Monday, November 12, 2018


NYSUT did its job helping to elect Democrats to the New York State Legislature. No longer will we have to worry about the Independent Democratic Conference or the Republican controlled Senate as the regular Democrats had a great night last Tuesday in New York. Democrats have a clear majority in the state Senate, a huge majority in the Assembly and at least on paper a Democratic governor in Andrew Cuomo.

Not at all astonishing that NYSUT President Andy Pallotta would take a victory lap.

This is Pallotta in the Albany Times-Union:

In New York, fed-up teachers Tuesday night played a major part in flipping the state Senate — to change the state's broken system of standardized testing and teacher evaluations.
While NYSUT has always been a political juggernaut, the past five months have jolted our union's political action operation more than anything since Sen. Alfonse D'Amato attacked teacher tenure in 1997 — and was sent packing because of it.
Last June, faculty rooms buzzed with anger after Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, his entire Republican conference and five Democrats betrayed them in the waning hours of the legislative session. A bipartisan bill — sponsored by 55 of 63 state senators — died because Flanagan tied evaluation reform to a last-minute proposal to add more charter schools. Flanagan turned his back on teachers to curry favor with the billionaires who bankroll the GOP conference and the charter industry.
Two weeks later, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against public-sector unions like NYSUT in Janus v. AFSCME. While NYSUT today is as strong as ever, the decision affirmed for many that corporations and the wealthy have unfairly rigged the system against working people.
Last month, Flanagan rubbed salt into those wounds. He called NYSUT's more than 600,000 hard-working members — the people who teach in our schools and colleges, and care for the sick in our hospitals — "a force of evil."
Enraged NYSUT members had had enough: With Flanagan in charge, the Senate would never change, they reasoned. The makeup of the Senate itself had to change.

NYSUT members — who are truly "forces of good" — relentlessly campaigned for a new Senate, knowing the stakes have never been higher. Everywhere I went, I heard the same refrain: It's time that New York has a Senate that listens to educators and that fights for good health care, a sustained investment in public schools and colleges, and for policies that help working people, not billionaires.
We agree with you President Pallotta but the problem is those same billionaires who bankrolled Flanagan funded Cuomo as we pointed out before the election.

Keeping this in mind, expect NYSUT to ask for little change to evaluations and to get a bill passed that still ties teacher evaluation to student assessments. They will only be somewhat different assessments. If you want to see the entire teacher and principal evaluation law repealed and a truly professional evaluation system become the law in NYS, sign our petition and spread the word to others to do the same. Maybe we can get somewhere with our new progressive State Legislature.

Sunday, November 11, 2018


Teachers and other city employees are extemely restricted in what we can accept in gifts but not union presidents. Today Sue Edelman NY Post brought to light how UFT President Michael Mulgrew has accepted thousands of dollars in expensive US Open tennis tickets for years. The tickets came from Randi Weingarten's former law firm.

Both Norm Scott and I are quoted being critical of Mulgrew here. Norm has a suggestion on raffling tickets to raise money. NYC employees can accept up to $50 in gifts annually from a firm doing business with the city. The rules for us, of course, do not apply to Mulgrew.

Tennis anyone?

Chaz also posted on this today.

Saturday, November 10, 2018


On October 31, we wrote about a teacher on Paid Parental Leave who had more than double their usual union dues taken out of the UFT Welfare Fund Paid Parental Leave payment. It came to over $400 in dues for six weeks worth of pay. We were a bit surprised about this but not at all shocked as the UFT took a nice chunk out of the lump sum payments from the 2009-11 interest free loan we made to the city that we are finally getting back in dribs and drabs through 2020. It was not impossible to think they would double union dues on Paid Parental Leave payments.

We were pleasantly surprised that a UFT official reached out to us to ask the parent to get in touch with the Union on the excessive dues coming out of the Paid Parental Leave check. Today, we are happy to report that the parent received a dues refund check for the excessive dues payment in the mail. Nice job UFT recognizing the error and making the parent whole!

For those of you who ask why I continue to do this work when it seems so futile so often, it's because when we can help and obtain real results for UFT members, it certainly feels good.

