The United Federation of Teachers’ loyalty oath. Tolerating no dissent.


UFT President Michael Mulgrew. “I’ll punch you in the face if you try to take away my Common Core.”

Arthur Goldstein is a high school English teacher and chapter chair of the United Federation of Teachers at Francis Lewis High School. He could not be a delegate to the AFT convention in LA because he would not sign the UFT’s loyalty oath.

When a reader of this blog asked about the loyalty oath, Arthur sent along this article from the Port Jefferson Station Teachers Association, an affiliate of the AFT.

Unfortunately, NYSUT’s largest local, the UFT, does not conduct itself in this way. UFT elections are run with slates competing against each other. It is “winner take all”. Last year, for example, the Unity Caucus, who has run the UFT for half a century and rigged the system in their favor, ran candidates against the opposition caucuses. The MORE Caucus had significant support in their favor (in excess of 40% at the high school level). However because they did not have the largest number they ended up with zero of the UFT’s 800 NYSUT delegates. They literally have no voice at the state and national levels. In essence it would be as if our country voted either Republican or Democrat in elections. Winner taking every single position within government, with the winner also allowed to then structure the voting system to benefit them going forward. It’s insane.

As for this year’s NYSUT election, we know all 800 UFT-Unity Caucus members will vote as they are told to by their leadership. Posted at the bottom of this post is the invitation for Unity Caucus membership. You’ll see that it is invite only. Among the responsibilities…

To express criticism of caucus policies within the Caucus;
To support the decisions of Caucus / Union leadership in public or Union forums;
To support in Union elections only those individuals who are endorsed by the Caucus, and to actively campaign for his / her election;
To run for Union office only with the support of the caucus;
To serve, if elected to Union office, in a manner consistent with Union / Caucus policies and to give full and faithful service in that office;
In other words, you can only disagree with them in private, you must support them publicly, you must vote for the candidates they endorse, you will only run for an office with their blessing, when in that office you will do as you are told to do.

You can read the entire post here.

11 thoughts on “The United Federation of Teachers’ loyalty oath. Tolerating no dissent.

  1. It’s my hazy recollection that this tyranny-of-the-majority issue was why I voted against the merger that summer in New Orleans. I say hazy because it was also my first experience with Jell-O shots. There were a lot of bullsh*t arguments against the merger, but this one seemed important to me at the time. I don’t know if the merger would have helped public education or not; it might have. But it also might have just produced a louder, more definitive capitulation.

  2. NEA counts on non-participation, and resultant apathy. AFT brooks no dissent once you become a leader. I prefer the malfunction of the NEA, to be honest.

    1. In defense of AFT, and particularly UFT, we have an extraordinary level of non-participation as well. Fewer than 20% of working teachers voted in our last leadership election, and 52% of those who did bother voting were retirees. Such practices help keep out the riffraff.

      1. Arthur, I’ve read this before (in your blog, about the majority votes being that of the retirees), & I find it ironic that retirees in the IEA-R (Illinois Education Assoc.) are active (although may have voted less than actives) in all aspects relating to the good of the rank-&-file (e.g., supporting active teachers, speaking out against testing, C.C. & Duncan, etc., aside from the pension issue which certainly DOES affect actives as well as retirees, although our legislators would have us think not {& are, of course, attempting to pit us against each other!}). I am, indeed, sad that the UFT retirees are so…misinformed (& that’s a euphemism).

  3. This explains a lot. I’ve never been able to understand the dysfunctional paralysis that afflicts many education activists in AFT, especially from NY. They are all inflamed and righteous fighting against CCSS etc, but against Randi they really pull back and plead for unity and understanding. “Randi is in a hard place.” And all that. This makes so much sense. Self-preservation. Might be a new litmus test for networking activists – asking people you work for/with if they are in the AFT UNITY caucus. And if so, blow them off. They are of no value whatsoever.

  4. Fred
    The Unity Caucus elects leaders in contested elections, debates policies within the caucus and agrees to support decisions of the caucus in union wide elections. At the AFT Convention the Progressive Caucus supported nine of the 91 submitted resolutions. Political parties expect support, loyalty, from their members. That’s what a political party system is about… The NYS legislature functions the same way, say whatever you want within the “conference,” and support decisions on the floor.

    1. Sorry Ed in the Apple. Your vision of union democracy sounds more like the Chicago Democratic Machine. In fact, we just booted out a state legislator from my district who followed your idea of democracy and replaced her with an independent thinker. They both were Democrats. The winner was a Democrat who does not follow a party line. You folks should try it. You might enjoy it.

  5. Ed in the Apple is part of the miserable system that denies my members a voice in UFT, NYSUT, and AFT. It is unconscionable that I represent the largest school in Queens and I, thus we, get no voice in the union. My members selected me to represent them, and represent them I do. And in fact, were I to sign the loyalty oath, I still couldn’t represent them. It’s not in my members’ interest to support VAM, mayoral control, deteriorating seniority privileges, erosion of tenure, bad deals with Gates, Common Core, and all the other nonsense Ed and his fellow loyalty-oath bound brothers have brought us. Any chapter leader who signs a loyalty oath represents leadership, not membership. It’s time we let them know that democracy is ground up. And we will do that.

    1. I meant to say if I were to sign the loyalty oath I still couldn’t represent my members in UFT, NYSUT, or AFT. I certainly represent them in the building and in the press.

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