Wednesday, December 05, 2018

TIME TO SUSPEND BLOGGING

Dear Readers,

We have written for this blog for over 13 years but now it is time to take a rest.

Norm Scott says over at EdNotes and in the Rockaway Wave, "ICE-UFT was an election caucus through 2010, but currently exists to meet in a diner once a month to gossip about the other caucuses and eat rice pudding."

I'm not much of a fan of rice pudding or really gossiping either so it is time for me to move on. ICEUFT serves no real purpose if we are there just to talk and eat. Furthermore, since I am not working in a school, I no longer have the firsthand pulse on what is going on daily so it is hard to be an effective advocate.

I agree with Norm that UFT elections are futile. It is a stacked deck in favor of Unity. Why not just do what most UFT members do and become apathetic? Can one actually attempt to be apathetic? For me it will take some effort not to care.

I have run for some office and campaigned in every UFT election since 1997. We won often enough in the high schools so we made a very small difference but in the end this is the Unity show and it will continue to be. I don't advocate leaving the UFT as there are just not enough activists to form a better union and something is much better than nothing.

As for our other work to support teachers and other UFT members, the notion of union solidarity and all for one and one for all seems kind of out of place today in many schools. Whether it is the fault of the UFT leadership or the membership hardly seems to matter much. We aren't turning into a union that defends its members and upholds rights no matter what anytime soon.

If Jeff wants to write again, I hope he continues the blog or someone else takes it over but for me, I'm through with the school and UFT stuff for a while at least.

No comments here please. Email me at ICEUFT@gmail.com and I will try to get you to some decent people, particularly if you are in trouble. I feel for each and every person under attack. I know how rough it can be on you, your students, your family and friends. Keep the faith.

For now,  it is time for me to take my activist energies elsewhere.

All the best,

James

Thursday, November 29, 2018

HELP WANTED: NYSUT SEEKS A PRESS SECRETARY

I saw this help wanted ad today.


Press Secretary, NYSUT
NYSUT, a Union of Professionals, seeks an experienced Press Secretary to lead our media relations strategy.  Will serve as chief on-the-record spokesperson, cultivate and manage relationships with the members of the media, coordinate rapid response and crisis communications efforts, and help train local union leaders in working with the news media, write draft op-eds. Bachelor's degree and 5 years of relevant experience. Apply here by 12.12.18.

I have been a press spokesperson for ICEUFT for a decade. Do you think I might be qualified? And I don't have a paid job right now.

Any of our readers, particularly some of our more creative commenters, interested?

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

EXPECT UFT/NYSUT TO NOT ASK FOR TOO MUCH EVEN IN DEMOCRATIC CONTROLLED ALBANY

I sometimes read Ed in the Apple to figure out what Unity Caucus is thinking. The writer, Peter Goodman, is oftentimes a reliable Unity weathervane. The political climate in Albany for 2019 is quite favorable for the teacher unions with the Democrats in Albany having a huge majority in the State Assembly and now a substantial 40-24 Democratic majority in the previously Republican held Senate. Governor Andrew Cuomo is a Democrat, at least in name, too.

I listened to incoming Senate Majority leader Andrea Stuart Cousins on WBAI. She seems to be fairly moderate. Combine that with Cuomo saying he is not seeking the presidency in 2020 so he doesn't have to pretend to be progressive and we are looking at a political landscape that might not be as progressive as people think. The state's budgetary situation isn't that strong either.  Under these circumstances, what can we expect out of Albany in 2019?

Everyone should head on over to Ed in the Apple where Goodman lays out much what of what UFT/NYSUT will be looking to achieve. I think we can be fairly confident after reading Goodman's piece that the UFT and NYSUT are going to push for a moratorium on creating new charter schools but that there will be no reversal on Common Core in 2019.

From Goodman:

The New York Times sees hard times ahead for charter schools with dems in control. The charter school political action committees (PACs) have been strong financial supporters of the republican side of the aisle, as well as of the governor; however, elections have consequences.

Further down:
From Diane Ravitch to Linda Darling-Hammond, from the Fordham Institute to the Shanker Institute, the reliance on standardized testing to drive students to proficiency is waning. Sadly it’s easier for states to massage the rules to satisfy parents and at the same time “game the tests,” an example: unlimited testing time increases scores, of course, with an invalid baseline.

