Sunday, January 28, 2007


The latest piece of literature from New Action (NAC) is laughable. New Action was the oldest opposition caucus (political party) in the UFT. Randi Weingarten's party, Unity, has run the UFT since the union was founded in 1960. New Action claims that President Randi Weingarten "changed a forty year policy of excluding opposition caucuses from having a voice in the UFT." When did she exactly change that policy? The answer is never. What was the actual change? The answer to this one is unfortunately quite simple: Weingarten promised and delivered paid jobs to New Action's leaders and they now support her.

There were members of New Action and other people opposed to Unity on UFT Committees making UFT policy throughout the 1990's, well before Randi was President. Even the supposedly important negotiating committee was opened up to NAC's Bob Dehler in 1999. Many of NAC's people were on all kinds of committees but they remained critical of Weingarten/Unity.

Weingarten's first collective bargaining negotiation as president fell apart at the last minute in 1999. At that time, she was willing to agree to merit pay for summer school teachers in the form of free airline tickets for staff if student test scores improved. New Action correctly predicted that based on Weingarten's first negotiating experience as president, she would be willing to give away our rights. New Action as recently as 2001 criticized Randi in its literature saying, "Randi Never Met a Giveback She Didn't Like." They were right to be critical of Randi/Unity at that time so they ran a candidate against her that year and won the high schools.

By the next election in 2004, however, New Action was not running against Randi. What did Randi do for them? She promised to put their leadership on the union payroll. In the past, New Action members served on UFT committees as unpaid volunteers, but the newly created organizing committee was a paid committee. As most of New Action's core leaders have been retiring the last few years, they have been able to move from the classroom into paid union jobs. What was the price to pay for their jobs? Support Randi as they are doing this year.

NAC's reluctant opposition to the 2005 Contract only happened because their few remaining active teachers were appalled by the givebacks. New Action certainly didn't oppose that contract with much fervor. Subsequently, NAC quickly returned to the Unity fold and their co-chairs who are now retired are running a pseudo slate that endorses Randi for president. For anyone who says that you should vote for NAC because of changes they are making from the "inside", ask one question: Since they stopped opposing Randi, what policy did New Action come up with that has improved our contractual working conditions or made the UFT a more democratic union? The correct answer: none.

You see ladies and gentlemen, singer Cyndi Lauper was right, "Money changes everything."


Anonymous said...

This makes a great deal of sense to us. Vote ICE-TJC; the only real opposition.

Anonymous said...

New Action should not even run.

Anonymous said...

Are you going to spend the whole campaign complaining about NAC? This is why we should elect you to run the union, because you want to settle a vendetta with some former friends?

Anonymous said...

No, ICE just has to respond to the NAC leaflet that is hitting the schools the last week or so.

Anonymous said...

ICE-TJC all the way. NAC is yesterday. Get rid of them and Randi!

Anonymous said...

Why are you guys runiing a retiree on your lsate? Don't you always complain about retirees in voting and now you're runiing a retiree? How desperate and discouraging.

jameseterno said...

We feel retirees should have their own vice president who they vote for exclusively.

We are practicing what we preach by running Ellen Fox for a VP position. Ellen is one of the most dedicated people involved in UFT matters.

She has many years of experience as a chapter leader, delegate and executive board member. The membership would benefit greatly if she were to be elected as a VP.

Even Unity people do not question Ellen's committment to the Union. Find a better issue to criticize us on. Ellen Fox is one of the best people the UFT has.

ed notes online said...

We complain about the 300 Unity retirees who are members of the Delegate Assembly. And just about every Unity retiree gets a gig at the union. We also complain that the 55,000 retirees can be the decisive factor in a union election though they haven't been so far. The entire at-large vote is guaranteed to Unity because of the retirees. The opposition would have to get (and my numbers may be off somewhat here) well over 60% of the vote of active members to have a shot at breaking even.

So your complaint about Ellen Fox is a diversion from the real issues and we've heard it all before.

Anonymous said...

I distinctly remember Jeff Kaufman complaining several times about retirees voting or on union issues but now one should be a VP? The hypocrisy is sad. I'm still looking for the real alternative.

Anonymous said...

Norm why don't you run? Heck why don't James,Jeff or Ellen run? I don't get this Kit guy?

Anonymous said...

This is what you HS folk should be thining about.

Welcome to Kindergarten
Filed under: New Teacher Diaries — No-sleep-till-Brooklyn on Edwize

The response I received after sharing my news of relocating to New York from Michigan was much the same across the board. “Wow, teaching in New York . . . why?” With expressions muddled with confusion and wonder, my friends and family listened as I explained my motivation for moving to Brooklyn to teach kindergarten. “I need to make a difference – I want to care for children who aren’t receiving much love from home.” That was a lot to ask for, but I had no trouble finding it.

Entering my first year of teaching, I knew that facing challenges and overcoming obstacles were part of the job description. Fitting in with the other teachers and finding a way to overcome my fear of four- and five-year-olds were a few concerns keeping me awake at night. Turns out, I was worried about all the wrong things.

