Sunday, June 29, 2008


by James Eterno, UFT Chapter Leader, Jamaica High School

Many people were expecting the Independent Community of Educators (ICE) to just melt away after ICE and our coalition partners (Teachers for a Just Contract) lost our six UFT Executive Board seats in last year's UFT Election (even though we received many more votes in the 2007 UFT Election compared with 2004). Instead, we have persevered and emerged as a viable force within the Union at the UFT Delegate Assembly, on UFT Committees, on the blogs, through ICE-Mail and inside of many schools. As we look back upon the preceding year, ICE has established a strong record. We hope to move ahead to rebuild a strong Union from the ground up.

During 2007-08 when ICE was supposed to die, we have become very active at UFT Delegate Assembly (DA) Meetings. The DA is the highest policy making body within the United Federation of Teachers according to its Constitution. Each school is represented by a Chapter Leader and at least one Teacher Delegate. ICE has a number of elected Chapter Leaders and Delegates from the schools. In addition, each non-teaching (Functional) Chapter is represented at the DA too. The Unity Caucus majority (President Randi Weingarten's faction of the UFT) controls the DA. They have strict caucus discipline that they enforce on their members who risk losing union jobs and other perks if they vote against the leadership. The electoral system allows all of the DA retirees to come from Unity although a substantial minority votes against them in Chapter Elections. In spite of the stacked deck, ICE has made our presence felt.

One major ICE DA accomplishment concerned School Leadership Teams. In December, Chancellor Joel Klein unilaterally changed the rules so that Principals now make the final decisions on SLTs. This defies state law which calls for "Shared Decision Making" among parents, teachers and administrators. A parent from Queens filed a complaint with the State Education Department. We introduced an amendment to a DA resolution on SLT's. The ICE amendment asked for the UFT to join on to the parent's complaint. Our amendment carried. State Education Commissioner Richard Mills should be issuing a decision on this case soon. We hope that it is favorable. The law that gave the Mayor control of the schools expires next June. Any change in how the schools are governed needs to have real shared decision making in every school between parents, teachers and administrators as an important component. We will try to keep you updated.

In addition, ICE members have played a role on the UFT Committee on School Governance. When the report is issued by the UFT, our members will not merely rubber stamp it but rather they will analyze the UFT's proposal carefully before deciding on whether to accept or reject the UFT's position on school governance. Once again, please keep coming to this blog to see what's going on.

ICE also has representation on the UFT Social Justice Committee, UFT'ers Against the War in Iraq and the Committee on District Representative selection. The DR Selection Committee didn't meet this year, not even once. We, of course, want DR's elected by Chapter Leaders or members in a district and not selected by the President.

ICE's John Powers from Liberation High School has played a leading role in the fight to save our healthcare from being privatized. John wrote a resolution opposing privatizing healthcare that he motivated at the DA after three months of having it delayed by the Unity leadership. This issue is now more of a public matter than it was in the past. John also organized ICE'rs to attend several demonstrations against selling off GHI-HIP to private-for profit corporations. Although our resolution failed to carry at the Unity dominated DA, by the end of the year the privatization issue, which seemed to be a done deal, is now under close scrutiny and it could conceivably be stopped.

There are other areas where we have been active at the DA. ICE and TJC members have been instrumental in getting UFT support for teachers in Puerto Rico who staged a courageous strike this year. Our friends at TJC have led a movement to help fellow trade unionists who have been fired for their union activity in North Carolina. We have also spoken out on UFT political endorsements.

Julie Woodward, from ICE, put pressure on the UFT leadership at the DA to not allow teachers who are removed to the reassignment centers (rubber rooms) to be permitted to be taken off of school budgets. If removing teachers in the rubber rooms from school budgets was not permitted, principals would have an incentive not to pull teachers from their classrooms unless it was absolutely necessary. ICE persists at being one of the groups speaking out in support of teachers reassigned. We also continue to head the movement to stop our schools from being closed while Unity basically passes meaningless resolutions opposing school closings and does nothing to back them up. (We will soon write more about the Jamaica High School situation, where we have been threatened but are still alive.)

