Tuesday, September 19, 2017


I guess I wasn't the only Teachers Retirement System member who had trouble trying to use their website this weekend. TRS last week encouraged UFT members to up our TDA contribution rate for the October 16 check which will include12.5% of the money we are owed for raises most other city employees received from 2008-2010 that we are receiving in interest free installments through 2020. Many TRS members attempted to increase their TDA rate so the TRS system couldn't handle the volume. TRS, to their credit, sent this email out yesterday.

Dear TRS Member:

We know that many of you experienced difficulties with our website over the past several days, either when registering for the first time, logging in and being prompted for a verification code, or receiving confirmation emails from online transactions. An unusually high volume of users during this period compounded the problems, and many members were justifiably frustrated.

We sincerely apologize for the problems our members experienced, particularly while they were attempting to increase their TDA contribution rate in advance of the September 16 filing deadline. Due to the website issues, TRS has worked to extend the filing deadline to Thursday, September 21, at 9:00 AM.

Members who file for a rate change prior to Thursday at 9:00 AM will have their new TDA rate take effect on the October 16 payroll (which will include a retroactive payment under the UFT contract for many members). New TDA rates will take effect on the October 31 payroll for members who file after 9:00 AM on September 21 through October 1.

Remember, your new TDA contribution rate will remain in effect until you change it, so you'll probably want to make another online rate change in time for the following payroll.

Thank you for your patience—and your participation in the Tax-Deferred Annuity Program.


TRS Member Services 

Monday, September 18, 2017


This email came from Carol Burris yesterday. The first in a series of short films defending public education has been released. It features Diane Ravitch. You can view the film here and spread it please. 

One of my former students, Kimberley Walcott, will be featured in a later release. Attending the filming was quite enjoyable for me.

Dear James,

Thank you again for playing a crucial role in the promotion of 8 Powerful Voices in Defense of Public Education.  We delayed release of the first film due to the hurricane, but we are ready to go.

Sunday, September 17, 2017


Looking through the UFT's Weekly Chapter Leader Update (see the first three stories below) shows editor Peter O'Donnell has no sense of urgency about a union and union movement that are both in peril.  The UFT's funding is at stake as the US Supreme Court could take away mandatory union fees for non-members in the public sector in the case of Janus v AFSCME. I don't even see the case mentioned at all in the Update and I didn't see anything last week either. Maybe I missed it. Overall, it looks to me as if it is business as usual down at 52 Broadway. Since I gather editor O'Donnell gets his marching orders from the leadership, it was most likely not totally his decision to not mention Janus.

To their credit, the Union does have a photo showing members at the Labor Day Parade ready to vote no on the Constitutional Convention but then there are two lead articles telling us this is just another school year starting.

First, the Union is telling us they are opening up a Welcome Center at 52 Broadway. That is the lead story to tell Chapter Leaders in the first full week of the school year? This is hard to believe.

Then, the Union advises us to use our Chapter Committee Consultation Committees to resolve issues with principals. All good and well but not exactly urgent when the Union as we know it is in jeopardy.

Third, they ask us to donate for Hurricaine Irma relief which is at least an action.

Buried down in about the 33rd item is news of a rally on Monday afternoon down at City Hall in support of IBEW Local 3 workers who have been on strike against Charter-Spectrum (formerly Time-Warner Cable) since March. These workers need to be a higher priority than in the 30's on the list of weekly news stories.

Here are the first three paragraphs in this week's Update:

Photo of the Week

UNION PROUD: UFT District Representative Jessica Harvey (center) and members from District 2 schools get ready to march in the Labor Day Parade on Sept. 9. 

This Week's Focus

UFT opens Welcome Center at 52 Broadway

When our members arrive at union headquarters, we want them to feel welcome and we want them to receive top-notch service from their first interaction with us. That’s why the UFT opened a Welcome Center in the lobby of 52 Broadway on Sept. 5. From Monday through Friday from 3–6 p.m. when school is in session, members coming to 52 Broadway will first visit the Welcome Center, where they’ll be greeted by staff and a union officer. We’re taking this step to help ensure that members find the services they’re seeking and are directed to the appropriate department to answer their questions and address their issues. Members may travel to union headquarters to attend a workshop, obtain information on member benefits or follow up on a grievance. Whatever the reason, we want each and every member to have a good experience.

