Sunday, April 23, 2006

Negotiating Secrecy

I don’t know about you but I take signed pledges seriously. When we agreed to become part of the mammoth negotiating committee we wondered how negotiating strategy was going to be discussed in such a large forum….we wondered how a discussion could take place without “tipping” our hand.

Then, our concerns were answered at our first meeting. Randi stood in front of the throng and told us that this negotiating committee business was serious…so serious, in fact, that we were all required to sign secrecy oaths. On a form prepared, according to Randi by looking at other models of large negotiating committees’ experiences, we were to promise not to reveal any of the “goings on” of the committee to insure that everyone can speak with candor and our strategies would not be revealed. Also we would speak with one voice so as not to give the impression that there was dissension in the ranks.

Several of us wondered how this agreement could be actually work in practice and we got our first taste at the Executive Board meeting held on April 10th. As we jealously guarded our pledge, there in the Executive Board session (open to any UFT member) a long and proud member of the Unity caucus spilled the beans. She went into detail about the meeting in a way that clearly broke her pledge (if in fact she signed it).

We were amused. This demonstrates at least how one person viewed the pledge but we vowed to keep our secrets.

Then comes the New York Teacher. On page 3 of the April 13th edition is not only a description of the negotiating committee meeting but a “blow-by-blow” account with pictures. How did a reporter get into the room of committee members who were sworn to secrecy?

While such hypocrisy is not surprising in our experience with our Union never in our collective memories has it been thrown in our face after taking a pledge.

We will still keep our pledge but we will still wonder.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Emergency Executive Board Report:

Contract Modified to Eliminate Extended Time Schools and Provide $5,000.00 Sign-up Housing Bonuses for New Math, Science and Special Ed Teachers

Though you will not see it prominently displayed at or in your next New York Teacher the UFT Executive Board, with little notice, last Wednesday, approved a modification to our contract which will sound the death knell to the Extended Time Schools and provide union approval to a $5,000 sign-up bonus scheme to attract math, science and special ed teachers.

Extended Time Schools were created to provide additional compensation to teachers and staff that agreed to work in mostly failing schools and agreed to work additional time. They were generally paid 15% more for 5 additional days before school began and professional development.

With the new contract and everyone working longer hours the difference between ETS and other schools was not that great and the salary reflected it.

Under the provisions of the new modification the UFT agrees that ETS gets phased out and then eliminated by July 1, 2007. In exchange a new housing incentive program for new math, science and special ed teachers will be made available.

If you have worked for the DOE in the last 2 years you are not eligible for the $5,000.00 bonus.

The modification demonstrates that we are further along a significant shift in negotiation strategy. We are no longer treating salaries for teachers equally. Starting with the lead teacher position this incentive continues our acceptance that all teachers are not equal…or some are more equal than others.

The leadership rammed this modification through the Board citing that “time was of the essence.” Our attempt to delay voting until a more thorough examination can be made of the modification was defeated.

What’s next is unclear but paying our members differently has been a clear goal of Klein and Bloomberg. That alone should give us some hint as to where we are headed.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Chapter Elections Are Coming!

It was recently announced at Monday's Executive Board meeting that Chapter Leader and Delegate elections will be held shortly. Packets will be mailed to Chapter Leaders on April 24th.

Every chapter will hold elections no matter how long the present chapter leader has been in office. Chapters must set up election committees and post specific times for nominations and one day for the election.

We have posted the Union's own guide to running the election at Make certain your chapter follows these rules to the letter. Any irregularities should be reported at once to

Register your vote against givebacks and a leadership that is out of touch with our membership. Run for Chapter positions!

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Did your Chapter Leader and Delegate(s) sign a Loyalty Oath to Support Randi Weingarten’s Policies even if they hurt your school?

Many NYC educators are wondering why the leadership of our Union, the United Federation of Teachers, does not represent the views of their school. The reason is that many chapter leaders and delegates are members of Unity Caucus, an invitation only political party that has run the UFT since the 1960s. Unity members must sign an obligation statement. One of their obligations is to “support the decisions of the caucus and the Union leadership elected from the caucus in public or Union forums.”

