Why I’m Running With Unity in the UFT Leadership Elections
By Mike Schirtzer
The UFT election for our president, officers (VPs, treasurer etc) executive board and representatives to national and state conventions is arriving in your mail this week. I urge you to fill it out and vote. I’m running for re-election as an independent on the Unity slate (one of the two choices on your ballot) for the 102 member Executive Board to represent all DOE high schools. The executive board is similar to the senate or parliament. At these meetings we vote on union policies and endorsements and we report on challenges and successes within our schools and districts. The Unity slate is led by UFT President Michael Mulgrew and Vice-President of High Schools Janella Hinds.
Our union led by Unity caucus has fought for us and our students since the very first fearful days of the COVID pandemic up until the recent surges. When Mayor Deblasio first closed Broadway shows, but tried to force schools to stay open at the start of the pandemic, our union fought publicly to get schools moved to remote to keep our students and members safe. When we reopened in September 2021 and that same mayor tried to do so without any safety precautions from covid in place, our union prepared us for a strike and we won, we got some of the best protections and testing in place provided by the city. The union leadership fought for everyone who needed a medical exception to get one, they made sure almost no one was denied. Most of our members were able to work from home, earning their full salaries. UFT ensured every teacher and student that needed a device had one. Our union made sure those that wanted to be first for vaccines could get it, while other New Yorkers had to wait weeks. This is what leadership looks like. We reopened schools in September 2021 better and faster than other big cities across the nation thanks to the fierce advocacy of our union against politicians who never had our school’s best interests at heart. Then during the latest COVID surge, again the union stepped in. When we came back from the holiday break we had take home covid tests for every member and student, while others in NYC were lined up for hours. We were provided kn95 masks and increased PCR testing, again thanks to union action. We kept our schools open safely. We kept our children in the classroom learning and in their schools receiving the social emotional support they need. We kept our children with their friends, and the educators that support our students day in and day out.
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As an independent candidate that was elected on the Unity slate I have brought many causes to UFT meetings on behalf of members of different political beliefs and opposition groups within our union. I work hard to bring together our members in order to ensure the strength of our union. I am a dad, a teacher, a kid from Brooklyn who grew up in poverty, and graduate of of our public schools and CUNY. I bring that background to my teaching and union work. A few times I have been the lone voice of dissent at executive board meetings, losing votes 101-1, but still there to voice a minority opinion. Most times I agree with our union leadership, just recently I worked with our Vice President of High
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Schools Janella Hinds to make it union policy to advocate for Regents scoring to be done in our home schools so we don’t have to be sent out to other places. It’s working relationships like this that make our union stronger than all others. We have great benefits and a good salary, especially compared to those elsewhere. Our contract is expiring and we will negotiate a new one. I want to continue to bring your concerns, no matter your politics, to our union leadership on a regular basis and ensure our new contract has good raises for all our members. With your vote I will still be able to bring my independent, class room voice to the union at executive board and delegate assemblies.
I have many good friends from this school and across the city running on the other slate United for Change, led by my friend Camille Eterno. I really hope you take a few minutes ( or more) to do your research and choose a slate (candidates) you agree with and most importantly mail in your ballot. We want to keep our union strong and that only happens with your participation.
I'm voting for Schirtzer this month. I think you should too.