Wednesday, March 22, 2023


We've already had press coverage of our petition to get a UFT member referendum on significant changes to our healthcare plans.

This is by Claudia Irizarry Aponte in The City.

Retired city workers fighting a planned shift to a cost-cutting Medicare Advantage health care plan have new allies: current city teachers and other public school employees who are bucking their own union president, Michael Mulgrew. 

On Sunday, opposition groups within the United Federation of Teachers, including teachers currently on the city’s payroll, came together to launch a petition to force a referendum vote on any changes to health care plans for retirees or any union members. 

It’s the first time current city workers are challenging union leadership over the controversial switch to a privately run Medicare Advantage plan, which is slated to be managed by Aetna. Mulgrew played a key role in negotiating the health plan change and is now facing a member revolt.

The petition also tees up a battle over a change in the works for current employees’ health care, which will replace the insurer GHI with a new provider yet to be named.

“We call for a membership-wide vote for any significant changes to active and/or retired members’ healthcare. These include any significant changes of our healthcare carriers, limits to our choice of healthcare carriers, or institutions of or raises to premiums, deductibles or copayments, etc.,” reads the petition by UFT activist group Educators of NYC.

The City piece was also picked up by Chalkbeat.

We need to stop complaining and take action. If we can convince 10% of the UFT membership to sign on to ask for it, then the UFT Constitution has a referendum provision. 

This is Article V, Section 10 of the UFT Constitution:

At the written request of one-third (1/3) of the entire membership of the Executive Board or of ten percent (10%) of the membership of this organization, the Executive Board shall submit to a referendum vote any matter except a proposed amendment to this Constitution and matters relating to the admission, suspension or expulsion of members.

I have heard in the comments here over and over again how there is nothing members can do to influence UFT policy. I have asked repeatedly for members to get involved in the Union. Now, you have the opportunity. Sign and spread the word to get a referendum on healthcare changes. We need all hands on deck to get to 10% of the membership to sign the petition. That would be around 19,000 UFTers. That is a tall order but we can do it. Sign and spread whether you are left, right center or apolitical, Unity or opposition. We just want a vote. Shouldn't there be a vote on any important change to our health benefits or is Michael Mulgrew just the decider like GW Bush?

While the unions in NYC continue to try to privatize our healthcare, the Los Angeles teachers are on strike in support of their fellow union workers:

From the LA Times:

The start of a massive three-day strike led by the lowest paid public school workers and supported by teachers shut down Los Angeles campuses Tuesday amid a fierce morning storm, sent parents scrambling for child care and meals and brought thousands of picketers to campuses and a boisterous afternoon rally downtown.

The strike culminated a months-long build-up of labor tensions in the nation’s second largest school district. Bus drivers, custodians, special education assistants, cafeteria workers — all members of Local 99 of the Service Employees International Union — have been negotiating with the district, demanding a 30% salary increase, plus $2 more per hour for the lowest paid employees.

So what is the district offering?

This weekend, the district offered a cumulative 23% raise, starting with 2% retroactive as of the 2020-21 school year and ending with 5% in 2024-25. The package would also include a one-time 3% bonus for those who have been on the job since 2020-21, along with expanded hours, more full-time positions and improved eligibility for healthcare benefits.

That's significantly more than DC 37's tentative deal in NYC of 16% compounded over 5.5 years. That 23% offer in LA came before the strike. We believe the district made the offer because there was a credible threat of a job action.

In NYC, one of the longtime staunch loyalists of the ruling Unity Caucus, Peter Goodman, is questioning whether teacher strikes are antiquated.

Part of his latest piece:

Public education is under attack, from Florida to Texas, unlimited vouchers, attacks on teacher unions and teachers; banning books in libraries, banning books in classrooms, from the New York State Governor, perhaps to the New York City Mayor.

Teachers and their unions need allies, Alliance for Quality Education, Class Size Matters, Diane Ravitch, elected officials at every level, school boards, parent associations, the public education universe.

The McCarthyite attacks were vicious and destroyed lives of dedicated, caring teachers and we are witnessing the revival today. Fighting for the right to strike will only isolate teacher unions from public school advocates, yes, in rare instances striking may be the only alternatives (1968, 1975); we need all of us, teachers, parents, civil rights organizations to fight back, to turn the tide.

Does Goodman honestly believe that we would lose support from Class Size Matters or Diane Ravitch if we went on strike to preserve our healthcare or to maybe lower class sizes?

