Friday, January 21, 2022

UFT FORCING HAND WRITTEN PETITION SIGNATURES IN A PANDEMIC SHOWS THEY STILL DON'T CARE ABOUT MEMBER LIVES

The leaders of the UFT from Unity Caucus proved in 2020 that they care more about member dues than member lives when they put out a memo, leaked to the Daily News, advising against a sickout at the height of the pandemic. At the time, there was no vaccine and COVID was spreading everywhere with NYC at the epicenter.

This is from the Daily News piece on a sickout planned for March 16, 2020:

But UFT officials are privately warning members against that move, arguing it could be interpreted as a violation of state labor law, according to a message reviewed by the Daily News.

UFT officials told union representatives Saturday to "advise against" a planned call out on Monday.

“A coordinated sick-out will be interpreted by the DOE as an organized effort in violation of the Taylor Law and the Triborough Law,” union officials wrote its leaders.

“They will perceive it as a labor action and strike. Each participant is subject to a fine of two days’ pay for every missed day and arrest. However, even worse, the UFT will suffer greatly with fines and penalties. Please advise against.”

The UFT told the truth when they declared that their dues were more important than member lives.

The Union has managed to send out their "safety last" message again in January of 2022. This time it involves UFT election petitioning. 

The UFT Constitution calls for 100 signatures from UFT members to be nominated for the Executive Board or Convention Delegate positions and 900 for an Officer. It does not say that the signatures cannot be electronic. The United for Change members of the Election Committee asked for electronic signatures at the height of the Omicron stage of the pandemic. Unity's representatives (the Mulgrew majority) said NO.

The results: This is a comment from Solidarity's Quinn Zannoni who is a Chapter Leader who was at Wednesday's Delegate Assembly:

Quinn Zannoni said...
6:17 -- Where was United For Change? Down on the 1st floor in the UFT Welcome Center organizing their petition drive to run for office. Unity is forcing the opposition caucus to amass hundreds of paper petitions in-person during a pandemic -- refusing the option of remote signatures -- just to be obstructionist. They know we'll get them signed regardless, they would just prefer to get us sick in the process.

The UFT is well aware that retirees, many in their 70s and 80s, lead the petition drives. Sending them out to collect hand written signatures in a pandemic shows again the Unity leaders do not care about the health of their members. Mulgrew-Unity are not fit to represent anyone.

Thursday, January 20, 2022

CLARIFICATION FROM UFT ON REMOTE WORK

 From the weekly UFT COVID-19 update. Thanks to a longtime friend for getting this to us.


Clarification around providing remote work for students
Despite recent communications from the DOE that suggest the contrary, there is no new DOE-UFT agreement on providing remote work for students who are at home for reasons other than testing positive for COVID-19. The DOE-UFT Memorandum of Agreement on Remote Instruction signed in September 2021 is still in effect. Under that agreement, teachers and related service providers are eligible for payment for the office hours and other instructional support they provide for students who tested positive for COVID-19 and must quarantine at home.

If a UFT member puts in extra instruction/office hours during the workday on a prep or during their lunch period for these students, the member should be paid for that time at the coverage rate. If this work is done after school, the member should receive per-session pay up to two hours for elementary school and up to three hours for middle and high school if teaching more than one course.


Absences not related to a COVID quarantine

Teachers cannot be required to provide asynchronous instruction and office hours as set forth in the agreement on remote instruction in these situations:
  • A student fails the health screening and there is no COVID-19 test
  • A student is absent for reasons not related to COVID
  • A family is keeping a student home for safety reasons and is requesting all assignments
Staff are expected to engage in normal pre-pandemic practices with respect to these student absences.

The DOE has said that if staff are willing and their supervisor approves, they may provide office hours and asynchronous instruction for these students but they must be compensated accordingly. No principal should be pressuring teachers to provide remote work online for students who are absent for reasons other than to quarantine or isolate.

The UFT’s position is that a posting should be created to pay per session for instructional planning and office hours for children who are absent for reasons other than to quarantine. Staff who are interested could apply.

