Thursday, March 06, 2008


by James Eterno, UFT Chapter Leader, Jamaica High School

Many of us came home on Wednesday wondering why we keep attending Delegate Assembly Meetings. The two periods during the regular agenda that give rank and file delegates a chance to ask questions to the President or make new motions have been consistently eliminated or cut short in many of the this year's meetings. Many delegates sitting near me including those from Jamaica, close friends and my wife, were asking me why they were here. They were tired of Randi Weingarten's filibusters and now filibusters from people brought on stage. Unfortunately, they had a point. We constantly urge people to attend union meetings but frankly this is becoming embarrassing. The business that was transacted could have been accomplished in about a half hour tops and left plenty of time for people to ask questions, raise motions and vote on everything on the agenda. However with the strong Unity majority at the DA, it is a very depressing experience as the agenda now means next to nothing and changes at Randi's whims are rubber stamped by her supporters.

Randi announced, before my wife and I arrived, that she would be deciding in six to eight weeks whether or not to be a candidate for the soon to be vacant American Federation of Teachers presidency. She said that she would continue on at the UFT even if she took the AFT position. This information was reported to us when we arrived. Randi doing both jobs at the same time is not a surprise and was predicted in a recent ICEblog post. Randi also did her monthly promotion of Hillary and some Obama bashing. We'll see where the National Education Association goes on the two Democrats soon.

We also found out more about the 55-25/55-27 retirement legislation that the governor signed recently. Randi reported that if someone opts in and then decides to stay past 25 years, they can get 1/2 of their 1.85% contributions back with interest if they last until they are 62, providing they are in service six months prior to retirement. This is a major victory according to Unity. You can get half of your contributions back if you decide to stick it out until you're 62. Why not everything because under the current system you don't have to make the 1.85% contributions if you stay to age 62 or work 30 years and are 55?

Even though ICE has pointed out on this blog that there are winners (Those close to age 55 or over age 55 who started service between ages 26 and 36 with no break in service and with 25 years in the system can retire soon without paying much for it.) and losers (Those yet to be hired who will have to work 27 years to retire and be at least 55 and under the new law they will have to pay 1.85% extra in pension contributions for their entire careers. Most new hires will pay more and receive no added benefit compared to the current system.), Unity put out an open letter from Jeff Zahler saying that the ICE blog piece pointing out the good and the bad of 55-25/55-27 is a "smear tactic." Now, we're not even allowed to point out the facts of a questionable deal or we're criticized. We offered to retract a story on 55-27 if our Unity friends could prove we were wrong. Needless to say we have not had to retract a word. According to them, if we don't line up behind Randi and show blind faith, we are divisive. We call that corporate style unionism.

It is not a smear to tell people 55-27 is a de facto new pension tier for yet to be hired teachers who won't be eligible for the 55-25 that was promised for them as well as those already in service in the giveback laden 2005 Contract

It is not a smear to tell our members 55-27 is not cost neutral but will save the city hundreds of millions of dollars. That's not an attack. Jeff Zahler, the Unity Chair, in his letter critical of ICE says we can only cite two sources who wanted to remain anonymous. That's totally untrue. Actually, the city's chief actuary is quoted in the Chief Leader. His name is Robert C. North and this is what he told the Chief: "The change is expected to reduce the average long term cost of the plan." Anyone with a calculator and a brain can figure out how the city wins. When an older teacher leaves the system, he/she can be replaced with a younger teacher at about half pay. However, Randi's people quite correctly argue that the city now has to pay the health benefits for the retiree and the new employee in addition to the salary and pension so it should break out about even. What they don't mention is that the city no longer has to pay the payroll tax (the employer's portion of the social security tax) for the retiree and they get the additional 1.85% contribution for 27 years for the new hire(a de facto pay cut for the unborn). You don't have to be a financial expert to see how this adds up to a healthy saving for the city and it gives them another reason to push the senior teachers out.

It is not a smear to tell our constituents that in exchange for a pension deal that nets the city extra money and penalizes most of the unborn, we agreed to school-wide merit pay.

Mr. Zahler's title needs to be scrutinized closely. It is interesting that he calls it an open letter. That's exactly what Jamaica High School's letter to Randi was called on our blog. Can't Unity even come up with original titles? Oh well, imitation is the best form of flattery and we do want to say hi to all of our readers from inside 52 Broadway. Feel free to use our titles; we won't be like Hillary and call it plagiarism.

