Saturday, August 19, 2017

ICEBLOG RATES YESTERDAY'S PRESS REPORTS ON ATRS

I am so sick and tired of the clearly biased press attacks on teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve pool. There are current articles in each of New York City's daily print publications and yet another in the anti-public school, pro-charter school Chalkbeat.org. We read all four of them so you don't have to. We'll link to them if you really are a glutton for punishment.

We rated the articles based on the information they provided and also how well they give the ATR's side. In other words, are they objective? The ICEBLOG believes, as British folk rocker Billy Bragg said many years ago in It Says Here, "There are two sides to every story."

Here are some statistics on the ATR pool we learn from Friday's press reports:
  • There were 822 teachers assigned to the pool as of the end of the school year in June. We do not know if provisional teachers who had an assignment for a term or all of last school year but were not hired permanently were part of that calculation.
  • 25% were in the ATR pool for at least five years.
  • The vast majority of the ATR teachers are there because of school closing or program downsizing.
  • More ATRs are rated ineffective or unsatisfactory compared to other teachers. 
  • ATRs are more experienced compared to the average teacher and ATRs are paid much more than than new teachers.
  • Almost half of ATRs come from high schools. 
The Times' Kate Taylor in her story quotes two principals, a DOE, a former administrator who now heads a artificial turf education organization, a retired principal, the head of another artificial turf education organization, UFT President Michael Mulgrew and finally an ATR gets a one sentence quote on the unfairness of the ratings of ATRs.

This pathetic piece of clearly biased reporting gets a grade of D on the ICEBLOG objective journalism barometer. I have taught introductory journalism courses for three terms so I know a little about trying to look for objectivity.

As for the Daily News, our old friend Ben Chapman highlights the spotty records of the ATRs in his totally one sided piece. He quotes the Department of Education administrator in charge of the ATRs, Randy Asher, and some artificial turf organization head. No teacher or UFT leader even gets a hint of  a quote from Ben. 

The Daily News gets an F- on the ICEBLOG objectivity scale. It is a totally biased piece quoting only school administration and a public school critic but not bothering to quote a teacher. I'll try to be fair and say Ben might have tried but the editor could have edited it out.

Now off to Chalkbeat.org, otherwise known as Charterschools.org because of their pro charter slant on all things education. Christina Veiga is the not so intrepid journalist here. Christina cites a whole load of data and quotes DOE's Randy Asher and the leader of an artificial turf pro-charter schools group.

She takes a dig at the ATRs by saying:

Almost half the educators who are currently in the pool were also there two years ago. A quarter were in the ATR five years ago. That doesn’t mean that teachers have remained in the ATR for that entire time. They could have been hired for a time, and returned to the pool.

Still, the figures could be fuel for those who argue educators in the ATR either aren’t seriously looking for permanent jobs — or that the educators in the pool are simply undesirable hires.

ATRs won't bark on command and pass students who don't deserve to pass because we are veterans. We must be bad teachers.

Veiga goes on by saying:

Teachers in the ATR have argued that their higher salaries are one reason principals avoid hiring them — a concern that principals voiced in a recent Chalkbeat report.

“This is part of the injustice of the ATR placement,” said Scott Conti, principal of New Design High School in Manhattan. “Schools might not want them and they will cost schools more in the future, taking away from other budget priorities.”

Under the policy announced Friday, the education department will subsidize the cost of ATRs who are permanently hired, paying 50 percent of their salaries next school year and 25 percent the following school year. 

If you want to know the certification areas of ATRs, we learn from Veiga:

The largest share of teachers in the ATR — 27 percent — are licensed to teach in early childhood or elementary school grades. Another 11 percent are licensed social studies teachers, 9 percent are math teachers and 8 percent are English teachers. 

Veiga does say something on behalf of the ATRs in terms of ratings when she writes:

Some teachers in the ATR say evaluations can be unfair since teachers are often placed in classrooms outside of the subjects they are equipped to teach and because they are bounced between classrooms.

It is not quite a quote from an ATR but it is as close as we are likely to get from Charterschools.org. In the end, there is a principal, a DOE administrator and an artificial turf organization leader that are quoted.

