Tuesday, May 22, 2018

School Scope: The Janus Right to Work Case - How Bad Will it Be For the UFT?

Submitted to The WAVE for May 25, 2018

School Scope: The Janus Right to Work Case - How Bad Will it Be For the UFT?
By Norm Scott

“Two previous unions of New York schoolteachers, the Teachers Union [TU] , founded in 1916, and the Teachers Guild [TG], 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. – Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Federation_of_Teachers

The TU was more left wing and the TG was formed as a counterweight to its dominance by former members who were being outvoted in the turbulent times of the 1930’s. The TU was decimated by the McCarthy witch hunts and the TG began to gain ascendency, particularly when the national American Federation of Teachers (AFT) sent in full time organizers like Albert Shanker. There were many separate groups in the NYC teacher corps representing many segments – elementary, middle and high school teachers, for instance. The high schools were the most militant (and still are today, as shown by the fact that over the past 30 years they have consistently voted for the opposition in the UFT, including the most recent 2016 election). The evening school teachers actually went on strike in the late 50s, shaking up the labor movement in the city. That led to a merger of the high school teachers association and the TG in 1960 when they formed the UFT after Mayor Wagner granted public unions bargaining rights. That forced an election to decide which group would get sole bargaining rights since the law allowed for only one bargaining agent. There were three contenders: the UFT, the Teachers Union and a group formed by the NEA, the AFT’s national rival and the UFT won hands down.

Since then, there has been little overall challenge to the hegemony of the ruling Unity Caucus, except in the high schools. Being the sole bargaining agent is a big thing and allows the union to collect dues from every school worker represented by the UFT, even it they choose not to join. That has been challenged in state after state as a way to weaken unions and has been a very successful tactic by the right wing in turning many states into what is termed “right to work” (RTW).

The about to be announced Janus decision in the Supreme Court will turn every state into RTW, including NYS. There are implications for the UFT aside from the possibility that numbers of teachers will leave the union and stop paying dues. If enough leave, that will weaken the union, possibly severely. But the bigger threat might be challenges to their being the sole bargaining agent if enough people sign cards calling for a new bargaining election, the first since 1962. More on this idea next time.

Norm is organizing a bargaining election at ednotesonline.com where he will have to vote against himself. Not the first time.

1 comment:

  1. I thought the recent teacher strikes would scare the SC into staying away from Janus but after seeing in the NYT that the SC just voted for employer favored arbitration, well it looks like Janus will come to pass.

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