In other DA news, Randi said that anyone who wants to take Holy Thursday for a Religious Observance day should cite the Joseph Griffin grievance decision (We don't know if we spelled that right as we are going from Randi's remarks.) and apply for the day as a R.O. or personal business day. (For R.O. you pay for the substitute but for personal business you lose a day from the sick bank.) She also brought up people from PS 345 to talk about how they fought harassment in court to have file letters removed. She bought a Chapter Leader to the podium who was a whistleblower and had his U rating overturned. In addition, people from Unite Here came to the podium to talk about their campaign against Aramark and we unanimously supported them. Also, a teacher spoke in support of the teachers in Puerto Rico who have been on strike and a general resolution supporting teachers in Puerto Rico was passed. We also heard from VP Michael Mulgrew and a chapter leader and principal as well as Abe Levine on how important it is to have a student removal process. An amendment on not criminalizing student behavior that Joan Heymont introduced was rejected but a resolution was passed on having a student removal process in every school.

Between all of these speakers, Randi of course spoke and Staff Director Leroy Barr also tried to inspire people to bring out their members for the March 19 rally against the budget cuts. We want to point out to Jeff Zahler that we support the rally and are fighting budget cuts too. Michael Shulman also spoke in favor of a rally against the Iraq War scheduled for March 22.

All of these matters could have been done in ten or fifteen minutes as there was no opposition that we could see, however all of the filibustering meant there was no new motion period again and the question period was cut short. John Powers did bring up some of the pitfalls of the GHI-HIP merger. Randi had a letter to show the delegates that the unions are concerned about this issue and she stated that the unions want a guarantee that we do not lose any benefits if the health plans merge and go to for profit status. Other matters such as the UFT's legislative program, a resolution on closing schools and a proposal on career and technical schools never made it to the floor.

I could go on filibustering all day and all night but ladies and gentlemen this was a meeting that took two hours to do what could have been done in twenty minutes as there was not much to debate and we felt bad that we could not speak on motions that were important but never made it to the floor. Maybe at some point the DA will start following Roberts' Rules of Order again and not having Randi change the agenda every fifteen minutes to suit her whims.


Anonymous said...

Thxs for the update. I don't think my chapter leader is going to many meetings any more. I think she figured out no one will know or care. Our delegate hasn't gone ever. I don't think the newer teachers in my school even know we have one never mind whom it is. I ran for delegate at my school, but lost by a few votes. The person who won delegate is very popular. For a while she knew I knew she doesn't go. I'd ask her stright up if she went. Now I'm a little bit slicker about it, I'll go ask her something you reported here and she is completely clueless. Or I'll ask if she did anything interesting that night and not once has she ever responded about going to the assembly. I have my own small following in my school of some what interested parties that come to me to ask questions about union issues. It's funny, I end up holding my own sort of mini chapter meeting after every regular school chapter meeting with those afore mentioned teachers asking what the real deal is on what our chapter leader has just said. Any way, have a good day y'all. Good luck to all yer fourth graders.


Anonymous said...

The fact that most of the delegates don't go is why Unity gets away with what they do. Only the rank and file could stop them.

Woodlass said...

I was at the meeting, and agree 100% with your comments on filibustering and abandoning Roberts Rules. It was as if Weingarten somehow sensed that the opposition is onto her and her habitual abuse of power, and flaunted it even more than usual.

Not only did she manipulate the order of business, she turned long segments over to a couple of issues that have little to do with our working lives and, as you say, the whole purpose of the DA in the first place.

What seemed at first an effort to show solidarity turned into a miserable display of exploitation.
She whooped up the crowd and made quite a show of supporting the cafeteria strikers and the Puerto Rican teachers -- as if she herself would ever take our union down any path that needed a militant stance of any kind. She's done this already before, with the writers strike a couple of months ago -- but that was before 4 o'clock and out in the lobby. It was deceitful then, but it was deceitful and embarrassing yesterday.

Congratulations to the whistleblower and his colleagues, and I mean that very seriously, but 20 minutes or more of that story story was inappropriate. There are heartbreaking stories going on in every one of our schools every single day, and hardly any of these "unknown soldiers" win. Their lives are made miserable and their careers destroyed. To spend so much time on this one success was almost obscene.

Weingarten can't manage the needs of our members, and there is no way she'll be able to help us better if she takes on job at the AFT as well.

Anonymous said...

To the comments of the person of 7:07. I agree with you that I do not think that Randy can handle the AFT job, because there are so many important issues to fix right now, such as the Rubber Room ,the ATRs, the closing of schools, etc. and RW does not do it. Who will do it? Isn't she the leader?

Anonymous said...

Yesterday's DA was a pathetic experience. Many of us are frustrated but there aren't enough of us because of what the first person wrote: they don't show up.

Anonymous said...

It is not a smear to tell people "25-57 is a de facto new pension tier for yet to be hired teachers who won't be eligible for the 55-25 that was promised for them as well as those already in service in the giveback laden 2005 Contract

It is not a smear to tell our members 25-57 is not cost neutral but will save the city hundreds of millions of dollars."