At the DA, we called for the UFT to boycott hiring committees in schools that are shoved into other schools against the will of the people who are there already. The Unity majority said no. Furthermore, we proposed an amendment to a resolution urging the UFT to mobilize in support of our Absent Teacher Reserves and it was rejected. We keep pushing the UFT leaders fight to win back the right to grieve letters for the file without reopening the entire Contract. We exposed to the Delegates the huge rise in unsatisfactory ratings in the first year under the 2005 Contract when our right to grieve file letters was taken away.

We led the fight to make sure the question period and new motion period are not preempted at the DA as has been done too many times in the recent past by President Weingarten. We raised a couple of procedural points of order to ensure minority rights at the DA. We also headed the movement against school wide merit pay which Randi says is not merit pay. Some schools with ICE members working in them voted down the merit pay.

We supported the UFT's efforts against city budget cuts; ICE members and rank and file members from our schools were at the rallies against the cuts. Many of us also attended the candlelight vigil in support of teachers reassigned. We also encouraged our members to participate in other Union activities such as the recent survey rating the Chancellor.

Away from the DA, we called for a series of necessary electoral reforms as teachers are now a minority within the UFT. We fought to preserve the integrity of UFT elections as we have done consistently since ICE was formed in 2003. We told the truth about how Randi violated the Contract by not getting the "55 years old and 25 years in the system retirement plan" for new teachers. She succeeded for current teachers but failed for new hires who will have to make mandatory pension contributions for 27 years instead of the 10 year requirement under prior rules. ICE members also continue to advocate for other causes such as lower class sizes, an end to excessive testing and more.

At the school level, our Chapter Leaders and Delegates are toiling as hard as we can to support our members. In addition, our Chapter Leaders do our best to give informal advice to members from all over the city. In some ways, we have been able to set up a kind of "shadow union structure."

We encourage readers to look at the older posts on this blog to get more information on our record which we think is quite robust, particularly when you consider our lack of resources.

Have a great summer everyone!


Anonymous said...

James, really now, I beg to disagree with your grammatically challenged statement that "ICE has established a strong record. We hope move ahead to rebuild a strong Union from the ground up."

Jeez Louise, could you possibly try to paint your motley crew in a light any more favorable?

The truth is that everyone else at the DA sees your crew as a babbling, often disrespectful minority who pride yourselves on patting each other on the back.

James, you regularly scream "point of order" and have nothing further to say about why. Thank god that Jeff Kaufman has stopped speaking, however John Powers has filled the role of the drone who can babble for 15 minutes saying nothing over and over again (and toss a disrespectful dig in at Randi upon finishing every time, it's almost like you guys have a formula). Michael Fiorillo disrupts nearly every agenda item to try and prevent anything from getting done. Meanwhile various ICE flunkies raise their hands to make ridiculous, short sighted, or moot comments (ie. Marion Swerdlow rising to state that we all need to be more "spiritual").

Are we sitting at the same DA? Don't you all hear the collective sigh of frustration coming from the rest of the body whenever Randi calls on one of you? And yes, she does call on you. Why, I don't know. I sure wouldn't.

Please stop patting yourselves on the back and sniffing each other's farts. A strong presence? You guys accomplished nothing this year. NOTHING.

Anonymous said...

There's some truth to what the above poster said.

Norman Scott used to be an insightful union activist until something within him changed and he started to be obsessed with Randi. She became his ultimate target.

The sad thing about ICE is that you guys focus on fighting internally instead of getting involved with your union brothers and sisters against the common enemies threatening us all.

Anonymous said...

We in ICE recognize that Randi is the sole cause of all of our problems over the last several years.

NYC Educator said...

Thank you, James, for doing what you've been doing. As a working teacher, I really appreciate that you will not only support the union when it does something right, but stand up and make yourself heard when it does something wrong, as it did, spectacularly, in 2005.

The morale in city schools has plummeted to incredible lows since then, along with the UFT-sponsored advent of mayoral control. It's been an unmitigated disaster for working teachers, and the UFT leadership, hoping for a "good" mayor (the likes of which I haven't seen in 24 years of teaching), refuses to stand up and oppose it.

