Friday, June 15, 2018

School Scope: The UFT and Janus: Better Service, YES, More Democracy, NO

To be published in The WAVE June 15, 2018,

School Scope: The UFT and Janus: Better Service, YES, More Democracy, NO
By Norm Scott

Recent columns have addressed the probable Supreme Court decision in the Janus case that will make the entire nation right-to-work (RTW), which means those who don’t join the union won’t have to pay dues, thus leading to weakened unions. (Background at: The UFT and Janus: and Is the UFT in Danger from Janus as Staff Layoffs and Retirements Loom? Unions must represent all people covered by contracts even if they choose not to join the union. In non-RTW states they must pay dues, known as agency fees, at a somewhat reduced rate. In the UFT there are reportedly over 3000 agency fee payers. They do not have the right to vote in general union or school elections and, theoretically, can be kept from attending school and citywide union meetings. Post Janus, expectations of members leaving the UFT run anywhere from 10-25%, which would be a damaging loss.

The UFT leadership has blitzed schools and membership with appeals to stay, even going so far as to visit members at home and organizing school-based teams to lobby colleagues. The UFT as the sole bargaining agent for all employees must continue to provide services to everyone, even those who leave the union, a serious and unfair drain on resources. Politicians recognize the threat to undermine strong unions like the UFT, which helps manage members’ expectations and militancy, is also a threat to the ability to run the schools if teachers were free agents unbound by union contracts. We saw this in the red state rebellions, all in RTW states where strikes are illegal (they are here too) where weakened unions were outflanked by a militant rank and file.

A recent state law pushed through by the UFT’s former enemy and now best friend, Governor Cuomo, would free unions from having to provide lawyers, possibly putting a scare into people thinking of leaving. I think the UFT needs to do more to offer positive reasons for staying, like better service and a more militant stance against the DOE and de Blasio. The UFT has not done enough to defend members from abusive principals. Untenured, who must wait at least four (or more) years for tenure, basically are without union protections. They can be discontinued at any time for practically any reasons. (Tenure forces administrators to provide some basis and guarantees a hearing.)

The anti-union forces have gone on a blitz to urge people to drop out and “give themselves a raise” by saving on dues, which in the UFT amounts to around $1400 a year. The salary structure is regressive as the gap between newer teachers and those at the top is so wide. Will new teachers opt in to join the union, especially if they intend to leave after a few years (over 50% do leave by the 5th year)?

Many of the deepest critics of the UFT/Unity Caucus leadership in the opposition to Unity Caucus are urging people to stay in the union and keep paying dues. In UFT elections they get about 25% of the vote and those who leave are more likely to be anti-Unity. But politics aside, Janus presents an existential threat to the lifeblood of all employees. Still, one of our major complaints has been the lack of democracy. While the UFT may offer better services, don’t expect democracy to be on their agenda. But does anyone really care about democracy in today’s world? More on this next time.

Norm runs his blog in a democratic manner – he makes all the decisions but argues with himself first.

1 comment:

  1. The lack of democracy is killing the UFT. Janus is irrelevant.


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