As the NYSUT Civil War rages on over social media, a big topic of conversation has become the role of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) and their president, Michael Mulgrew. Many people engaged in the debate of the future of our statewide union’s leadership have been critical of the Revive NYSUT slate’s connection to the UFT. They received an endorsement this week from Mulgrew and former Executive Vice President Alan Lubin who came up through the ranks of the UFT. They also include former UFT member Andy Pallotta and current UFT Vice President Catalina Fortino on their slate. While the Revive NYSUT slate has taken heavy criticism for these connections, others wonder, “what’s the big deal with having UFT connections?”
We’re going to try to clear a lot of that up in the coming days. The first thing we should clear up is that the PJSTA fully supports the members of the UFT and recognizes their rank and file as being on the front lines in the war against public education. Great numbers of them have done tremendous work fighting the corporate reformers. Many of us have friends and family who have been a part of the UFT or are currently a part of the UFT. The PJSTA is proud to call the UFT’s rank and file our brothers and sisters in the labor movement.
Where our problems with the UFT begin and end are with it’s leadership. In particular Mulgrew and the Unity Caucus, the party which has a death grip on control of the local. The UFT’s Unity Caucus has been the only caucus to control the UFT for half a century now and has created a structure of government that makes it nearly impossible to ever lose control. As a result their is a startling absence of democracy within their union and their rank and file are left without a true voice. Instead they are stuck with Mulgrew and his cronies who have refused to rule out a Cuomo endorsement (or financial contributions), have shown support for NYSED Commissioner John King, and claimed to be “frightened” by opposition to the Common Core.
The problem, of course, is that when the UFT’s leadership take stances like this it doesn’t only spell trouble for UFT members. As a local that controls approximately 40% of the NYSUT delegate votes, the UFT also controls NYSUT. With NYSUT making up the majority of the AFT, the UFT also controls the AFT in this way as well. So Mulgrew and company are able to extend their tentacles of reforminess far beyond the boundaries of New York City and into classrooms across the country. With this thought in mind it is highly disturbing when you see a slate such as Revive NYSUT claim to be “grassroots” slate working for the rank and file when they have Mikey Mulgrew’s fingerprints all over them.
To give you a more in depth look at how the UFT’s leadership operates we will be running a series of guests posts over the next few days from members of the UFT’s rank and file. The first post is from the MORE Caucus’ James Eterno. The MORE Caucus is an opposition caucus to Unity. Eterno unsuccessfully ran against Mulgrew for UFT President in 2010.