United Federation of Teachers
The United Federation of Teachers (UFT) is the labor union that represents most teachers in New York City public schools. As of 2005[update], there were about 118,000 in-service teachers and 17,000 paraprofessional educators in the union, as well as about 54,000 retired members. In October 2007, 28,280 home day care providers voted to join the union. It is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, the AFL-CIO and the Central Labor Council. It is also the largest member of New York State United Teachers, which is affiliated with the National Educational Association and Education International.
|Full name||United Federation of Teachers|
|Founded||March 16, 1960|
|Affiliation||American Federation of Teachers|
|Key people||Michael Mulgrew, president|
|Office location||52 Broadway, New York, NY|
Two previous unions of New York schoolteachers, the Teachers Union, founded in 1916, and the Teachers Guild, founded in 1935, failed to gather widespread enrollment or support. Many of the early leaders were pacifists or socialists and so frequently met with clashes against more right-leaning newspapers and organizations of the time, as red-baiting was fairly common. The ethnically and ideologically diverse teachers associations of the city made the creation of a single organized body difficult, with each association continuing to vie for its own priorities irrespective of the others.
The UFT was founded in 1960, largely in response to perceived unfairness in the educational system's treatment of teachers. Pensions were awarded to retired teachers only if over 65 or with 35 years of service. Female teachers faced two years of mandatory unpaid maternity leave after they gave birth. Principals could discipline or fire teachers with almost no oversight. The schools, experiencing a massive influx of baby boomer students, often were on double or triple session. Despite being college-educated professionals, often holding advanced master's degrees, teachers drew a salary of $66 per week, in 2005 dollars, the equivalent of $21,000 a year.
The UFT was created on March 16, 1960 and grew rapidly. On November 7, 1960, the union organized a major strike. The strike largely failed in its main objectives but obtained some concessions, as well as bringing much popular attention to the union. After much further negotiation, the UFT was chosen as the collective bargaining organization for all City teachers in December 1961.
Albert Shanker, a controversial but successful organizer was president of the UFT from 1964 until 1984. He held an overlapping tenure as president of the national American Federation of Teachers from 1974 to his death in 1997.
In 1968, the UFT went on strike and shut down the school system in May and then again from September to November to protest the decentralization plan that was being put in place to give more neighborhoods community control. The Ocean Hill-Brownsville strike focused on the Ocean Hill-Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn but, ironically, the schools in that area were among the few that were open in the entire city. The Ocean Hill-Brownsville crisis is often described as a turning point in the history of unionism and of civil rights, as it created a rift between African-Americans and the Jewish communities, two groups that were previously viewed as allied. The two sides threw accusations of racism and anti-Semitism at each other.
The 1970s were a time of fiscal crisis for New York City. In 1975, some 14,000 teachers were laid off and class size soared. Another strike addressed some of these complaints and gave long-serving teachers longevity benefits.
The Unity Caucus, formed in 1962, predominates in the union, holding nearly every leadership position. New Action formed in the 1980s as an opposition caucus but, since 2003, it has cross-endorsed Unity candidates. The Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE) is a new caucus, formed in 2012.
According to UFT's Department of Labor records since 2005, when membership classifications were first reported, about 32% of the union's membership are considered retirees, with eligibility to vote in the union. UFT contracts also cover some non-members, known as agency fee payers, which, since 2005, have numbered comparatively about 1% of the size of the union's membership. As of 2013 this accounts for 59,444 retirees and 2,675 non-members paying agency fees, compared to 124,145 "active" members.
The previous president of the UFT, Randi Weingarten, resigned in 2009 to lead the AFT. She has clashed repeatedly with the mayors of the city; in particular with former mayor Rudy Giuliani and mayor Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg made student promotion to third, sixth and eighth grade contingent upon performance on standardized tests, which the UFT and the New York Board of Regents have criticized as being flawed.
The UFT opposes merit pay for teachers, opting for seniority-based pay, but joined in November 2007, with Mayor Bloomberg in agreeing to a voluntary incentive program for high-achieving schools with high-needs populations. The union does not support a proposed reform of the seniority-based LIFO (education) law. In July 2007,Weingarten collaborated with Mayor Bloomberg in supporting a modified merit pay program with bonuses to schools and additional bonuses targeted for specific teachers.
The UFT strongly supports the reduction of class sizes for all subjects and grade levels in New York City public schools.
The UFT, under the leadership of presidents Weingarten and Mulgrew, has collaborated with tenets of the education reform movement, such as support for value-added modeling for teacher evaluation.
Lawsuit against school co-locationEdit
In May 2011, the UFT, along with the NAACP and others, filed a lawsuit against the New York City Department of Education to stop school closings and the co-location of schools. In the lawsuit, the union charged that the Department of Education was improperly closing schools.
The New York City Parents Union filed its own lawsuit in June 2011 to stop co-locations and school closings, stating, “Despite inconsistent and uncertain results, the DOE continues to push public school parents into a privately managed school system where many charters perform worse than the public schools while failing to serve their fair share of students with special needs and English Language Learners.”
On Friday June 24, 2011, UFT President Michael Mulgrew, along with City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, announced that an agreement had been reached to prevent the layoff of 4,100 New York City teachers. The agreement came six months after Mayor Bloomberg had warned 21,000 layoffs were possible. The union had opposed all layoffs with a strategy of leafleting, marches and rallies, including a march on Wall Street on May 12, 2011, with 20,000 participants.
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