During the week of Jan. 30, we came together to show the true power of an engaged and activated rank and file. Schools across the city led by Contract Action Team (CAT) members joined together to hold contract teach-ins that both informed and energized our membership on a whole new level.
And people were paying attention. The media reported on our actions and started the conversation around our demand for a fair contract now where there had been silence before. The union’s activism was reported on radio, in print and on TV.
Our Contract Action Teams were formed as an extension of our 500-member UFT Negotiating Committee to bring school-level organization to our campaign for a fair contract. More than 2,000 members have signed up to be on these CAT teams. They are chapter leaders, delegates, members of the negotiating committee as well as many members who have not been active before in the union. These CAT teams are helping our members see the integral role they play in our union and in this contract fight.
In preparation for the teach-ins, nearly 1,000 action team members participated in mid-January in training sessions, where they worked hard to ready themselves to lead the teach-in at their school or work site. This high level of participation in the training led to a strong turnout at the teach-ins, when our members took time from their day to talk about what the contract means in their lives and make their voices heard.
There was a new energy felt throughout the city when educators at close to 1,000 schools made time before school, during lunch or after school to come together and discuss the history of our contract fights and what we want to achieve in the next contract. Then members brainstormed ideas for keeping the pressure on.
We know from our history that nothing comes easily or is handed to us on a silver platter in contract negotiations. Often we are so invested in our day-to-day work serving our students that it is hard to find time to speak out for ourselves and engage in the work of advocacy. But during this teach-in, we showed up because there is just so much at stake. By coming together and using our superpower — education — we sent a strong message to the city that we are ready to fight for the contract we deserve and our students need. A membership that is activated and engaged is a powerful membership. This teach-in was just the beginning.
We will be debriefing about the teach-ins and figuring out next steps guided by the work and ideas that came out of each chapter. But for today, let’s take time to appreciate this moment of unity and strength.
Contract Teach-Ins 2023