Monday, October 02, 2017


One of our favorite bloggers is Reality Based Educator. He has not written much in the last year which makes us all a bit less knowledgeable about the world of politics from a teacher's perspective. However, RBE is still on Twitter, he comments here sometimes  and emails me occasionally too.

RBE wrote a comment on our last posting that he thinks the UFT might lose more than 30% of its membership next year after the US Supreme Court more than likely will make union dues optional in the public sector in the case of Janus vs. AFSCME.

I am posting his comment in full below. The best argument in favor of staying in the UFT and paying dues is that an often unresponsive, bureaucratic union like the UFT is better than no union. We are afterall still paid a decent salary and have good benefits. That doesn't happen without a union and is a strong point for staying and paying.

In addition, we have precedent in Wisconsin where public sector unions were broken by Governor Scott Walker and a Republican Legislature. Salaries and working conditions are worse out there for sure as a result.

However, many of our gains in NYC were made over 50 years ago and we are barely holding on. Working conditions are horrible and deteriorating fast in many NYC schools and the Union is basically powerless to stop the assault on teachers. Each UFT claim of the latest "victory" seems even more hollow than the last.

Winning a UFT election is virtually impossible outside of the high schools because politics requires people to know candidates and the Union controls the flow of information to its 180,000 members spread all over the country. There is no accountability for the UFT leadership and they know it.

NYS law would keep unions together in the public sector even after Janus. It is probably a matter of whether we would have to opt in or opt out of the union. Would teachers be more vulnerable if the UFT was smaller because of defections? People are asking if UFT dues are worth it.

I so want to be part of a powerful union that defends worker rights with everything it has. The problem is it is increasingly difficult to defend the UFT. I have fought with everything I have to make the UFT into a real union but conditions keep getting worse in so many schools throughout NYC.

 I plan on being a union member even when I retire and get few tangible benefits from being in a union. (My wife is a NYC teacher who is younger so I can ride on her benefits for the most part.)

RBE calls the UFT a company union and expects many defections even with the UFT spin machine telling people to stay.

I would like to hear from our readers. The readership of the ICE blog goes from left to far right and everything in between.

What are you going to do if and when the Supreme Court says you can keep your dues?

What do you predict your colleagues will do?

RBE'S comment on our previous post where the UFT says consultation with principals, superintendents and the chancellor will resolve most issues:

Anonymous RBE said...
Telling the superintendent about abusive principals?

That's a fucking joke.

Farina has her superintendents telling principals all across the city that ineffective and developing ratings must increase in every school and that Danielson should be wielded as a weapon against teachers.

The UFT should be targeting Farina and her superintendents for the abuse principals and assistant principals mete out because that's where it's emanating from.

We know Farina ran her own school just like this - meted out the abuse to vets, added on mandate after mandate until people felt like they couldn't take it any longer and left.

Now Farina's burn and churn strategy has been taken system-wide and the UFT leadership enables it by doing nothing about it.

Janus is coming.

Mulgrew and the UFT leadership think they're slick and that membership can be fooled by their bullshit.

But rank and file know - this is a company union that does little to protect members and maximum to suck all the perks and privileges they can out of us.

It will be very interesting to see what membership looks like post-Janus.

I bet that 30% fewer number the UFT throws around for their post-Janus prognostications is on the low side.

It doesn't have to be this way.

They could be responsive to members, protect us against abusive admins, fight Farina and her insanity.

If they did this, they wouldn't have to worry about Janus. People would be happy to pay dues for the protections.

But because the UFT is a company union completely unresponsive to membership, they need worry about Janus very much indeed.

Note: no links today because of computer trouble everything is on the smartphone. 


Anonymous said...

RBE is right. It will be more than 30%.

Anonymous said...

I wont pay. Too little, too late. I have asked for very little. For the record, nothing but satisfactory, excellent attendance, no fines, no charges. The 2014 contract was the last straw, and they continue to tell us how great everything is, as every teacher i know hates it and wants to quit, and gets abused.

Anonymous said...

I have been waiting for a SI job for 20 years, I beg and plead, vacancies posted, cant get an interview, UFT help? None.

Anonymous said...

I hope Janus comes, you reap what you sow. I wouldnt pay a penny. Just like ive gotten about a penny of the retro so far.

Anonymous said...

Im tired of the big guys sitting in the ivory tower, they make huge money, never in a class, never cursed, never threatened, I cant even get air conditioning in the middle of summer or a key to the toilet. Yes, I would pay zero as well.

Anonymous said...

Fuck them, they dont even respond to emails.

Anonymous said...