Chalkbeat gets about a D+ on the ICEBLOG objective journalism scale because while their bias is clear, they do provide a great deal of information, some of which we can use to argue for the ATRs point of view.

Finally, we go to the NY Post. There is actually a fairly balanced piece done by Selim Algar. He starts off with the usual criticism of the ATRs and then he finds another artificial turf organization leader to quote but identifies the organization as a "pro charter group." This person says it's too hard to fire teachers because of UFT power Yawn, yawn, yawn and not true. Funny how they don't have to back up a statement with data but teachers have to.

Algar then surprisingly gives a real life ATR a chance to make the case for the teachers.

But others counter that most ATR teachers were not out-and-out fired for misconduct and deserved another shot inside a classroom if eventually cleared.

“A principal can get rid of a teacher because of a personal vendetta that has nothing to do with their performance,” a current ATR teacher told The Post.

"A lot of us are older teachers who just cost too much, and we get let go because of it. They want to tar us all and it's just not the reality of the situation."

The last person the Post quotes is UFT President Michael Mulgrew.

I give the Post a grade of B on the ICEBLOG objective journalism scale. I would like to see our side up higher in the piece and the emphasis a little different but that is probably the editors more than the writer. 

Kate Taylor, Ben Chapman, Christina Veiga, and Selim Algar my name is James Eterno. Ben knows me. I taught for 28 years at Jamaica High School and I was placed in excess when the school was unfairly closed based on data that Arthur Goldstein and I showed was faulty and we were never refuted by the DOE. I was relegated to the ATR pool and made the best of a difficult three months in 2014 when I had to rotate to different schools. How did Epoch Times manage to find ATR Francesco Portelos and me but the education reporters from three major publications and a pro-charter school website cannot find a group of ATRs to speak to you on or off the record that you can cite in your articles? Hard to believe.

I will be happy to talk to any of you about my experiences and I represent a huge group of teachers. The majority of New York City Public High School teachers who voted, choose me to be their Vice President in the 2016 UFT election. I'm not in office only because UFT election rules allow people from elementary school teachers, middle school teachers, non teachers and UFT retirees to all vote for the High School Vice President. I'm fairly confident saying I represent more real people than any of the artificial turf organizations you quote so often. My email address is right on this blog.

I saw ATRs unfairly being given poor ratings as they passed through Jamaica High School in 2013-14 as they were covering classes for a day and were cited for not having enough engagement with the students they didn't even know. I witnessed almost all of the teachers from our so called "school being closed for poor performance" get rated ineffective or developing in 2014 and then we miraculously all became satisfactory or effective teachers the next year when we were in different schools. I can say for sure my confidence in my ability to teach was shaken when I was a rotating ATR and when I first became a provisional teacher.

I have seen ATRs come and go at Middle College High School, where I was a provisional teacher for over two years and finally was appointed permanently at no cost to the school in January. One time a friend and I worked to help an ATR develop an ideal lesson and then the ATR was trashed by the ATR supervisor who must have been having a bad day. The regular teacher taught a similar lesson days earlier and was praised by the administration in our successful school.

How can a supervisor with a conscience rate ATRs unsatisfactory when ATRs might not even know the subject they are teaching and they certainly don't know the kids who are sitting in front of them or the school that they are just passing through for a month? It's not too difficult for even a weak UFT to defend these ATRs.

Education journalism today is about getting quotes from so called experts who know nothing about the classroom and ignoring the views of teachers. NYC Educator says he knows Charterbeat talked to an ATR for an hour? No quote however. What's wrong with this picture? Oh right, teachers don't contribute big money to privatize education and bust unions. Money talks. I won't hold my breath waiting for a call or an email and then a long quote.

Oh and where is the UFT's own publication, the New York Teacher to defend the ATRs?

Thursday, August 17, 2017

EDUCATION NEXT POLL FINDS PLUMMETING PUBLIC SUPPORT FOR CHARTER SCHOOLS & PLURALITY AGAINST AGENCY FEES

There's good news and not so good news in an annual survey of Americans done by Education Next.

On the positive side of the poll, we see that support for charter schools has fallen from 51 percent approval in the 2016 survey down to 39 percent in 2017. That is a steep 12 percent fall for charters.