You didn't mention that you personally took your chapter and stood up to the chancellor at the PEP meeting. I appreciate that you follow your convictions, and that you won't be bought and paid for.

I appreciate that there are people in this union who will consistently stand up for teachers, for democracy, and for fairness.

Having actually read your post, I appreciate everything you've done, in fact. I'm particularly concerned about health care, and I'm utterly mystified how anyone can believe turning our providers into for-profit entities can possibly benefit working people in this city.

Anonymous said...

On Sunday, June 29, 2008 7:38:00 PM an anonymous writer said, "... I beg to disagree ..." then proceeded to trash the fine people of the Independent Independent Community of Educators.

Folks, sadly, this is Unity politics as usual.

Fact is that this writer is a "Unity Hack: Low Class Rabble Rouser Variety."

Like all Unity Hacks this is an individual who is on the union payroll taking our dues money and in return staunchly supports the Unity party line regardless, and viciously attacks all who oppose the Unity Hegemony (now hoping to extend it's power over the AFT.) This is why our union is becoming increasingly ineffectual. People like this are sucking up the blood and guts and spirit of the union of NYC Public School Teachers. People like this consider it their mission to trash any other view point and in this case s/he has stooped low and has made the obligatory personal attacks.

God help us now that these people have power in the AFT. Teachers across the country -- be aware and be prepated.

Anonymous said...

Looks like Unity Man is upset!

Where's the humor bro?

I remember a collective sigh of relief when Mike Mendel was able to do something Randi never does: He finished all the resolutions sometime in December or January. Incredible. Randi arrived late, sensed the relief, forced a smile and said, "Hey, should we always do it this way? Ok it's done."

Never happened again Unity man. Why?

Here is the good news: The DA can view ICE anyway they want. It makes no difference because there is an entire school system out there waiting to be informed, organized and mobilized to fight back against the Klein regime and if need be against the Unity Caucus.

The best part is most teachers do not even know the Unity Caucus exists (yes the same is true for ICE and TJC). This has helped Unity stay in power, but it will be their downfall too.

Disrespect is when Randi repeatedly breaks Robert's Rules and politely pokes fun at particular members of the left.

Disrespect is when Michael Mulgrew told members in front of him to not vote for the ICE resolution before the vote took place.

Disrespect is hacks like you sucking up our dues. Wait until the rank and file study the LM2s.

Look for me at the next Chapter Leader Conference
in NJ. I'll be the guy drinking coffee and water and eating bread and ordering out while others gorge on our dues.

Enjoy the AC this summer. I'll be teaching with a fan.

One last note: Perhaps people like Norm have become more concerned with the likes of Randi because of the 21st century concessions/givebacks.

It's one thing to fight for union democracy and another to watch a make-believe teacher turned make-believe labor leader help destroy our union.

This could have been avoided if Unity actively organized and empowered our members with knowledge.

Here is my prediction: Klein, Randi, opposition organizing and the economy will all lead to a mass teacher movement that will revitalize and reform the UFT.

See you in October.

Norm said...

First let me say that if ICE didn't solidify, it would be water. dum-dum.

I too squirm when groups brag about all the stuff they do. You could pull a rotator cuff from all that patting yourself on the back. New Action does that all the time - like take credit when the sun shines. My attitude is Shut up and Just Do It.

Ok. Let's go on about my supposed Randi obsession.

Randi began her stewardship of the UFT somewhat insecure and reached out to many of us as she made an attempt to look like she would do all sorts of good things in the union (like democratize) and yes, I bought into it for a few years, as did some of my colleagues.

But as Randi solidified - there's that word again - her power, it became clear that there would be no change. And as time went by it became even worse than we imagined - at least Shanker and Feldman were guided by an ideology that though we disagreed, we could at least have a basis to disagree. But Randi was slicker than slick and even more than her predecessors, made herself the center of everything. So naturally, she was the target of criticism.

The final straw for me was her support for mayoral control - up to that point we had a dialogue. But it was clear her agenda could only end in a bad way for teachers.

