Monday, June 19, 2006

La Cirque de UFT

by Norman Scott

The ink wasn’t even dry on the announcement that ICE and TJC were going to run a joint slate (headed by Kit Wainer of Goldstein HS) to oppose the UFT leadership before the Unity Caucus machine was on the attack: “What a perfect couple! They (ICE & TJC) share exactly the same solitary interest – and it’s nothing so messy as say, standing up for the UFT members’ rights, and improving working conditions. Nor is it as complicated as getting class sizes reduced, securing tougher discipline measures or protecting UFT members’ healthcare benefits and hard-earned pensions.”

Let’s see now, ICE and TJC are being attacked by the very union leaders who have allowed members’ rights to erode to the point where there is barely a grievance procedure (see last contract negotiated by Unity) and members are under attack every day from vicious supervisors. Just ask the hundreds of people bursting against the walls of the rubber rooms who are not told why they are there and assumed guilty until proven innocent just how their “rights” are being protected.

Can Unity come up with even ONE working condition they have improved, say, in the last 10 years? Oh yes – the open market plan where a teacher with 30 years seniority can end up being a day-to-day sub is being marketed by Unity as an improvement. Don’t be surprised to see the leadership try to sell the 2 days before the Labor Day weekend as an improvement in working conditions. Just think – going to work before the weekend will enable you to appreciate the holiday in a more meaningful way.

Has anyone noticed any reduction in class size recently as opposed to talking about it? (In Unity parlance, public relations substitutes for real results.) Their continued refusal to put class size on the negotiating table, which they wee willing to do 35 years ago and actually won the only major protections still operating in the contract, sends a message that PR gimmicks are the priority.

As to their securing tougher discipline – excuse me, I am so shaking with laughter at this one that I can’t continue writing.

Sorry, let’s continue.

Protection of health care? When a resolution was proposed calling for no givebacks on health care in the next contract, Unity overwhelmingly TURNED IT DOWN! As for protection of pensions, these are people who meekly accepted a 4-tier pension system (with more tiers most likely to come.)

When Kit Wainer spoke on the “No Giveback” resolution he said it was clear that Bloomberg would not ask for more time but focus on pension erosion Weingarten snidely asked “How do you know what Bloomberg will ask for?” I guess Kit has a special pipeline. The NY Times reported on June 6, “The Bloomberg administration proposed yesterday that newly hired workers belonging to the largest municipal union accept substantially smaller pensions, a move that the city hopes will set a money-saving pattern for every municipal union.” How fast can you say “Tier 5?”

The Unity leaflet went on to say: “Instead [of doing all the wonderful things Unity does for its members] this lovely twosome can now pursue a single goal together: toppling our union’s leadership and grabbing all the power for themselves.”

At this point, I am kicking and screaming with pain from laughing so hard. Yes, ve vant all de power for ourselves. (ICE and TJC members are required to repeat this over and over this in their best Bella Lugosi voices.) Now, remind me which caucus has ALL THE POWER FOR THEMSELVES and whose prime directive over all else is to maintain the status quo?

Take the current elections for the retired teacher chapter where the Retiree Advocate Caucus is running against Unity, which sends its leaders all over the country on junkets to cater to the retired members, something the opposition never gets to do. No matter how many votes the RA get, Unity gets all 300 delegates to the DA instead of apportioning the number of delegates based on the percentage of votes. Even an 80-20 pro-Unity split would give Unity 270 and the RA 30 delegates, a drop in the bucket. But Unity won’t even allow that much of a dent that leads to the DA voting 80% in favor of the leadership, a number way out of kilter to their support in the schools. (In the interests of full disclosure, I am running as one of the RA delegates and my chances are – well you know all about that well-known snowball.)

Unity has used the retiree chapter and other power grabbing manipulations of the constitution (Divisional VP’s elected at-large by everyone including retirees after changing the rules when the first opposition person was elected to the Adcom in history back in the late 80’s.)


Notice there’s no mention in the Unity diatribe of one key word – democracy. This is certainly something that the UFT/Unity leadership considers messy. When members of the opposition Unified Teachers Party attempted to present a resolution calling for the reinstatement of election of district representatives, which Weingarten eliminated years ago, they were ignored. No one knows better than those of us who have been active for years just how Unity has stacked the deck so they can keep ALL THE POWER FOR THEMSELVES. We enter the election campaign with no illusions of grabbing ALL THE POWER FOR OURSELVES.

If we accomplish nothing else, we will make sure as many people as we can reach will know exactly how Unity operates and come to an understanding that democracy in the UFT certainly is a mess.

(An excerpt from the above appeared in The Wave,, on June 2)

I will post the text of the Unity leaflet in its entirety in one of the comments so you too can laugh yourselves silly. Make some copies and share them with your colleagues (with the response above, of course.) After what Unity has allowed to happen to the schools, everyone needs a laugh.

If you are interested in supporting the ICE/TJC attempt to put a dent in the Unity monopoly, join the election campaign by running (we can run up to 800 candidates), distributing literature in your schools, sending a contribution or just plain talking to people.

