Thursday, April 25, 2013



We have initial slate only numbers for the UFT election and although Unity and New Action will hold onto their monopoly on power, the new Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE) established itself as the main opposition group in the UFT by a substantial margin.  MORE finished second and improved on their predecessor caucus ICE-TJC vote totals from 2010.

Here are the updated slate numbers for 2013 compared with the 2010 count.

2013  High Schools    Ballots Mailed: 19,040  Ballots Returned: 3808   Votes Counted: 3595  
MORE: 1430 (40%)   NEW ACTION: 452 (13%)       UNITY: 1592 (45%)

The remainder are people who split their ballot.

2010 High Schools    Ballots Returned: 5203
MORE: 1369                 NEW ACTION: 774               UNITY: 2595

2013 Middle Schools   Ballots Mailed:10,807  Ballots Returned: 1879      Votes Counted: 1875
ICE-TJC: 398                NEW ACTION: 161                UNITY:1185

The remainder are people who split their ballot.

2010 Middle Schools:     Ballots Returned: 2881
ICE-TJC: 248                NEW ACTION: 421                  UNITY: 1981

2013 Functionals (non teachers)   Ballots Mailed: 51,040  Ballots Returned: 7704   Ballots Counted: 7113
MORE: 951                   NEW ACTION: 754                UNITY: 5167

The remainder are people who split their ballot.    

2010 Functional          Ballots Returned: 10629
ICE-TJC: 708                  NEW ACTION: 1175             UNITY: 7337

2013 Elementary Schools  Ballots Mailed: 34,163    Ballots Returned:7331  Ballots Counted: 6870
MORE: 1140                  NEW ACTION: 534                 UNITY: 5111

The remaining votes are those who split their ballot.

2010 Elementary            Ballots Returned: 10,292
ICE-TJC: 703                   NEW ACTION: 978                UNITY: 7337

2013 Retirees   Ballots Mailed: 58,357        Ballots Returned: 22,462      
MORE: 1490                   NEW ACTION: 1880            UNITY: 18,155        

The rest are split votes.

MORE: 5409 (13.4%)         NEW ACTION: 3781 (9.4%)            UNITY: 31,210 (77.2%)

Some quick analysis:

Something is wrong with the UFT electoral system when New Action gets only 13% of the high school votes but wins half of the UFT Executive Board seats for the high schools while MORE's 40% will get MORE no representation on the Executive Board.

It is obvious that a clear majority of the high school teachers who vote do not want a Unity monopoly on power.  Had this been a traditional two party UFT election, there would be truly independent opposition representation (no Unity cross endorsement needed).

Two other stories emerge at first glance.  First, the turnout was pitiful as only 43,138 ballots are being counted out of 173,407 that were sent out. That is a turnout of 24.9%. Just as significantly, 22,462 of those votes are from retirees.  That constitutes 52% of the voters. I would question if having retirees as the majority of the electorate is healthy for the union.

Finally, Mulgrew's vote dropped compared to 2010.  It appears many members did not vote for the opposition but they certainly didn't vote for the incumbent.  For the next election, those members need to be persuaded to vote for someone.

Thursday, April 18, 2013


President’s Report 

President Michael Mulgrew reported on Mayor Bloomberg’s press conference saying he would negotiate contracts since all the city unions were now working under expired contracts.  Mulgrew stated that the mayor won’t offer retroactive raises. 

President Mulgrew said parents are upset that kids are being tested on material that they were not taught.  He said there is no substitute for curriculum but the Department of Education got rid of the curriculum departments but still won’t accept responsibility.  He added they are going to re-baseline students but parents see their kids as guinea pigs. 

Mulgrew stated that UFT is not advocating either way when it comes to parents opting their kids out of standardized testing.  He will just give information and leave it up to parents who have a right to do what is best for their children.  He spoke to counsel on this matter.

The President recommended that Chapters that have principals who won’t work in a collaborative way  with the chapter  should think very carefully about agreeing to SBO’s, particularly SBO’s that are the idea of the Principal.  Mulgrew reviewed the SBO process and said District Representatives and Amy Arundell should be contacted on SBO’s. 

Mulgrew reported on the letter from Chancellor Walcott that said in part that the talent coaches were experts on Dainelson.  Mulgrew disagreed with the Chancellor on this and other points. 

Mulglrew noted that we would have a new evaluation system by September and that it will be a mess.  He continued that the budgets, scheduling, buses will also be a mess so September through December will not be good.  He stated that Central DOE is getting worse by the moment; they are out of control and there will be a big transition after December 31.  He continued that we are in arbitration, grievance and PERB on so many things that it’s ridiculous. 