Teachers are dumb, some may still pay, I mean, they are still asking if we are getting a raise this month.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I am an inch away from resignation and I am nowhere near retirement age. Sad, really.

Anonymous said...

I have no issues like many I read about here, but I'm not confident the union would assist if called upon. Oddly, I'm on the left politically speaking. There are several people in my school who would gladly drop the union for political (conservative) reasons. For me, I'm out because the machine needs to be brought to reality. If there *were* changes, I might consider paying, but till then, I'll continue to be an "agency fee" non member and I have no plans to pay when given a choice. From all I'm reading, that seems highly likely. Yeah, we probably benefit from having a union, but when you look at the 14' contract, I question the numbers.

Anonymous said...

UFT is rebranding as a union for many other non-teaching careers, such as healthcare careers.
They really have sold out the teaching profession and will restructure as the Janus decision will force it to do.

Fewer and fewer members will be educators or related to education by occupation.

waitingforsupport said...

I guess I will do for the union what it has done for me--Im abandoning it.

Anonymous said...

Teachers are going to cut off all our noses to spite Mulgrew's face.

Michael Fiorillo said...

Anonymous 4:23 AM,


It's sad, but true.

I'll be gone by the time the effects of Janus are felt, and am undecided about maintaining my UFT membership in retirement, but I consider myself a die-hard union guy, and if the likes of me is considering foregoing membership, then the likelihood of many demoralized, politically disengaged, uninformed, unsophisticated and easily intimidated and/or manipulated teachers - that is, the vast majority of them - leaving the union behind is very great.

I grew up in post WWII NYC, which was still a working class city with, by US standards, a culture of solidarity. That city and that culture is long gone, and sadly the UFT had its role in its demise. It's now going to pay the price for its collaboration with our enemies.

But look on the bright side: perhaps union retrenchment will at least mean that hacks like Washington Sanchez will be forced to return to the classroom, and receive a taste of what rank and file teachers have had to endure. That would be some poetic justice, at least...

Bronx ATR said...

I still have my doubts about Janus. Anything the UFT is sure of is a sure miss. That notwithstanding, once the elementary teachers find out that dental and eye care isn't paid via our dues and if Janus comes to pass, the number opting out of the UFT will approach the number that agreed to the last contract- 77%. That's got to make Mike drop quail from the menu.
If 50% or more drop out - the percentage of high school teachers will be much higher in comparison to elementary school teachers, in part because of the lack of adequate representation. High school teachers should have a separate Union.
The UFT knows all this of course and has prepared itself. Keep a core legion of paying sheep and try to act like a real union to bring people back. Once you've reached your target margin and market (not high school teachers), it's business as usual.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Bronx ATR. High school teachers get out and start your own union.

BJ said...

Question, I was an ATR last year, got S, force placed just now. Can I select the 3 informal observations? I was not rated with HEDI last year, its unclear in rules.

Anonymous said...

My principal said atr supervisor coming to see me today.

If we are being forced placed why are there still field supervisors?

No clarification from Uft as per usual

Anonymous said...

Listen all members. Yes the UFT has gone off the wall but the fact of the matter remains in that we must all stick together to avoid a total destruction. Any member who does not pay dues is playing right into the hands of the people who are actually bringing the case to court.

Don't be fooled into thinking that no union is better than the union we currently have. Janus and the people backing this case want everyone to leave their union so don't do it as I have said you will be playing right into the hands of the reformers.

Yes we are pissed at the UFT but if we had a choice of UFT or Bloomberg who would you side with? If we had a choice of UFT or Scott Walker who would you side with. IF we had a choice of UFT or BEtsy Devos, who would you side with. Get the point!!! Do not leave!!! Do not let emotion get the best of you and do not let emotion make your decisions!!! This post sent from a NYCDOE social worker. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I will use my dues money to support my own interests not Michael Mulgrew's. As an ATR I have experienced the union's caving into the DOE time and againa at the expense of the members in general and the ATRs in particular.

Maybe the union will become more receptive to our concerns when they beg for our dues.

Anonymous said...

They won't let you choose 3 and UFT won't fight for you. See why people want to leave.

Anonymous said...

How about a different union as Bronx ATR proposed?

Michael Fiorillo said...

Anonymous 9:35,

That may sound appealing, but what is the likelihood of it happening when barely a quarter of the membership can be bothered to participate in union or contract votes?

Forming a new union (or even affiliating with an existing one), gaining a majority among the rank and file, rejecting the UFT and then getting recognition from the city are huge tasks. Do you really think a membership that can't be bothered to vote on a contract they have to live with for four years, after going five years without a contract, is willing or capable of doing that?