To counter Unity spin every school in the city needs to be reached. One of Unity’s main efforts will be directed at new chapter leaders at the fall training where they get them for a few weekends of propaganda and food, a good combo. If you know new independent chapter leaders they should link up with others. UTP/ICE/TJC can act as a clearinghouse to get them together so they don't get swamped. Have them contact one of the groups beforehand. It would be great to have CL's there who can counter the spin.


Anonymous said...

First of all, going on a tirade doesn't help.

I have written extensively about how you guys need to take the higher road and get some type of professional public relations assistance.

If you are going to go on the negative, they win! I also warned about the fact that they have the advantage over you, and they have started using it.

After the first few paragraphs, I couldn't read anymore.

If you want the support of elementary school teachers, then you need to be much more savvy than this. Randi always comes across as calm and professional even when she is lying through her teeth.

Anonymous said...

As a retiree though, Norm, who doesn't have an audience to listen to his rants anymore, needs to express himself. Yet it is clear that the fact they ICE can't come up with anything but a bemoaning of the "rubber room", there has been little talk abotu anything of substance. Not even being able to update your website since Oct. 2005, in the middle of the contract battle when many ICE people were making personal attacks (not to mention cursing and screaming at the DA) tells us something.

Joe Mudgett, UTP said...

Why is the ICE/TJC joint slate the better alternative for our union's rank and file? Consider these three reasons:

First, ICE/TJC has gone beyond Unity's "no extra time" contract negotiating stance, by stating that there should also be "no givebacks in the form of pension costs, healthcare costs, or job protections."

They believe the UFT has traded away too much in the last two contracts, and that teachers should be rewarded for the heroic jobs they are already doing.

Second, ICE/TJC believes that district representatives should be elected by the members they represent. This will help restore democracy to our union, as it will end the current practice of the president appointing these officials.

Third, ICE/TJC will pursue aggressive advocacy for any and all members removed from their schools and dumped into the rubber rooms.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the positives coming out of the ICE/TJC camp. Keep reading the ICE, TJC, UTP, and other sites for more reasons to support this alternative to the sell-out status quo.

Anonymous said...

1. Open up a web site devoted to Mr. Wainer and his platform.

2. Distribute bumper stickers advertising the web site.

3. Enlist the help of the press. Smaller papers such as the Queens Chronicle can be of help.

4. This summer there will be a NYC teaching fellows day at Shea Stadium. Pass out flyers there.

Anonymous said...

Your mention of the Open Market Transfer Plan caught my eye. I can't find anything on how this is supposed to be run. However, my school is interviewing and making job offers like crazy to fill several slots and they haven't posted them on the Open Market site. Meanwhile, I've posted for several jobs and am not even getting a request for a resume although the DOE reports a shortage of teachers in my subject. Some of the posted slots have been filled and the postings are still there. What's going on?

Anonymous said...

Thanks Joe for putting the word out in a professional manner. Now if the writers on this blog can do the same, maybe Randi can be defeated.

On the rubber room issue, I know of some teachers who really deserved to be there. I understand the union should protect those who were sent there under false pretenses, but I would hate to see that as a major part of the platform because the press will jump all over it--negatively of course as protecting bad and incompetent teachers.

Again, think public relations!!!!!
If you come across as radicals, you will miss a great opportunity.

Anonymous said...

I've been told that after applying for the Open Market online, we should send resumes the following week and then follow up with a phonecall. We also shouldn't limit ourselves to the open market online. If there is a school we'd like to work in we should just send in our resumes directly to the school. I know at least 3 people that got transfers that way.

Anonymous said...

Where there's smoke there's fire, isn't alwasy true. ICE/TJC blows a lot of smoke, but there is no fire. They seek to represent those who they believe are unrepresented--those members who are in the Temp. Retention Centers. Any audience in a storm. In fact, I was shocked to hear that 2/3 of the members in one retention center asked the UFT not help them because they would rather bide their time. I find that appalling, so I support making sure all members get an expedited hearing whether they want one or not. I think ICE/TJC should aggressively pursue that policy.

Anonymous said...

here is some help on the Open Market:

Anonymous said...

They can persue the policy, just do not make it a part of their platform.

Norm said...

To: "I support making sure all members get an expedited hearing whether they want one or not. I think ICE/TJC should aggressively pursue that policy."

I am personally for expedited hearings as long as teachers get a fair shake in the investigation process. From what I've seen as an observer, the rubber room experience is not a healthy one and the sooner they are out the better for them. But as I speak to people, there are certainly complications. Breaking people's spirit, isolating them from a support network of colleagues in their schools, etc. may be part of the plan.

Jeff's resolution at the June 19 Exec bd meeting was attempting to redress this.

How come the OSI gets to interview and investigate and then wait years to present its findings while the teacher doesn't know who said what?

The reso was calling for the UFT/NYSUT to hire investigators to look into the case before it gets cold. DOE is allowed to go in fishing expeditions to pull info from kids until they get what they want. The teacher doesn't know who is being interviewed or get a chance to ask for witnesses who might have a different story until it is too late.

