Unity Caucus (Michael Mulgrew's faction of the UFT) will pretty much oppose any proposal that the opposition comes up with unless it is first vetted by the Unity leadership and they can take half of the credit. Last night at the Executive Board (please read New Action Exec Bd Rep Nick Bacon's full minutes), Unity approved two bipartisan resolutions, one opposing charter school expansion and the other fighting budget cuts. The opposition High School reps voted for both of them. However, when opposition High School Rep Ibeth Mejia introduced an amendment to add teeth to a symbolic resolution to reduce maternal mortality in the United States (full text is below), Unity went ballistic.
After VP Janella Hinds spoke in favor of reducing maternal mortality, Ibeth introduced her amendment:
RESOLVED, that to improve the well being of mothers, infants, children, adults, and the elderly who are dying in higher numbers in the USA than in other wealthy nations, the UFT as a union that includes many thousands of working moms will take the lead by demanding for its members annual raises that keep up with the US inflation rate, and the UFT insists on healthcare improvements for its members and all Americans, rather than increased copayments or diminished healthcare choices — as well as, improved parental-family leave policies.
The UFT as a major union needs to do something to actually make our contract stronger to protect mothers. This is the conclusion of Ibeth's speech moving her amendment:
How are working mothers supposed to survive the out of control high cost of living and provide for their families, particularly in and around NYC?
Yet at UFT meetings, we hear about the wonders of pattern bargaining so we will be stuck with salary increases that DC 37 got in their pattern setting contract that don’t come close to keeping up with inflation so are de facto pay cuts. How is that helping mothers?
Meanwhile, out in LA school support staff went on strike, plenty of moms on those picket lines in California last week. The teachers went on strike in support. What did the support workers get? 30% raises while at the UFT DA we are told strikes are white privilege.
To summarize, if the UFT was really interested in enhancing motherhood, we would start by acting like the powerful union we claim to be, a real one – and demand and then fight with any means that are available for better conditions for the tens of thousands of mothers in this Union.
In the interest of fairness (sarcasm alert), Leroy Barr, who was chairing, followed Ibeth up by allowing three UFT Officers (Mike Sill, Karen Alford and Mary Vacarro) in succession to counter Ibeth. Mary even said she took insult to the amendment because the opposition is taking symbolic resolutions and amending them to make them about substantive issues rather than dealing with what the Unity leadership puts on the table. (By the way, I don't understand why the seven opposition members just don't read from page 31 of Robert's Rules to demand both sides are equally heard in debate but that is another issue.) Finally, ICE-Solidarity-United for Change's Luli Rodriguez was able to get the floor to make an impassioned plea telling how UFT maternity benefits leave much to be desired:
Here is what Luli said:
Luli Rodriguez-High School Executive Board: I stand in support...I come from an interesting background. When I was an accountant prior to becoming a teacher, I thankfully, I was a higher tax bracket, and my insurance coverage was amazing. I had a room all to myself. I had ten people in my room. I experienced a life and death situation as well. First my son was almost at the point of dying. The second time I was about to die. The difference is my health insurance covered everything. I had nurses around the clock taking care of me and not a lot of women of color, and women in general, but women of color do not have that option. There's a social-economic disparity in our society and a racial one as well. I have friends who are African American who have had issues with childbirth who are at the point of dying because of their skin color because their issues are not taken as seriously.
I know my body and I was able to explain what I was going through and I had people that would listen to me. But you know what I had what you guys don't have, I had six months to stay at home with my child to take care of my child to bond with my child to take him for immunizations that many of our teacher parents don't have because they only have a matter of weeks to spend with their child. Why are your sick days taken out of their CAR to take care of your maternity? This is supposed to be America. I didn't have to do that. I went on maternity leave. I had six months. I did not have to use my CAR; I came back and if my child was sick I was able to use my sick days to take care of my child.
I see teachers on the NYC teaching (facebook) page talking about how their childcare leave fell through; they have no more CAR days, how can they take their child to get immunizations or if they become sick, how are they supposed to take care of them? Let me tell you something: childcare in 2010 when I had my (third) child, (this time under the DOE), was $1,400 a month. I'm a single mom. I covered it because I had saved enough, but can other parents do that? I'm sorry, I know we're all trying but understand that some of us don't have higher salaries, don't have the double jobs. We have our teaching jobs and if they have time maybe a little side hustle if they have time and don't have kids but our time is limited. There's nothing wrong with asking for and demanding that it be equitable. In Europe my counterparts have a year. All we're asking is for six months to give our children immunizations that they require and some time for bonding.