What the heck is "25-57"? Good job ICE. Once again you reported something wrong.

Anonymous said...

I was wondering about that.

Isn't it supposed to be 27/55 for new teachers next year?

I'm confused.

Anonymous said...

The pension experts who said the city would save hundreds of millions of dollars and didn't want to be identified were probably accountants for other city unions but they didn't want to go on the record and criticize Randi for another lousy deal. Randi is the head of the MLC.

Everyone knows 55-27 was a lousy deal and that's why Unity is so defensive.

Anonymous said...

Those yet to be hired who will have to work 27 years to retire and be at least 55 and under the new law they will have to pay 1.85% extra in pension contributions for their entire careers. Most new hires will pay more and receive no added benefit compared to the current system.

Anonymous said...

We have to keep in mind that many people out there, including my best friend who is a nurse, remind us daily that many companies have no pensions and 401's are not the same. On this I have to agree.
I do not believe her husband has a pension plan on his job which is in engineering.

That said, I am in Tier 2. But if I were offered the opportunity to buy into Tier 1, I would mortgage my home and take out loans galore to qualify.

There are many, many teachers who want this new deal and if they have to pay, they will. So I just don't understand why ICE is making this a cause when it's already a done deal.

I can understand the part of the post about the delegate meetings. It is a farce. Randi has taking her cue from Castro.

Anonymous said...

"It is not a smear to tell people 25-57 is a de facto new pension tier"

Huh? My chapter leader didn't even tell us there was anything about 25-57 in this deal.

He must be a sneaky Unity guy. Thanks for letting us know the truth James.

Randi, you should be ashamed, 25-57 is just wrong. Why should anyone have to wait until they are 57?

Anonymous said...

Those sneaky unity clones created a 25/57 and didn't even tell anyone about it.

Anonymous said...

It's 27-55; not 25-57. This was a misprint that the Chief Leader also put in.

Anonymous said...

No, I trust James and ICE. They are the only ones telling the truth. They always do.

If this blog says 25-57 then that's what Randi and her hack caucus did to the rest of us.

Why should next year's new teachers have to wait until 57?

Anonymous said...

I too was at the meeting and was proud to be a UFT member as there was a fervor and militancy that reminded me of the heyday of activism. Perhaps the agenda was too full for the alloted time, but all the issues that were addressed were not in appropriate time and place and done justice. Absolutely all the economic experts, regardless of their political views, have said that the pension deal is a magnificent victory. There is more and more positive movement on due process issues, such as rubber rooms, letters in file, attendance issues. The DA was actually exciting and loaded with reasons to believe that we are tackling the tough issues in a way that is unapologetically forceful as well as wise.

Anonymous said...

Correction: They WERE in appropriate time and done justice.

Anonymous said...

Maybe I'm not as much interested in the newbies anymore since we were sold out by most new teachers in '05. And, while I believe this deal was misrepresented as 25/55, I still would rather be out at 57 than 62.

My real concern is that this deal may also be the cornerstone of paying more for health care because that's going to be the next bargining point in order not to work beyond 3:17.5seconds. We already know Unity will not give back the givebacks nor will they oppose mayoral control in some form.

I think ICE (again as a matter of better marketing) should be focusing on the elimination of mayoral control.

Anonymous said...

55-27 is what the deal is for the unborn.

That is how the city makes the money and it is not what was called for in the giveback laden 2005 Contract. The other way (we won't even write it) was a misprint in a small section of the blog piece that we apologize for and have fixed (the other parts had it right).

It's amazing that the Unity gang focused on the misprint that they knew was a misprint and tried to criticize us for it when the 55-27 deal for those not yet hired was printed and explained correctly in most of the piece.

Also, we know many people who will gain from 55-25, and although we are not giving pension advice, they should buy in. (People should seek pension advice from qualified financial planners.) Many of us, however, will not gain anything from 55-25 and it won't cost us anything either. We don't lose or win.

In addition, it is not a smear tactic to tell the good and the bad aspects of the deal. The UFT didn't agree to a 55-25 deal for ages and they told us one of the reasons was they refuse to sell out the unborn which is basically what happened in the final 55-27 deal for those yet to be hired.

It's a benefit few will be entitled to that all will have to pay more for. We think it is a fact that should be pointed out, regardless of the conditions in the country.

It is our understanding that a key issue in the transit workers 2005 strike was not increasing pension costs for workers yet to be hired.