On the issue of teacher unions, it is a mixed bag with teachers supporting their unions by an overwhelming 64-22 percent margin but we are divided on whether or not we should be compelled to pay  union dues.

This is right from Education Next:

Teachers unions and agency fees
Members of the public are evenly divided in their thinking about the influence of teachers unions: 37% say they have “a generally positive effect on schools,” while 37% say they have “a generally negative effect.” Meanwhile, teachers overwhelmingly have favorable views of the unions that represent them, with 64% reporting that unions have a positive effect and just 22% reporting the opposite. Predictably, Democrats and Republicans diverge, with 50% of the former and just 23% of the latter saying that unions have a positive effect on schools.

Quite apart from public attitudes, a key to union success in many states is their ability to collect “agency fees” directly from teachers’ paychecks, whether or not the teachers belong to the union. Unions argue that such fees cover the costs of collective bargaining and therefore benefit all teachers, whether or not they are union members. Opponents of agency fees say they violate teachers’ free-speech rights by exacting money from them even if they don’t support a union presence. Agency fees are collected in 21 states, but the practice could be doomed by a U.S. Supreme Court that may be inclined to prohibit these payments. The court appeared to be on the verge of such a decision in 2016, but Justice Antonin Scalia’s death instead led to a 4–4 deadlock, leaving a pro-union lower-court decision intact. With new challenges to agency fees now making their way through the federal court system, and a new, conservative justice on the high court, the issue could be ripe for a definitive resolution.


What does the public think of agency fees? Forty-four percent of respondents oppose the practice of requiring teachers to pay fees to unions they choose not to join, while just 37% support the practice, much the same as a year ago. More surprising, perhaps, is the fact that teachers themselves are also more likely to oppose agency fees than to support them, by a narrow 47%–44% margin. Despite holding positive views of union influence, then, many teachers apparently think that they should be able to decide whether or not to contribute money to support union activities at the bargaining table.

Try and go figure that result. We want a union to protect us but we are split about paying for it. Strange results indeed. The unions across the country have a big education and organizing role to play before the Supreme Court rules most probably to take automatic dues checkoff  from public sector unions, thus starving them of funds.

My guess is that many of the people who comment on this blog are going to decline to pay their union dues if given the chance. You think we're weak now? You ain't seen nothing yet.

We need a union. Maybe not this one; but we have to have a union to represent us collectively. Running a union costs money.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

UFT FIGHTING THE GOOD FIGHT AGAINST CHARTER SCHOOL ABUSES BUT WHERE IS UFT PRESS STATEMENT CONDEMNING ABUSE OF PUBLIC SCHOOL TEACHERS?

Like everyone else, I was not happy to read the hedge fund billionaire-Andrew Cuomo supporter and head of the Eva Moskowitz Success Academy Board compare the teacher unions to the KKK. However, I was pleased to see our Union respond forcefully.

This is from Gothamist:

 Cuomo/IDC donor Daniel Loeb, who was already in trouble after comparing state Senate Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins to a Klan member last week, has found another group of non-KKK members to compare to the Klu Klux Klan: teacher's unions.

Someone who has probably been unfriended by Loeb by now sent Dealbreaker a screenshot of a comment left by the Success Academy executive and hedge fun manager/Cuomo-IDC donor in which he dragged out what appears to be his favorite metaphor.

In the 2016 comment, Loeb wrote that teachers unions were "the biggest single force standing in the way of quality education and an organization that has done more to perpetuate poverty and discrimination against people of color than the KKK."

"Dan Loeb has a history of making disgusting and racist comments - usually to deflect attention from his own actions and that of his hedge fund pals to destabilize and privatize public schools and make a profit off of students," United Federation of Teachers president Michael Mulgrew told Gothamist in a statement.

Great comment President Mulgrew. I stand with you 100% on this one.

I also saw in the NY Teacher where the UFT is strongly against the instant certification for charter school teachers.

Good job UFT.

Finally, the UFT is out there in public defending the majority of the staff of a charter school who were terminated. This is from NY Teacher:

The UFT is seeking an injunction from the National Labor Relations Board against the Charter HS for Law and Social Justice in the Bronx after the school fired 11 of its 15 UFT-represented employees, including the entire UFT bargaining committee, in the middle of negotiations for a first contract.