Former AFT President David Seldon stated in his book, The Teacher Rebellion, “…unions can become political machines, and that is what happened to the UFT.” He added, “[Unity] is a closed caucus; one must be voted in. Its decisions must be followed in every detail” (p. 156- 157).

ICE believes the Unity Caucus loyalty oath and patronage system have hurt our union because Unity chapter leaders and delegates are devoted to Unity and not the members in the schools who elected them. This leads to cynicism in schools as member wishes are routinely ignored. Unity chapter leaders must stay loyal to Randi/Unity if they want to be part of the spoils machine that offers free trips to conventions, part time Union jobs after school and full time Union jobs with six figure salaries and double pensions.

How can we have a Union that will represent its members?

The UFT belongs to rank and file educators, not the Union’s leadership. Change needs to come from the schools. Step 1 to taking back our Union: elect more independent people to chapter leader and delegate positions this May and June in Chapter Elections.

If additional independents were in office last year, the fiasco that was the contract vote might have been avoided. If there were a greater number of autonomous chapter leaders and delegates, they would have stood up to UFT leaders at the Delegate Assembly (the union’s highest policy making body) and in schools when the leadership touted the giveback laden contract (longer day, longer year, loss of ability to grieve file letters, hall patrol, loss of seniority and SBO transfers, etc…). Unity people were forced to obey and dutifully sold the horrific contract.

You can help by electing chapter representatives who are independent!

• Independents need to seek chapter leader and delegate positions in schools. This is a difficult task but ICE will help with campaigning. We’re an open group.

• If you are unable to run for union office, then please question candidates and volunteer to serve on chapter election committees to ensure fair chapter elections.

• Elect chapter leaders and delegates who will represent your school, not Randi’s Unity political machine. Make sure your chapter is a Non Unity school.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Know Your Rights: Principals Beginning to Seek Confirmation of Sick Notes Violates Federal Law

It has happened to us all…You get a bad flu or some other illness that requires that you call in sick. Being extra careful you visit your doctor, receive treatment and obtain a medical excuse note that you promptly give to your payroll secretary when you return.

The days come out of your Cumulative Absence Reserve (CAR) and that’s the end of it. Right?

A disturbing trend has begun to emerge. Principals and other supervisors are verifying the “doctor notes” and in some cases bringing our members up on charges for providing what they believe are false or tampered doctor’s notes.

One case in point. A teacher, from District 75, after 10 years of unblemished and exemplary teaching began to have some “disagreements” with her principal. One day, one of her students struck her causing injury to her hand. While the principal balked at first, the injury in the line of duty forms were completed and the teacher went to her doctor for treatment.

The doctor examined the teacher and determined that three days were needed for recuperation which placed her back at work on a Friday. The teacher asked the doctor for one more day and he consented and adjusted the note accordingly.

When the teacher took the note back to school all seemed o.k. until, about two months later she was summoned into the principals office and questioned about who changed the doctor’s note. She vehemently denied having anything to do with the note and was then sent to the rubber room.

She languished in the rubber room for almost a year when she found out that her doctor had told investigators from special investigations that he had not made any changes to the note. Faced with this information and upon advice from her NYSUT lawyer the teacher agreed to leave her job and pay a $2500 fine. She was subsequently hired in another state.

When I first heard of this case I wondered how this could have happened under the HEALTH INSURANCE PORTABILITY AND ACCOUNTABILITY ACT OF 1996 or HIPAA, the federal law that, among other things, protects us from unauthorized disclosure of medical records.

Without a proper release or properly noticed subpoena it is a violation of this federal law for your doctor or health care provider to supply any record or confirm the existence of a medical record to the DOE. This includes visits, diagnosis, or any other medical information.

In the case above the DOE would probably not be in violation of HIPAA but the teacher’s doctor most assuredly would be. When you are treated by a health care provider and you do not wish the DOE to know anything more than the date you should return to school remind your health care provider of her responsibilities under HIPAA. If your principal asks for more information remind him of HIPAA and the laws against disability discrimination.