Friday, July 03, 2015

RENT REGULATION DEFEAT EXPLAINED

Tom Siracuse, a long time activist who is a UFT member, was interviewed on the Malachy McCourt's WBAI show "Talk Back - New York, Thee And We Edition" about rent regulations.

To listen, go to WBAI's archive page at http://www.wbai.org/archive.php and scroll down to the "Talk Back - New York, Thee And We Edition" for Wednesday, July 1. Tom's interview starts at almost exactly 60 minutes into the 2-hour show. You can move the bar to the 1:02.38 mark and then listen. It lasts for about 30 minutes.

Tom also recently penned the piece below on how tenants suffered a setback with the recent rent regulation renewal legislation in Albany that was part of the bill called the big ugly.  Nice to see our friend and Jamaica High School alum Senator Leroy Comrie was among the legislators who voted no. Comrie also opposed the new teacher evaluation law. The parallels with education are kind of obvious.  Voting out the politicians who say they are our friends but vote against us is the obvious answer.  The UFT has supported stronger rent laws but will we punish those who vote for these watered down bills?

Governor and State Legislature sell out tenants

Once again the renewal Charade is repeated.  The Democratic controlled NYS Assembly votes to renew the rent regulations or even at times, improve them.   The Republican controlled NYS Senate refuses to vote to renew the rent laws with real reforms.  The Governor sides with one chamber or the other.  This creates a deadlock and the word is sent out by the mass media, the two political parties and the tenant organizations that we have a crisis.  Over two million rent regulated tenants now fear they may face unregulated market rate rents that they cannot afford although many cannot even afford the "regulated" rents they already pay.  Sometimes the renewal date goes by and this creates even more fear.  Then the Governor, the Speaker of the Assembly and the Leader of the Senate get together and renew the rent laws, either weaker than before or essentially the same, with very minor adjustments.  

On June 24 the NYS Assembly voted for a disgraceful sell out to landlords proposed by Governor Andrew Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Leader John Flanagan .  Supposedly only those vacated apartments whose monthly rents exceed $2,700 can be deregulated.  However, in practice this is meaningless because landlords deregulate vacated apartments regardless of the previous rent.  The City or State do not automatically inform new tenants what their rents should be.  New tenants would have to file a challenge but most are unaware of this or are afraid to anger their landlords.  

That means NYC will continue to lose  thousands of affordable regulated apartments every year.  It is estimated that over 300,000 regulated apartments have already been lost to market rate rents. New prospective low and moderate income tenants will continue to find it almost impossible to find affordable apartments in NYC.  Vacancy decontrol has led to gentrification and the disappearance of "mom & pop" businesses as property values go through the roof.  Vacancy decontrol also leads to landlords harassing regulated tenants to get them to vacate their apartments.  Vacancy decontrol has destroyed the ethnic character of neighborhoods exacerbating the segregated character of NYC. 

To add insult to injury, the Assembly extended for 6 months or more a billion dollar a year tax exemption (421-a) for up to 35 years supported by Mayor Bill DeBlasio to put up high rise luxury residential buildings.  In return these developers must provide up to 30% of the units as "affordable" but affordability is defined in such a a way that these rents are often the same as the market rates.  "Affordable" units can rent for more than $2,500 a month!

What would have happened if the Assembly had voted against these sell out rent regulations?  They would have expired as they had twice before in the past.  The Rent Stabilization Association  (RSA), the landlord organization, has stated that it is not against the rent regulations as they are and if they expire, it has instructed landlords not to take advantage of the expiration.  Why?  The RSA knows that it is better to gradually end rent regulation through vacancy decontrol, than to end it all at once and risk creating a revolt among over two million tenants.  To avoid a growing crisis, the State Legislature would have to reconvene and pass new rent regulations without vacancy decontrol.  Congratulations to five NYC  Assembly members who had the guts to buck the landlords and vote against the sell out:

Charles Barron -Brooklyn
Brian Kavanaugh--Manhattan
Diana Richardson-Brooklyn
Joanne Simon-Brooklyn
Joseph Lentol-Brooklyn.

