Friday, September 11, 2020

New York City’s Teachers Union Doesn’t Remember How to Strike - Jacobin

New York City’s Teachers Union Doesn’t Remember How to Strike

New York City’s Teachers Union Doesn’t Remember How to Strike

The United Federation of Teachers, New York City’s teachers union, is a massive local that could wield enormous power through striking. But the union hasn’t struck in nearly half a century — even in the face of a deadly pandemic and unsafe schools reopening. Why does the UFT refuse to use its most powerful tactic?

The United Federation of Teachers [UFT], after the vote of the chapter, will move to close temporarily any schools where there’s a clear and present life-threatening danger to the students and the staff until such time as safety can be assured.”

So read a resolution passed by the UFT’s Delegate Assembly… in 1992. The issue then was guns and gang violence. Last week, in response to the reopening plan being imposed by Mayor Bill de Blasio, the UFT, New York City’s teachers union, came closer to a strike than I ever thought I’d see.
Strike talk had been rumbling among the teachers for at least a week, when Matthew Cunningham-Cook at the Intercept broke the news that a true-blue strike vote was on the immediate horizon. They could’ve just dusted off that old 1992 resolution and passed the thing again, word for word. They didn’t make it that far.
I won’t go over every spar and jab, which others have done well. Indeed, with teachers back in the building this week, and polls showing a majority of the public not feeling that it’s safe to return, it seems likely enough that the spars and jabs aren’t by any means over, the can only having been kicked a few days down the road.
One might think this is just the next frontier in the teachers strike wave that began with the West Virginia teachers in February 2018, and continued through the onset of the coronavirus (St Paul teachers were out as late as March 10). But the gargantuan UFT — with its membership at 120,000, the union has more members than twenty-two states; a UFT strike would include more than twice as many teachers as the Arizona statewide teacher strikes — isn’t just different in degree, but in kind.
My shock at the whole news cycle was borne out of my sense that the UFT simply doesn’t do this sort of CONTINUE READING: New York City’s Teachers Union Doesn’t Remember How to Strike