Back in the fall of 2011, we reported on a “Lively election contest in [the] Newark Teachers Union” (UDR No. 193). American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Local 481 in Newark, New Jersey hadn’t had a seriously contested election in 14 years and the local leaders had lost their formerly aggressive edge when standing up for teachers. In response, two opposition slates, United for Change and Newark Teachers United, ran against the incumbents. Although the incumbent leaders, calling themselves Solidarity Again, prevailed, the challengers picked up over one third of the nearly 1,500 votes cast.
With elections approaching again this June, another group of challengers has stepped up to the plate, hoping to bring union democracy back to the local. The Newark Education Workers (NEW) Caucus includes a number of members who were formerly part of United for Change and aims to improve schools through involvement with the community at large. Their stated goals are:
The revitalization of the NTU as a force for social justice in Newark. The defense of public education from privatization and the support of market-free solutions to transform public education. The establishment of genuine solidarity with education workers and the Newark community to improve living and working conditions in the city.
Since September of 2012, the NEW Caucus has been publishing NEW Views, a newsletter that includes articles that express solidarity with educators throughout the United States, critiques of top-down evaluation systems, balance of power issues, threats to public education, and relevant book reviews.
On June 1, 2013, the NEW Vision Slate hopes to have the opportunity to change the direction of the NTU by giving Newark student the schools they deserve, giving members a voice in their union, fighting for a contract that defends professional standards, and building connections with the greater Newark community. Their statement reads, in part:
For true social and economic justice to be realized […] it is imperative for education workers to see that their efforts cannot stop when the school day ends. As powerful corporate forces and the politicians who benefit from their donations attack the working class, we must take affirmative steps to link our teachers’ union to other unions being attacked and to working class people in the city and beyond […] If they win in June, the NEW Caucus sayse it plans to take immediate action to help the Newark public school system work on behalf of the students for economic and social justice.