What happened to the other  "pro-tenant" legislators who constantly decry the plight of tenants and small businesses?  Tenants are told to be glad that the sell out rent laws have been renewed so they can stay in their apartments until the next renewal charade comes up in 4 years  And what about the tenant organizations who ritually lobby these politicians?  Not until tenants organize rent strikes and stop voting fo those politicians who vote to renew the rent laws without real rent reform will we see any significant change.

Tom Siracuse
Committee to Protect Rent Controlled Tenants

State Senators voting against the sellout:

Congratulations also to those twelve NYS Senators who voted for the tenants and against the sell out renewal of the rent laws (The Big Ugly):
Gustavo Rivera- District 33-Bronx
Serrano, Jose-D 29-Bronx & Man
Espaillat, Adriano-D 31-Man
Krueger, Liz-D 28-Man
Hoylman, Brad-D 27-Man
Squadron, Daniel-D 26-Man & Brooklyn
Hamilton, Jesse-D 20-Brooklyn
Montgomery, Velmanette-D 25-Brooklyn
Gianaris, Michael-D. 20-Brooklyn
Sanders, James-D 12-Brooklyn
Dilan, Martin-D18-Brooklyn
Comrie,Leroy, D 14- Queens

Monday, June 29, 2015

THE UFT ANSWER TO THE ATR AFT ELECTION COMPLAINT

UFT Secretary Emil Pietromonaco has written a response to the Absent Teacher Reserve AFT election complaint.  If anyone wants to read the entire letter, just click here.

For those who do not wish to read the entire document, the UFT is claiming ATRs are being provided with rights that adhere to federal labor law because we are permitted to vote and run for Chapter Leader and Delegate in schools we were in on May 4, 2015.  As we said in our election complaint, rights on paper are not necessarily rights in reality.

Some of the main points from Emil are below.

On my election as a Delegate at Middle College High School:
While assigned Middle College HS, Mr. Eterno has the same function as any other teacher assigned to the school. Specifically, I am informed that he is currently a member of the social studies department. Accordingly, the same teachers' collective bargaining agreement that applies to all other teachers at Middle College HS (and the rest of the City School District) applies to him as well.
Most importantly, Mr. Eterno ran for the position of delegate from Middle College HS and was elected. Despite his speculation and skepticism in the instant Challenge, the UFT has made clear that if Mr. Eterno does not return to Middle College HS next school year, he will keep this delegate position.

Can I properly represent Middle College High School if I am not returned there in the fall?  According to Emil:
Finally, the hypothetical future issues Mr. Eterno posits may arise should he be moved to another school are speculative at best.

Can anyone stay on as a representative if we are in a different school:
As discussed above, the UFT has made it clear that anyone elected can continue to serve, even if assigned to a different school. This is not to say, of course, that an ATR who accepts a position on the table of organization of another school, who is disciplined, who ceases to be a member, or who is otherwise ineligible to serve may continue to serve as chapter leader or delegate.

So we only stay in office if we continue as rotating ATRs or are returned to the school we were elected from. We are being encouraged to stay as rotating ATRs even though Emil later claims the union is trying to minimize the number of ATRs (see below).

On equitable treatment for ATRs, Emil states:
Moreover, Mr. Etemo does not suggest that some other date or other school would be more appropriate. (I did make other suggestions) Rather, he seems to take issue with school-based chapters either all or with respect to ATRs. In that regard, he does not seek to have ATRs treated the same as others, but rather he seeks to have them treated differently. That, the UFT cannot do. Specifically, 20 U.S.C. S 481 (e) provides that "qualifications" for "eligibility to be a candidate and to hold office" must be "uniformly imposed."

ATRs have to be treated the same until the UFT wants to treat us differently.

On ATRs not being allowed to vote if they were moved on from the school they were assigned to on May 4, 2015:
The report (from Leroy Barr to the UFT Executive Board) further explained that each chapter was required to arrange for a time when staff outside the building could come and vote, thus resolving the concerns regarding absentee ballots. Indeed, the solution to this question can be as simple as allowing voting to occur past the end of school on a particular day to allow teachers not on campus time to travel to the school and vote.