“The administration’s actions are a lesson in hypocrisy,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew. “A school that claims to teach law and social justice summarily fires most of its teachers because they had the nerve to advocate for their kids and for their own rights as employees.”

Bravo President Mulgrew!

Now why can't the President say something out loud about his members in the public schools who are under attack from abusive principals?

How many public school teachers were discontinued this year unfairly? Some were not even rated Ineffective. Where is the Union President to say something?

Where are the NY Teacher articles defending beleaguered teachers in the public schools?

How about a big  NY Teacher piece to lift the morale of the Absent Teacher Reserves by countering the misinformation we read in the press?

Perhaps a major feature will be in our Union's newspaper exposing the lack of competitive bidding at the Department of Education instead of it being left to others to publicize?

Am I the only one who sees something wrong with our Union President's public silence regarding those of us in the public schools who most need his help?

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

IS TRUMP IRONICALLY SLOWING EDUCATION PRIVATIZATION?

Donald Trump's election looked like a disaster for the public schools but we're through the majority of year one of the Trump administration, and public schools are still standing and the charter sector is on the run.

Democrats who want to privatize education can no longer hide behind President Barack Obama and former Education Secretary Arne Duncan when they want to defend awful policy to promote charters and de-fund public education. Now they're stuck with Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos as their standard bearers.

Read this from Politico:

Democrats for Education Reform president Shavar Jeffries resigned from the Success Academy board of directors earlier this summer, POLITICO has learned, the latest sign of how Donald Trump’s presidency is dividing the national school choice movement.

Jeffries, one of the charter school sector's most prominent black leaders, has emerged as its most vocal critic of Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. That's put him on a collision course with Success CEO Eva Moskowitz, who has made a point of defending both the president and DeVos. 

Mind you, I am not regretting my vote against Trump as he is attempting to fill the federal judiciary with extreme right wing judges who are not going to be labor or public employee union friendly. I don't think it helps workers either when the Republicans control the federal bureaucracy.  Throw in the war mongering, incompetence and just plain insanity and these are not great days but on education reform, Trump and DeVos may be the best weapon to divide the anti-public school movement and slow it down.

Charters may no longer be cool. They are worried that the truth is catching up to them that they are not public schools trying to provide opportunities for minority children. They are union busters pure and simple looking to make a fortune from education money.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

UNION POWER 101 QUIZ

Instructions: Choose the best answer to the following question:

QUESTION: What gives a union its power?

ANSWER CHOICES

a) A strong union president who can talk the talk.

b) A rank and file that makes strong demands.

c) A union with a robust top-down bureaucracy that knows how to provide services such as dental/optical benefits and handle grievances for its members thus providing confidence in the union.

d) An organized rank and file willing to use any peaceful means available, including the threat of a strike and then striking if necessary (even if it's illegal) for as long it takes, to get better working conditions.

e) Choices (a), (b) and (c).

It seems that many of the people who comment on this blog think the answer is choice (e). If we just ask for it and have our president go in and use his/her negotiating skills, then we can have anything we want. Add to this that we can use the union as a kind of insurance company to take care of us so the rank and file doesn't need to do anything more than pay our union dues. That is the union we have; it's called the United Federation of Teachers. (Well, choice (a) is debatable but let's give President Mulgrew the benefit of the doubt and say he wants what's best for all of us. Ask yourself: Could the best union leader in the world do a thing if the rank and file is not willing to do anything?)

I want you to show me examples from history where a union that has components (a), (b), and (c) but doesn't have an engaged rank and file willing to collectively fight, but the union still wins contracts that make the rank and file truly proud.

Union power comes from us ladies and gentlemen. It's as simple as that. Union leaders can inspire the rank and file to action but in the end it's up to the membership.

Organizing 75,000 teachers and around 35,000 other UFT Board of Education employees to work for each other is not an easy task.The current UFT leadership from Unity Caucus can't or won't even try to organize us for real action. They are there to protect the institution of the union as a primary goal. It provides them with a pretty good living.

As long as the collective rank and file does nothing more than complain on the internet or in the teacher's rooms, then nothing of any substance, and I do mean nothing, will improve in the schools. Mayor Bloomberg challenged us in 2005 and won. We have yet to recover.

