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The United Federation of Teachers (UFT) is the labor union that represents most educators in New York Citymarker public schools. , there were about 118,000 in-service educators and 17,000 paraprofessionals in the union, as well as about 54,000 retired members. In October 2007, 28,280 home day care providers voted to join the union, sending the UFT's total representation well past the 200,000 mark. It is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, the AFL-CIO and the Central Labor Council. It is also the largest member of New York State United Teachers, which is affiliated with the National Educational Association and Education International.


Two previous unions of New York schoolteachers, the Teachers Union, founded in 1916, and the Teachers Guild, formed in 1935 failed to gather widespread enrollment or support. Many of the early leaders were pacifists. Many were socialists that frequently met with clashes against more right leaning newspapers and organizations of the time as red-baiting was fairly common. The ethnically and ideologically diverse teachers associations of the city made the creation of a single organized body difficult since each association continued vying for their own best interests irrespective of the others.

The UFT was founded in 1960, largely in response to perceived unfairness in the educational system's treatment of teachers. Pensions only were awarded to retired teachers over 65 or with 35 years of service. Female teachers faced two years of mandatory unpaid maternity leave after giving birth. Principals could discipline or fire teachers with almost no oversight. The schools, experiencing a massive influx of Baby Boomer students, often were on double or triple session. Despite being college-educated professionals, often holding advanced master's degrees, teachers drew a salary of $66 per week - in 2005 dollars, the equivalent of $21,000 a year.

The UFT was created on March 16, 1960, and grew rapidly. On November 7 1960, the union organized a major strike. The strike largely failed in its main objectives but obtained some concessions, as well as bringing much popular attention to the union. After much further negotiation, the UFT was chosen as the collective bargaining organization for all City teachers in December 1961.

Albert Shanker, a controversial but successful organizer was president of the UFT from 1964 until 1974, when he became president of the larger AFT.

In 1968, the UFT went on strike and shut down the school system in May and then again from September to November to protest the decentralization plan that was being put in place to give more neighborhoods community control. The Ocean Hill-Brownsville strike focused on the Ocean Hill-Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn but, ironically, the schools in that area were among the only ones that were open in the entire city. The Ocean Hill-Brownsville crisis is often described as a turning point in the history of unionism and of civil rights as it created a rift between African-Americans and the Jewish communities, two groups that were previously viewed as allied. The two sides threw accusations of racism and anti-Semitism at each other.

The 1970s were a time of fiscal crisis for New York City. In 1975, some 14,000 teachers were laid off and class size soared. Another strike addressed some of these complaints and gave long-serving teachers longevity benefits.

Current Executives

President: Michael Mulgrew,Secretary: Michael Mendel,Assistant Secretary: Robert Astrowsky,Treasurer: Melvyn Aaronson,Assistant Treasurer: Mona Romain,Directors of Staff: Leroy Barr, Ellie EnglerVP of Elementary Schools: Karen Alford,VP of Junior High and Intermediate Schools: Richard Farkas,VP of Academic High Schools: Leo Casey,VP of Career and Technical High Schools: vacant,VP of Special Education: Carmen Alvarez,VP of Education Issues: Aminda Gentile

Current Issues

The former president of the UFT was Randi Weingarten resigned recently to devote her full efforts to the AFT. She has clashed repeatedly with the mayors of the city; in particular with former mayor Rudy Giuliani and current mayor Michael Bloomberg. The latter has controversially made student promotion to third, sixth and eighth grade contingent upon performance on standardized tests; the UFT opposes these plans and prefers the controversial practice of promoting students to ensure that they keep up with their age group, commonly known as ("social promotion").

The UFT opposes merit-based teacher pay opting for seniority-based pay but joined in November 2007, with Mayor Bloomberg in agreeing to a voluntary incentive program for high-achieving schools with high-needs populations.

The UFT strongly supports the reduction of class sizes for all subjects and grade levels in New York City public schools.

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