The President said that fact finding is moving ahead but the city is trying to slow the process.  He added there will be a report before the mayor leaves.  The mayor is telling people that the city can’t afford a raise for any unions but the fact finders will say the city can afford increases. Mulgrew added that city unions will not be lining up for three year contracts with no salary increases. 

The chair stated that Occupational Therapists/Physical Therapists just got $2.7 million in payments from the SESIS case.  On April 30, 30,000 members will get north of $30 million in SESIS payments; some will get over $30,000 and many will receive between $8,000 to $14,000. 

The Staff Director announced that Share My lesson launch will be Saturday at 9:00 am at the UFT and also coming up are the Secretary luncheon and Spring Conference.  He also said that the UFT election ballots are due back to the American Arbitration Association by Tuesday, April 24 and that the next Delegate Assembly was moved to May 22 from May 8. 

Question: Test scores impacting on ratings and progress reports this year and next year . 
Mulgrew Answer: New system not in effect this year.  Next year we need not worry because 7% statewide should be rated ineffective, 9% highly effective and the rest in the middle. This year only 6% of city teachers would be ineffective based on the test results as we deal with the students with the greatest needs.  As for progress reports, 85% are based on test scores and this must change. 

Question: What is the UFT strategy to fight the mayor’s no bid contracts? 
Answer: We are working with comptroller’s office as he has the power to cancel the nine year contracts. 

Question: What can we do about principals who always consult DOE legal and then are told to do anything they want? 
Answer: DOE legal rationalizes anything and then blames principals when things go wrong.  The DOE has 300 lawyers and we have 3. 

Question: How can the UFT talk about opposing charter schools when the UFT runs a charter School?  Will we think about giving up our charter school and restoring the UFT’s reputation? 
Answer: Mulgrew disagrees with much of the premise of the question but our relationship with the families is what is keeping the school going. 

There were no new motions. 

SPECIAL ORDER OF BUSINESS (Scheduled Resolutions) 
There was a resolution to support the May Day march and rally for labor, jobs for all and immigrant rights that passed unanimously.  This was followed by a resolution to support the campaign by fast-food workers to unionize which also carried unanimously.  There was also a resolution to stop President Obama’s proposed cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid which also passed unanimously. 

The following candidates received UFT endorsements: 
Republican James Oddo for Staten Island Borough President. 

City Council: 
Manhattan 3                                          Corey Johnson 
Manhattan 4                                          Daniel Garodnick 
Mnhattan/Bronx 8                                Melissa Mark-Viverito 
Manhattan 9                                          Inez Dickens 
Bronx 13                                                  James Vacca 
Queens 21                                               Julissa Ferreras 
Queens 23                                               Mark Weprin 
Queens 25                                               Danny Dromm 
Brooklyn 36                                             Kirsten Foye 
Brooklyn 44                                             David Greenfield 

All are Democrats. 

The rest of the meeting was on the mayoral endorsement which is covered in an earlier posting. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


There was important news coming from the April UFT Delegate Assembly as the body voted overwhelmingly in favor of the UFT endorsing a candidate in September's Democratic primary. This decision was made after a somewhat interesting, but as usual one sided, discussion that included active members and retirees.

The issue was whether or not to endorse and when to endorse rather than who to support.

Most speakers gave a history of UFT endorsements that were either successful or were busts.  Specifically, Delegates boasted about the UFT turning the tide for Tony Avella in his Senate race when most other unions endorsed 38 year incumbent Frank Padavan. The UFT stood with Avella and he was victorious and now two Delegates noted we have him as a friend in the State Senate.  (Knowing Avella fairly well, I think he was our friend when he was in the City Council before the 2010 endorsement and even when we did not endorse his 2009 mayoral bid.)

Another successful UFT campaign that was mentioned was last year's election of President Barack Obama. Secretary Michael Mendel then reached back to 1998 when the UFT led a huge upset victory when Chuck Schumer knocked off eighteen year veteran US Senator Al D'Amato, who had been bashing teachers as a large part of his reelection strategy.

The positive stories were offset by Delegates actually raising two campaigns when the UFT failed in its mayoral endorsements. In 2001, the UFT supported three candidates who all lost: Alan Hevesi in the Democratic primary, Fernando Ferrer in the runoff and then Mark Green in the general election.  Retiree John Soldini warned us that we can't turn negative on Democrats we don't endorse because we might want to later endorse a candidate, if that person beats our favorite, and we don't want to bloody the primary winner who will need our support in the general election.

Delegates also admitted that by not supporting Bill Thompson for mayor in 2009, we helped Bloomberg win his disastrous third term. Staff Directory Leroy Barr then made a motion for the UFT to endorse a candidate in the primary and work to get that person elected mayor.It carried easily.

As to which candidate the UFT will endorse, that was not part of the discussion.