Forget the absurdity of ATRs being forced to vote in schools we were just passing through on May 4, was anyone told about the ability to travel back to a school they were no longer assigned to in order to vote?

On the legality of ATRs having to vote in the school they were assigned to on May 4, 2015:
Similarly, I am advised that, even if it were determined that the LMRDA does apply, there would be no violation of election provisions of Title IV of the LMRDA. In Wirtz v. Hotel Motel & Club Emp. Union, Local 6, 391 U.S. 492, 496 (1968), the U.S. Supreme Court explained that this provision "requires adequate safeguards to insure a fair election; guarantees a reasonable opportunity for the nomination of candidates, the right to vote, and the right of every member in good standing to be a candidate and to hold office subject to reasonable qualifications uniformly imposed." As discussed above and further explained below, this is precisely what the Bylaws accomplish.

Accordingly, the Bylaws rules are not only in line with the law, but they are reasonable and fair.

Reasonable and fair? That is more than debatable.

Are we at a huge competitive disadvantage in elections as ATRs? Not according to Emil:
Yet, some staff may view an ATR being outside the building and thus not directly subordinate to the principal as a benefit in more zealously representing the interests of staff.

As for the very important issue of the creation of an ATR Functional Chapter:
Indeed, the creation of an ATR functional chapter would serve to undercut the goal of assuring proper treatment for ATRs. It is the UFT's position that, when assigned to a school, an ATR should serve the same function as any other person assigned to the school in that title. To create a functional chapter for ATRs would be contrary to this position as it would suggest that an ATR teacher, for example, does not and should not serve the same "function" as a teacher on the school' s table of organization.

If we had an ATR Chapter, it would undercut the goal of assuring proper treatment of ATRs.  Is he serious? We don't serve the same function as a teacher on the school's Table of Organization. Nor do we have the same rights. He goes on:
Likewise, it is the UFT's goal to minimize the number of members without permanent placements and to make the ATR position a temporary one until a permanent position is obtained. To this end, in the most recent MOA, the UFT pressed for — and obtained — contractual provisions that "to the greatest extent reasonably possible" requires the DOE to arrange for interviews of ATRs. The goal of reducing the number of ATRs and making it a short-term assignment is inconsistent with the notion that members who are ATRs somehow need a functional chapter to advance their interests.

How many ATRs have been temporary for almost a decade? The UFT, which created the ATR problem with the 2005 contract, has done very little, if anything, to help us get placed.

As stated previously, anybody who wants to read the whole letter, just click here.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

A UNION ALTERNATIVE TO THE USUAL UFT/NYSUT HOLLOW VICTORY CLAIMS: STAND UP TO THE BULLY CUOMO

As predictable as the sun rising in the east, you can pretty much guarantee sunny reactions from United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew and New York State United Teachers President Karen Magee to anything coming out of an Albany legislative session. Hence, there was no surprise last week as Albany ended the legislative session with a massive bill termed the "Big Ugly" and it was followed by Mulgrew and NYSUT putting on the rose colored glasses on with their reactions.

The "Big Ugly" set public education back a little further by giving $250 million to private schools and expanding charter schools only two months after the disastrous April budget law, that will make student test scores count for 50% of teacher evaluations, was passed into law.  We are being slowly destroyed in Albany and the UFT-NYSUT leaders want to look at the positive.

However, not all teacher union leaders are trying to spin our latest Albany defeats into victory.  Last night I read a letter to NYSUT President Karen Magee from the leader of the Uniondale Teachers - Local 3070, Paul Marconi, that called for the unions to boycott the new Annual Professional Performance Review labor negotiations.  In April when the new evaluation law was passed, the ICE-UFT Blog asked for the unions to contemplate just saying no to the new evaluation law by refusing to negotiate on the local portions.  It is great to see a union president now pushing for real union action.

The entire letter from Paul Marconi to NYSUT President Karen Magee, that Beth Dimino posted on Facebook, is printed below.



Thank you Paul for writing this letter and asking to have it posted.

Dear Karen,

Let's call it as it is.  We've been jerked around long enough.

Governor Cuomo's goal is dismantle Public Schools, break the Labor Unions, and Privatize Education.