Friday, November 09, 2018


I have no idea why this took a week, but tonight the UFT released final tallies on the contract ratification. The UFT noted that it was overwhelmingly approved by most teachers and others but they did not even bother mentioning how the therapists resoundingly defeated their contract. I added the bold for the therapists just for them. Almost 12,000 no votes and opposition wasn't in too many schools. If only we organized in them.

Job Title                                                        Yes             No           Percent Ratifying
(all titles covered under teachers' contract)       53,107        8,601                86%

Paraprofessionals                                                          17,862         1,891               90%                                                                                                                 
School Secretaries                                                            2,335        180                  93%

Guidance Counselors                                                         1,878         282                 87%

Psychologists & Social Workers                                  904         135                 87%

Occupational and physical therapists      455          796          36%             

Staff Nurses                                                                        267             15                 95%

Attendance Teachers                                                      109               2                 98%

Hearing Officers                                                                  106               6                95%

Supervisors of School Security                                  56              0                100%

Lab Specialists                                                                  39               5                 89%

Supervisors of Nurses and Therapists                            21                6                  78%

Sign Language Interpreters                                       18                0                  100%

Directors of Alcohol and Substance Abuse               7                0                   100%

Totals                                                                               77,164        11,919                 87% 

There were 89,083 total votes cast this year compared to 90,459 in 2014. That's 1,376 fewer voters. In terms of teachers, there were 61,708 votes cast in 2018 compared to 64,232 in 2014. I can't explain that 2,524 drop in numbers for teachers. Perhaps it shows where the UFT is dead in some schools.

Thursday, November 08, 2018


Nobody is holding the UFT accountable for the contract referendum vote totals since Norm Scott didn't spend his entire weekend watching the vote count. I am usually not a conspiracy theorist but it does not take six days to count roughly 90,000 votes, separate them into each distinct bargaining unit (teachers, guidance counselors, secretaries, paraprofessionals, etc.) and then release the results.

Since Norm Scott has a bit of a life and didn't want to stay overnight on Friday at the American Arbitration Association to observe the contract vote count, there was nobody but Unity (Michael Mulgrew's faction that controls the UFT) representatives watching or reporting on the numbers. All that they released was an overall 87% yes vote and that close to 90,000 voted. As stated, I'm not a conspiracy theory kind of guy and I really have a hard time believing that there is something funny going on with the UFT count. If there was something nefarious going on, the UFT would more than likely not have announced that the nurses-therapists voted their contract down.

However, why are the UFT/American Arbitration Association not releasing the individual bargaining unit results? They released them in the past. A look at the 2014 numbers shows that the count was done on June 3 and the results were in the June 5 NY Teacher. What has changed in four years? The vote count was on November 1 and today is November 7.

The longer they take, the less we can trust this process. I'm discouraged that nobody asked about this at the Delegate Assembly yesterday. Does everyone just accept the UFT at their word?

Tuesday, November 06, 2018


I've already heard from people saying that the only answer to the strong yes vote on the contract is for us to withdraw from the UFT and stop paying union dues. Many teachers I know repeatedly say the Union does nothing for them.

It is very difficult to make that argument when the starting salary for teachers in NYC in 2021 will be  $61,070 and top salary will increase to $128,657 after 22 years on the job and a Masters + 30 credits. That is nothing to sneeze at even in high cost NYC. In addition, it will only take ten years with an MA+30 to get to $100,000 per year in 2021. 

On the other hand, the situation is far from ideal for teachers and others in NYC schools. We are paying for these higher salaries with a reduced rate on the fixed TDA coupled with a vastly inferior Tier VI pension system that started in 2012 where someone fresh out of college would need to work 41 years to obtain a full pension that will be smaller than a Tier IV pension and way less than our Tier I and Tier II colleagues have. There are also healthcare givebacks on top of the last round of healthcare givebacks that now include new city employees being forced into managed care for their first year on the job. If this doesn't result in enough recurring savings for the city, we will likely be asked for further healthcare concessions. We also know the city has the ability to pay us more. 

