Friday, October 19, 2012


There was plenty of irony at the first UFT Delegate Assembly meeting that took place on Wednesday, October 17 at 52 Broadway.  The UFT honored Dr. Annie B. Martin, head of the New York City Branch of the NAACP, posthumously for her role in the labor movement, the civil rights movement and her support for the UFT. The amazing Dr.Hazel Dukes from the NAACP spoke to us about the struggle for our rights but after she finished UFT leadership descended into their usual autocratic ways by stifling all dissent at the DA.  

As this was the first DA for many new Delegates who were elected this past spring, there was a sense of anticipation.  However, when anything controversial came up, the Unity Caucus (ruling political party that runs the UFT) blocked any substantive discussion. Anyone opposed to anything proposed by the leadership had no opportunity to voice their views. This explains why so many Delegates don’t show up at these DA meetings. They see it as a joke.

The most contentious issue was the UFT-AFT support to mobilize for the reelection of Barack Obama.  The Union had a resolution to mobilize support for Barack Obama on its agenda and Delegate Marjorie Stamberg had her own resolution for the UFT to oppose the reelection of Obama. (Read her view and resolution in the prior post.When the new motion period came (the period in the agenda where Delegates can raise new business), Marjorie was given the floor.  She printed and distributed her motion beforehand as per UFT rules.  Since she wanted it on this month’s agenda (next month it would be mute as the election will be over), debate is not allowed and there needs for there to be a 2/3 vote in favor to add it.  When Marjorie tried to motivate her resolution, Mulgrew properly stopped her.  

However, the leadership did not stop here as Secretary Michael Mendel (usually a sensible and fair person) took the unprecedented step of not allowing Marjorie to even read her motion. He would only permit her to read the title. He said that Delegates have it already so they can read it to themselves. This is absurd since there must have been twenty handouts given out at the door so to even find this motion in our packets was very difficult.  

Mendel came to me afterwards to talk about what happened and said that Marjorie was trying to motivate the resolution and that is why he stood up to halt it. I agreed with him on this but I told him that DA policy has always been to allow someone to read their motion.  How can someone make a motion if they are not permitted to verbalize it?  We will see if silent reading is now the new policy at DA’s.

I was not totally angry at this point because there was the leadership’s resolution supporting Obama on the regular agenda that I thought Mulgrew would go out of his way to allow someone, preferably Marjorie, to speak against.  I was wrong.  When it was time for this motion, New Action (another party within the UFT that supports Mulgrew) leader Michael Shulman gave an impassioned speech on why we have to mobilize to support Obama.  Earlier in the meeting AFT President Randi Weingarten was introduced by Mulgrew and Randi gave a twenty minute summation on why we have to mobilize to reelect the US President.  After this entire one sided discussion in support of Obama, any fair minded leader would have asked for an opposition voice to speak. Unfortunately, the next person called on asked that debate be closed (calling the question).  Instead of following his role as chair and ruling that the motion to close debate was out of order, Mulgrew let the body decide and the Unity majority closed debate and voted to mobilize to support Obama.  Here is what Roberts’ Rules says about closing debate:

“Debate of a question is not ended by the chair’s rising to put the question to vote until both the affirmative and the negative are put.”

Fairly clear and obvious, right?    In addition the word debate is defined by "noun 1. a discussion, as of a public question in an assembly, involving opposing viewpoints."

We should add for the dictionary people that this definition does not include UFT proceedings.  Needless to say it was a very frustrating moment as there is a case to be made on why we should not support Obama. 

I am not advocating for Romney who would be a total disaster for teachers and all of labor nor do I necessarily support staying neutral.  The Green Party is certainly a viable alternative even though they have no chance of winning.

In the context of this political climate where many teachers are uneasy about Obama, it must be pointed out that between Mulgrew, Randi and Shulman the name Arne Duncan, who happens to be Obama’s Secretary of Education, never came up.  Duncan was the architect of much of the privatization of the Chicago Public Schools during his tenure there. As Obama’s Secretary of Education, his Race to the Top program is a disaster for public education since federal funds are tied to deforms we hate such as merit pay, closing schools, turning them into charter schools, evaluating teachers based on student test scores on standardized tests and more.  Duncan even applauded the firing of a whole district of teachers in Rhode Island.  Delegates never heard this nor were the Obama supporters able to refute these arguments because they were never made.  Stifling debate leaves us much weaker as a union and ironically makes open minded people less likely to support the UFT’s position.

The same Unity one-two combination was used on a motion to support a change in the UFT Constitution which would add a new Vice President for non-Board of Education employees who are part of the UFT.  It was not made clear if retirees count in this title.  The Amendment says the new V.P.  should be “from a chapter whose members are employed by an entity other than the Board of Education of the city School District of the City of New York.”  I think retirees would not qualify but technically retirees are not Board of Ed employees.

I have no issue with people from United Cerebral Palsy, or a charter school that has been successfully organized or any other non-Board of Ed UFT member having their own vice president.  However a legitimate question to ask is why we in the schools will be voting for who will represent the non-Board of Ed UFT members and why are they voting for who will represent those of us who work for the Board of Ed?  It makes no sense.  It would be like someone in New York having a vote on who will be the governor of California. I had my card raised very high but nobody was given a chance to speak against the Amendment and before I could raise a point of order, the question was called and voted on.  

The Amendment easily passed so we will all be voting for who will represent the non-Board of Ed employees and they will be voting for our divisional vice presidents. Someone please tell me why United Cerebral Palsy UFT members are voting on who will be the UFT Academic High School Vice President.

