I returned to the UFT Delegate Assembly today and I felt once again as if I was in an alternate universe. UFT President Michael Mulgrew's marathon report featuring all of the latest Union triumphs was too much for a non kool aid drinker to handle. Mulgrew spoke forever about how our activism and Occupy Wall Street has turned things around in Albany and now there is an agreement to raise taxes on multimillionaires while cutting taxes for most of the rest of us. This will help pay for a $350,000,000 increase in state aid to New York City Schools. The first increase from Albany in four years.
Mulgrew then thanked the delegates for activating people for three rallies within a two month period which he said was unprecedented. The third rally will come on Saturday as we meet in Manhattan on Madison Avenue and 61st Street at 11:00 am to march for voting rights.
Only after all of this happy talk did the President mention what all of us who work in the New York City schools know: the school system is falling apart and the public could soon lose confidence in the schools. He also noted that the Mayor will more than likely still claim there is a tremendous budget gap in the city and call for more cuts but we should be able to stop him. Mulgrew also talked about excessive paperwork and he closed by saying we are continuing to negotiate for a contract but that we will need to blow up on the craziness that is happening in the system by telling the public about the educational neglect that is being foisted upon our schools by DOE mismanagement.
Later the President also told us about the ongoing school closing lawsuit. He said schools are set up to fail and the DOE has known this for years.
Leroy Barr reported on the rallies and promoted Saturday's rally.
Question period was next. One question concerned the Absent Teacher Reserves and Mulgrew said the ATR pool was down to under 1,000 for the first time in six years. He said that ATRS should be filling vacancies and covering for leaves and long term absences but the UFT is aware that this is not happening in many schools. He added that Chapter Leaders need to blow the whistle on F status people (part time teachers) and any uncovered position as they are depriving ATRS of full time classroom positions. (My sources tell me there are openings in about 3/4 of the schools they go to.)
A Delegate asked about mandated online work. Mulgrew answered that some schools want to communicate online which is great but it should not be mandatory. There was another question about having our pension fund used to build a bridge. Mulgrew said that as long as it stays within the fiduciary boundaries, that our three elected members of the TRS Board would consider using our fund responsibly to help create union jobs to update infrastructure. The next question was on CESIS and the President and Secretary Michael Mendel stated that members need to keep a detailed log of when they are working beyond the school day. The final question was about teachers being pressured to videotape their lessons. Mulgrew answered that it should be voluntary and the teacher who is being taped owns the tape.
The motion period was kind of interesting for a minute as our friend Kit Wainer introduced a motion that the UFT should initiate a joint mobilization campaign with the Transit Workers Union whose contract will expire in January. Ours expired over two years ago. I thought this was a brilliant idea that I enthusiastically voted for but it was not surprising that the Unity faithful voted it down. There was another resolution on reviving Glass Steigel that did not carry and then the regular resolutions were dealt with.
The resolution on ATRS that we posted yesterday was first. Secretary Mendel apologized for his outburst last month and then motivated the substitute resolution for the one raised last month. The new resolution carried unanimously. It is a move in the right direction as we are calling for free re-certification classes for those in obscure license areas, no new hiring until all ATRS in a license are placed and also the conditional placement of all ATRS for positions that open up after September 15. I still am skeptical about how we intend to get this resolution to become DOE policy without a mobilization but since the makers of last month's resolution didn't complain, I voted for it like everyone else. I do hope we get these improvements for ATRS but the DOE does not appear to be in a giving mood on much of anything these days and needs to be forced into everything.
Three more noncontroversial resolutions also carried unanimously including support for the December 10 Stand for Freedom March, a resolution on child care providers and mandatory membership in the Teachers' Retirement System for paras.
All in all, a holiday love fest of a DA that will soon be forgotten as nothing of substance was even discussed. Kit's resolution for the UFT to work with TWU was for this month so according to DA rules it could only be read and not debated. It required a 2/3 vote in favor just to get on the agenda. Needless to say, the idea of any real militancy, which working with TWU would require, was something our union leadership would probably never want to discuss. I expected it to be defeated but it did get some votes in favor.
I missed the beginning of the meeting as signal problems slowed the subway so if anyone knows what happened in the first few minutes, just fill us in.