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Teachers’ Health Plan Debate Speaks to Larger Problems with UFT Leadership

“Those of us teaching the children of New York City do the work. Not only are we not getting the support we need, but we have leadership that actively works against our interests. This has to change.”

William Alatriste/NYC Council

UFT President Michael Mulgrew.

I’ve been a member of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) for 38 years. I’m a great believer in union and its power. But I’ve come to question the way mine is being run.

In late October, UFT President Michael Mulgrew sent us an email stating the following: “The city’s Office of Labor Relations sent a letter to the head of the Municipal Labor Committee giving the unions notice of its intent to enroll all Medicare‑eligible city retirees in a NYC Medicare Advantage plan and eliminate all other retiree health plans, including GHI SeniorCare. If the unions don’t go along with it, the city has threatened annual health care premiums of roughly $1,500 for all in‑service municipal employees.”

I was gob-struck by this. It seemed to suggest if we in-service members did not toss our retired brothers and sisters under the bus, we’d be penalized. This was pitting one faction of our union against another, and looked blatantly anti-union to me.

I began to question our leadership’s approach to activism. Shouldn’t we be united? Shouldn’t we be working toward helping all union members? And why are we pushing to place anyone in an inferior medical plan in the first place?

The last UFT boots on the ground event was years ago. Our actions are not drawing much response from the press. Maybe we wear blue on this day, or black on that day. A few people do it, and get their pictures in the union paper, which no one outside of the union even sees. Maybe we go mark papers in Starbucks, in the hope people will take notice. No one seemed to notice before, though. One day, we had a “teach-in.” What’s a teach-in? Your guess is as good as mine.

A few years ago, we were talking about a strike. We were protesting unsafe conditions in schools, conditions affecting our students as well as ourselves. I was chapter leader. One member called me and said, “I’m not going to do it. I’m going to be a scab.” This member was shocked at my harsh reply. This member expected me to laugh it off and continue chatting. This member, like many of us, has no idea what union is.

Source: citylimits.org

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