I once had hopes that radical actions among teachers might be possible, given the attacks on their interests, but that was years ago, and the indifference of my colleagues (and I work in a school with a comparatively active and informed chapter) showed it to be a pipe dream.

We'd all be far more realistic if we started eating small doses of cat food every day, to prepare for the retirement the Overclass has in store for us.

Anonymous said...

What is this rebranding that is going on with healthcare careers? There seems to be UFT involvement with the healthcare industry union.

Gladys Sotomayor said...

Where did RBE get the information about increased ineffective and developing ratings?

Anonymous said...

The UFT needs a giant enema and Janus might just be it.

Bronx ATR said...

HI Michael,
I agree with you that there is a general pervasive apathy, but I thinks it's because we have no voice in 'our' union. I think you may be underestimating the anger some have against the UFT. High school teachers are the most vocal and the angriest. If given the opportunity to opt out many will, but I believe many more would run to join a union made up of high school teachers headed by someone like James Eterno. Always enjoy your comments Michael and hope James that you understand this as a sincere dream.

waitingforsupport said...

@3:43 maybe from his/her admin. A colleague told me today that his AP rated him developing in June and said to his face "You're not doing your job. Im not going to stop until i take your license. This is his 17th year and surprise 54 years young. I don't think he will be around to complete year 18 and enjoy the longevity salary jump. So pathetic

Anonymous said...

YEP! This is exactly whey we need a fair evaluation system. Kill Danielson, and kill the 4 observations. I for one, would welcome an "outside evaluator" and I bet that 54 year-old teacher would welcome an "outside evaluator" as well since it would be a person with no bone to grind. Our current evaluation system is corrupt and the burden of proof is on the educator to prove his not ineffective. So disgusting.

Anonymous said...

Agree we need our own Union. Once we show the rest of the grades what a real Union does to protect the hard won rights they also will quit the uft and join the new union. It may be tough for a few years but worth it. Go james go! You have my support

Anonymous said...

The city does not recognize unions Michael. That is PERB. If we have numbers, they have to listen.

Anonymous said...

The outside evaluator would be some superintendent shill who would rubber stamp the principal's view.

Anonymous said...

From Norm Scott to MORE. Are you really ready to have a serious discussion of starting a high school teachers union in NYC? Read Norm's message to MORE.

I think we need to have a serious discussion of the high school teachers calling for separation even if we don't agree with that.

I've heard serious people make a real case for this.

If we oppose this then let's be clear why -- this is not an abstract question over the issue of being united.

In the UFT over the past 30 years, the difference between the high schools and the rest of the system in terms of support for Unity is stark --- the opposition has won the high schools a majority of the time. In fact I believe that only in 1994 did Unity win them on their own.

High school teachers are like Catalonia -- they call for secession from the union because of the fact that they are subjected to the overwhelming dominance by the rest of the union.

At our July MORE summer event that attracted 35 people this discussion broke out but we didn't have time to explore it.


Anonymous said...

RBE has proven to be very reliable as a source.

Anonymous said...

Hey james let's set something up so when Janus is finally decided we can seemlessly transfer our once forced uft contributions to a new teacher organization. It may become the defining moment in your Union activists career. Let us all know how we can help and spread the word to the teachers in our schools.

Anonymous said...

I see on NYC Educator speculation that we'll see a big influx of students from families fleeing Puerto Rico and the hurricane-hit states.
The city can barely staff schools as it is because the profession is so bad. How will they expect to fill positions when student population numbers increase?

Anonymous said...

Im a HS CTE teacher. We dont need a separate union. We need to stay together. Yes the UFT sucks. Yes they are a corporate machine thats full of shit half the time. But at the same time. Don't think they are weak. I have seen the real power they have for their "protected ones" ... Thats the kicker.. The UFT only takes action for their own internal interests and select people... Its amazing how much power the UFT really has yet pretends like they can't do shit...They do this on purpose. Collect that money... Whats better collect the money and give the illusion that we have no power or collect the money and work three times as hard for it? Think

What really needs to happen is a change in leadership. Janus hopefully will force that and some new folks can take the reins and make it a real union.. Believe me I am so tired of the bullshit from these guys at our "Union of Professionals". Its all shit. 2005 was like the sky writing on the wall when the Open Market system was created... These guys are making thousands and dont do crap for us. its also teachers are so tired of this crap we dont even participate or pay attention to shit UFT related. Thats why things get magically passed and people dont know...

That chapter leaders training is shit. So many rookies enter the building and they are so clueless. completely at the mercy of the admin.