Let’s take a deep breath, charter schools and choice are not an answer, they are a trompe d’oeil; testing viewed as punitive is a failure: are performance-tasks, portfolios, looping teachers/grades viable alternatives?

Let’s put charter schools on the sidelines and encourage the folks in the trenches to create a wide range of strategies.
Look for a moratorium on charter schools which is a big step in the right direction. Other than that, expect the teacher evaluation law to be changed to put new assessments in to replace some state tests but no big evaluation overhaul. Don't say goodbye to the Danielson Framework. Of course we can also expect UFT/NYSUT to go after more state funding. I don't see big changes ahead otherwise. Even with Democratic majorities in both houses in Albany, don't expect to see an overly progressive union education agenda.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

SIGN OT-PT PETITION

A petition from Change.org came to my inbox today from Hannah, a member of the UFT represented Occupational-Physical Therapist Chapter. They are still fighting for a contract and need support.

This brave UFT 2,500 strong chapter voted down their contract.  I haven't seen their vote acknowledged by the leadership in their contract publicity or seen  much at all about this from most contract supporters.

Please sign the OT-PT petition. I did.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

UFT OPPOSITION INFIGHTING IS UNITY DREAM COME TRUE

Unity Caucus (Michael Mulgrew's political party) has succeeded, without even trying, to get the opposition groups within the UFT to turn against each other while UFT members in so many schools continue to be treated like garbage by administrators. The UFT's answer to what occurs in many schools is to often side with management and even sometimes treat UFT members with downright hostility. Hence the need for an opposition. To be fair in many schools the Union actually does support its members.

For those who have not been following UFT internal politics, unions many times form rival factions with members who have divergent views on how to run the union. In the UFT, there have been many groups opposed to the ruling Unity Caucus for decades but they are up against a rigged electoral system. It is impossible to win a UFT election because there is no way for a group working all day in the schools to get to 180,000 UFT members scattered throughout the country (remember retirees vote) in a meaningful way where most could answer the three main questions of an election concerning candidates from the voters:

  • Do they know you?
  • Do they like you?
  • Do they trust you? 
In spite of the impossible odds, many deeply committed teachers and other UFT members have worked tirelessly to form opposition groups. In the high schools, we were successful in making elections competitive. In fact, many times the opposition groups have won UFT high school elections. Opposition people are known, liked and trusted in the high schools.

I served for a decade on the UFT Executive Board. In response, the UFT has in many ways marginalized high school teachers (see Department of Education school closing policy over the last generation for the best evidence). The opposition even had the nerve to elect a High School Vice President in 1985 so Unity challenged the election and the opposition candidate won a second election. When Unity was safely back in power, they changed the rules to allow the retirees in Florida and every other UFT member to vote for the High School Vice President to ensure opposition could never win a vice presidency again.

In the 2016 UFT election, the opposition from the Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE) and New Action won the high schools so we won a grand total of 7 Executive Board seats on the 102 person Executive Board. During their term of office, the MORE-New Action reps did some very good work even with those daunting numbers staring them in the face.

High School rep Mike Schirtzer brought Emily James, who wrote a petition on paid parental leave that garnered 80,000 signatures, to the Exec Bd. to put the issue of paid parental leave on the front burner. The UFT eventually won a paid parental leave provision that is far from perfect but it is something. Would it have happened without the support of the High School Representatives? Maybe, but bringing Emily in certainly helped. More importantly to me, the high school people brought actual rank and file members who were in trouble to the Exec Bd. to tell their stories of abusive principals. Would they have come in if our people weren't supporting them? I doubt it. In addition, the High School Reps at the Executive Board along with yours truly at the Delegate Assembly (other union legislative body) made a minimum of two observations per year for teachers an important issue and it is now in the contract for many teachers. I don't see that happening without our input. 

In this school year. however, our opposition voices have stopped opposing much for the most part at the Exec Bd.  I believe they would argue that because the UFT now listens to them and since part of what they asked for is now part of the contract, they have succeeded. I would agree with that up to a point but there is so much more that needs to be done to make the job in the schools what it was before Joel Klein came in and basically neutered the UFT. We need an opposition to push Unity much further.

