Monday, December 05, 2016


In the weekly Update for Chapter Leaders, the UFT claimed the November 21 Day of Action to protect our students and communities was a success. I have no problem with the UFT declaring that the protests were a positive first step in the fight to save our way of life but how about a day or week or month or year or lifetime of action for our beleaguered members?

We are in the fight to save our way of life right about now. We are facing unprecedented attacks against us. ICE spent hours talking about our uncertain future at our meeting Friday evening.

If UFT leadership is going to be up front with the rank and file, we have not had much success as UFT members in a long time. UFT leaders need to start speaking up loudly for our own members who are under attack in the schools.

People in multiple schools who are overwhelmed with absurd paperwork requirements and are feeling heat on a daily basis from abusive administrators and sometimes out of control students are not feeling supported by the UFT in too many cases. Protecting our members must be the top UFT priority.

How about starting with protests at schools for our members who feel they are under fire on a daily basis?

I am glad the union is doing something for our communities. However, I really hope to see the general tone at UFT HQ change to a more angry, militant one on behalf of the membership.

It should be noted that the lead story in the weekly Update was one critical of Betsy DeVos, President Elect Donald Trump's pro-voucher anti-public education choice for Secretary of Education. Maybe we will fight back.

Excerpt From the UFT weekly Chapter Leader Update
Thanks to you, Day of Action was a success
We would like to thank all the chapter leaders who led their school communities in the Nov. 21 Day of Action to assure our school communities that every child, regardless of ethnic background, gender identity, faith or immigration status, has the right to feel safe in our public schools. On this day, UFT members took various actions to demonstrate their commitment to their students and families. Many took photos and shared them on social media, including Twitter. The UFT Facebook album featured photos submitted by 71 schools. The UFT Instagram account (@uftny) also features many photos from the day. As we move forward, we will continue to affirm that our schools are safe havens for learning. We will work with those who share our values — including parent and community groups and civil rights and immigrant rights associations — because we know we are more powerful when we stand together.

Saturday, December 03, 2016


NYSUT, our statewide union, is a little clearer than usual this week on how they feel about the direction of federal education policy. NYSUT President Karen Magee spends her entire weekly column in the NYSUT Leader Briefing critical of the regulations Secretary of Education John King wrote to implement the new Every Child Succeeds Act.

Her best line is when she affirms NYSUT's support for parents opting their kids out of taking state exams. NYSUT has officially supported opt-out but not exactly very loudly. Punitive action is still in the regulations if 95% of kids in a district don't take state tests. Magee even refers to King's tenure in New York as "disastrous."  We're all still waiting to hear what the UFT leadership thinks. I didn't see any reaction in the weekly update for Chapter Leaders. Will the UFT finally support opt out? I doubt it.

I recall when UFT leader Michael Mulgrew praised former New York State Education Commissioner John King and then asked him to arbitrate what turned out to be the horrific NYC teacher evaluation system King ended up imposing on us.  

Please read what President Magee now says and listen to her radio interview. Bianca Tanis from New York State Allies for Public Education is interviewed too and is worth a listen. She and another guest go into some detail about the future of public education in the Donald Trump era.

Please let us know what you think.

Karen's notes: Out of the frying pan and into the inferno

The final Every Student Succeeds Act regulations look a lot like the draft regs U.S. Education Secretary John King -- yeah, that guy -- promulgated earlier this year. When the White House and Congress came up with the ESSA law, which was carried with bipartisan support, we were excited by the opportunity to leave behind the destructive test-and-punish tenets of the old No Child Left Behind era.
But led by King, who had a disastrous tenure as New York State's education chief, the federal DOE drafted regulations that are a misinterpretation of the intent of the law. They are almost a step back.

The law's intent was to promote fair funding, curb high-stakes testing and return more power to the states. But the secretary has always had trouble following legislative intent as he implemented regulations. We saw it here in New York, and we are seeing it again now, as the secretary proposes punitive measures for school districts that do not submit at least 95 percent of their students to the onerous testing process. Far from curbing high-stakes testing, the secretary's interpretation is to double down on this failed policy.

