Posts tagged "state of the union"
April 12, 2013
What was the biggest challenge you thought the union was facing when you started this job? (more…)
April 5, 2013
Even as many unions nationwide are struggling to retain their clout, the United Federation of Teachers is still flexing considerable muscle in New York City. But with a teacher evaluation deal still up in the air and Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s last months in office approaching, the teachers union is nonetheless at a crossroads.
Just how much the current moment translates into change for the UFT will not be clear for years. Other turning points in UFT history have been more obvious. Here are a few:
1960: The UFT is born out of rival factions
The Teachers Guild, a group made up primarily of older teachers, and the more confrontational High School Teachers Association merged in 1960 to create the UFT. Relations between the two groups, which were not the only unions representing city teachers, had thawed after members picketed together the previous year. The UFT’s future hegemony was not at all obvious then, as the union didn’t have collective bargaining power until December 1961 and the Teachers Guild didn’t dissolve until 1964. The UFT would play a crucial role in the education upheaval later that decade, including the 1968 teachers strike precipitated by the firing of teachers in Ocean Hill-Brownsville.
1968: Teachers strike for months (more…)
April 2, 2013
The UFT is a politically powerful organization with millions of dollars at its disposal and sweeping campaigns that aim to make change at the highest levels of education policy. But at the heart of all of the spending and lobbying is the union’s contract with the city.
Clocking in at 165 pages just for classroom teachers, the contract spells out everything teachers must do, and everything they should not. Some of its clauses, such as those specifying what teachers cannot be compelled to do, have drawn fierce criticism for impeding administrator discretion so much that student performance suffers. But the contract is also the only guarantee that teachers are compensated for their time and receive due process rights when they are accused of misconduct.
For all of the conflict the contract elicits, it has meaning on the ground only if someone enforces its terms. That job falls to the small army of “chapter leaders” who represent the union at each school, and who are many teachers’ only contact with their union.
UFT Secretary Michael Mendel calls chapter leaders — who are elected by their colleagues every three years — “the backbone of the union.” But who are the chapter leaders? What do they actually do? What challenges do they face? The answers to those questions, which have long been obscured behind individual schoolhouse doors, are essential to understanding how the UFT serves its members and calls upon them to take action. (more…)
March 22, 2013
It’s a familiar scene:
United Federation of Teachers president Michael Mulgrew taking the podium on the steps of City Hall to decry school closures or toxic school buildings while parents and activists from grassroots groups like New York Communities for Change are waving signs behind him.
Or crowding into offices in Albany to lobby legislators to vote their way on the budget.
Or marching against larger societal problems like income inequality during the Occupy Wall Street protests.
Teachers unions are not only generous to their members and politicians, they also give to outside groups whose political views and activities mesh with their own. Last year, the United Federation of Teachers gave $1.4 million in grants and contributions to groups including Planned Parenthood, the anti-standardized testing group Fairtest, and the Brooklyn Children’s Museum. New York State United Teachers gave nearly $760,000 to the American Cancer Society, Empire State Pride Agenda, and the New York Immigration Coalition, among others.
Some of the biggest beneficiaries are two grassroots organizing groups who receive hundreds of thousands a year from the unions and who often show up arm-and-arm with the state and city unions at protests, Lobby Day, and other political events: New York Communities for Change and the Alliance for Quality Education. (more…)
March 19, 2013
The public face of the New York City teachers union is often that of a political heavyweight engaging in battle with opponents like the mayor and charter school supporters. For many teachers, the union is often something more personal and classroom-focused.
The face of the United Federation of Teachers and its state affiliate, New York State United Teachers, is that of a training organization for many teachers who take courses with the unions and get in-person help in the classroom.
The unions also dispense basic benefits like health and dental insurance along with perks like discounts on movies and theater tickets, group trips to events such as the Philadelphia Flower Show, and legal help when teachers have problems at work or, to a limited degree, if they’re accused of a crime. (NYSUT, which provides both for teachers around the state and members of the UFT, spends about $85 million annually on legal services, which covers the salaries of about 260 union staff members who deal with legal issues.) (more…)
March 18, 2013
Early on in George Latimer’s 2012 race for the open New York Senate District 37 seat, the momentum was swinging in his opponent’s favor. Republican candidate Bob Cohen, a wealthy real estate developer, had a reputation as an aggressive campaigner who wasn’t afraid to spend money. Two years earlier, he had nearly unseated the incumbent who was now stepping down.