The UFT doesn't seem to have any complaints about any of this. (And of course Randi gutted Jeff's reso). Indeed, did they even know there was a rubber room until Jeff ended up there? Suddenly, after no contact from UFT reps they started appearing there after the Post and Times articles on Jeff.

The appearance of RR people at Exec Bd meetings was due to our encouraging them to come there. So the comment that we "blow a lot of smoke" may be correct but that smoke seems to irritate the eyes of the UFT leaders a hell of a lot because they seem to respond to every tiny puff that comes from us.

Randi mentioned twice at the EB meeting how much she hates it that the UFT election cycle might be used to create issues. It certainly seems more on her mind than ours.

Cynics in Unity always feel we raise issues for ulterior motives. Like defending RR people might actually get us some election advantage. We know the 50,000 retirees voting have just a bit more impact that 500 RR people.

Maybe watching UFT leaders abandoning people because their existence might turn out to be bad PR is enough to make us take some action.

Anonymous said...

Norm needs to take a math class. An 80-20 split of the vote would give the retiree advocate 60 seats in the DA if there were proportional representation, not the mere 30 that Norm would apportion.

Other than that minor correction in RA's favor, Norm made some really good points. The people involved in the personal attacks against Norm are just protecting themselves.

Anonymous said...

If norm is right that ICE is not looking for political gain then why didn't he or Jeff respond to the comments about Jeff from another thread about the June 19 EB?

"Why don't you talk about Jeff Kaufman's report to the Ex Bd that he let a member he "represented" at a 3020A hearing got a horrible deal giving up his/her rights. (I'm assuming like we've seen on this blog). According to Jeff, know one was there to help the member so their rights were violated.

"Randi asked why he didn't call, e-mail or do something immediately. He calls, writes and does other things to get attention all the time? Why not now to help a member he was suppose to "represent"?

Talk about selective reporting. Is this politics at the expense of our members? Nice!"

(Wednesday, June 21, 2006 11:30:55 PM)

Norm said...

Randi's attack on Jeff was specious as she was just deflecting a situation that the UFT and NYSUT had allowed to occur where teachers in the middle of the hearing are given a devil's choice.

Say Jeff had called her. Do you mean to say Randi is not aware of the devil's choice and needed Jeff to tell her that? Why didn't she attack the NYSUT lawyers or UFT reps involved for not calling her?

In fact calling her is meaningless in cases like this. Would she have stopped the hearing? Run down immediately? These hearings are ongoing. What has Randi done about it since being informed even if at the Exec bd meeting?

Bringing it to the exec bd is a way of demonstrating to the mostly Unity Exec Bd (probably a useless exercise) that they are more interested in calling demos about John Stossel than in doing the basic work of the union.

I am in touch with U-rated and rubber room teachers all the time who get little basic info from the UFT. You mean it took Jeff's reso on providing help to RR people at the last Exec bd meeting of the year to get Randi to think of offering them a basic guide? Where has the UFT been all this time?

She is responding based on the possibility the issue can be used for some advantage by the opposition. As a matter of fact, the entire "new Militancy" is just a PR repsonse to the 40% vote against the contract.

As to political gain, the point we are making is that there is no chance even if we wanted to to make political gain unless we make a New Action like deal with unity for jobs, etc. Elections are stacked so the opposition has little chance to make gains. Understanding the fact that the leadership does everything for PR purposes, the only way to get some changes in their behavior is to use the PR tactic to make things public. Then you get a response. That is why Jeff used the Exec bd as a forum.

Randi made her attack in the context of how much she hates that people do things for elections. She made that point twice, clearly something that is more on her mind than ours. People on the inside tell us all the time that UFT policy is based on the perception of how it would play.

Anonymous said...

No political gain? This thread starts off about ICE and TJC running "a joint [political] slate (headed by Kit Wainer of Goldstein HS) to oppose the UFT leadership". How would your comments NOW not be seeking a political gain?

Anonymous said...

By the way, I thought Jeff was the "UFT Rep" involved in the case? You are asking her to "attack" Jeff?

Norm said...

Can we win anything except a few seats on the Exec bd? So what ae we gaining? We can use the election as a platform to call for reform of the UFT.If we accomplish a more democratic union and a union leadership that is more responsive then everyone gains.

What did we gain in supporting rubber room teachers other than getting Randi to pay more attention?

What do you think of the retiree chapter election where the Retiree Advocate slate running against Unity got 35% of the vote but Unity gets all 300 delegates to the DA? Winner take all systems are a travesty of democracy.

On the last comments, the NYSUT attornies handle the case. Randi didn't make a deal about their "not picking up the phone to call her." I guess she can claim the UFT has nothing to do with bad representation from NYSUT, as if the UFT isn't the controlling body of NYSUT with - correct me if I'm wrong - 50% or more of the members.

Anonymous said...

Hey Norm-

35% of 300 is 105 seats. That's what the retiree advocate would get if there were proportional representation based on this year's vote. Not bad, but no it's winner take all