These regs will not do anything to stem the opt-out movement. As you know, NYSUT firmly supports parents' rights to decide whether their children are subjected to the state tests, and we will continue to do so.

Of course, the irony is, King won't be in his job for long. President-elect Trump has nominated billionaire anti-public school activist Betsy DeVos to be his secretary of education. This is taking us from the frying pan into the inferno. The inexperienced DeVos would defund and dismantle public education by pushing charter schools -- a failed experiment in her home state of Michigan -- and private school vouchers, which undermine public schools that serve all kids.

For more on NYSUT's significant concerns, listen to my conversation with statewide radio host Susan Arbetter.

In this time of massive change at the national level, we must continue to communicate on the issues as we defend public education and call out those who attack it. Our progress statewide shows us the way forward.

Thursday, December 01, 2016


If anyone is in Midtown Manhattan on Friday, at 4:00 P.M. the Independent Community of Educators (ICE) will be meeting to discuss the UFT in Trump-world and other issues impacting on us. It should be a very interesting discussion.

The ICE conversations are usually very enlightening although sometimes they seem as though they never end.

Just email at if you are interested in attending.

Judging from the comments we are receiving, our work is certainly cut out right about now.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016


NYC Educator's report of the most recent UFT Executive Board meeting shows that very little is changing at 52 Broadway.

We need some bold strategies from the leadership in the face of the pretty much guaranteed bleak future under President Donald Trump with anti-union laws and an anti-labor National Labor Relations Board.

Add to that some anti-union Supreme Court Justices and at some point in the next year or two we should have a Friedrichs II case that will take from public sector unions their right to collect union dues from people who don't want to join the union.

A smart union would be using the time now before the storm to seriously organize and mobilize its members.

Will that happen? I wish I could be optimistic.

The UFT Executive Board in a resolution can't even use the name Donald Trump when condemning campaign rhetoric from the recent election. That was what they were reconsidering on Monday. The leadership says they don't want to alienate UFT members who are Trump supporters. That is ridiculous. Look at the comments on this blog. Those people are gone already. They will only come back when, to paraphrase Trump, the Union starts winning again.

In reality, it looks more like the UFT is continuing their ingrained strategy of concessionary unionism where they give away many of our rights but they keep their lofty positions. It seems the ones they don't want to alienate are those close to the top of the Republican food chain. Maybe they can beg them to leave the union, not the teachers, alone.

We keep hoping that something, anything, will happen to tell us that the UFT, NYSUT or AFT leadership gets it this time and will do what it takes so that we can survive but the only hopeful sign was they allowed a real debate to take place on Monday on whether or not to condemn Trump in some whereas clauses. Other than that it is business as usual at the Union.

Restarting a public relations union proud campaign isn't going to help much either.

Please someone give me some kind of hope that there will be a change that can make some of us pro-union people feel like we can really work with our union to fix it so our members will want to be mobilized.

Monday, November 28, 2016


NYC Educator earlier called for a sea change from Union leadership to prepare for when the Donald Trump Supreme Court or the Republican Congress and President Trump end automatic dues checkoff for public sector unions. They would make union dues voluntary but not union services.

NYC Educator's final paragraph

If there is any chance of our surviving in a Right to Work United States of America, it's time for a sea change in our sleepy and complacent leadership. Otherwise, it's clear the only thing they value are those cushy offices on the 14th floor. I wonder if they'll be able to pay for them with a 70% drop in dues revenue.

I don't know if the current Unity leadership is capable of such a sea change. It would be nice to be proven wrong.

If I was in power, I would do a basic union organizing drive right now, before anything is done to hurt us. I would do what Randi Weingarten talked about when I think she was legitimately embarrassed by how bad the 2005 contract really was.