Use our school consultation committee summary tool to stay on track

Principals are required to meet with their school’s UFT consultation committee once a month according to Article 19, Section H3 of the UFT-DOE contract. As you prepare to hold your first meeting with your principal, we wanted to let you know about a new resource we’ve created to help you stay on track and to ensure that your district representative can support you as effectively as possible. You can fill out the UFT’s new online Consultation Summary Form (you must be logged in to the UFT website) to report resolved and unresolved issues at your school to your UFT district rep. When you fill out the form, you will be emailed a summary of your school consultation committee meeting that you can share with members of your chapter. The form also lists possible topics for discussion, which may be useful to you when creating your meeting agenda. Your district rep will receive a copy of each summary form you submit. Your district rep, after checking with you, may add your school’s unresolved issues to the agenda for his or her consultation meeting with your school district’s superintendent. Reach out to your district representative if you need help forming a UFT consultation committee at your school or if you are encountering any issues with consultation, including a prinicipal’s refusal to meet with your committee.

Donate to help your fellow educators affected by the hurricanes

Take action Hurricane Harvey devastated the Texas Gulf Coast. Hurricane Irma has caused massive destruction in the Caribbean and in Florida. Our fellow educators and retired UFT members in Texas and Florida need our help. Make a donation to the UFT Disaster Relief Fund to help them recover from the hurricanes. Donations will go toward disaster relief for affected members of Texas AFT, affected UFT members in Florida and public schools in Texas and Florida. Use our online form to make a donation by credit card. If you prefer to donate via check, make your check payable to UFT Disaster Relief Fund and put Hurricanes Harvey and Irma in the memo line. Mail your check to UFT Disaster Relief Fund, 52 Broadway, New York, NY 10004. 
Here is the item to to support the striking workers:

Political Action

Take action Support striking union members at a rally and march: We must stand united at this moment when our rights as unionized workers are under siege. Help us support a fair contract for striking Charter/Spectrum members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 3. Sign up to join the UFT contingent at 4:15 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 18, at Foley Square for the rally in support of these workers. Protesters will be gathering at 3 p.m. in Cadman Plaza Park in Brooklyn and marching over the Brooklyn Bridge and then walking to Foley Square. At approximately 4:15 p.m., local and national union leaders, including UFT President Michael Mulgrew, will address the protesters at the final staging place. Almost 2,000 Spectrum workers are five months into a job action against the cable giant to keep the company from destroying their retirement and health benefits, unfairly disciplining workers and threatening job security.

Saturday, September 16, 2017


When someone thinks of powerful labor unions in the USA, the Teamsters often come to mind. New York Teamsters have just had their pension cut by almost 30%. These cuts are for current retirees. Future retirees will see a19% cut.

From the Daily News:

Pension payouts to retired Teamsters in New York will be cut by roughly 30% starting next month.

The draconian move is a last-ditch effort to keep the New York State Teamsters Conference Pension and Retirement Fund solvent — and it was taken following a vote among its 34,000 members.

The Teamsters fund covers nine local unions, mostly in upstate New York.

The average cut for those who retired with 30 years of service will be about $2,000 — taking most retirees to $3,550 from $5,000.

The rank and file vote on the cuts was strange to say the least.

From the Daily Gazette:

The U.S. Treasury Department on Wednesday announced that active and retired Teamsters across upstate New York had voted against big pension reductions by a more than 2-1 ratio.

But since most of the 34,000-plus eligible Teamsters didn’t vote — and under federal law, an unreturned ballot counts as a “yes” vote — the cuts are approved, and will take effect Oct. 1.

UFT officer-executive board elections are done by mail balloting and the vast majority of members don't vote in these UFT elections. Even with a gigantic pension cut at stake for the Teamsters, less than half voted. The Gazette reported that over 34,000 ballots were mailed out but only 13,869 were returned of which 9,788 were against and only 4,081 were in favor. The 20,767 non-returned ballots were counted as yes votes. My take is this is further evidence that mail in ballots lead to low turnouts.

The Teamsters are in a tough situation with declining workforces but anyone who thinks pension cuts cannot happen with public sector employee pensions is just plain wrong.