We will report on the rest of the DA when we get a chance.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

"U" Rated ATR Wins Appeal Despite "Unity" Representation

While there are plenty of reasons to vote for MORE and dump the "Unity" stranglehold on our membership perhaps the most compelling is the refusal by our leadership to properly represent our members.

Witness Samuel Richardson. Mr. Richardson (not his real name) is a 24 year veteran Social Studies licensed high school teacher who was excessed from a closing Brooklyn school 3 years ago. As with his colleagues he was assigned as an ATR and forced into nomadic purgatory where he shuffles from Brooklyn high school to Brooklyn high school on a weekly basis.

Last year he made it to my high school, Aspirations, and after we got to know each he explained that he had received an unsatisfactory observation for a lesson he was clearly set up. The story was all too familiar. With little notice Mr. Richardson said he would be observed in a class he was the substitute teacher for two days. The next day he was ushered into another class (a much more difficult class behaviorally and academically) and told to teach his lesson before the teacher and observer.

The subject of the lesson had nothing to do with what the class was studying at that point and needless to say the class was somewhat unruly. His observation report was written as if he provided no meaningful instruction and had no classroom management skills.

He reluctantly showed me the observation report. I tried to schedule a meeting with this ATR supervisor to no avail and by the time June rolled around he was given a "U" rating for the year. His supervisor saw him a total of 3 times (twice in the week he was observed) and engaged in no meaningful conversation with him the entire year. The U rating sheet referred only to the observation report and his perfect attendance record.

Throughout the next several months Mr. Richardson and I have been in communication. We regularly discussed appeal strategy and ways to reverse this rating. When he received notice right before the Easter break that his hearing would be today he called me. We met and I gave him a package of materials including the Rating Guide and several court cases dealing with arbitrary U ratings. A retired teacher called him to meet with him and "prepare" for the hearing. He had one meeting with this advocate and gave her the materials I gave to him. He pleaded with her to call me, yesterday.

Yesterday, on the eve of his appeal, a received a phone call from this "advocate." Our conversation was not pleasant. She accused me of cross-examining her and finally stated "If I do all you want me to do I would have no time." I then asked her how she would have felt if she, while teaching, had received a U rating and her advocate told her she had no time for her case. Silence.

It is one thing that the DOE has evolved the U rating appeals system as a kangaroo court. It is another that our Unity colleagues remain complicit and actually contribute to the loss of our members rights.

Advocates are taught to read statements (written by some knucklehead with no legal training) to the U rating appeals officer. They are not given the materials, training or time to adequately represent our members. The jobs are reserved for the Unity faithful in their retirement. In fact there is even a rule that lawyers are not allowed to argue for members.

As a result it is easy for the DOE to affirm almost every U rating appeal and since no record is ever made that would be valuable in Court most appeals to Court are denied.

I just got off the phone with Mr. Richardson who told me how the hearing went. The advocate submitted the papers I had provided him and according to Mr. Richardson used many of the strategies we discussed. There was actual questioning of the rating officer and at the end of the hearing Mr. Richardson was informed his rating would be reversed.

A vote for Unity is a vote to not only perpetuate this system but actually codify it by placing a quota on appeals and needing Unity's permission to appeal. This is America?

Friday, April 05, 2013








Wednesday, April 03, 2013


New Action is supporting Michael Mulgrew for President in the UFT election. Ballots will be mailed today so now it is up to members to decide who will lead our union. The only caucus running an opposing presidential candidate is the Movement for Rank and File Educators (MORE).  MORE is running Julie Cavanagh for UFT President as most readers of this blog already know. This blog endorses Cavanagh/MORE.

Unity and New Action are the two longest running caucuses (political parties) in the UFT.  Unity has run the UFT for five decades; New Action opposed Unity for years.  I was a member of New Action from 1995 to 2003 and was elected to the UFT Executive Board three times while in NAC.  In those days they were a genuine opposition group that actually ran a candidate for UFT President.

When I was a new Chapter Leader in 1996, NAC co-chair Michael Shulman spent a great deal of time teaching me about the job and was a valuable resource as was NAC's Ellen Fox.  Therefore, it was very painful to leave NAC in 2003 after they decided not to oppose Unity's Randi Weingarten for UFT President, but it was necessary. Camille Eterno, Ellen Fox, Lisa North, Chris Ash and others have not looked back since we defected although I do miss my New Action friends.

It appears to many that New Action in its current form basically exists to confuse members into thinking they are still the main opposition group within the UFT.  They put out literature that looks critical of the leadership but they do not run against President Mulgrew; instead they endorse him.  In exchange they are given ten candidates for the UFT Executive Board that the majority Unity Caucus is cross endorsing so they are pretty much assured of victory.  NAC maintains this arrangement gives them a voice inside the UFT much like the Unity leaders say they have a voice at the table with Bill Gates and others. What good does that do us?