The school chapter leader should report any violations of the DOE-UFT Memorandum of Agreement on Remote Instruction in an operational issues complaint on behalf of all affected staff.
See our Instructional Issues FAQ

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

LIVE BLOGGING FROM JANUARY DA (mostly unedited)

President's Report:

Michael Mulgrew started by asking for a moment of silence for the Bronx fire victims.

Federal Level

Everything is stuck. NYS putting in a waiver for accountability for schools determined to be in trouble. State submitted waiver on December 22 and was denied on December 29. State Education Commissioner Betty Rosa was supportive. We don't want schools to be treated unfairly because students were taking standardized tests during a pandemic. We are appealing. Nothing moving in DC. Voting rights and Build Back Better are stuck.

State

First budget proposal yesterday from the governor. It is then negotiated with State Senate and State Assembly. It is no longer three men in a room; it is now two ladies and a male. We lobby off of the first process. Money is the best Mulgrew has seen since he has been president. 7% increase in funding. Foundation aid is all there for NYC. Charter schools received an increase in funding also. Change in funding formula in Buffalo, Rochester and Albany. Facilities money increased. We have to give space for charter schools in NYC. It is also in their basic formula. Mayoral control: we have not supported it for NYC. We do not want to go back to school boards. This form of mayoral control has not done best for the students of NYC. We will see where this goes. During the end of Bloomberg's first term. Bloomberg thought it was being given out to make parents happy. They decided to give a standardized test in kindergarten. With complete mayoral control, they moved it that way and NYC had the most segregated gifted and talented program. De Blasio tried to get rid of it to fit his politics. Sixteen years later gifted and talented has been a political football for two mayors. Children have suffered. Mayoral control in the budget now. We had scheduled in-person lobbying but the senate and assembly are doing it now remotely. Teacher centers funded for the first time since George Pataki. Our team is taking it apart with our friends at NYSUT. The process is starting. We prioritize education money getting to the classroom.

NYC

That was some first two weeks of this year. Two roughest weeks to be a chapter leader or delegate. COVID rates were very high when we got back. We closed a school this week. Mayor feels strongly schools should be opened. our doctor said we will go up rapidly. Hospitalizations needed to be watched. We plateaued and now we are going down. Scary stuff to see such high numbers. Then there was snow. We told Mayor Adams to go remote. Mayor figured out there aren't 24,000 substitutes. Student attendance on the snow day was very low. No snow days; we don't want to work during breaks. We didn't get a remote day. Last week, a significant drop in COVID numbers, this week a further drop. Safety issues: contact us, it gets fixed. That is what keeps the Union tight. Pre k and 3-k sites have rapid tests. 

Hiccups: Official attendance policy was if you see a child, you can mark him present. Right now the new administration is putting out misinformation about things that were never done. No MOA from last Friday. At Tweed, they are blaming each other for misinformation. We are trying to iron things out. Communication was not great with the old administration. They must take down old guidance when there is new guidance. If a child has tested positive for COVID or is put in isolation, they go to pivot to remote learning. If a child fails the health screening, they are treated as if they are absent. We have to have a posting for per session for students who have failed the health screening. If a child is absent and goes into an asynchronous classroom, they can't be marked present. That violates state education law. Remote education: new chancellor says he always wanted remote and the UFT is holding it up. Parent leaders who meet with Mulgrew every 2 months say we need a remote option, not for 60% of the students, but for parents who are not sending their children into schools until the COVID pandemic is over. We are having conversations on this. We had high attendance in elementary and middle schools (over 90%) before December 1. High schools have had low attendance. We don't want to reprogram now and major shifting but we do want a remote option for the rest of this school year. Moving on the high schools as the term changes February 1. Middle schools next because so many students take Regents exams. There will be a parent survey. Going remote will not guarantee you keep your teacher. High schools will not be able to offer all of the courses high schools offer. We will not just drop a camera in a room as that is bad instruction. Chancellor spoke to elected officials about the survey. We need our children back in school. We need to increase enrollment and attendance. Skedula went down at a terrible time. Three teachers from Telecommunications High School started the system. When it was mandated, people didn't like it. 

David Campbell, Director of Grievance Department, called up on Spring Break 2020 arbitration.

