Well sometimes actions emanating from the grassroots gets a reaction from the UFT leadership.
A week ago an internal memo circulating within the Grassroots Education Movement suggested an action protesting the outrageous contract with Verizon (which had cheated the DOE in a previous contract but is refusing to pay back the money unless the contract is renewed) and support for the Verizon workers on strike at the upcoming Panel for Educational Policy meeting this Weds. Aug. 14 at Murray Bergtraum HS.
An announcement was drawn up and other allies of GEM began to sign on. We contacted leaders at the Communications Workers of America asking them to join us at a 5PM rally outside Bergtraum and received an enthusiastic response (there is a massive Verizon building adjoining Bergtraum). Last night this memo circulating in the halls of the UFT came through.
This coming Wednesday, August 17, the city’s Panel for Educational Policy will vote on a $120 million DOE contract with Verizon to wire schools. Please join a picket and protest at 5 p.m. outside the meeting at Murry Bergtraum HS for Business Careers at 411 Pearl St. in Manhattan. See map for directions.
Despite making billions of dollars in profits in the last four years, Verizon is waging an unprecedented attack on the wages and benefits of its 45,000 unionized employees in its landline division. The company wants its workers to start contributing to their health care premiums while freezing pension contributions for current employees, eliminating traditional pensions for future workers, limiting sick days to five a year, and eliminating all job-security provisions.
According to the Special Commissioner for Investigations, Verizon was also implicated in a recent DOE corruption scandal. His office states contractor Ross Lanham stole millions from the education system through a false billing scheme for wiring schools. The Special Commissioner of Investigations and further wrote that “Verizon concealed from the DOE and law enforcement that they got millions of dollars in contracts through Lanham….”
Take a stand against our scarce education dollars going to private contractors like Verizon. We hope to see you at the protest on Aug. 17.
Sincerely,Clearly this PEP was not on the UFT leadership's radar screen until it bubbled up from the bottom, I view the reaction as a positive development towards working with the UFT hierarchy when we all can agree. I know they are not going to reach down deep into the membership to mobilize (they are focused on the Aug. 27 rally in Washington DC) but do expect the usual suspects - some union employees and top-level Unity Caucus people to be there. We can only hope the UFT leaders use their control over the communications apparatus to inform the members why supporting the CWA and opposing the Verizon contract is important.
LeRoy Barr and Ellie Engler
UFT Staff Directors
But don't be surprised to see the UFT try to marginalize groups like GEM which started the ball rolling. Maybe more on this aspect in follow-ups.
Groups supporting action at PEP so far:
BYNEE, Class Size Matters, CPE-CEP, Grassroots Education Movement, New York City Parents Union, New York Charter Parents Association, NYCC, NYCORE, S.E.E.D.S, Teachers Unite, Independent Community of Educators, The MANY, Teachers for a Just Contract (list in formation)
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