Wednesday, November 18, 2015


There were three clues at last Wednesday's Delegate Assembly that just added to the mountain of proof that the UFT no longer exists as an independent trade union but is merely an arm of Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration. President Michael Mulgrew's answer to a question on abusive principals and two resolutions in support of absurd de Blasio education proposals just added to what has already occurred since de Blasio became mayor and the UFT ceased battling city hall.

We really didn't need any further proof of the UFT-de Blasio marriage after the  2014 contract with its paltry raises of 10% over 7 years and UFT members having to wait until 2020 to receive money (4%+4%) that most other city workers received from 2008-2010.  Throw in healthcare savings that have mostly not yet been implemented for city workers but will in the near future (after Mulgrew's reelection?), lack of improvement in working conditions, weaker due process rights for Absent Teacher Reserves and we have a union that jumped fully into bed with management. When the city's huge budget surpluses the last few years are taken into account, the city hall-UFT marriage leaves UFT members scratching their heads. Last week's DA showed once again how our union continues to be a shill for management.

During the question period Michael Mulgrew was asked about abusive principals.  He responded by changing his usual answer from the last two years when he repeatedly answered this question by saying that it is going to take a while for Chancellor Carmen Farina to change the culture in the schools from the Mike Bloomberg years but just give her some time.  The new response is that we have always had abusive principals so this is nothing new. That was a fairly clear admission that the conditions we teach in haven't changed under Farina.

Mulgrew's statement while true is very misleading. I can recall back in the 1990's, when Joe Fernandez was Chancellor, principals were told to settle their problems in house unless they were completely egregious. That policy continued to some extent under Chancellors Ramon Cortines and Rudy Crew. Back in those days a letter to the Chancellor from a UFT Chapter meant there would be a full scale investigation from upper level management and that principal could be in trouble quickly.

In addition, there were real attempts to resolve individual grievances in most cases before they went to arbitration.  A principal was considered to be weak if he/she could not settle most problems within a building. Another red flag against a principal was if too many teachers were seeking to transfer from a school.  In the 1990s, when the UFT was still somewhat of a real union, the Union was a check on abusive principals and it functioned for the betterment of the school system.  Toxic learning environments don't help kids excel.

It was only when Harold O Levy, the first non educator took over as Chancellor in 2000, that the pendulum from upper management started to move toward knee-jerk support for principals and against teachers. That pendulum moved further away from teachers and the UFT at lightening speed under Joel Klein, Kathy Black and Dennis Walcott while Bloomberg was mayor. After the infamous 2005 "Givebacks' R Us" contract, teacher professionalism was more or less gone and as Mulgrew admitted in his answer on abusive principals, without admitting it directly, the pendulum hasn't moved back the other way toward respecting teachers and UFT Chapters under de Blasio-Farina.

Honestly, do you think most UFT Chapters would feel any confidence reporting an abusive administration to the Chancellor?

There was more evidence at the November DA that the UFT is just the education wing of the de Blasio administration in the form of two fairly innocuous looking resolutions that overwhelmingly carried at the end of the meeting. Both of these resolutions gave unqualified UFT support for de Blasio education initiatives.

The first one endorsed the hiring of reading specialists so that all children would be literate by the end of second grade. Universal literacy by grade two is a wonderful goal that is basically impossible to achieve in a city like New York which has a huge non-English speaking population and many pupils with extensive special needs.  Saying they are all going to read by grade two is setting us up for failure in the same way that the unions supporting No Child Left Behind in 2002 was a huge mistake because that law said every child would be reading and doing math on grade level by 2014. That was an impossible goal.  The UFT should not support pipe dreams that can boomerang on us. All it does is give our enemies fuel when they want to attack us.  I can see the groups coming out against us when we say we were going to have all children literate by second grade and all of them are not.  They will say it's the teacher's fault.

The last resolution might have been worse.  The de Blasio administration has an initiative where all pupils will have a computer class by 2025.  2025?  Are they kidding?  Every child should have had a computer course by 1995 or at least by now.  This mayor has had two years in control of the system and he can't wire every school.

I raised my card to speak against at the DA but in the Unity style of democracy, a member of the Unity Caucus spoke for the resolution and that was followed by another Unity representative moving to end debate and the rest of them followed in lock step.  Mulgrew occasionally asks for speakers against motions but often times he just ignores the rules and continues his unfair way of chairing meetings. I didn't have a chance to make my points.

After I voted no on the computer resolution, it was interesting to look up and watch Mulgrew note my one vote in opposition.

Some people say Delegate Assembly meetings are a waste of time.  They aren't.  If a union member wants to know the thinking of the union's leadership, one should attend.  I discovered more evidence that we are in many ways a kind of government example of a wholly owned subsidiary. The UFT is a part of the de Blasio administration for better or worse.


reality-based educator said...