Unfortunately, the opposition today is in a sorry state. MORE ran in the 2013 and 2016 UFT elections and won the high schools in 2016 but MORE's leaders in 2018 wanted more of a say in what the High School Executive Board members were doing as I guess they weren't "social justice" enough or just not easily controlled. When some non-socialists/non-communists stepped up to take over the MORE steering committee in the spring, MORE's active majority, which consists of mainly committed left wing activists, found a way to push the non-leftists out. Soon thereafter, the opposition people on the Executive Board decided they would support just about everything Mulgrew-Unity did. I don't know if that timing is a coincidence.

Since the High School opposition reps don't oppose much of anything, like for example the contract, why stay in opposition? The High School Executive Board people not only supported the contract, two even enthusiastically pushed it. MORE had enough with the Executive Board even before the contract. The contract reinforced their view that winning in 2016 was a disaster.

I have to say that while I encouraged ICEUFT to withdraw support for MORE as the group was no longer open or inclusive, I was happy to again work with MORE to oppose the recent contract. If this is the best the UFT can do when times have never been better for NYC, conditions will only worsen when the economy slows as it will inevitably. Almost 11,000 members said no to the contract, including a huge majority of those who voted from the 2,500 strong Occupational Therapist-Physical Therapist Chapter. They voted down their contract. The contract for teachers and other UFT members still easily passed, helped along by the High School Executive Board members. I respect their vote but disagree with it.

Over the long term losing some of the strongest voices in opposition will hurt us all. MORE is now going back to its left roots and doesn't want to work with other groups and really doesn't care how many votes they receive as they are just looking at the 2019 election as a way to get their program across and maybe pick up some activists along the way.

Meanwhile, the oldest opposition group New Action has no real presence in the schools as their activists are mostly retirees as is the case with us here at the Independent Community of Educators (ICEUFT). NAC in 2004, 2007, 2010 and 2013 did not run presidential candidates and from 2007-2013 they cross endorsed with Unity certain Executive Board seats to ensure some representation. NAC wanted to run with MORE again in 2019 but MORE turned them away and now NAC has decided to go at it alone too ensuring high school defeat for them as well.

The other group left trying to defend teachers independently as their prime objective, as opposed to social justice, is UFT Solidarity. However, in large part due to baggage one of their leaders has with both NAC and MORE caucuses, those groups refuse to have anything to do with Solidarity. Solidarity is willing to work with anyone in the election so they stand as the only inclusive group.

The election comes down to a situation where New Action is running alone in 2019; MORE is running alone and Solidarity is running alone too. Who will lose besides all of these groups running in a four way race? The UFT membership, particularly in the high schools, where it will be an old style Unity monopoly. This will be the case even if the two or three of the most prominent Executive Board members from the opposition take a Unity endorsement while running as independents. They  have alreadyo reigned themselves in. Please see New Action 2003-15 for precedent. Or, maybe NAC will ask Unity for seats again. See also NAC 2003-2015 for precedent on how that worked out.

Next year, we will have nobody speaking for the dissident voices who feel the UFT leaves plenty to be desired except for at the Delegate Assembly where it is very difficult to raise anything.

There will be consequences in my opinion to there being no strong opposition at the Executive Board or really anywhere else within the UFT. Unity is not exactly responsive even when there is an opposition. A day rarely goes by when I do not get emails, texts or multiple phone calls from UFT members who want to exercise their union rights and are often not encouraged to do so by the UFT at the chapter, district and central levels. In the future, we can look forward to even less of a response.

Citywide, schools are being closed and reorganized and there is nothing to stop more Absent Teacher Reserves from being created. The disincentive to hire senior people remains in the new contract. The UFT's answer to just about every problem in the schools is to start more committees so union officials can meet with their Department of Education friends to try to make problems disappear quietly without setting too many systemwide precedents. Only the strongest of chapters will thrive under these conditions and even there it is basically dependent on having an enlightened principal who doesn't call DOE legal every five minutes for union busting advice.

In addition, we have an inferior Tier VI pension where a teacher coming fresh out of college at 22 years old will have to work 41 years to be eligible for a pension that will be based on a lower rate than the one I enjoy on Tier IV. Tier VI full pension is 55% of the final five year average salary. Some have told me the 401k option that CUNY teachers now have would be better.