By being a divided and passive rank and file, we are, as Unity leadership tells us, lucky we have a job with decent pay and benefits. Even the best of leaders can only do so much.

The correct answer is choice (d).

Saturday, August 12, 2017

ICE BLOG ADDS SUPPORT FOR TEACHER RICHARD SEVERIN

I'm a little late to the party here as NYC Educator and Chaz both had excellent pieces on the firing of teacher Richard Severin. Here is a main part of the NY Post  story on Severin:

A former city teacher who objected to a “gender bender” day for students at a Brooklyn high school last year ended up without a job, The Post has learned.

Veteran social studies teacher Richard Severin opposed an April 2016 “spirit day” event at Urban Action Academy in Canarsie when students dressed up as the opposite sex, according to papers filed in Manhattan Supreme Court.

“This is a disgrace,” Severin allegedly said at the time. “This isn’t right.”

Students said Severin also cursed principal Steven Dorcely for condoning the activity while denying permission to take a class to Malcolm X’s grave site, court papers say.

But Severin believes the accusations were part of a plot by Dorcely to have him canned after he accused the principal of grade fixing in 2015. Several other teachers at the school lodged similar complaints last year, according to a Post exposé.

Chaz chose to use this story to show how Severin was charged for a few minor infractions in an initial 3020a dismissal hearing where the Department of Education got a fine. They held back on certain charges but instead saved them to charge him again to get a dismissal from the second arbitrator. Chaz says this is a new DOE strategy to charge us twice.

NYC Educator takes on the system in detail. He ties this to the bad teacher narrative pushed by the press to show that we need due process. NYC Educator also points out the flaws in the arbitration system.

Both are right.

The only point I can add to their excellent analysis is that it is high time we admit that the UFT/NYSUT look more and more like they are over-matched in arbitration and at 3020a hearings by the Board of Ed's high priced huge team of lawyers. It's about time we do something about this.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

SHOULD ALL TEACHERS HAVE TO PAY FOR PAID FAMILY LEAVE?

A petition has taken off at Change.org demanding that New York City teachers be granted paid maternity leave. The petition has gone viral so Chalkbeat has covered the story. Emily James is the teacher who started the petition that now has over 56,000 signatures and is adding more rapidly. That is quite impressive.

Here is the language straight from the petition:

New York City Department of Education currently offers their teachers who have just become mothers NO PAID maternity leave. These are women who devote their lives to helping raise other people's children.

After getting pregnant in 2012, I went to a maternity workshop to help understand my maternity benefits. It began as a room full of bubbly, pregnant women, and ended with many of us in tears.
  • Here is what we learned: In order to get paid for up to SIX WEEKS (you read that right-not months, weeks) we would have to use our own small number of saved sick days. If we had none, or few (which was the case for most of us, being around children all day long) we learned that we could borrow up to 20 days that we would eventually have to repay or rebuy.  
Most women never make it out of their negative balance. If you have more than one child, forget it! You have likely borrowed all you can for the first.  When I had my second daughter, even after two years of excellent attendance, I only was able to get paid for seven days after I gave birth.
This is completely common among teaching mothers.

For all our union fights for, I'm asking Michael Mulgrew, our Union President: When will the fight begin for our teaching mothers? As an education system, we are well aware of the importance a parent's presence has on his/her child. Yet why don't we value that? Why do women who spend day in and day out educating, nurturing, and supporting other people's children, continue to suffer for having a family of their own? We are the teachers and the mothers of this city-- a city that prides itself on being one of the most progressive and socially conscious cities in the world- and we deserve to be fought for. 

Thanks for doing this Ms. James. Now for a few details on this issue.

Our so called progressive mayor, Bill de Blasio, will offer paid family leave to UFT members but only if every UFT member pays for it. The city won't cough up one extra dime for its teachers who are mothers in spite of the city's surplus and the UFT won't demand that the city pays for it.

The city granted certain non-union city employees (mostly managers) six weeks of paid leave (12 weeks when combined with existing leave) at the end of 2015. The catch is the employees have to pay for it themselves. This is from the Mayor's news page:

The new benefit comes at no new cost to New York City taxpayers: the personnel order repurposes an existing managerial raise of 0.47 percent scheduled for July 2017 and caps vacation time at 25 days for the 20,000 employees covered by this benefit.