The UFT is, for all practical purposes, a company union.

Philip Nobile said...

More proof of the DOE/UFT honeymoon: OSI substantiated my complaint against former Brooklyn DR Tom Bennett who physically and verbally assaulted me after a chapter meeting at the School for Legal Studies in '13.

"I'm gonna get Mulgrew to come down here and he'll beat the s**t out of you,"
Bennett yelled, climaxing his freakout that was preceded by calling me "a f***ing pile of manure."

Hoping to read OSI's report, I wrote to the author, Deputy Director Chris Dalton, who replied: "The allegations that you brought forth have been substantiated. If you wish to receive any further information, you may file a Freedom of Information Law request. You may email your request to ... ." But my request went nowhere because, surprise, there was no such report according to DOE Chief Counsel Courtenaye Jackson-Chase: "Your complaint to SCI was referred to OSI, and OSI did conduct an investigation. I then reviewed their findings. Because your complaint concerned an incident which occurred during a UFT meeting and concerned the business of the UFT, I believed it was appropriate to refer the findings to the UFT's General Counsel."

Thereupon I asked UFT head shyster Adam Ross to refer OSI's findings to me, the victim. Surely my union would extend such courtesy. But whom am I kidding? Ross flatly refused, thus confirming the Gentlemen's Agreement between
Tweedledum and Tweedledee.

Anonymous said...

DiBlasio is much smarter than he looks. He owns the UFT - lock, stock and stinking Mulgrew!

Anonymous said...

The UFT is union in name only, and not in heart and soul.

Harris L. said...

Very fine analysis, James.

For better or worse, I think the problem with the de Blasio/UFT link will be a self-limiting one.

The NY Times was out today with a poll that showed de Blasio "underwater" white voters in the City 25% approve/59% disapprove. Overall, 52% of New Yorkers think the City is going in the wrong direction--62% of whites, 51% of Latinos and 50% if African-Americans.

His overall approval rating is 44%, with 38% disapproval, down from 52% in December.

Yes, the 2017 re-election is two years away. But Andrew Cuomo and our adversaries among the hedgistas and reformistas will take all this as an open invitation to run Hakeem Jeffries--New York City's answer to Cory Booker--de Blasio in the primary and Jeffries would win.

I am not lovin' BDB, by any means, but we all need to be careful what we wish for because the alternative to Hizzoner will not be someone who is any "better" on education and schools than BDB is now.

James Eterno said...

Harris that is a big part of the problem. We are continually asked to choose between bad, worse and worst. If de Blasio is as good as it gets on education, we are in even deeper trouble than most of us think. I agree with RBE that we are pretty much the company union now.

Anonymous said...

2 years until DeBozo's out and then it's all over for NYC teachers. I despise him, Cuomo, Bloomberg, Klien, Moskowitz, the DOE, the UFT, Mike and Randi and most of all what teaching has turned into.

Anonymous said...

The poll is a result of thin criticisms repeated by the tabloids over and over. But, they are simply style points. Such criticisms do not last four years. In fact, the negative propaganda peaked too soon to prevent his re-election.

Fact is, DeBlasio has rung up a string of policy victories (Pre-K, reduced stop and frisk, better academic improvements than Bloomberg, and potentially creating more affordable housing). He hasn't needed to advertise them because he doesn't want to start his campaign too soon. Let them fire their ammo at him early, mitigate the damage while they run out of bulelts. Meanwhile, rack up some big victories on nuts and bolts. Then, when the angry critics are all tuckered out, start selling your victories.

De Blasio is going to skate to a 2nd term. I was worried. But, not anymore. Cake walk. Who's going to oppose him? Who the hell has really heard of Hakeem Jefferies? Everyone is afraid of him because he could split the black vote. Okay, that would suck, but that strategy won't get him past the primary. Maybe Jefferies will land some billionaire donors who will tidy up his image and sell him, but, owing your soul to the 1% is a bit of a political liability - hasn't been in the past, but, is now.

Anonymous said...

Who the hell heard of DiBlasio before he won? There's just no way he's is getting in again. Bozo the clown could beat him handily. Every working class person in the 5 boroughs will be out in force to vote him out. He has economically shafted just about every municipal union member, including us. Every fireman, cop, correction officer, sanitation, transit worker that I know hate him. The only reason I wouldn't vote him out is because I know we will get much worse with someone else, but at least with someone else the UFT wouldn't give away the store - that's if there still is a union. (I'm not saying he's a bad guy. He seems to have good intentions, but has no experience. Things are much worse in the schools.) I'm retiring the day he's voted out. I'm making my preparations now.

Anonymous said...

If only people would start listening.