Wednesday, February 1, 2023

The UFT Teach-in. Part 1: The Untrained Eye

This has been adapted from a thread on Twitter.  You can read the original thread here. 

To the untrained eye, it sure looked like the NYC teacher union held a teach-in on Monday. While the final tally isn’t in yet, sources inside the UFT say that teachers in more than 500 schools participated in the event. 500! For proof that this is remarkable, consider this: Sources in the DOE have long mentioned that the average school in NYC serves app 800 students. Rough estimate:a school that size is served by been 70-100 staffers who are also UFT members. If only 1/2 of each staff participated, then 17,500 people were part of this teach-in.

For more proof that the event was remarkable, consider that a city-wide event such as this hasn’t occurred since the days Albert Shanker ran the union (that’s 3 UFT presidents, 4 decades 8 US presidents ago. It’s been that long). This was remarkable.

That untrained eye may have noticed news stories covering the event. Here’s one:

And here is another. It is noteworthy that teachers having lunch together made the news.

It is also important to remember. Lunch … will make the news, if you can get enough teachers there.

That the event has garnered enough attention to be covered by the news is one thing. But the depictions coming from the news outlets bare mentioning as well. There is something about teachers coming together that captures the imagination. Here is one example of this that City and State chose to publish:

“People at this moment are paying attention to the world around them and we see a lot of workers in motion,” said Amy Arundell, UFT borough representative for Queens and an organizer for Monday’s teach-ins. “People are saying I want to be in motion too, I want to participate in my own survival as a worker and as an educator and make things better for myself and for my students.” 

In the weeks leading up to the event, more than 1,000 teachers had volunteered their own time to be trained on how to conduct a teach-in back at their schools. This should be mentioned here too.

That is 1.3% of the entire NYC teaching force. They were so fed up about teacher pay that they stood up to be leaders (not participants, but leaders) back at their schools and lead their colleagues in the all too familiar struggle for a fair wage. The untrained eye might have missed that fact, but it doesn’t really matter. When between 17,500 & 34,000 UFT members or more (including 73% of all members out in Queens) participate in a teach in for a contract for teachers, folks notice. They notice perfectly well.

What the untrained eye saw is perfectly accurate. But there are trained eyes in NYC politics too. Those trained eye saw something very different on Monday. And only those trained eyes know full well what actually occurred. I'll talk about that in Part 2.

Click here for the blog version of Part 2. The Flex


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