Saturday, November 07, 2015


It is hard to believe that it was 55 years ago today on November 7, 1960 that the newly formed United Federation of Teachers launched an illegal and generally successful strike. We salute the brave teachers who pulled off that job action.  A few are still active in the union today.  If they are honest, they should be appalled by what is occurring in the schools.

As I was reading the NY Teacher earlier today, I noticed a letter from retired teacher Irene Bernstein-Pechmeze, who was working in NYC before the UFT came together in 1960.  Here is what she said about the working conditions before there was a single union for New York City Teachers.

Many principals, whose pre-UFT powers were basically unchecked, ran their schools as if they were plantation owners.

Their "pets" were placed in virtually lifetime comp time jobs with no rotation of service required and vacancies were not obliged to be posted so other staff members might have an opportunity to fill the spot.  There was no rotation of assignment in classes either.

In 1959, prep periods were not required.  There was no rotation of building assignments.

How many teachers currently work in schools where they are too afraid to dare question the principal so that many of the aforementioned working conditions have returned even though we have a union?

I agree with the retired teacher that we can thank the union for better salaries and a Tax Deferred Annuity program.  However when it comes to working conditions, we are going backwards rapidly.


Chaz said...

I agree with you completely;y. Check out my October 30th post.

Anonymous said...

Second school I've been in this year as an ATR. First one, 2 quit in September - one to the NYPD and another to a charter. This one same thing, guy quit yesterday- he told me he just couldn't take it. I tried to talk him out of it. Things are horrible, every minute seems like an hour. The UFT says things are better under DeBlasio. The perennially absent UFT. Things are better for Mulgrew, but not for teachers. Thank God I can retire soon.

Anonymous said...

Conditions are more like 1939 than 59.

Anonymous said...

Yes. Working conditions are awful. I will admit that the decline "inquiry teams" and other useless mandatory binder-making committees has been an improvement. But, the state mandated Danielson gotcha system and the VAM-based APPR were implemented at the same time we nixed the binder conmittees, which meets a net-loss with respect to working conditions. We are living in a state of fear that is ramped up and exploited by unscrupulous Principals. Maybe it's okay in some places. But, it seems not most. Indeed, some Superintendents are stoking Principals to hammer teachers. Very "gotcha," and very bad. Working conditions are always the worst immediately before and immediately after a Sup. Visit. Why? The answer: because of bad leadership.

Anonymous said...

Very true, SUP visit and they go crazy to hide their crap. and even worse after a SUP visit. You can not cover up the stench of manure

I have been around for a while now and I have to say, things have gotten really really bad. After 14 years I am actually thinking of a career change. And BTW, Staten Island High Schools are experiencing the same crap, apparently its just better hidden.

We need new union leadership, we need someone with a fire and we need someone who is not afraid to strike. This current union is despicable. Mulgrew, you always were an asshole when you taught in Grady and you became a bigger asshole as you moved up.

We need a NEW CAUCUS.

Anonymous said...

You need yet another caucus? Mulgrew loves you for that. Divide people further. Unity would like 10 caucuses and play them off against each other - which is what they always used to do.

ed notes online said...

Given where things are at and where they are going, unless you can find a safe haven why waste another decade of your life in a miserable job? Career change can be a salvation - or at the very least put yourself in a position where you can change careers. I was feeling that way after 17 years and got an MA in computer science for a possible career change but then was able to use that to stay in the system in other computer related positions.

Anonymous said...

Glad to see a rash of people on these boards using the word "strike." The crap we are putting up with is insane. Things *will* *not* *change* until we show some spine. Even our "friend," Bill se Blasio, threw us under the bus with that last sh*t-ass contract. Why? Because we are suckers. Look, folks. The only friends we have are each other. The people above us are *not* *our* *friends*! Not our Principals, not our union leaders, not our Mayor. They are self-interested, and, by in large, cowardly. The only friend you have is the person teaching in the classroom next to you. So, it's time to start acting like it.

And, don't give me that "I'm only here for the kids" cop out. Of course you are. But, the kids don't need you to be their friend. They need you to be an adult. A kind, compassionate, strong adult. You can be none of those things if you live in a constant state of harrassment from Principals and APs. If you are underpaid and undermined, then you've got nothing to offer the 140 kids that you see everyday. The only way to get the nut-jobs of our backs is to bite-back.

Time to strike. The entire teaching force in Florida once went on strike. But, we here in "progressive" New York can't do it? Fine, keep letting the bully eat your lunch. All you have to do is reach out to the person in the classroom next to you and show some solidarity. But, no, you'd rather be humiliated and brow-beaten then treat you peer as an equal. Yeah, I got it. Let's let the platoon of fat-cats at 52 Broadway take our union dues while doing nothing to rock the boat. Let's let Principals harrass us. Let's let working conditions erode to unbearable levels. It's all good as long as that person in the classroom next to us catches more hell than I do, then everything is fine. . . Pathetic. We deserve everything we are getting.

Anonymous said...

Sad but true comment.. Wish you could say who you are. You should run four UFT office.

Anonymous said...

I'm a delegate, but, I want nothing to do with holding an office. I've seen the way rank-and-file are treated at 52 Broadway. It's disgusting.

Honestly, I can't wait for Freidrichs decision to be handed down. The unhelpful and ungrateful folks at 52 Broadway will be pounding sand when we lose dues check-off. Competing unions will pop up, as they did before UFT consolidated power. The successful ones will be the ones that make some gains, not the ones who dress up their losses.

Anonymous said...

I'm not saying it was bad that the UFT consolidated. We were, in fact, a great union during Shanker and Feldman's days (I think). But, we lost our way after that. A breakup would make us more scrappy and leadership more responsible. There is a silver lining to everything.

Anonymous said...

Excellent comments!
I have been harassed by my assistant principal for 12 yeas. He is crazy micromanager who organized his 'model' school 20 years ago, very vane and subjective. He would yell in the teachers' room: "I can hire two for one!", meaning two young teachers, for the price of one.

And now vicious and cynical field supervisor Ms. Kostopoulos, who gives Unsatisfactory ratings like candies, setting the observations in unruly schools, where everything smells of cannabis, students make sexual jokes about you with no reason, where students quarrel and yell at each other while you teach, being extremely disrespectful so early as the 5th grade! One fifth grader recently told me ...Oh, you have a yellow ass!

Disgusting, inhuman and sadistic! Where do we live? What kind of oppressive society this became?