Welcome back. I hope that you had a restful February recess.
As you may have already heard, last Friday a Facebook group called Rochester Organization of Rank and File Educators (RORE), that includes some RTA members, called for a one-day teacher strike on March 6th. A really bad idea. Like you, RTA officers had no prior indication that they would do this and we only learned about it afterwards through the media. I want you to know that RTA does not support this reckless and negligent proposal.
Under New York State law, there are serious consequences for teachers who participate in a strike or sick-out: the risk of losing two days’ pay for each day out, putting their job or teaching license in jeopardy, or “other disciplinary action provided by law.” Apparently RORE plans to circulate strike sign-up sheets in the schools. You should know that just signing such a document, and then being absent from school on that day, may be considered as proof of participation in a strike and subject you to similar consequences.
This does not mean that we do not believe in the right of workers to withhold their labor. We do. But such a serious collective action must be made with you, not for you. Our process requires that the RTA Representative Assembly, our union’s only policy-making body, must first recommend it to our members. And then, the overwhelming majority of the entire RTA membership must vote to give or not to give the RTA the authorization to call a strike. We are not at that point now. And if we ever are, it would still be wrong for RORE or anyone else to do an end-run on your duly elected union and to substitute their judgement for yours.
The divisiveness caused by RORE comes at a time that we need unity the most. We have just suffered devastating mid-year cuts and are potentially facing additional reductions, as well. Our best hope to fight these threats is if we retain our solidarity. Our greatest danger is if we turn on each other.
I know that teachers want what students need. I also realize that these are very tough times for us. All the more reason to stay united and to get involved, through our union, in helping our common cause. With your unswerving support, we will continue our drive for a more genuine profession for ourselves and more effective schools for all our students.
Adam Urbanski, RTA President