Just as important, many teachers are treated horribly in the schools. Numerous probationers have to practically stand on their heads to get tenure. In addition, principals are still able to hire new teachers to save money rather than hiring absent teacher reserves. UFT claimed victory because an ATR who is hired won't be averaged in when computing a school's average salary through the end of the contract but the school still has to pay an average salary for the ATR. Hiring a new teacher will still lower the average salary while hiring an ATR will not reduce it. Threatening to close schools or reorganize them to make more UFTers ATRs is still a major weapon that will be used against us. The blame the teachers culture has not altered. Overall teaching and learning conditiions depend almost entirely today on the quality of the principal in a school. Many teachers that I come into contact with have never felt less empowered than they feel now.

All of that said, can anybody make a reasonable case that we would get anywhere near the salary and benefits we have without a union? I don't think so. 

So what comes next?

We all have to support our nurses-occupational therapist-physical therapist colleagues who had the courage to vote no on their contract as they are nowhere near pay parity with teachers. The negative email sent to them by President Michael Mulgrew saying they would have to navigate the "difficult road ahead" was a bit strange since the Triborough Amendment to the Taylor Law keeps their current contract going and there isn't a salary increase until the middle of February. Surely, something can be done between now and then if the UFT leadership wanted to. The argument that they should have pay parity with other professionals in the UFT is very strong. The city has the ability to pay but pattern bargaining works against the therapists as does the approval of the contract by the other UFT titles. We need to put the pressure on the UFT leadership not to abandon the nurses/therapists.

For the rest of the UFT members working in the schools, chapters have to organize to win respect. The new contract gives chapter leaders and chapter committees the ability to file complaints on excessive paperwork, curriculum, professional development, and adequate instructional supplies. However, these provisions mean nothing if chapter leaders aren't willing to file complaints. Individual teachers and individuals in other UFT titles are left almost powerless here. Well organized chapters can make a difference and are now essential if UFT members are going to improve what are now atrocious teaching and learning conditions in way too many schools. The UFT members working with decent administrators are not worried but those who work for abusive administrators are hurting now as much as ever. That can only change at the grassroots level.

It won't be easy but I cannot be totally pessimistic because even higher paid tech workers at Google walked off the job last week. Who inspired them? From the statement of the organizers:

This is part of a growing movement, not just in tech, but across the country, including teachers, fast food workers, and others who are using their strength in numbers to make real change. We know that it can be more difficult for other workers to stand up which is why we stand in solidarity with the temporary and contract workers here at Google, but we encourage everyone who feels this injustice to take collective action.

We can all learn a little from this statement.

PS We are still waiting for the final numbers from the contract ratification count broken down by bargaining unit including teachers. I can't help but wonder why it is taking so long.

Sunday, November 04, 2018


The other day I set the over-under on the contract at 89% yes. The votes are in and it is 87% yes on the contract overall. No truth to the rumour that I am getting a job in Vegas as an oddsmaker.

Please note, however, that all the numbers are not in yet. There are 14 separate bargaining units within the Department of Education's UFT represented staff so we still do not have results broken down for teachers and others but teacher numbers are traditionally lower than the overall percentage. Therefore, I am optimistic that we will have a lower yes percentage for teachers than 87% so maybe Vegas won't be calling.

I am really interested in seeing the results for occupational-physical therapists. I saw a couple at the latest MORE meeting and they seemed ready for a real battle.

Here is the email sent to the nurses and therapists from UFT President Michael Mulgrew. What do you think of the tone?

The American Arbitration Association tallied the ballots, and the nurses and therapists contract was the only DOE-UFT contract not ratified by the membership.

As a result, all the new contractual benefits, including the pay increases, will not take effect for the therapists, school nurses and supervisors of nurses and therapists covered by this contract.

Of the nearly 90,000 members who cast ballots, 87 percent overall voted "yes."

We respect the decision of the UFT members who voted not to ratify the nurses and therapists contract, and we will walk with you as you navigate the difficult road ahead.

At an Oct. 24 meeting with your chapter's executive committee and OT/PT chapter members, I answered questions about the reprecussions of voting "no" on the contract. If you did not attend that meeting, I trust the executive committee conveyed that information to you.

Please reach out to the OT/PT Chapter executive committee to share your thoughts about where to go from here. I will be meeting with the executive committee to hear what next steps they want to take.

As always, we will be there to support you and fight on your behalf. Thank you for everything you do.


Michael Mulgrew
UFT President