The Guardian wrote an article last year on teacher strikesin the USA. 

An excerpt:

Thousands of teachers around the United States are resuming a strike wave in education that swept the country in 2018 and 2019, before the Covid-19 pandemic.

School districts across America are facing severe staffing shortages of teachers, substitute teachers and support staff amid Covid-19 disruptions and historically low pay, contributing to burnout and worsening working conditions.

Over the past few weeks, teachers have gone on strike in Sacramento, California, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Sonoma county, California, Riverdale, Illinois, and Proviso, Illinois, as teachers in other districts have authorized strikes. Earlier this year, teachers in Chicago, Illinois, were locked out by Chicago Public Schools over their demands for pausing in-person learning during a Covid surge.

This is from Education Week:

Teachers in Arizona, West Virginia, North Carolina, and elsewhere won widespread media attention and significant salary increases after walking out of classrooms en masse in 2018.

Since then, experts say, demands from educators and school service workers have increasingly focused on connections between benefits for themselves and support for students.

Meanwhile, across the pond in England teacher job actions have been occurring.

The Guardian once again:

Georgia Townsend works with children who have special needs with English. Teaching is the only job she ever saw herself doing, but now she faces a decision. If the National Education Union’s (NEU) strike to get an above-inflation pay rise is unsuccessful, she might not return to the classroom this September.

When Townsend puts the heating on to keep her two-year-old son warm, she does not eat. Last week, her parents realised what was happening and started ordering food parcels to her door.

The results are not yet clear but are encouraging.

Once again, from the Guardianonce again:

Intensive negotiations between the government and teaching unions in England are under way, holding out the possibility of a deal over teachers’ pay after a damaging series of strikes.

The talks between the teaching union leaders and Gillian Keegan, the education secretary, started on Friday and are expected to continue over the weekend, in a sign of the government’s willingness to end the dispute.

The National Education Union, which held two days of strikes in England earlier this week, said it would “create a period of calm for two weeks” and hold back from announcing further industrial action to allow talks to go ahead, ending an impasse with the Department for Education (DfE).

Someone tell Peter Goodman or Michael Mulgrew we need the right to strike for teachers and other public sector employees in NY. It is a human right.


John Q. Teacher said...

Question: Let's say we get enough votes to hold a referendum on any healthcare changes for UFT members. Now let's say the referendum passes and we get to have a say in our healthcare. What good is that if the City does not care about our referendum? In other words, UFT members wanting a better healthcare plan will only be our "want". The City does not have to abide by what we want. The MLC makes the deals with the city regarding our healthcare. If we forced Mulgrew to vote no on our changes to healthcare for in service members, DC37 and Sanitation would still have enough votes on the MLC to go along with whatever Adams wants with our healthcare. I am not trying to sound negative, I am just curious as to what a winning referendum for rank and file teachers would have in the larger scheme of things. Please explain. Thanks!

James Eterno said...

UFT members have final say over UFT matters. Taylor Law keeps current provisions in place until we, the UFT members, agree to something else.

We can always tell the MLC no at tha point. Let's get to that point. Sign and spread the word.

John Q. Teacher said...

Thank you for your answer James. What your answer seems to state is that if we successfully have a referendum with UFT members to not change healthcare, that means we would keep current provisions in place. However that would seem to also mean that the City would have no reason to negotiate a new contract with us. In other words, if the city wants a change to our healthcare and we don't, won't that means we would not get a raise or a new contract under the Adams administration? I do not see the city budging on their demand to change healthcare. Thoughts?

BxT said...

Tomorrow, there is a segment on wnyc at 10 am about the retiree healthcare issue.

James Eterno said...

That is why we have a union. We would have to be a real union if that happened.

TallBarbarianLibrarian said...

Can the petition be signed electronically. It seems to only be letting me download it to print out

TallBarbarianLibrarian said...

Can the petition be signed electronically? It seem to only be able to download it for printing.

James Eterno said...

It can be signed electronically.

James Eterno said...

Just scroll down the page and then fill out the form to request an electronic petition. Email us if there is a problem.

JR said...

James says “This is why we have a union” as we get ripped to shreds, as we get poorer against inflation, as our medical goes away…And so James can ask us to fill out a petition, to do what the people we pay don’t do…

James Eterno said...

We have to take back our union. Here is a chance to do something.