To put it another way, all 20,000 employees are paying for the benefit for the new parents by forfeiting part of a raise and limiting their vacation time. The city wants unionized employees to pay for a paid childcare benefit too.

The UFT has been trying to negotiate a paid family leave benefit since early 2016. Why has leadership not succeeded?

The cost to all UFT members is outrageous.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew reported the following at the January 2016 Delegate Assembly:

Family Leave
Mayor looking to make it work. We will be negotiating with city on paid maternity leave. Some  who have older kids don't want to pay for this. We can be creative on paying for it.

As of this year, the negotiations continue. What is on the table?

A source told me the city wants to charge every UFT member five sick days per year to provide the paid family leave benefit. Right now teachers are entitled to ten sick days per year. If we get the new benefit, all of us would go down to five sick days per year if the source is accurate.

Do you want to go down to five sick days per year or concede a similar giveback so that we can get paid family leave?

The likely outcome of all of this is that paid family leave will end up in the next contract and it will be paid for by lowering the salary increase all UFT members receive because the city will not put in additional money for its unionized workforce. Why won't the city fork over some additional money for its hardworking employees who are parents? Union members en masse won't fight for it.

We will only get the paid family leave from the city in addition to a decent raise and better working conditions if we organize as a union and demand it from below. Maybe the petition will be a springboard to push a movement forward. We have to stop expecting things to come from the Mayor and UFT President.




P.S. If anyone wants to know how the UFT leadership really feels about new mothers, please read our account of the October 2015 Delegate Assembly. When UFT members are on unpaid childcare leave or other unpaid leaves,  they do not get the retroactive payments from the 2009-2011 contract that other city unions had added to their pay back then that we are waiting until 2020 to be paid back fully without interest. They have to wait to be back on payroll to get the back pay.

UFT members received one payment in October 2015 and will get another this October followed by payments in 2018, 2019 and 2020. The Movement of Rank and File Educators proposed that the UFT provide members on unpaid leaves interest free loans for the payments since people on unpaid leave just might need the money immediately since they are not being paid. The UFT leadership said no.

Below is our account of that 2015 Delegate Assembly debate.


MULGREW'S UNITY MAJORITY TELLS PARENTS AND SICK MEMBERS ON UNPAID LEAVES TO FEND FOR THEMSELVES

The Unity Caucus is Michael Mulgrew's faction of the UFT.  They are the majority political party in the union.  At the first Delegate Assembly of the 2015-16 school year Unity proved beyond the shadow of any doubt that making cheap political points is more important to them than helping UFT members in need when they voted down a resolution that would have provided loans for members on unpaid leave up to the amount of retroactive money someone is owed in 2015.

The main rival political group in the union is called MORE which stands for the Movement of Rank and File Educators (full disclosure: ICE supports MORE and I am a ICE-MORE member). MORE will run together in a coalition with another established opposition group called New Action Caucus to challenge Mulgrew-Unity in the 2016 general UFT election.

When MORE leader Jia Lee rose last night at the Delegate Assembly (the highest policy making body in the UFT) to raise a motion for the UFT to find a way to provide interest free loans to members in need who are on unpaid restoration of health, maternity or child care leaves, Unity decided they would rather score extremely cheap political points and voted against helping their own members in need.

There is a loophole in the 2014 contract that says someone has to be "continuously employed" to receive the retroactive money from 2009-2011 that other city workers received in those years that UFT members will receive piecemeal between now and 2020.  Our employer, the Department of Educations-City of New York, interprets continuously employed to mean on payroll.

Our friend John Elfrank, longtime Chapter Leader of Murry Bergtraum High School, is recovering from surgery and on unpaid leave.  He came to MORE and told us that it is unconscionable that because someone is on an unpaid leave that they should be told they have to wait for at least two years for the next payout date in 2017 to get retroactive money they worked for from 2009-11.  John is taking this up with the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission after being denied money from the Department of Education and denied support from the UFT.  He asked MORE's leadership if we would write something for the union to loan people on unpaid leave their retro.

