left for dead.
The anti-union plaintiffs in Janus v. AFSCME, a case now before the U.S. Supreme Court, are essentially seeking to make all states right-to-work in the public sector by prohibiting the collection of fair-share fees from nonmembers.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation in early April that will make it easier for the UFT to recruit new members and will allow the union to offer particular benefits, such as legal representation in administrative proceedings, only to dues-paying members if fair-share fees are banned. But this law is in no way a panacea. If the Supreme Court rules against unions, our work is cut out for us.
But we are going to fight hard to make sure no one takes away the rights and benefits we have fought so hard to win.