Open Letter to UFT President Michael Mulgrew
To the Honorable Mr. Michael Mulgrew:
My name is Michael Kane. I am a special education teacher, UFT member, and steering committee member for an emergency union caucus known as “TEACHERS FOR CHOICE.” I am writing to kindly request that we meet to discuss a coming existential crisis for our union as well as all teachers’ unions across the country.
Before discussing that I would like you to know I have always been a huge supporter of you and your leadership of the UFT. There is no other individual I have ever voted for to be our union president other than yourself. You bravely saw us through “the dark ages” of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, negotiated a contract that paid us lost backpay from that dark era, and artfully altered Governor Cuomo’s plans to rate teachers entirely on high-stakes test scores. These are only a select few of your noteworthy accomplishments as the head of the UFT in NYC for over a decade.
The COVID crisis presents the greatest challenge to your tenure as our union president and, quite frankly, I would not want to be in your shoes at this moment in history. I can only imagine how difficult your days and nights have been.
However, there is another crisis brewing that may threaten the very existence of our union and all American teachers’ unions. The mandated testing in NYC schools has given us a small taste of that crisis, but this is not an existential threat at all. There were, and are, some problems in how the city rolled out its testing regime. Our TEACHERS FOR CHOICE caucus has sued the NYC DOE over one of these issues in particular and won a court ordered stipulation written by our attorney Michael Sussman. Nevertheless whatever comes of these issues will be worked out one way or the other over time.
When it comes to the COVID vaccine there most certainly is a very real existential crisis that is approaching. Almost every other union boss in NYC has come out and said they will NOT require their members to be injected with this vaccine to keep their jobs. It is perplexing and sad to say that you Mr. Mulgrew seem to stand alone in NYC as not advocating for your membership on this critical issue of choice.
To be clear TEACHERS FOR CHOICE fully supports every teacher who makes the decision with their doctor to get the COVID vaccine. For many teachers this is the best health decision for them to make. However we are also 100% opposed to anyone being forced to get this vaccine to keep their job (especially educators).
On November 23rd at a UFT virtual townhall meeting you stated that the coming COVID vaccine was likely to be mandatory for teachers. Since you made such statements, our petition against forced vaccine mandates for educators jumped from 4,000 signatures to nearly 17,000. Now many of our supporters view you and your leadership as a direct threat to them, their livelihood and their health. Even educators who enthusiastically desire to get the vaccine do not want their employment to be predicated upon it. Because of this I am receiving a growing number of communications from UFT members asking me if they should stop paying union dues. Our organizational answer to this so far has been NO!
I am now, and always have been, a Progressive Unionist.
I was an elected union delegate for five years. I attended four UFT Lobby Days in Albany where I represented the UFT legislative agenda with 100% support and agreement. I have attended multiple UFT sponsored protests, especially during the dark ages of the Bloomberg era. I voted YES at the Delegate Assembly for the historic contract you negotiated with Chancellor Carmen Farina. I volunteered at UFT phone banks to get out the vote for UFT endorsed candidates. I was deputized by my current chapter leader to educate the UFT staff at my school on the dangers of the Janice Supreme Court decision designed to bust unions. I am very proud that 100% of the staff at my school stuck with the union and I was a big part of making that a reality.
Now, because teachers fear the UFT is supporting the forced injection of experimental medical products into their muscle tissue to keep their job, there is a growing resistance not only to this one area of failure by the UFT but to the entirety of the union. This is very dangerous to all teachers in America. The UFT has protected its membership excellently for decades; from Al Shanker all the way up to yourself Mr. Mulgrew. I implore you to continue protecting those who pay your salary and fund the existence of the union. The only way to do this is to protect your members’ rights to choose the medical procedures they do and do not consent to.
Again I kindly request that we meet to discuss ways that we can work together to avoid this extremely dangerous existential crisis for our union and rank-and-file membership.
Thank you so much for your time, consideration and efforts.
Founder & steering committee member, http://www.nyteachersforchoice.org
(letter sent to Michael Mulgrew at 5:18pm on January 6, 2020)