“What’s past is prologue” is a timeworn quote from Shakespeare’s play “The Tempest.” That phrase also appropriately is engraved on the National Archives Building in Washington, D.C. The Bard, as usual, touches on something universal. We act in the context of our own stored experiences. For those of us who have spent our professional lives under the academic calendar, even in retirement we look at school openings as a pivot point. Where have we been and, after our summer respite, where are we headed?
From September 2020 through September 2021, the RTC faced pandemic lockdowns, a presidential campaign, an internal RTC election, a major claims backlog in our Supplementary Health Insurance Plan (SHIP), New York City primary elections and a new health coverage plan adopted by the Municipal Labor Committee (MLC).
This past year, we learned how to gather together despite the restrictions of the pandemic and, in fact, transformed our in-person meetings into extremely well-attended virtual meetings on Zoom.
We came through a national election campaign in which progressive, pro-labor forces won out over those who wanted to crush unions and a century of achievements for working people.
We transformed our UFT self-funded SHIP program by moving from a process in which claims jammed up and often took too long to resolve to a new expedited process in which claims are now turned around in a matter of days.
The RTC election was held in pandemic circumstances that required the bipartisan Election Committee and the candidates to navigate an untested virtual world. Under the guidance of John Soldini, Nina Tribble, Bob Greenburg and Vince Gaglione, everything worked well. It was gratifying for me, personally, to realize the support of more than 70% of RTC members who cast ballots for chapter leader, and I applaud my opponent and all the candidates for engaging in a fair electoral process.
The most controversial development of the past year has been the new health coverage plan approved by the MLC: the NYC Medicare Advantage Plus Plan. Some members have been extremely critical of the plan and how the union communicated about it, first when it was just a proposal and then when it was enacted. The particulars of the new plan are still being absorbed and evaluated, but we are committed to getting accurate and comprehensive information to all RTC members through our virtual RTC general membership and town hall meetings, and in emails, a letter in the mail to all retirees and in-depth coverage in this issue of the New York Teacher .
We have to face up to member concerns. We have to admit that some criticism of our communications with members was justified. There have been angry exchanges on social media, and rumors rife with misinformation and misinterpretation have spread on the internet.
Whatever the missteps, the path ahead must be one of assurance and trust. The best way forward is to get information out to members to explain what the plan entails. Without further recriminations or mea culpas, we are getting that information to you in a variety of ways.
In the spirit of the opening theme, “What’s past is prologue,” let’s embrace the newness offered by the academic year beginning this month. You and I have built the UFT. This union has been good to each of us but, more important, in solidarity, we also have been good for this union. Let’s take a look at both the long- and short-range past and grab onto the future. It belongs to us.
RTC General Membership Meeting (virtual) Wednesday, Oct. 13, 1 p.m. An invitation will be emailed to RTC members.