This fucking chancellor used her ed cred as a shield but she is just as bad. Remember he snow day comment everyone! Don't let your anger, disgust and rage for this current regime and uft leadership pull u out. .there is strength in numbers. Stay in and we should class action our own union or other to force a new UFT leadership. Non UNITY party.

Anonymous said...

If everyone stays in the UFT bc they accept the message that a bad union is better then no union, then there is ZERO incentive for UFT leadership to be receptive to its members' needs. "Stay in the union and fight Unity's poor leadership" "Stay in the union and get a better UFT president elected" is a better message. I will not continue with the UFT solely bc I believe in unions. I think weeding out the apathetic/habitually uniformed would be a good thing. I would not encourage those who voted yes to the contract bc they were getting a $1000 up front and continue to ask "when are we getting retro? or is this retro or a pay raise?" to stay in our union. They make us weaker by enabling UNITY via their apathy or stupidity or both. Roseanne McCosh

James Eterno said...

You cannot, I repeat, cannot win a UFT election as an opposition group unless there is a miracle of the size of Moses parting the Red Sea. Forget about an electoral takeover of the UFT. The system is rigged in a very sophisticated way.

The UFT has close to 200,000 members scattered throughout the country. Remember, retirees vote. The Union controls the flow of information to the membership through NY Teacher as well as officers and district reps all spouting the Unity party line all day and night.

The opposition has to work teaching all day so cannot campaign enough to answer the three questions of politics 101 for winning an election:

1-Do they know you?
2-Do they like you?
3-Do they trust you?

We never can get beyond question 1 except in the high schools where we have had a presence for a long time. They know us. We can campaign enough to be competitive and often times win.

That is not the case the elementary schools or with non teachers in the UFT (Functionals) and retirees. Non teachers (Functionals) and retirees are the majority of the UFT. How are you going to get to all of them? You cannot.

One ad buried in the NY Teacher every three years is all we get. It is not sufficient to say the voters know us.

Middle schools are a potential target that were won one time by the opposition. However, if opposition won the high schools and middle schools, it would net us a grand total of 12 seats on the 102 member Executive Board.

Unseating Mulgrew/Unity in an election is a pipe dream.

As for pulling the high schools and starting a separate militant high school teachers union, there are about 20,000 high school teachers in NYC. The rules of the state Public Employees Relations Board (PERB) say 30% of a potential new bargaining unit must sign a petition seeking to decertify the existing union and then have a vote to certify a new one. The new bargaining unit must also show a community of interest. The petitions would need to be done before there is a new contract. In other words, right about now.

If you know of 100 activists who can get about 60 signatures each exclusively from high school teachers, then you can start a union revolution.

That is a herculean task. Most teachers don't vote in UFT elections. Would they sign petitions for a new union?

Unity would fight like crazy to force us to stay. They may be lousy at defending teachers but they are extremely adept at holding onto power.

I highly doubt those 100 activists are out there who would circulate petitions although I do appreciate the kind words in the comments of people who think I could lead this.

If you really want change, many teachers are going to have to get involved by doing more than commenting on blogs. That is the cold reality.

Anonymous said...

The UFT is about to get diagnosed with a "bit of a small case of cancer" or so it will tell its members. It has been growing in it for a while, we told it to go to the doctor, find out what's wrong and try to fix it...but it didn't listen.

The weeks and months after diagnosis will be very hard. Emotionally the UFT will say "it's fine", "not a big deal", "we'll get through this", but its family will not be as prepared, and will face a great upheaval that will probably pull it apart. Sickness and disease has a way of ripping apart families where there was already underlying problem.

With the effects of chemo and radiation it will slim down greatly. It will be a sickly ghost of its former self for a bit, but could survive and even become stronger, as many suggest.

HOWEVER, the UFT didn't think there was a problem before, and will probably continue with its pigheadedness. The cancer will spread without treatment and eventually the UFT will seek help and redemption...but it neglected and abused those it should've loved and cared for. It will simply fade away in a lonely hospital bed, it's money and opportunities exhausted.

Buried under a tomb stone which reads "You May Not Be Able To Control A Union's Negative Behavior, But You Can Control How Long You Pay For It" Janus

Anonymous said...

Waiting for support- suggest to your colleague that they start recording every conversation with administration. I've read that at least 2 teachers had success with this. One recorded secretly, the other turned on the tape recorder that was on the desk, each time the AP walked into the room. I had a horrible AP. It's demoralizing, but taking some type of action will help reclaim control. What did I do? The AP was an idiot, but never verbalized anything. I left the UFT-quite honestly, I couldn't stand the stress.