While many teachers in New York City continue to be overworked and over-stressed as classroom conditions further deteriorate under Mayor Bill de Blasio and Chancellor Carmen Farina, other education unions are fighting back for real.
In Chicago they are taking a strike authorization vote this week for a possible 2016 walkout. Illinois law requires 75% of the membership to vote yes before a strike can take place so the Chicago Teachers Union is holding a three day vote this week to make sure everyone has a chance to cast a ballot.
UFT leadership will tell us that strikes by public employees are illegal in New York State so we can't even consider such an action. We recently went almost five years without a contract and six without a raise. The fact that strikes were illegal didn't stop UFT members from walking off the job in 1960, 1962, 1967, 1968, and 1975 and working conditions were certainly improved thanks to the activism of UFT members in those years.
Our current leaders think that giving up many of the rights that were won over those decades (see 2005 contract for details) and taking inadequate raises (see 2014 contract that set a labor pattern of 10% over 7 years for city employees and pays UFT members piecemeal up until 2020 raises other city unions received back in 2008-2010) is the way to go. Some of us think fighting like a real labor union would be a better idea.
Another government union in New York City that has gone five years without a contract and six without a salary increase--just like UFT members between 2008 and 2014-- is going to use a militant rather than a UFT style concessionary strategy to attempt to win a decent contract. That union is the Professional Staff Congress (City University teachers) who are mobilizing for a strike authorization vote.
Aren't they risking violating the dreaded Taylor Law which outlaws strikes by government employees? Well yes but in 2011 a UN agency ruled that the no strike part of the Taylor Law is a human rights violation.
Notice also that when the PSC showed videos on their website of support, they featured union leaders from Seattle and Chicago and not New York. That is telling.