MORE's Steering Committee said yes and asked me to write something up. I had help and inspiration from MORE's Mike Schirtzer, Julie Cavanagh, and Jia Lee along with Elfrank and we wrote the following resolution for the DA.

DA Resolution on Immediate Retroactive Money for UFT Members on Unpaid Leave for Maternity, Child Care and/or Restoration of Health
October 14, 2015

WHEREAS, the United Federation of Teachers has a long history of supporting members in need, and

WHEREAS, the 2014 contract did not cover members on unpaid leave for lump sum payments stemming from the 2009-2011 round (arrears) until they are back on payroll or retire, and

WHEREAS, the City of New York ended the 2015 fiscal year with a $5.9 billion surplus, and

WHEREAS, the first 12.5% of the arrears is scheduled to be paid on October 15, 2015, and

WHEREAS, many of our sisters and brothers on unpaid leaves who will not be receiving the arrears for at least two years are having financial hardships as they are not on payroll, be it therefore

RESOLVED, that the union will immediately petition the city to make no interest loans available to UFT members on unpaid leaves who are not receiving their arrears, and be it further

RESOLVED, that if the city refuses to make these loans available, that the UFT will provide immediate, interest free loans to any member on unpaid leave who applies for one up to the amount of arrears the member on unpaid leave is owed as of October 1, 2015, and be it further

RESOLVED, that if the city refuses to make these loans available and the union does not have the means to provide the loans, the Union will arrange with Amalgamated Bank or another labor friendly institution to make low interest loans available to UFT members on unpaid leave who are not receiving their arrears and the UFT, not the borrowers, will pay the interest.

People in MORE made some edits and we thought this would be something that would be passed as a humanitarian gesture for mothers or fathers on childcare leaves and members who are on restoration of health leaves. MORE leader Jia Lee, a mother herself, who is Chapter Leader from the Earth School, agreed to raise the resolution at the October DA.

At the DA meeting, President Michael Mulgrew filibustered for about an hour and a half talking about how wonderful our schools are and how great the union is to have gotten us the retro money (see previous post). He talked so much there was not time for much else. The DA did vote to extend the meeting for ten minutes to have a new motion period.

Jia rose to present the MORE motion for next month's agenda.  DA rules require that a majority approve for it to go on next month's agenda.  Delegate Mary Ahern raised an objection saying this rule violates Robert's Rules of Order.  That is a discussion for another post.

Then a member of the majority Unity Caucus rose to make a point of information asking if MORE was violating Robert's Rules because the resolution was printed on a MORE handout and advertised for MORE on the back of the paper. It also didn't have anything noting that it came from a union printer. The union's parliamentarian said these issues were not covered in Robert's Rules of Order so Jia was able to continue.

She talked about John Elfrank's illness and mothers in her school who could all use the money that they already worked for.  She noted the city's $5.9 billion surplus and how the resolution was crafted in a way so these would be loans. (The loans would be secured as the member's future retro could be collateral.)  She cited Mulgrew who previously said that medical distress should not mean financial distress.

This resolution is a no-brainer if ever there was one.  If the city says no, then the union would loan the money to members on unpaid leave who need it.  If the UFT doesn't have the funds, they would secure them from a labor friendly bank and pay the interest.

Unfortunately, the Unity majority would have none of this.  The Queens UFT maternity liaison rose to speak against the resolution.  She gave a cold-hearted speech that was booed once saying she tells mothers who are going on childcare leave they must consider their situation when taking such a leave.  They are making a choice but they will be made whole on retroactive money from a magical chest that will open again in two years.  (She didn't bother to talk about those on medical leave.)  She concluded by saying she didn't want the union to be involved in making loans.

For political reasons, the Unity majority, who all sign an oath saying they will support caucus positions in public and union forums, voted down the resolution easily.  There is sufficient patronage in all expense paid trips to conventions, after-school and full time union jobs that virtually all go to Unity members to keep them in line. They weren't going to go against their in house maternity expert.

There were many new Delegates who attended yesterday's meeting who will probably never return. Some came to Jia afterwards and told her they couldn't believe the union would turn down loaning money to members in need.  I wasn't at all surprised because caucus loyalty trumps good policy in the UFT all the time.  The union could not let an opposition leader get credit for sponsoring something this important.

Those Delegates probably will never come back but they should.