As with any emergency, such as a sinking ship or a house on fire, one reacts with the split second response, “Bail! Bail! Bail! Must get out!” Let’s just say I was in emergency-mode for the entire month of September — 19 days of agony — the details of which are too gruesome to relate here. I came to New York with a bit of teaching experience, but unfortunately my middle-class, well-to-do student body with an organized and happy PTA did not prepare me for what I faced on the first day of school.

I spent my first few months thinking I was doing everything wrong. Why are my children dancing down the hallways? Why are my children leaping over chairs? Why are my children using their middle finger to offend?

I was quick to realize that I had not been prepared to interact with, understand or teach children from Brooklyn. “Hey there little guy, wouldn’t you rather write your name on the paper instead of tearing it to shreds?” Kept shredding. “Do you really think rolling across my floor knocking over chairs is the best idea?” Still rolling. “Tell me what I can do to help you calm down.” Not even a glance.

The truth is, students always smell new blood — they certainly picked me out right away. I was trampled, I was trodden and they saw right through my inconsistent behavior management plan (plan? what plan?) and my structured activities. “You want structure, you want control?” they seemed to mock. “Then come and get it.” These children of lower economic status from unstable home lives quickly inspired me, or rather, forced me to teach differently then I ever could have anticipated.

Coming from Michigan, I had stored up teaching methods and techniques from teachers with whom I had observed and taught. Giving students choices, asking instead of demanding, using a calm and polite voice . . . no no no. That may have worked in Michigan but certainly not in Brooklyn. The first hour of my first day of class promptly showed me that I had no idea what I was up against. My students were whizzing around the room, stealing drinks of water and trips to the bathroom without my permission.

“Five-year-olds,” my friends laughed. “Really, how bad can they be?” They had no idea. I was trying to create and enforce routines and make sure the children knew limits, but I struggled to know how to make them believe me and respect what I had to say. They were simply impossible.

I talked with other teachers (more like pleaded), I observed, and I was quite like a sponge, soaking up each new technique I came across so I could squeeze it out on my class. I learned very quickly to be firm in my word. In fact, I picked up a completely new tone of voice (stern, quite scary). I learned how to give tough love. “Glue your bottom to that chair and start writing.” “You can put those tears away; they’re not impressing anyone today.” What sounded like verbal abuse to me was what finally got my students’ attention.

The children I taught were not accustomed to polite voices, and they were not accustomed to the choices I was so graciously trying to offer them. With a change in tolerance, I was finally able to get through a lesson without a fight, a temper tantrum or some child running laps around my room, hurdling up and over chairs. I was in control, but not commando. I felt horrible in the beginning, but soon realized that my children were more responsive than ever, learning without the distraction of students steamrolling over tables or throwing chairs across the room. Being firm was key.

All of this is not to say that I have these students figured out. My five-year-olds still swear, punch, snatch, give cold stares and refuse to comply, but now I know where they’re coming from. What they have already witnessed is more than I could have imagined at their age and the best thing for me to do is to continue to learn about them in order to help me teach them. Had I walked into my job knowing that I was in for quite a surprise, I could have saved myself a lot of self blame and suffering, but I believe I have become a stronger person because of that. Either that or I’m still making up excuses to justify the nightmare that was my first few months of teaching.

Anonymous said...

It's hard to teach in NYC: no kidding. It's harder without any real union backing.

Anonymous said...

VOTE ICE-TJC. James and Jeff are running for reelection to the Executive Board.

norm said...

Anon Kindergarten Teacher:
This happened to me for almost my entire first year of teaching in mostlygrades 3-6. Had the same attitude you did initially and I WAS from Brooklyn.

You know all that advice about "not smiling the first month" and giving them "the look" -- all true. By my 2nd year it came together and I was almost a pro.

3rd year I felt like a weathered vet.

4th year, ready for retirement. Sort of sounds like things today.

Anonymous said...

So Norm, things are no worse than before?

Norm said...

How would I know? I'm retired. They're certainly much better for me. And I bet for you too. It is clear where your insipid question is leading -- right toward Unity hackdom where all the world of Unity is glorious -- for those employed at the union.

But seriously folks! I do not know that the kids are that much worse than I saw in the late 60's but the better I became as a teacher the less worse the kids became. I saw some of the crack babies in the 90's coming through and they were tough to deal with.

What is worse today is the way Unity has allowed things to slip in terms of administrations and how they can go after teachers. Today even sustained grievances are ignored -- the entire grievance procedure has been gutted. The "know your rights" stuff will really work when your principal informs your prospective boss when you go for a job on the open market system how well you know your rights. It helps to know your rights when you have a union with a backbone.

Anonymous said...

So ICE has so many active teachers behind it, that it needs to recruit retirees to run for officer position...

Anonymous said...

Hey, Jeff, I saw you e-mail to the ICE listserv that you needed comments here, so here I am.

Go, ICE. Beat NAC!

Anonymous said...

Beat Unity too Jeff!