"The UFT, Then and Now" by Yelena Siwinski

    I was downstairs when I heard what Yelena describes here. John Yanno's resolution, followed by Leroy Barr's scare tactic (Fiorillo often says that in most unions it is the boss who uses scare tactics but in the UFT it is the union leadership), the voting down of Yanno's resolution overwhelmingly, followed by Altomare's description of the early days of the union and the guts it took to build it. I thought I was hearing Altomare supporting Yanno. But it was a different resolution- to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the UFT. And it passed overwhelmingly. Yelena came out spitting fire at the outrageous contradiction. Here is the result.

    The UFT, Then and Now

    by Yelena Siwinski
    Chapter Leader, PS 193k

    On my father's first day on the job he was on strike. It was September 1966, he had three young children and a wife who wasn't working. He had a mortgage, no car, and he never went on vacation. He was a New York City public high school teacher and it was because of him, and others like him, that the UFT has gained many of the rights and benefits that teachers have today.

    During the new motion period at the March 24 UFT Delegate Assembly, John Yanno proposed a motion for next month's agenda to mobilize the membership for our current contract fight. He included the dreaded words," job actions" in his resolution.

    Leroy Barr, UFT Staff Director, immediately jumped up to oppose it (as he usually does for any type of mobilization such as a rally) because he claimed that if we chose to engage in a job action, which he intentionally interpreted to mean a strike (there are other types of job actions), we could lose the contract we already have.

    Those present overwhelmingly voted with Leroy to defeat the motion.

    Immediately after the motion was defeated, one of the UFT's founding fathers, George Altomare, rose to motivate a resolution celebrating the 50th anniversary of the UFT. He spoke of the courage it took for him and Abe Levine, and many other early UFT members to go out on strike all those years ago when they could have all been fired; how conditions were worse than they are today.

    Maybe he didn't know my father, but by unanimously passing the resolution to celebrate the UFT's 50th anniversary, our assembly honored him as well as George and the other early members.

    Did no one in the Delegate Assembly notice the hypocrisy of these two actions just minutes apart? While applauding the courage of our predecessors the Unity dominated DA clearly chose not to follow in their footsteps. Does Michael Mulgrew encourage those he leads to be unquestioning followers devoid of any passion or courage?

    Earlier in our meeting he tried to rally those present to fight the education cuts that the New York State legislators are planning. I guess our group is able to do things like make a phone call, fax our senators, and meet with them cooperatively. Just don't ask us to do anything too strenuous, anything that takes too much guts. That's pretty much reserved for a bygone time that we can romanticize about and drink cocktails over as we celebrate the hard work of those who are not us and will never be unless there are drastic changes to the thinking of our leadership.

    Yelena Siwinski is running for Vice President of the Elementary Schools on the ICE-TJC slate. John Yanno is running for Executive Board at-large.

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"The UFT, Then and Now" by Yelena Siwinski

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