After that awful contract received a 40% no vote from teachers, the UFT started exploring a no contract=no work policy. To cushion against the blow if we actually went on strike, we were going to look at working with a pro-labor bank (Amalgamated) to try to deduct union dues automatically without needing to go through our employer, the Department of Education.

This of course was only lip service from Randi and when Mayor Michael Bloomberg dangled some decent money for an extension of the 2005 disaster of a contract, Weingarten jumped at it and took an early contract in 2006. That was a major mistake as I see it. We never again heard about taking back the 2005 givebacks or the UFT collecting dues on our own. No contract=no work seems like a foreign concept to UFT leadership today.

Now with our very existence at stake, why not try to do a basic organizing drive around being a real union? That is a way to move forward.

Saturday, November 26, 2016


One of the mistakes that I have constantly criticized the UFT leadership for is not demanding real contractual gains at the start of collective bargaining negotiations.

When a union asks for a little, in the final settlement we will end up with even less but if we ask for more, we start the negotiations from a greater position of strength. The argument against my thinking is that a union that demands too much will lose public support.

A public sector union that agrees with me and has traditionally worked that way is Transport Workers Union Local 100. They are led by President John Samuelson.

Earlier this month TWU Local 100 held a 7,000 strong rally at MTA Headquarters in Manhattan where they made real demands for a fair contract. Their current agreement expires in January 2017.

Take a look at what they are asking for in negotiations with the MTA .

The list specified the demands as follows: 
Wages – 
Substantial wage increase – continue raises above rate of inflation, 
Eliminate health benefits deduction, 
Increase DIF, 
Increase longevity pay, 
Cash out all unused sick leave – when resigning, retiring, or dismissed, 
COLA for active and retirees, 
10% night differential, 
Improve Workers Comp benefits and procedures, 
Workers Comp pay in first pay period, when not contested, 
MTA to match 401(k) and 403(b) at 20%, 
$20 meal allowance, Increase equity fund payment to maintainer titles to $960. 

Health benefits and health – 
Improve health benefits – including optical and dental for retirees, hearing aids, 
Lifetime medical coverage for spouse if death before retirement, 
Raise Medicare Part B to national coverage, 3D Mammograms covered (Women’s Table), 
Improve High option, 
Facilities for those who are nursing to express milk, 
Increase time and coverage for cancer and wellness screenings, 
Improve air quality in TA facilities, 
Eliminate diesel powered equipment in shops and stations, 
Healthcare upon hiring, 
Braces for adults, 
No placement on FMLA while on comp, 
More restricted duty jobs, 
Health club membership, 
Back support as PPE.
These demands are local-wide. There are additional Departmental demands submitted by each of the seven Departments within TWU Local 100, specific to Departmental concerns.

The divisional demands would include the work rules.

This chart shows how they did in wages and benefits compared to the United Federation of Teachers in the last round of bargaining.*

Labor militancy is the only possible answer to our plight as public sector unionized employees, including teachers.

*Before anyone comments that Transit Workers pay a portion of their checks for healthcare, I know that but they didn't agree to the givebacks (savings) on healthcare that we agreed to in 2014 and we still must come up with more this fiscal year. The purpose of this post is to compare bargaining strategies of the two unions and suggest a path forward for labor that Verizon workers (in the private sector) were successful with also.

Friday, November 25, 2016


I received the email that is copied below in my inbox this morning. Carol Burris, the retired former award winning principal from Long Island who now heads the national Network for Public Education, is leading the battle against Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education.

Carol Burris
Today, 7:56 AM

Well, the veil is off. With the nomination of a billionaire who has lobbied for privatization of Michigan schools, it is clear that Trump/Pence are serious about their plans.

I don't need to tell you what they are; you already know.

NPE will be fighting that effort, starting with a letter campaign to the Senate asking them to vote "no" on DeVos. We are starting up now and ramping up in the months ahead.

Please put this link on your Facebook page and share it widely.

Please send your own letter today.

Thank you all.