I was on the picket line for three strikes in my first 8 years as a teachers. There have been no NYC teacher strikes since 1975.
Let me say that I firmly believe there can be no major gains without a credible strike threat. But I don't believe we will see that here in NYC unless there are catastrophic cuts -- like a severe depression and attempts to cut current salaries.
I bring this 1975 strike story up because there are people in the UFT today who are saying the leadership should get the membership strike ready because the West Virginia and other red state strike are an example that UFT members might be ready to follow. The Taylor Law penalties is one reason why that won't happen here until NYC teachers are eating dog food like teachers in the red states.
I found this document as a remnant of the Sandy storm. It was addressed directly to me by then Chancellor Irving Anker on December 1, 1975. I forgot about the loss of tenure for a year.
There were also severe penalties on the UFT with fines and loss of dues checkoff for a period of time, which force the union to send many of its staffers back to schools. In the current age of Janus this would possibly eliminate the UFT and leave us without a union at all.
The thing about the 1975 strike was that it was wasted, with a union leadership not committed to the strike. Al Shanker led us over the Brooklyn Bridge in a massive march with the theme "we won't go back 'till we all go back." NOT. 15,000 didn't go back.
Shanker, who went to jail in a big show, helped bail out the city using our pensions and that created a climate of less penalties on the leadership which then accepted the layoffs of 15,000 people, the loss of preps, higher class sizes and the cutting of the school day twice a week. More cuts came the next year. Randi once told the DA that Shanker considered this strike his biggest mistake. But he never wanted to strike. I could tell at the big Del Ass where we took a strike vote. There was such militancy coming out of the schools he had to strike to maintain credibility but he had a plan to make sure there would never be such militancy again to over ride what the leadership really wanted -- which was to capitulate.
The UFT/Unity leadership had to teach us a lesson -- to never strike again. That was why when Randi held a strike vote at one point, we all laughed ourselves silly -- as did the city.
The lesson to me was to never trust the Unity Caucus leadership to talk about a strike.
The old Teachers for a Just Contract (TJC) - or as we called them - Teachers for Just a Contract -- used to call on the leadership to prepare people for a strike. I pushed back against that idea because the only way to bring up a strike was AFTER you replace Unity, not before -- witness our pals in Los Angeles who took over the union BEFORE talking strike. Same in Chicago.
I bring up because I hear calls for the current union leadership to create more militancy and strike prep out of the MORE caucus, which has come under the influence of the very same people who ran TJC.
Deja Vu all over again.
That MORE has also chosen to run alone in the upcoming UFT elections is a sign of giving up the battle to challenge Unity in a serious manner for the foreseeable future. I'll have more to say about the state of the opposition in future posts.