President’s Report & The Rest of the DA
Michael Mulgrew was honoring Dr Annie B. Martin when I arrived.  He then had Hazel Dukes from the NAACP speak to us and then he proceeded to talk national politics.  He told us he had recently traveled to Florida to address the retirees.  He said this election was serious stuff.  Mulgrew then introduced AFT President Randi Weingarten who addressed the Delegates by telling us that if the Republicans win, they will do what Scott Walker did in Wisconsin: take away labor rights.  She said Republicans would continue to privatize education.  She added that we might not always agree with Democrats, but they at least stand up for investment in public education.

Mulgrew came back to tell us that it is seven weeks into the school year and DOE management is at an all-time low.  Over 300 lawyers are now running things and lawyers and education do not mix well according to our President.  He then talked about the contract.  We have now been almost three years without a contract and we are at fact finding.  (Three arbitrators will issue a non-binding report that in the past has been used as a framework for our contract.) He said he wants to make the fact-finding report the centerpiece of the mayoral election campaign as we have such a strong case because of New York State law and pattern bargaining.

Mulgrew then mentioned the NAACP Legal Defense Fund civil rights complaint with the federal Department of Education which says that the specialized high schools are no longer integrated.  Mulgrew would like to return to the Discovery Program where in the past admission was based on more than just the results of a test.

Mulgrew then talked about how the UFT Charter School is a K-12 school that takes in all students and doesn't throw them out.  He claimed that the school is on track for a 95% graduation rate but the UFT won’t play the games that other charters do.  He then told the Delegates that United Cerebral Palsy workers, who are represented by the UFT, just reached a settlement with a 4% raise and no givebacks.  These are private sector employees who would not be subject to Taylor Law fines and they were ready to strike. 

Mulgrew then spoke about the Teacher Effectiveness Pilot Schools and he emphasized that we need a better evaluation system.  He added that the city now wants to certify teachers instead of the state but they need to figure out how to retain teachers.  He then went on to say that if we do not reach an agreement by January 16, 2013 on a new evaluation system, we will lose $300 million in state aid.  He concluded by declaring that the evaluation system must be supportive of teachers or no agreement will be reached.

The next issue was curriculum writing.  Mulgrew said we have Common Core Standards but no new curriculum and that will lead to many students failing standardized exams.  He then told the Delegates that this issue has been taken to the Public employees Relations Board because teachers are not supposed to write curriculum as we are not qualified to write curriculum on the Common Core since we have not been trained on it.  The next hearing will be on December 6 at PERB.  People who have evidence need to contact UFT lawyer Adam Ross.

On special education reform, Mulgrew announced that UFT collected data showed that pilot schools under-performed non-pilot schools.  UFT members who have been asked to change IEP’s need to file Special Education Complaints. He ended this segment by noting that we have the longest arbitration in UFT history on CESIS.  Mulgrew finished up his report by pushing Teacher Union Day which is November 4.  Staff Director Leroy Barr followed up by telling us about dates for various union events.  He also made a pitch for people to bring out members to do phone banks for Obama and other UFT endorsed candidates.

Next up was the question period.  A Delegate asked about the Chicago strike and why we couldn't do the same.  Mulgrew answered that we have the Taylor Law in New York which has crippling fines if we strike but Illinois does not so their strike was legal.  He also stated that Chicago had to get many rights back in their struggle that we still have. He concluded by noting that the Chicago Teachers Union and their President Karen Lewis really didn't have a choice.

A Delegate then asked about retroactive pay in the next contract.  Mulgrew said we have always gotten it in the past.  He then told us we probably cannot settle with Bloomberg because we will not sell out the Absent Teacher Reserves.  He declared that we would not become at will employees and that the successor to Bloomberg is not going to have it easy as he/she attempts to fix the system.

Someone asked a question about wrap around services. The UFT President said we are collecting data from parents and teachers.  Finally, a Delegate asked about Eva Moskowitz starting a school at Washington Irving.  Mulgrew answered that we understand she does not like us and we don’t like her but she has money. However with all of the attacks on us from the Daily News and NY Post, we still have a 62% approval rating and new charter schools are capped by law at 20 start ups per year.

New motions were next.  Delegate Peter Lamphere raised a resolution for next month to support the NAACP Legal Defense Fund civil rights complaint about the specialized high schools.  This carried and will be on next month’s agenda.  The only other piece of business was to endorse Andy King for City Council.

Overall, I can say that there were many new Delegates at this meeting and I can predict with some certainty that there will be lighter attendance in November..


Jeff Kaufman said...

Unity Beware! Continue to bully our delegates and members and you will soon become an opposition party!

Anonymous said...

If what comes around, goes around is true, we're in for a very happy time at some point.

Anonymous said...

A Romney preidency would do more damage to our profession that you could imagine.

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Anonymous said...

Two years ago President Obama appeared on Education Nation and joined in the teacher bashing. I found this interesting because in his address to the nation in february 2009 the president said that parents should be reading to their children and held student accountable by saying to turn off the tv and that high school dropouts were giving up on their country.
However within weeks or even days after giving this speech RTTT was introduced. I personally think that this president is not knowledgeable about this issues concerning public education and is rubber stamping Arne Duncan (who was never a classroom teacher). I think if RTTT came under a republican president the AFT and UFT would not edorse him/her.

ed notes online said...

"A Romney preidency would do more damage to our profession that you could imagine."

Is that your response to the fact that the Unity thugs won't even allow the issue to be discussed? Do you think Marjorie would have won the day? Win your arguments but don't suppress dissenting voices.
Vote Green if you are a NYC teacher to express your dissent to Obama ed policies and the goons in the UFT.

Anonymous said...

Is that an endorsement Norm?

Anonymous said...

It doesn't matter who becomes president. Bashing teachers
and expecting us to fix all of society's ills is a bipartisan
tactic. No child left behind vs. common core? Pick your
poison. Neither party has a monopoly on power hungry
Egotists who will chew us up for political gain.