What is occurring with the Teamsters is just another reason why we must vote to protect our pensions by voting NO in the general election on November 7 on a Constitutional Convention (Proposition 1). A convention could put reductions to our pensions on the table.

Friday, September 15, 2017


Since we are getting back the second interest free payment (12.5% of the money we are owed) from the loan we gave to the city of the raises other city unionized employees received  from 2008-2010 on October 15, 2017, UFT members will need to up their TDA contribution rate by Saturday, September 16 for it to be included in the October 15 check.

Anyone who is not maxing out their TDA could up their contribution temporarily to lower their taxable income for 2017 and add to their TDA. Remember to switch back to the lower rate for the next payroll or the new rate will continue.

Here is the email from TRS:

Dear TRS Member:

As you may know, a retroactive payment under the United Federation of Teachers contract is scheduled for the October 16, 2017 payroll. According to our records, you may be receiving this retroactive payment.

TRS is contacting you because we know that members receiving such a payment often choose to increase their contributions to TRS' Tax-Deferred Annuity (TDA) Program in advance. The retroactive payment provides a rare opportunity to make a larger one-time deposit into their TDA account.

If you are interested in increasing your TDA contribution rate for the October 16 payroll, TRS must receive your rate election by this Saturday, September 16. To change your TDA contribution rate, log in to the secure section of our website, choose "TDA" in the main menu bar, and use the "Change Rate" feature by September 16.

Remember, your new TDA contribution rate will remain in effect until you change it, so you'll probably want to make another online rate change in time for the following payroll.

For more information, please read the related news bulletins on our website. 


Thursday, September 14, 2017


Mayor Bill de Blasio easily cruised to a Democratic Primary victory the other night. It looks like the under-funded, not well known Republican Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis does not have that great a chance to upset the Mayor in November although you never know it could be a closer election than people think.

What does de Blasio cruising to reelection mean for those of us who work in the NYC schools?

 It's probably more of the same with Chancellor Carmen Farina or one of her deputies following her if she retires. The war on teachers in too many schools will more than likely continue. On the other hand, maybe the mayor goes in a different direction in his second term in office.

Time will tell but the UFT's early endorsement does not seem to matter one way or the other in how the schools are run. Teachers seem to be taken for granted.

I don't see much improvement in working conditions but what does everyone else think?

Wednesday, September 13, 2017


Yesterday was a good day to look at some statistics on education.

Education Week covered a survey done by the federal government on who the public and charter school teachers in the USA are. Here is some of what they found:

Teachers tend to be white, female, and have nearly a decade and a half of experience in the classroom, according to new data released Monday by the federal government.

1. The Teaching Force Is Growing and Getting Slightly More Female

The 2015-16 survey estimates that there are 3.8 million public school teachers in the U.S. That’s up from about 3.4 million teachers four years ago, when the last survey was administered. About 3.6 million of the teachers today work in traditional public schools, while about 218,500, or 6 percent, work in charter schools.

About 77 percent of teachers are women—up slightly from 76 percent in 2012. In primary schools, nearly 9 in 10 teachers are women. In high schools, less than two-thirds are.

The average age of teachers is 42, down slightly from 43 in 2012.

The average base salary for a teacher these days is $55,100. Those who earn additional money for leading extracurricular or other activities tend to add about $2,600 to their pay.

This is a mostly white female profession. I think we all knew teachers were mostly women but there are more males in the high schools. I would guess the gender ratio is somewhat similar, although slightly less white, in NYC. Teacher unionists need to understand the needs of our rank and file. Hence the push for paid maternity leave.

Most teachers also said in the survey that they still have some autonomy in the classroom.

The federal government also found charter school teachers are less experienced than public school teachers. Charter school teachers are less likely to have a Masters Degree.

In other statistical news, the AFT did a poll on what parents want. It looks like the parents agree with the teachers on education for the most part. Here is an example:

Parents Want Quality Neighborhood Public Schools More than Choice.

With which statement do you agree more?

I want a good quality neighborhood public school I can send my children to: 71%

I want to have more choiceof which schools I can send my children to: 29%.

Those numbers include urban and non-urban parents.

Just some statistics to look at in the middle of the week.