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Op-Ed: Ryan Bruckenthal, UFT Delegate and Union Activist, Responds
By Ryan Bruckenthal, NYC Educator and UFT Delegate
Editor’s note: The following post was submitted by UFT delegate, Ryan Bruckenthal, who asked an opportunity to respond to a recent op-ed by an anonymous author here at ‘The Wire’.
At The Wire, we try to allow for a diverse range of opinions from NYC educators from the various caucuses, groups and activists in our union. It by no means we endorse a specific viewpoint.
We believe this issue has a multitude of serious implications, passionate and varying perspectives that should be shared without antisemitic or Islamophobic hate, through civil and democratic discourse.
In a recent article that was posted to the Educators of NYC online blog "The Wire," an anonymous writer shared their opinion about my recent proposed amendment to the "Resolution to Promote Humanitarianism in the Middle East" at the UFT Delegate's Assembly this past Wednesday. Some of what the writer states is their valid opinion, but I take two big issues with their depiction of my proposal that I believe warrant a response.
First, and I believe the most important and glaringly inaccurate, is the accusation that my proposed amendment was "one-sided". My proposed amendment was to add additional language to an existing base level resolution (Agenda Item #1). This means that if passed, the language of the proposed base level resolution would have remained, and one additional "resolved" would have been added calling for a ceasefire. The writer's written depiction of my proposed amendment is pretty close to what I actually proposed, but for readers, it was "Resolved, the United Federation of Teachers joins the growing number of American unions calling for an immediate ceasefire and end to fighting in the region and; be it further" (with the ending so as to be grammatically correct in the style of resolutions leading into the next resolve).
Meaning, the call for releasing Israeli hostages that was in the baseline resolution would still be included in an amended resolution. It is therefore incorrect to say that the proposed amendment was "one-sided" or lacking the call for releasing the hostages. This is how amendments to resolutions during a Roberts Rules of Order run assembly works. Additionally, the debate during this month's Delegate's Assembly comes after the ratification of the "Resolution to support an end to the cycle of violence in the middle east" (see here) from last month's DA which explicitly condemns the Hamas attacks of October 7. My proposed amendment did not call for the removal of any language from any previously passed or currently proposed resolutions, or mark an about-face from our union's previously proclaimed positions; it was merely seeking to move forward progressively to add language to attempt to intervene and stop an ongoing catastrophe.
Furthermore, in my spoken motivation for my proposed amendment on Wednesday, I believe I made it quite clear about where I stand as an American progressive Jew who cares deeply about the cause of human rights, equality, and solidarity. Perhaps this is "TMI" (too much information) but I cried after the carnage of October 7, and I have continued to cry nearly every night when I get home and see videos of yet another Palestinian baby, son, daughter, mother, father, grandmother, or grandfather displaced, mutilated, and killed. We must be able to recognize and affirm the humanity of everyone, regardless of whether or not they look like us, speak the same language, or practice their religion in the same way as us. A "one-sided" resolution would not do this, my proposed amendment did.
I believe that calls for a ceasefire (quite literally the cessation or ending of fighting) are absolutely in line with the wording of the proposed baseline resolution, and I think it is a shame that the anonymous writer and others speak or write about it being "divisive," "one-sided," or somehow even "antisemitic" or "a victory for Hamas"!
Either we are talking past each other, or people are being disingenuous. I hope it is the former, I sometimes fear it is the latter.
My second big issue with this writer's account of this past Wednesday is their depiction of myself and my resolution in purely internal UFT factional terms.
Yes, I am a member of the Movement of Rank and File Educators, a caucus within the UFT and I am committed to helping build our union into an even more powerful and democratic vehicle to fight for the schools that NYC students deserve. And yes, many other MORE Delegates and Chapter Leaders supported my amendment and even spoke in support of it. But I never introduced myself as speaking in the capacity of being a MORE member, and in all sincerity, I very deliberately work with any and all UFT members who share my values and vision for our union, regardless of whatever caucus they may or may not belong to. I have had the opportunity to meet and work with my sisters, brothers, and siblings from across our union and across the caucus divide, and I hope those who know me know my sincerity around this question.
I am deeply opposed to sectarian factionalism, and my goal on Wednesday was to speak to what I perceive as a large and growing constituency of the union who care deeply about the cause of peace and justice. Given that almost half of the DA voted in favor of the amendment (44% if I am not mistaken), clearly there are many others not in MORE who support this same goal. I cannot help but wonder about the anonymous writer's ulterior motives of portraying my resolution the way that they did, but I hope that I clear the record in regards to myself and my goals.
And I agree with the writer in that I accept the result of the body's vote. My proposed amendment did not pass. I think it's a shame, but I move on respecting the will of the majority. And I hope that UFT members, Delegates, Chapter Leaders, and others continue to engage in open minded dialogue with one another, for the bloodshed will certainly only continue until people of the world are successful in demanding an end to it. I will continue to do whatever I can to work towards peace, and I hope others do too. As far as the position of the union on this and similar questions, I may be disappointed now, but I am optimistic for the future.
Finally, I would be remiss to not mention that although the writer decided to write their article with anonymity, by explicitly naming me I suppose they did not think I deserve the same right. Luckily I am not ashamed of my words nor of my beliefs, and I believe that history will vindicate those currently fighting for peace. Specifically to the writer, or to others who may agree with them at this point in time, I would ask that if you seriously care about building our union together, introduce yourself to me at the next delegate assembly. I am more than happy to talk through our commonalities and differences with goodwill and the camaraderie we should show one another in our union. Online polemic does not build our union or broader movements for social justice, only recognizing our common struggle and common humanity does.
Ryan Bruckenthal is a high school special education teacher and UFT Delegate
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