Sunday, August 23, 2020

Strike or Die- It’s Our Choice

By special guest Mike Schirtzer

The United Federation of Teachers is preparing to call a strike--not because we want to, but because we have to. Too many lives are at stake. The Mayor of the City of New York has put together plans that lack clarity and fail to contain any input from the most important stakeholders; our members, school administrators, custodians, cafeteria workers, nurses, or even parents. This mayor is sending our members and the students we serve into harm's way. We have a moral responsibility to not allow him to do so.

The decent salary that UFT members earn, our health benefits, sick days, class size limits, a duty free lunch and a prep period, the grievance process which protects both our members and students—all of these were forged by those that came before us and their willingness to strike when need be. Yes, we all have bills to pay, mouths to feed and family members to care for. But we can’t do that when our very safety is put at risk, as it is now. 

Do union members or their elected leaders wake up in the  morning and say, “Wow, today is a good day to strike!” Of course not. We have been pushed to the brink by a mayor that has offered careless and reckless plans in his utter disregard for our public school system. And now, when called out on his insufficient plan, he’s become vindictive, trying to bully us back into an unsafe workplace.

Look at this link
to see how many of our own died from this horrible infectious disease. Are you willing to sacrifice more lives? Apparently the mayor is. Strikes come at a price, but it is the most important tool that we have as a union  It’s not one we use lightly, but when we must, we use it together. 

We all have a choice, We can choosee to work at charter schools or private schools or districts around the nation that lack union rights, which I'd argue were basic human rights. Your contract, your rights, your medical insurance, retirement, tenure and salary that come with our great profession didn’t come by chance. It wasn’t bestowed upon you when you chose to become a NYC teacher, paraprofessional, counselor, librarian, secretary or other employee of the DOE. 

Our rights came from those that struggled, fought and went on strike, so we could walk into a career that offers fair working conditions. Now is our time to step up and do the same, to show the city that we are strong together, that our voice matters, and that we will absolutely not compromise when our safety, along with that of our students, families and communities, is not taken seriously.

Our union and all unions were built on the belief that an injury to one is an injury to all. The sacrifice you would make for your loved ones  is the sacrifice we take on for our union brothers and sisters ask of you.

Will we let another UFT member die? Will we let another of our family members die?

Will we allow our students to walk into conditions that aren’t safe or secure? Will we allow them to risk the health of their family members if they are unsymptomatic?

Will we let a mayor that refuses to work with the teachers, principals or parents of NYC force open schools that have no business being open?

We joined a union. This means we never walk alone and when we stand, we stand together.

Solidarity forever.
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