Look at what Article 4C1 of the UFT Contract says: "A Labor-Management Pension Committee will be established to investigate legislation allowing all current and future members of the TRS Tier II, III and IV to retire without a reduction of benefits due to early retirement upon age 55 with at least 25 years of service, as well as other relevant pension issues." Current and future members were supposed to get the same benefit according to the Contract. That's not what happened in the final 55-27 legislation. Those yet to be hired pay 1.85% more in pension contributions for 27 years and only a minority will receive a better benefit.

As for the lack of democracy at DA meetings, we will be writing on that in an upcoming piece as independent and opposition delegates are getting frustrated that we have no say.

James Eterno
(I only sign is as anonymous because my name doesn't work.)

Anonymous said...

We agree with what you are saying on mayoral control but 55-25/55-27 is a current issue.

Anonymous said...

The last comment and this one as well are from James Eterno again but I tried my name and once again it didn't work.

No I don't think it's a Unity conspiracy.

Anonymous said...

Okay, so you site the contract.

Hello!!! What contract? (or what's left of it?)

I am just saying that this deal cannot be reversed, but mayoral contol can become the thing of the past. I feel that Randi will support some type of control and that is unacceptable.

I just wish (once again) that you don't fall into the same mistakes that cost you the election. I don't hear any outcry from the rank and file on the pension issue, but I bet if we could get petitions out to Randi against any form of mayoral control, that would hit home.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you on mayoral control but I'm not sure about what you are saying on the election.

The petition is an interesting idea.

I oppose mayoral control and have taken that position for a long time. I voted no on the UFT report at the Executive Board in 2001 (I think it was 2001) where the UFT first endorsed the Mayor having a majority of the appointments on the Board of Ed.

I couldn't agree more that mayoral control is a huge issue.

We need to be much better organized and have people in many, many more places to win a UFT election. That will take a great deal of hard work and lots and lots of money.

James Eterno

Anonymous said...

Sorry about the clarification, but I meant the union election.

Anonymous said...

We kind of figured you didn't mean Hillary and Obama.

NYC Educator said...

It's very telling that Ms. Weingarten regards the UFT Presidency as a part-time job.

Anonymous said...

Wait, is it 57/25 or 55/27? You guys are confusing me.

Anonymous said...

55-27 for new people. It's clear from all of the clarification today.

Anonymous said...

Mr. NYC Educator do you know that if Randi is in DC half the time, she won't be able to give so much away while she's down there. The NEA is at least a check on the AFT and she can't control them. It's when she's in NYC and goes into negotiations that we have to look out.

Anonymous said...

ICE has been reporting on 55-27 for months and people have been commenting.

Just a Cog said...
Of course, the city will save much more than that. After the current crop of senior teachers reaches 55 (which includes me, assuming I can safely get through the next 8 years), who is ever going to make it to 25/55? Half of new teachers leave within five years, so their 1.85% pay cut is permanent. Of the rest, how many will be harassed or abused out of service as they approach retirement age?

With budget cuts always looming and senior teachers now a millstone around the neck of principals who have to choose between salaries and supplies, I seriously doubt that many teachers will make it to ten years longevity, let alone 27.

Anonymous said...

If it's not 57-25 maybe you guys should change the initial blog post. You are confusing people.

Anonymous said...

It's been changed. It's 55-27 and there was an apology for the misprint.

Anonymous said...

Delegates I know stopped going years ago as the DA is a waste of time. This report explains it all: a cult of personality does not make a union.

Anonymous said...

It's clearly 55-27, can't the Unity people read.

Anonymous said...

But it was clearly posted here as 57-25, can't the ICE people write?

Anonymous said...


I apologize for thinking this new plan was a way out.

My friend had a pension consult and only those teachers who are in the 25 year range at age 55 now will benefit. Many teachers in their 50's who started later in life would therefore not benefit from this new deal since they would have to work @10 more years to reach 25 years of service in order to get full pension. My friend is 52 and thought she would qualify when 55 with a reduced that she would contribute to.

Anonymous said...

ICE printed 55-27. Unity blew up one obvious misprint among many correct characterizations to mislead people. Typical.

Anonymous said...

ICE has been right all along on 55-25/55-27.

Anonymous said...

There are a lot of people figuring out that 55-25 doesn't help them.

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Anonymous said...

Where the hell are all of you guys on the MArch 19 Rally? "We support it" doesn't mean squat! How many people are you brining out, James?

Anonymous said...

1. Yes, the delegates don't show up! What is Unity's response regarding this show of apathy?

2. Randi and the AFT...Hmmm...Yes, she will leave in 2010, which will give her heir two years of free press coverage in the Unity/New York Teacher paper before the next election. This will be more than enough to secure the next generation of Unity power.

UNLESS...we...(anyone care to finish this?)

Anonymous said...

Unless we what? Wake up and start a real union. Wouldn't that be nice.