Passing that amendment and working to achieve its goals would go a long way to improving the situation for moms.
Leroy responded to Luli briefly although he wasn't asked and then two more Unity people were called on, including Janella Hinds a second time.
The seven High School Representatives then voted in favor of the UFT taking the lead in getting better maternity benefits. Unity unanimously voted against improving maternity benefits for UFTers but they did approve their symbolic resolution instead.
If opposition brings up anything of substance at the Executive Board or Delegate Assembly, it will be defeated by Unity no matter how strong it is and what our people say to support it won't matter because heaven forbid one of us gets the credit for a good idea. And, Unity has the nerve to say we play politics! Go figure.
The original resolution:
RESOLUTION TO REDUCE UNITED STATES MATERNAL MORTALITY RATES
WHEREAS, more than 70% of the membership of the United Federation of Teachers are women; and
WHEREAS, reproductive and maternal health is a primary concern for many of our members and the families and communities we serve; and
WHEREAS, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, maternal mortality is defined as the death of a childbearing person, while pregnant or up to one year following the pregnancy, from a cause related to, aggravated by or irrespective of the pregnancy; and
WHEREAS, the maternal mortality rate in the United States is higher than most other high-income countries; and
WHEREAS, according to the Centers for Disease Control’s National Center for Health Statistics, this rate stands at 32.9 deaths per 100,000 live births, which represents a significant increase from 20.1 in 2019 and 23.8 in 2020; and
WHEREAS, a recent National Public Radio article on the CDC study cited the U.S. rate “which is more than ten times the estimated rates of some other high income countries, including Australia, Austria, Israel, Japan and Spain which all hovered between 2 and 3 deaths per 100,000 in 2020;” and
WHEREAS, the 2021 maternal mortality rate for Black women at 69.9 deaths for 100,000 live births is more than double the average rate of other American women; and
WHEREAS, research has shown that in the United States, Black women are also twice as likely to have a preterm birth (PTB), give birth to a low birth weight (LBW) infant, or experience the death of a child before age 1, when compared to white women; and
WHEREAS, the maternal mortality rates for people who are Indigenous, low-income and more than 40 years old are also abnormally high in comparison to the national average; and
WHEREAS, the American Medical Association, the CDC, the Commonwealth Fund and other national organizations have reported that many instances of maternal mortality are preventable; and
WHEREAS, lack of access to comprehensive, coordinated and respectful health care, the prevalence of chronic conditions and inadequate postpartum support are among the reasons attributed to our nation’s high maternal mortality rates; and
WHEREAS, research indicates that these disparities are symptoms of broader underlying social and economic inequities that are rooted in racism and discrimination; and
WHEREAS, the trauma that results from these incidents, while rarely discussed, has long-lasting and profound impacts on our schools, offices, families, colleagues and communities; and
WHEREAS, In the latest data released by the DOE, 41.1% of public school students are Hispanic, 24.4% are Black and 71.9% are economically disadvantaged, and their mothers of childbearing age are at risk; therefore, be it
RESOLVED, that the UFT call upon health care organizations to offer ongoing resources, education and professional development for those providing reproductive care in an effort to decrease maternal mortality rates, especially among women who are most affected; and be it further
RESOLVED, the UFT work with educational, public health and other organizations to offer resources and direct assistance to support educators, school counselors, social workers and psychologists as well as whole schools and communities serving people affected by maternal mortality; and be it further
RESOLVED, that the UFT support legislation promoting the expansion of birthing centers, particularly in communities where maternal mortality rates are highest, so that more women may receive quality reproductive care that is caring and respectful to all families of newborns; and be it further
RESOLVED, that the UFT encourage professional learning and instruction that addresses implicit bias among staff and students, because instructional staff must be able to address implicit bias within themselves in order to teach students headed into professions where unconscious beliefs about different groups can create harmful racial disparities to treat all people equally; and be it further
RESOLVED, that the UFT call for more research on the causes of these disparities and support working with coalition partners to increase investment in efforts to decrease maternal mortality rates in the United States.