UFT Members Call on President Mulgrew to Rescind Support for Amazon in NYC

UFT Members Call on President Mulgrew to Rescind Support for Amazon in NYC

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Movement of Rank and File Educators/UFT started this petition to Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE/UFT)

Dear UFT President Michael Mulgrew,

Since Mayor DeBlasio and Governor Cuomo announced on November 13th, 2018 that Amazon would locate its HQ2 in Long Island City Queens, working-class New Yorkers have been up in arms. They’ve marched through the city, attended City Council Hearings, rallied at the proposed site for HQ2, lobbied their city and state representatives, and spoke to their friends and family. Throughout all this, their message has been clear: New York Doesn’t Want Amazon.

You recently signed onto the Open Letter to Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos. In the letter, you argued that New Yorkers did indeed want HQ2, despite the mass mobilization of New Yorkers that is evidence to the contrary. You explained away this resistance as nothing more than a reflection of a New York culture that is “rough”, “not very welcoming” and with strong opinions, all the while completely erasing the real consequences that HQ2 will have for working-class people in this city.

In light of these consequences, your signature on the Open Letter to Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos is appalling and outrageous. It reflects a union leadership that is out of touch with the working-class people it claims to serve. It reflects a leadership that sees itself more as part of the corporate financial elite than amongst working people.

We expect more from our union leadership.  

We expect our union leadership to reject a company that has a documented history of decades of abuses against workers and whose executives vehemently oppose unionization for its over 600,000 employees, despite active union drives here in NYC. Amazon raised its minimum wage to $15 only after being pressured by the Fight for Fifteen movement and shamed by Bernie Sanders, but we know that workers need a union to guarantee decent pay and provide a voice on the job - not to mention health and other benefits. It speaks volumes to UFT members about the interests of our union leadership when you side with anti-worker companies like Amazon.

We expect our union leadership to reject a development plan that would lead to skyrocketing rents and displacement in a Queens community already experiencing an affordability crisis. Half of our students come from families who struggle to meet their basic needs for shelter, food, and medical care. Many of them who live in Queens would be forced to relocate as rents increase. Across the city UFT members and others in education are unfairly blamed for poor academic indicators that are affected by the housing crisis. In the 2017-2018 school year, 114,659 of our K-12 students were homeless and one-in-ten lived in temporary shelters. The affordable housing crisis also impacts services in our schools and our jobs. Across the city, existing communities, disproportionately communities of color, are being displaced by more affluent families that are less likely to use local public schools. As a result school staff are often excessed, depriving remaining students of arts, physical education and the full range of educational opportunities and support services. Many UFT members are also finding it increasingly difficult to afford living near their schools or even within the five boroughs. 

We have only to look to Seattle, Washington to predict the consequences of allowing Amazon into our community. Seattle went from having 35% in housing costs to 115% with a unprecedented increase in homelessness. 

We expect our leadership to reject a company that contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), an agency so brazen that it snatches up parents dropping their children off at school. Amazon has entered into multi-million dollar contracts to provide technologies for ICE, and Amazon provides services to the companies whose technologies are the backbone to ICE’s operations. With Amazon’s help, ICE’s tactics have become increasingly aggressive, raiding homes in our communities and detaining people in sensitive locations such as housing, family, and criminal courts. Inviting Amazon into our city communicates that we do not want our schools and our city to be safe places for our students and their families.

We expect our union leadership to value democracy and democratic participation by rejecting a plan whose massive incentive package to attract HQ2 was negotiated behind closed doors, with no input from directly impacted communities or elected officials. When factoring in the billions in subsidies that New York would have offered Amazon, support for this deal is reduced to less than 50%. Neither the governor, mayor, nor our union leadership should assume that they know better than the people who will be directly impacted by the creation of HQ2. In the same manner, you signed onto this letter without consultation from rank and file members of the union. It’s ironic that most recent UFT Chapter leader update encourages us to use “our collective voice to strengthen our schools and communities and to improve our working lives” because your actions show a complete disregard for schools, communities, and union members.

We will not be silent. When the leadership does not consult its membership it is evident that there is no democracy in the union. When union leadership ignores the voices of the people it claims to represent, that leadership has lost its legitimacy. When a union leadership acts against the interest of working-class people, that leadership needs to be replaced.

As a result, we call on you to rescind your signature from this letter immediately.

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