Go read back issues of ed notes and see the consistency of policy. What changed around 2001-2002 was the tone - from an attempt to convince Randi and Unity to open opposition once it was clear there was no convincing possible.

That ultimately led to the formation of ICE to challenge Unity more directly.

As long as I didn't attack Unity, to Unity hacks like you I was insightful. But the true insight was my realization that you and your Unity buddies are as much the enemies as BloomKlein, not a position most people in ICE hold -- as a matter of fact, this posting that brags about how ICE people were on all those bullshit committees bothers me as much as it does you.

As James will tell you, I was also a severe critic of his caucus at the time, New Action - their performance at UFT exec bd meetings where Unity roughed them up regularly, was so weakneed, it made me want to run up and grab the mic out of their hands.

When the mayoral control issue came up, Shulman went to each exec bd member and told them not to oppose it because Randi didn't want it. Jeez!

It was the election of ICE exec bd members and the stand in their face attitude of Jeff Kaufman that finally brought s sense of an opposition to the Exec bd. And James, no longer having to deal with Shulman also flourished like he had never done before.

I disagree that the loss of the exec bd seats were so crucial. Only some people in ICE see it that way. Many others are engaged in a number of political actions and don't have time for all the nonsense of meetings really don't mean much where it's 83 against 6. I went to meetings to schmooze with my colleagues and hold informal meetings before, during and after that led to lots of writing ideas.

And for the pork chops, of course.

norm said...

Oh, and one more thing to the Unity clown - I've been arguing with James for many years trying to urge him to call points of order since the rules are violated every 10 seconds - I used to do it all the time.

So when James did it at the last DA I thought it was wonderful. And it was one of the only times I can remember him doing it. So your "James, you regularly scream "point of order" is delusional, as usual.

Shouldn't you be getting ready to join the other 1000 Unity clowns preparing to go to Chicago all expensed paid at our expense?

Make sure to leave some comments while you're junketing - if you have time.

Anonymous said...

Typical ICE move, downplay and disrespect the work that everyone else does in the union. Paint a picture of their hard jobs looking like a country club visit.

So formulaic you're starting to bore me.

Don't worry though, I'm not going anywhere.

Anonymous said...

Tell us how hard you'll be working in Chicago. What is it, only $100 a day meal money? And I bet there's even some money making gigs while there working jobs for the AFT. Do they pay per session?

jw said...

James, add something else to your list: the times Unity has co-opted an ICE proposal and tried to dilute it, derail it, or make believe they came up with it themselves.

The fact is ICE is an outsider faction of independent, mostly veteran unionists.

Excluded and regularly condemned by the ruling caucus, ICE members can only serve in two ways: as an amorphous watchdog group, and as individual political thinkers with a huge amount of trench experience.

Unity will continue to slam ICE at the DAs and in print because that's what Unity does. As a caucus it is morally bankrupt, each of its members compromised by power, pay, perks, and/or position.

Anonymous said...

And so many of them are also stupid, as exemplified by our resident hack.

Anonymous said...

To Randy's rep. anonymous 6/29/08--7:38. I don't understand how can you be defending RW. We have so many problems with the senior teacher that are in the ruber room and in the ATR pool thanks to RW. And I bet you must be making a good salary. Instead of writing commnets-- why don't you work for a good cause solving these 2 big problems that Randy created?

Anonymous said...

Just a reminder, the ICE pig roast is at 10am tomorrow at Vera's. It should be both insightful and fun.

Anonymous said...

I'm looking forward to some slow cooked pork!

Anonymous said...

When I was a CC, the budget had to be signed off by me as well as the PTA president. Now principals use slashed budgets to pay for F-status friends. SLT meetings have become meaningless.

The fact that the parents complained rather than the UFT is quite telling in itself.

Randi's commitment to ATRs was non-existent until Klein tried to oust them. And, the NYTimes had to cover the Rubber Room forcing Randi to finally make a comment.

Rather than leadership, Unity has turned into Bloomberg flunkies.

Anonymous said...

