Analysis: A Coalition of Opposition Factions Is Looking to End a 60-Year Line of Leadership at NYC’s Teachers Union. Will It Succeed?
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Mike Antonucci’s Union Report is typically published on Wednesdays; check out the complete archive on his blog, EIAOnline.
In most American Federation of Teachers (AFT) chapters, the elected officers form a caucus, which is essentially an internal political party. For over six decades, the Unity Caucus has held exclusive control over the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) in New York City. However, an election is currently taking place to determine if their reign will continue.
United for Change has emerged as a coalition of various opposition groups seeking to challenge Unity’s control over the UFT. The outcome of this election and the extent of the challenge remain uncertain.
UFT President Michael Mulgrew is facing significant scrutiny. He has held the position since 2009, taking over after Randi Weingarten stepped down to focus on her role as AFT president. Mulgrew and Unity have typically relied on the support of retirees, which has led to comfortable victories in previous elections. However, this time, a substantial number of retirees are angry due to a UFT-approved plan that aimed to transition them from traditional Medicare to Medicare Advantage programs. A judge intervened by issuing an injunction against the plan, and subsequently sent it back to the city for revisions that would have nullified the anticipated cost savings, effectively killing the plan.
Despite these setbacks, many retirees remain furious, to the point where Mulgrew had to cancel a UFT event due to planned protests.
If you want to delve into the platforms, claims, and official positions of each caucus, you can visit their respective websites or social media pages. However, I recommend exploring two sites run by veteran union activists.
NYC Educator, managed by Arthur Goldstein, provides a unique perspective. Goldstein was previously a member of the opposition and a vocal critic of the Unity Caucus and what he called their "loyalty oath." He currently serves on the union’s executive board and is seeking re-election with Unity. In 2018, the opposition caucus he collaborated with undertook a sort of cleansing process, which left him disillusioned. Despite this, Goldstein offers insightful viewpoints from the Unity side, providing a reasonable understanding of the union’s environment.
On the other side of the debate is Norm Scott, the founder of Ed Notes, which began as a print publication in 1997, marking a significant year in teacher union coverage history. Scott taught in the city’s schools for over 30 years and holds a deep understanding of the evolution of the UFT. He has been actively involved with United for Change and has participated in numerous opposition movements within the union over the past 25 years. Scott is known for his consistently left-wing views. Similar to Goldstein, he is not a puppet of any specific group but offers a distinct perspective. He recognized early on that it was crucial for the union’s divergent caucuses to unite against common adversaries. However, Scott also acknowledges the fragility of such a coalition composed of disparate factions.
In my evaluation of the situation, I anticipate Unity will emerge victorious. The crucial question lies in how both sides will respond to a close contest. Will the opposition build on their momentum or disintegrate? Will Unity embrace reform or adopt stricter measures?
While these internal dynamics may seem inconsequential to the general public, they hold significant influence over how the union interacts with the city, schools, and the wider community. Hence, it is worth closely observing the situation, and NYC Educator and Ed Notes Online offer the best vantage points for doing so.
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