NYC Educator correctly points out that supporting the other party's candidate for president would be akin to the Democrats in 2004 saying they are the main opposition party and then supporting Republican George W Bush for president.  You wouldn't think that is much of an opposition, would you?

NAC is running for these seats and others based on their record.  However, a look at that record shows that some of what New Action is taking credit for is a little far fetched.

New Action states that they have opposed mayoral control from the start.  I remember it a little differently. While on the UFT Executive Board, I seem to recall the subject of mayoral control first came up around 2001.  The Unity majority brought forward a school governance recommendation that supported giving the mayor the majority control over the Board of Education.

Norm Scott showed up at the Executive Board and schooled me quickly on how it would be a disaster. Chicago was already ahead of New York on mayoral dictatorship; there were already horrible consequences for teachers and students.  I spoke up and voted against supporting mayoral control that night but I don't remember some of the other NAC members of the Executive Board voting with me. NAC had no position on the subject at the time.  I also recall members of New Action enthusiastically supporting the creation of the UFT Charter School.  I was alone in my negative vote.I oppose charter schools and so does MORE because they take precious public resources away from the public schools.

Currently, New Action is making many claims in their literature where they take credit for their accomplishments within the UFT.  Former NAC member (now running with MORE) Lisa North comments on what they do.

"While it's true that NAC proposes some resolutions on important issues at Executive Board meetings, they do little or NO organizing!  It was MORE people who held meetings, sent emails, had rallies, circulated petitions, passed out fliers, contacted other community groups for support, etc. New Action is just like UNITY....pass a resolution and DO NO ACTION to organize to make a real change happen."  

Gloria Brandman sits on the UFT Social Justice Committee along with Lisa.  Here is her critique (in italics) of New Action:

New Action says they are: The only caucus to repeatedly call for action on the disappearing Black and Latino educators- 
Reality: This issue was originally brought to the Social and Economic Justice Committee (which is co chaired by a NAC and a UNITY person) by MORE's Sean Ahearn with support from Lisa and Gloria,Sean and other MORE people. Teachers Unite, and CPE worked on this issue even before it was brought to the UFT.

New Action says they initiated a resolution in Support of Puerto Rican Teachers Federation Leadership- 
Reality: Not sure if this is true but whenever Rafael Feliciano who was the President of the PRTF came to NYC, he spoke at many events in NYC, none of them organized by anyone in NAC.  It was GEM (Grassroots Education Movement) people who took leadership in supporting the PR Teachers and members of GEM who organized speaking engagements, forums  and fundraising events for  President Feliciano.

New Action says they called on UFT to support the April 9, 2011 anti-war demonstration. 
The Whole Story: This is positive but resolutions without actions do little to make change. It was members of ICE who are now MORE members that formed UFTers to Stop the War. UFTers to Stop the War brought anti-war resolutions to the DA as well as worked to make sure all high schools had information about opting out of military recruitment. NAC supported some of this work, but they did not do the organizing to bring any of it about. It was MORE people! And for the anti-war demonstration in Washington, DC on Jan 27, 2007 it was MORE members who requested and got the UFT to provide two buses, and Lisa and Gloria were the bus captains on the buses. One or two NACs may have attended as well. 

New Action says they achieved: 
Bipartisan Social and Economic Justice Committee passes rent control resolution
Bipartisan Social and Economic Justice Committee gets resolution passed  on Reducing the Environmental Footprint. Calls for an end to plastic bottles at UFT and for recycling bins.
Reality: Not Bipartisan- There were people from three different caucuses at these meetings. 
(Bipartisan =including members from two parties or factions) I will say that getting rid of the plastic bottles at the DA is probably the most concrete and successful  action that has come about due to this committee!  
New Action says they exposed SESIS as a “nightmare.” Called for help for our members.
Exactly how did they expose this? Most of them have never even seen SESIS as they are retired.

New Action says they won bipartisan support in solidarity with Chicago teachers
The Whole Story: It was MORE that brought teachers from Chicago here, wrote and circulated petitions, organized and participated in meetings, rallies and a march that started in Union Square.

New Action asks the UFT to join NAACP suit on selective school entrance exams
MORE actually proposed a resolution at the DA which was combined with the Executive Board's resolution and approved

New Action called for support for Seattle teachers who refused to administer standardized tests.

The Whole story: It was a MORE member who brought a resolution to DA.  it was combined with the Executive Board's resolution and approved

One final point: New Action met with some people from MORE last fall and NAC says there was an agreement that MORE would not attack them.  Kit Wainer from MORE was at that meeting and says no such agreement was ever made.  I know Kit and I will stand up 100% for his integrity.  I will be diplomatic and say that apparently there was a misunderstanding.