APPR is nothing more than a poorly disguised tool by the Governor to "Get Teachers" ----to fire Teachers.  The NYS Teacher of the Year received an "Ineffective" Rating.  The Sword of Damocles dangles over all of our heads.

The Legislature has let us down.

the Regents have let us down.

NYSUT CANNOT LET US DOWN.

It's time to act -------- BOYCOTT APPR.

Please call for all of NYSUT to do so NOW!  And, remind Mike Mulgrew and the UFT that "THEY ARE PART OF NYSUT".  Should they choose not to follow the NYSUT President's call to Opt Out of APPR, as they failed to suport the NYSUT President's call to Opt Out of Testing, then they should separate from NYSUT ---------NO EXCUSES.  We will all suffer pain by Opting Out of APPR ------but that is temporary; what is being done to us is permanent.

The Governor and the Legilsture are giving $250 million to Private Religious Schools, yet our Public Schools are not fully funded AND WE STILL HAVE A GAP ELIMINATION ADJUSTMENT (GEA). WHO IS HE KIDDING???

We haven't had a Budget Gap for more than two years; yet we still have a Gap Elimination Adjustment.  And, magically, the Governor finds $250 million for Private Religious Schools???

And the 2% Tax Cap will continue for 4 more years.  As inflation grows, what will happen when inflation hits 3%, 4%, 5% and more???? with a 2% Tax Cap in place???  It's impossible to do---- and the Governor knows that, and is counting on it to show that Public Schools have failed.  The noose is tightening, the box is shrinking around us, the air is being squeezed out of us.  

Look at the big picture--We are getting picked apart piece by piece.  Education will no longer be a Profession; Unions will be dissolved; the Labor Movement will be set back decades.

STOP THE INSANITY!!!

STAND AND DELIVER!!!

BOYCOTT APPR!!! REFUSE TO NEGOTIATE!!!

And when, and if, the Governor withholds "additional State Aid" --- watch the Parents scream, the Regents scream, the Legislators scream ----JUST IN TIME FOR THE NOVEMBER 2016 ELECTIONS!  Governor Cuomo is a BULLY. Punch the BULLY in the nose.  That's how you deal with Bullies.

Please support a full NYSUT BOYCOTT OF APPR. REFUSE TO NEGOTIATE.

Paul Marconi

President

Uniondale Teachers - Local 3070

cc: LIPC

Friday, June 26, 2015

MIDDLE COLLEGE GRADUATION

The graduation for Middle College High School at Laguardia Community College was a very moving ceremony that I attended yesterday.

The best parts for me were to be able to congratulate graduates who I came to know well in the short eight months I spent at the school as an Absent Teacher Reserve and then Leave Replacement Teacher and also watching as the school gave awards to the safety agents for the work they do to keep the school safe. In twenty nine years of teaching, I can't recall ever having witnessed safety agents being honored by a school until yesterday.

Middle College HS at Laguardia CC Teachers, Guidance & Administration


I hope I am back at MCHS next year.

Have a great summer everyone.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

STATE LEGISLATIVE SESSION ENDS IN DEFEATS FOR PUBLIC SCHOOLS AND RENTERS

Here are the essentials on education from Diane Ravitch that are included in the latest deal up in Albany that ends the legislative session:

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and the legislative leaders reached a budget deal that included major education issues.

The budget does not include the"education tax credit" for private and religious schools (vouchers), but does include $250 million for religious schools.  That should satisfy Mr. Cuomo's friends in the religious communities whom he courted.

The deal includes 180 new charter schools, 50 in New York City and 130 outside the city.  That should please the hedge fund managers who gave millions to the Governor's re-election campaign, while providing Eva Moskowitz plenty of room to grow her chain.

The deal extends mayoral control in NYC for only one year, despite Mayor Bill de Blasio's request to make it permanent. That should remind the Mayor who is in charge.

The deal retains the tax cap on school districts.  Regardless of their needs, they won't be able to raise property taxes by more than 2% unless they are able to win 60% approval by voters.  It may be undemocratic, but it is popular, especially among GOP legislators.

How long until UFT President Michael Mulgrew and/or NYSUT President Karen Magee declare victory since we fought off vouchers?