“There was a substantial concern that Bob’s money could win this,” said Victor Mallison, who ran Latimer’s campaign.
But the Westchester race had piqued the interest of the United Federation of Teachers and the New York State United Teachers, who saw a unique opportunity for Democrats to take over the Senate for just the third time since World War II. Democrats already controlled the Assembly, and controlling both houses of the legislature would give the party and its union allies the power to advance their agendas with little opposition. (more…)
March 13, 2013
Every two weeks, $49.89 is taken out of teachers’ paychecks as UFT dues. Depending on their jobs, other members of the UFT contribute different amounts, ranging from $24.95 for paraprofessionals to $51.08 for psychologists and social workers. For all union members, dues are a flat fee determined by position, not a percentage of their salary.
The union doesn’t spend all of its money every year, or immediately, of course. But because member dues and fees are spent on all facets of the union’s operation, it’s reasonable to track dues to spending. If we did that for the union’s total spending for the 2011-2012 fiscal year ($166,528,712), this is how a teacher’s (then-lower, $49.39) dues payment would have been divided up:
(Scroll over the chart for details and look below the jump for even more information.)
March 12, 2013
At a synagogue in Surfside, Fla., last month, about 40 former teachers gathered for cupcakes, cheesecake, and a PowerPoint presentation by a pair of union representatives from New York. The teachers were members of the United Federation of Teachers retiree chapter, and the representatives had been sent by the UFT and New York State United Teachers to pass along information about budget counseling, Medicare, and pet insurance.
Ken Goodman, the UFT Florida retiree chapter leader, called the meeting to order by announcing updates about the following month’s annual retiree luncheon. Buses would pick the members up from Surfside and ferry them to the event in Boca Raton, where UFT President Michael Mulgrew would deliver the keynote address just weeks before his re-election bid.
Despite being out of the classroom — in many cases, for decades — retirees make up a large portion of Mulgrew’s constituency. And because the UFT is one of the only unions in the country to allow retirees to vote in leadership elections, they are powerful. Even when they live far from New York City, the UFT’s 60,000 retiree members staunchly defend the union they helped shape in the 1960s and 1970s, and they volunteer in droves when the union mobilizes its members to support candidates or lobby on education or healthcare. (more…)
March 6, 2013
A high school marching band helped start off the New York State United Teachers’ lobby day in the late morning, leading hundreds bused in from around the state on a parade outside the state Capitol building. At a rally, the crowd of teachers, students, and community organizers asked for more school funding and called Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget, which increases state aid by 4.4 percent, “bananas” because it wasn’t enough.
Today’s message will feature a different union — the city’s United Federation of Teachers — with different budget priorities and a more powerful audience. The UFT wants money for teacher training centers, community schools, and child care, and it has reserved speaking slots at its rally for the legislature’s three leaders: Assemblyman Sheldon Silver, Senate Republican Dean Skelos and Senate Democrat Jeff Klein.
The two lobby days, which include union members and their supporters, are among the most visible manifestations of the unions’ annual behind-the-scenes effort to influence how state policies are shaped and money is spent. Each year, New York’s teacher unions spend millions to organize large rallies, launch statewide advertising campaigns and pay teams of staff lobbyists to work directly with elected officials on specific legislation. (more…)
March 5, 2013
It’s been nearly three years since Michael Mulgrew was elected to his first full term at the helm of the United Federation of Teachers, which means election season has arrived for the city’s teachers union.
As would-be candidates work to meet Wednesday’s deadline to collect the signatures they need to get on the ballots in April, we’ll be keeping you up to date on Mulgrew’s re-election bid and about what to expect from the changing union landscape.
What is clear is that there won’t be much suspense in the race for UFT president, as Mulgrew will almost certainly coast to a second full term. He’s backed by the union’s longtime dominant party, Unity, whose presidential candidate typically wins by a landslide. Three years ago, Mulgrew received 91 percent of the vote.
The unified support that the union’s leadership typically receives is one of many ways that the union has remained powerful in the face of threats. In other ways, too, the elections are about more than Mulgrew. There will be hundreds of positions on the ballot, including 90 executive board positions and delegates to the national and state unions, many with significant ability to impact decision-making. The vote totals also offer an opportunity to gauge dissent within the union — and this year, the dissenters are working hard to harness their power. (more…)