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UFT: Black Lives (Kinda) Matter

Union rejects Black Lives Matter proposal after leadership calls it a “splinter issue”

The governing body of the United Federation of Teachers, the union which represents over 120,000 educators working in New York City’s public schools, overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to officially endorse the Black Lives Matter movement earlier this month.

Members of UFT’s Movement of Rank & File Educators caucus offered a resolution in support of the upcoming Black Lives Matter Week of Action at a meeting of the union’s Delegate Assembly on January 17th.

UFT’s leaders strongly opposed the measure, describing the endorsement as a “splinter issue” that could divide the union at a time when it faces serious external threats. They also reminded the assembly that UFT has historically remained neutral on controversial political issues, such as the Vietnam War, which the union never officially opposed.

As is often the case, the Delegate Assembly voted in line with UFT leadership and the resolution was soundly defeated.

From the Facebook page of the Movement of Rank & File Educators caucus.

The irony of course is that the nation’s teachers unions – especially UFT’s parent organization, the American Federation of Teachers – have adopted the language of racial justice activism (and have appropriated the Black Lives Matter name) in an effort to deflect attention from their role in perpetuating the systems that deny black and brown children a proper education. AFT president Randi Weingarten has even gone so far as to describe the rise of charter schools as a form of modern-day segregation in an attempt to undermine one of the biggest threats to her union’s power in places like New York.

But UFT’s decision to pass on this “splinter issue” shows that their commitment to racial justice is only skin deep.

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Written by Peter Cook

Pete became involved in education reform as a 2002 Teach For America corps member in New Orleans Public Schools and has worked in various capacities at Teach For America, KIPP, TNTP, and the Recovery School District. As a consultant, he developed teacher evaluation systems and served as a strategic advisor to school district leaders in Cleveland, Nashville, Chattanooga, and Jefferson Parish, Louisiana. He now writes about education policy and politics and lives in New Orleans.

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