You are right. In Randi's agenda ATRS and rubber room teachers are not important. Principals choose the SLT members according to their wishes. There is no transparency anymore.

Anonymous said...

How much do F status teachers = (principals and administrators' friends)make a day?

Anonymous said...

Norm I feel compelled to correct the record on several matters.

First, I made more than one point of order this year. I've also made them in the past and they have been accepted.

Second, Michael Shulman, leader of New Action, came to us a few years ago at the Executive Board and urged us to vote for the purchase of the new UFT buildings because Randi really wanted us to be united, not Mayoral control. If we are going to air this publicly, let's at least get the issue right.

As for the implication that I was under Shulman's thumb and didn't flourish at the Executive Board until Jeff came along, that is revisionist history not supported with any evidence. I didn't keep my mouth shut when I was in New Action.

Please look at the record to see who opposed the Fact finding report in 2002 that led to the first extended time Contract. I spoke out against the NAC and Unity position then. I believe I was alone or may have had one supporter. I also spoke out against the Mayoral takeover during those days too. I was never a knee-jerk NAC party line follower, nor were others within New Action.

During my New Action days, people like Ellen Fox, Ed Beller, the late Marvin Markman, Bob Dehler (particularly in his heyday) and others were a pleasure to serve with and they certainly were no rubber stamps for anybody.

Leaving New Action in 2003 after they decided not to oppose Randi and helping to form ICE was necessary. Having a kindred spirit in Jeff Kaufman who absolutely was more assertive than me was a true blessing.

The 2004-07 term on the Executive Board elected from ICE-TJC was more enjoyable in many ways thanks to Jeff's full backing. However, please don't try to change the history about what happened before.

As for Mr. Unity, if we disagree on anything he seems to think we are anti-UFT. I have spoken at Panel for Education Policy Meetings; I have been on the radio and on TV; I have talked at PTA Meetings, Award Ceremonies, SLT Meetings, of course Chapter Meetings, in front of classes, at arbitration hearings, in a court case, at weddings and other public occasions. The only times when I often feel instant hostility from people even before I say anything is when I am in front of a group that has a Unity Caucus majority, i.e. the DA or the Executive Board. It really might help the UFT, if some people had open minds.

As you can see here, Norm and I are not afraid to disagree and we still respect each other.

James Eterno

Anonymous said...

Sweet pig roast today guys, thanks for having us over.

Anonymous said...

The first Unity comment really shows who they are. A grown person who is getting paid a handsome salary and a double pension and the best he can do is make flatulence jokes.

Anonymous said...

Yes, the first comment really shows what ICE is.

Anonymous said...

It's time to get rid of the dumb-ass comments that say nothing - whether from pro or anti ICE people. Stupid back and forth degrades the seriousness of the blog. If the Unity guy has something to say of substance then leave it up. But the dumb name-calling crap has to go.

Norm put up a blog called Unity Hack just for him and he actually goes there and leaves comments - this guy is brilliant.

So a suggestion is to remove comments and put up a link to the Unity hack blog so anyone who wants to read about iceicles can drop by.

Anonymous said...

People just want to vent and here they have a place. ICE shows who they are by allowing a sort of anything goes blog here. It certainly is much more open than EDwize or any other UFT forum.

Anonymous said...

What good has censorship done for anyone? By letting all sides, even dumb Unity scatological non-humor, be published, you get a good idea of the openness ICE would use if they were in charge of the UFT.

Anonymous said...

The last two anons are mistaken.

It is one nut who gets a kick out

of writing ignorant comments.

You are right, this is not EdWize.

But who said we have a forum here for people to be degraded.

He can stay on if he doesn't resort to name calling.

Anonymous said...

Let him name call and make un-funny insults. It shows Unity for who they are. It looks just like their literature at the Delegate Assembly. We don't need censorship.

Anonymous said...

when Mr. Unity comments here, he shows his ignorance. I read his comment and he never comes up with any factual statements from the original piece that are wrong.

Anonymous said...

He doesn't speak for Unity. This is silly!

Anonymous said...

Read the Unity junk at the DA. It sounds awfully like what they say here: personal attacks and usually very light on facts.