Friday, June 8, 2018

School Scope: Is the UFT in Danger from Janus as Staff Layoffs and Retirements Loom?

Published June 8, 2018 in The WAVE,

School Scope: Is the UFT in Danger from Janus as Staff Layoffs and Retirements Loom?
By Norm Scott

Last time I wrote about the upcoming threat to the UFT and unions in general: The Janus Right to Work Case - How Bad Will it Be For the UFT? ( I reviewed how the UFT became the sole bargaining agent for all teachers and other DOE personnel when it won a 3-day election in 1962. Connected to that victory was the right to collect dues even from those who chose not to join the union, known as agency shop fees. Now, this entire arrangement is threatened by an upcoming Supreme Court ruling in the Janus case which may turn the entire nation into right to work, which exists in many other states, many of which have the lowest performing schools and also the lowest paid teachers. The connection is not a coincidence.

Can we end up the same way here in New York? Probably not for a while, since NY politicians see the UFT as a partner in helping to control the members. They seem to get what happened in the right to work red state teacher revolts that union leaders can’t seem to contain because they do not have the money. Let me say that stronger unions are important, but when they are not, wildcat actions coming out of schools and classrooms, even when strikes are illegal, is not a bad phenomenon. Generally, states where unions are strong also have penalties on unions that take actions too far – especially dues check off where dues are taken out of the paychecks. Imagine the day, which may be coming soon, where dues have to be collected by the union from individual teachers. When this happens, unions are very damaged, but at the same time the threat to lose check off that has kept them in line also disappears.

There is no question that there is a deliberate attempt to weaken unions under the guise of freedom for people not to chose to belong to a union. But the underlying reason is to damage unions’ abilities to bargain effectively on salaries and working conditions, which also translate into better learning conditions for students. Organized advertising campaigns by groups funded by the Koch brothers and their ilk are urging teachers to “give themselves a raise” by quitting the union. That the right wing is so focused on destroying teacher unions is a sign that these unions have been a bulwark against some of the major attacks on public schools and that they are a roadblock to total privatization of the schools, which would shake free billions of dollars to continue feeding the educational industrial complex. Every dollar out of a teacher’s pocket from lowering salaries is up for grabs for profit.

When Justice Scalia died the unions had a reprieve. I think Trump claimed that Scalia may have been murdered (Randi Weingarten apparently has an alibi.) Word is that with Gorsuch on the Court, the unions expect to lose the Janus case and the UFT is planning layoffs and also a large number or staff retirements. Another less likely threat is that people who leave the union try to organize an alternative and challenge the UFT as the sole bargaining agent. As a union politics junkie, these are delicious areas to explore.

Norm does his blog in a right to work household, which means doing the right work his wife tells him to do.


  1. I don't think that agency shop fees were included in the 1962 agreement. I think agency shop was included after the 1968 strike.

  2. There will not be massive layoffs of the staff. Such would result in a sharp decline in member service, and would lead to more defections, and a union death spiral. There may be attrition from retirements however


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