It's UFT Election Season

Ballot with X for RA

Retiree Advocate/UFT is running against Unity caucus in the Retired Teachers Chapter elections this May. In the coming campaign you will hear Tom Murphy and Michael Mulgrew tell you that Retiree Advocate/UFT is somehow anathema to Union. You will hear that we are working with forces that would destroy unions. That is not merely speculation on my part. We've already been hearing it from both of them at RTC meetings, Delegate Assemblies, Executive Board meetings, and virtual town halls.

Of course, nothing could be farther from the truth. We are the union. We are the grassroots, rank-and-file members who make the UFT strong, and we know how to do something that the Unity caucus has stopped doing a long time ago: We know how to fight, and we know how to organize.

Retiree Advocate/UFT is working with grass-roots union retiree groups from across the city: police, fire, DC-37, plumbers, carpenters, CUNY professors, electricians, nurses, and city administrators. These are our union brothers and sisters. These are members of Marianne Pizzitola's NYC Organization of Public Service Retirees, whose lawsuits have stopped the city from dumping us into Medicare Advantage. These are activists from groups like the Cross-union Retirees Organizing Committee, that have organized rallies, demonstrations, and political actions in collaboration with Retiree Advocate/UFT. That's Union.

Yet, you will hear Tom Murphy and Michael Mulgrew disparage us by saying that we're engaging in politics, as if politics isn't serious, as if politics is a bad word.

Have you been to an RTC meeting lately? If you have, you've seen Murphy and Mulgrew roll their eyes at our healthcare questions. You've heard them accuse us of making speeches. They call us the crazies. They avoid our questions as often as they can, and they condescend to us when they can't. They fill our chapter meetings with mind-numbing fluff, with slide show after slide show, and with endless homages to themselves. RTC meetings have turned into one big insurance company infomercial. They infantilize us. They treat us like we're taking our last breaths and that political debate will kill us.

But wait a minute: We are very much alive, very capable of debate, and we are engaging in politics. We are proudly engaging in politics. We are engaging in politics just like Michael Mulgrew does every time he opens his mouth. We are engaging in straight up union politics, as is our right and is our imperative. We are retirees and we no longer have a contract with the city, but we do have a social contract with our union leaders - a contract to keep their promises and protect our health benefits. Michael Mulgrew and Tom Murphy are not honoring that contract, and if challenging them on that is called "politics" well yeah, it's politics.

We spent our careers in the union and we pay union dues, even in retirement. We lobby for the union, we canvass for the union, and we love the union. We raised union families and we taught our children union values. We kept the union functioning in good times and in bad, and now more than ever we need a union that is responsive to us. We need a union that keeps its promises to us. Michael Mulgrew is supposed to work for us, not us for him. Tom Murphy is supposed to represent us, not the insurance companies.

And unlike the patronage professionals of the Unity caucus, we spent our entire careers in the overcrowded classrooms, the cramped therapists' closets, the ill-equipped nurses’ stations, and the public-facing secretarial desks of the NYC public schools. We did the beautiful, messy, down in the trenches, glorious, real work of teaching the children of this city. We didn't merely talk the talk; we walked the walk. We didn't bolt the classroom for a gig at a UFT office. We are not of the privileged class of patronage employees who swore a loyalty oath - not to Union, but to a faction - so they could be whisked from their classrooms and transported to the childless offices at 52 Broadway.

We did the work. It is the Unity leadership who are detached from the life of the union. It is they who are convinced of their own righteous infallibility. It is the patronage professionals of the UFT Building who have lost their way. Unity fights for Unity jobs and patronage perks. We fight for our healthcare and our lives. The Unity caucus is out of touch with union values, union democracy, and union reality. And it is the Unity caucus that will find itself on the short end of the ballot box in the Retired Teachers Chapter election this spring.

Bennett Fischer is the Retiree Advocate/UFT candidate for RTC Chapter Leader