Also, it takes four years to have a chance for new pedagogues to come off probation and extensions are routine if that tenure portfolio is not up to speed or there is a lousy supervisor.  New city employees are also about to be placed onto HIP-HMO instead of having a choice of healthcare plans in year one.

Add to this, conditions in the schools where student disciplinary problems are often swept under the rug, high class sizes and a whacky evaluation system that has only been moderately improved all make the job basically impossible in many, many schools. UFT's outlook is since salaries are generally good, teachers basically should shut up and be grateful. In that kind of environment, one would think an opposition group would have a decent chance of making some gains by winning support in the schools and online to put some real pressure on the UFT leadership. However, it isn't going to happen in the 2019 election with MORE running alone, NAC running alone and Solidarity running alone although Solidarity want to run with the other groups who won't go near them.

ICEUFT has not run in an election since 2010. I have no idea who, if anyone, we will support.

As three caucuses are running against Unity, right now, Mulgrew-Unity should easily win even the high schools.

There is a little irony here as the anger UFT members feel as they perceive that they have absolutely no voice within the UFT may cause them to decide to bolt from the Union in 2019 since the Supreme Court in Janus allows it now without having to pay an agency fee for benefits an employee receives because of the union. The UFT's contractual opt out period is in June.

Under these circumstances, it may be time to keep some of what remains of my own sanity and move on from UFT politics.

Should the ICEUFT blog boycott the election as a totally rigged process overall that is now apparently going to be futile even at the high school level?

Should we support Solidarity, NAC or MORE?

What do you think?

I'd really like to know your thoughts. I plan to keep helping individual chapters and members who reach out but is it time to say bye-bye UFT elections? 

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

CHIEF LEADER COVERS UFT OCCUPATIONAL-PHYSICAL THERAPISTS REJECTING CONTRACT AS DOES EDNOTES

From the Chief Leader civil service newspaper:
Occupational and Physical Therapists who work at the Department of Education have chosen to forgo what they believed were minimal raises in order to achieve parity with other staff members who work with students with disabilities by voting against the United Federation of Teachers contract that was ratified Nov. 2.

Though 87 percent of the 90,000 UFT members supported the deal, just 36 percent of Occupational and Physical Therapists voted in favor of it. About half of the 2,500 non-pedagogical employees cast ballots, with 796 voting against the agreement, according to the American Arbitration Association. Employees in these titles will not receive the planned 7.5 percent raise and other provisions in the 43-month pact.

Nurses, who are under the same bargaining unit and overwhelmingly supported the contract, will also not receive the raises. It was unclear what steps were available to them in seeking better terms.

According to Ed Notes, it seems the UFT's answer to the Occuational-Physical Therapists rejecting their contract is for the Nurses Chapter that shares the OT-PT bargaining unit to break off from them so they can get their raises on time. This came up at the Executive Board on Monday.

The UFT as usual showing that union solidarity. Well, maybe not.

I think that the OT-PT people might want to consider leaving the UFT and forming or joining a different union if this is how they are going to be treated moving forward. According to the Chief Leader article, there are 2,500 OTPTs. That is a significant number of UFT members. What are they supposed to do if they are going to be punished by their union for rejecting a contract?

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

WHERE IS RETIREE LUMP SUM 2018 PER SESSION PAYMENT?

Back in early November, active UFT members received a check for the money owed from the interest free loan we made to the city for money we worked for at lower wages from 2009-2011 and after where we should have been paid at a higher per session rate. Retirees who worked per session during those years are still waiting for this money. People have emailed the blog asking about the money.

Does anyone know when the per session lump sum payment for 2018 will be coming for retirees?

Also, if any retiree wants to check the stub for the lump sum regular payment that came in October, please go here. I went there and my UFT dues were $119.78 for the lump sum payment. I guess we aren't charged at the retiree rate.

Speaking of dues, we learned of another teacher who was overcharged by the UFT for union dues while on Paid Parental Leave and then subsequently received a refund from the Union. We are happy to be of service to our members here at the ICEUFTblog as we certainly got the ball rolling on this issue.