As for rent regulations, they will continue but there is not much positive to report here either as Gothamist reports:

The title of their piece says it all, "Cuomo to NYC Renters: Drop Dead"

It then states:

New York City loses tens of thousands of affordable apartments each year to deregulation.  Under the "framework" of an agreement to extend rent laws announced today (Tuesday) by Governor Cuomo and the two leaders of the state legislature, the city will keep on losing them.

They continue:

Earlier this month, the Assembly passed a bill that would repeal the state's vacancy decontrol law, which allows landlords to jack up the rent on regulated apartments as soon as a tenant leaves and perpetuates a system of inequality.

That change was eliminated.

Instead, the leaders promised to do what they did in 2011: modestly increase the rent at which a rent-regulated apartment could be deregulated, from $2,500 to $2,700.

How are those COPE contributions doing with those politicians up there in Albany?

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

TEACHER'S CHOICE INCREASES; WHY DOESN'T THE UFT PUSH FOR MORE?

The UFT negotiated for an increase in Teacher's Choice money from the City Council for next year. This is positive news; we will get around $125 per teacher for supplies.  While this is a gain, it is still well below the $260 level that was allocated for Teacher's Choice just a few short years back. Furthermore, when the city is flush with cash and the state isn't doing too badly either, where was the push by the union for something really significant?

How about lowering class sizes?   I don't think pushing Mayor de Blasio, the City Council and Chancellor Farina to significantly lower class size is even a UFT priority.

Let us not forget that this is actually part of our contract. Notice below how Article 8Ld) calls for a program for reduction of class size in all grades and divisions.  The Department of Education and UFT found money for other parts of Article 8L such as the ill fated school wide merit pay program and, to be fair, the the five year salary differential.  However, why has lower class size been forgotten?   Wasn't the Campaign for Fiscal Equity suit settled years ago?  Wasn't it Mayor Bloomberg who opposed lowering class sizes, not Mayor de Blasio?

Article 8L
Labor/Management Committee On Long Term Reforms With regard to the long term recommendations the 2005 Fact Finders made subject to adequate CFE funding, the parties shall establish a Labor Management Committee to discuss the following issues: a) bonuses, including housing bonuses, for shortage license areas; b) a pilot project for school-wide based performance bonuses for sustained growth in student achievement; c) salary differentials at the MA-5 through MA-7 levels; and d) a program for the reduction of class size in all grades and divisions. If the parties agree on the terms of any or all of these issues, they may be implemented by the Board using whatever funds may be identified. 

The UFT just does not play offense very well.  I think it is one of the main reasons we are in such a difficult situation as a profession these days.

Anyway, here is the UFT's latest victory statement on Teacher's Choice:

We won a 62% increase in funding for Teacher's Choice in the final city budget that the mayor and the City Council announced late last night. Teachers should receive about $125 in the coming school year, up from $77 this year. Thanks to everyone who participated in the social media and lobbying blitz for this vital program!

Monday, June 22, 2015

ATRS RATED U FOR TRIVIAL INCIDENTS

The blogger Chaz is reporting on what we are perceiving as a spike in unsatisfactory ratings for Absent Teacher Reserves who rotate from school to school on a weekly or monthly basis.

We can confirm based on people getting in touch with us that ATR unsatisfactory ratings are being doled out based on one or two trivial matters in schools. In the past these minor incidents may have not even risen to the level of someone receiving a disciplinary letter for file.

We will need some kind of coordinated response now to protect ourselves as it appears we are under attack and our union seems to be looking the other way.

The Department of Education refuses place ATRs in permanent positions and principals are reluctant to hire ATRs die to budgetary restrictions since most of us are senior teachers. Principals also reject us since we are usually veteran teachers who would go to the top of the school's seniority list which would leave junior teachers at risk of being placed in excess. We are thought of, usually wrongfully, as bad teachers because many of us are coming from closing schools.

Chancellor Carmen Farina has not exactly been teacher friendly or particularly ATR friendly since taking over in 2014.  It looks like going after ATRs for basically nothing is her policy to try to get rid of as many of us as she can.