David Campbell: City ordered us to work and we lost spring break in 2020. We negotiated for 4 CAR days for religious observance which was in the middle there and we agreed we could file for full compensation. July 1, 2021 we filed grievance. DOE said we gave 4 CAR days and that should be enough. We argued for cash. We had two precedents to show we get paid if we work. The arbitrator made it clear that 5 unions involved (4 after us), was not going to make city write a check. We argued CAR does not equal a regular day. Cash them in at 1 days pay for 2 CAR days when you retire. We worked it out that it was 1 vacation day for each day worked during the spring break of 2020. Vacation days can be used for anything you want. Should ask for days well in advance of the minimum 10 days. If more than a reasonable number ask for a certain day, it will be decided by seniority. They must deny within 48 hours. We can take it to arbitration if denied. The vacation days last for your whole career. They can be cashed out 1 for 1 when you leave the Board. Come February, use the days as you like. Retirees get cash.

Mulgrew back: Anyone interested in negotiating committee got notice. We want the biggest negotiating committee ever. We want functionals across the negotiating table with the DOE. We have to figure something out if enrollments don't recover. Our contract expires in September. Arbitrations now dealing with the last round. A union could settle and go further on. A financial pattern may be set before we go into full-blown negotiations. Inflation is high now. Negotiations are private. Chapters help other chapters. So many chapters and they come in at different times. Negotiations is a real time allotment. Mulgrew thinks this negotiation is going to be a little more complicated.

Staff Director's Report:

Election petitions are out for the UFT election. They are due back on February 18. Albert Shanker Scholarship deadline extended. High school people need to spread the word. High School town hall on Thursday, February 3. African Heritage Committee Award going to Sterling Roberson. Dinner at Antons. Black history month film series: films and conversations afterwards. Chapter leader training on February 12. Early childhood conference on March 9. Para chapter luncheon March 5. 


Point of clarification: Peter Lamphere asks about staff working in the room but delegates are excluded. Staff working in DA but cap means people can't get in so delegates are outside who can't get in. How can people be registered and not get in since there are empty chairs?

Mulgrew: Staff working here are crucial to the meeting. If people want to get in, please register. We want to increase the cap if it is safe. If COVID numbers go down, we could have a hybrid chapter leader training.

Question Period:

Question: Most parents honest and working with us but some parents not doing the take-home test. How do we keep students safe?

Mulgrew Answer: Health screening is a legal attestation. If it is found that someone lied on that, DOE can discipline employees. Parents have sanctions too. We don't want to take a position that people are gaming the system. We don't want to have a lot of people challenged that they are lying on a health screening. 

Question: New attendance policy, if student not present in class but is engaging so that we can mark them present. Is that correct?

Answer: It is not correct. That student is absent. We have talked to SED. We are waiting for clarification from DOE. Team not built out from new team at DOE. 

Question: Will we have live streaming?

Answer: This is not something we want to do. Mulgrew would say no. Some members are okay with it. Teaching online when you are teaching to camera can be alright. Teaching to a class and to the camera won't work. Do I teach to the camera or the class? Is that good remote instruction? No. They just want to check a box saying they have a remote option.

Question: Thanks Mulgrew for work during the surge. Members tired and confused. Emailed Mulgrew chapter survey. Rapid tests should be done in the school. Test to get in and test in school. Is there a reason why we can't do it in nurse's office?

Answer: We should have testing in the school. There is never enough testing. DOH does not believe the school system should be giving tests to children. Some want mandated testing of students and some don't. Department of Health is not there for testing children inside of schools.

Question: Per session, with pivot to remote and 2 hours of per session, it is a win. Principals getting pushback as if it is their money, but is there a limit to how much per session we can do? 

Answer: It is not coming out of the principal's pocket; we are doing extra work. It should be a COVID expense that comes out of federal dollars. Principals got money. Did they spend it properly? Union's position is more work can't be mandated. It has to be done per session or pro-rata but nothing mandated. The principal's budgets are rich. Principals who don't have money, we would be interested in seeing how they spent the money. Principal apologized for people doing 7 periods. We don't have to worry about that principal. Others, we have to worry about.

New motion period:

Mulgrew explains voting procedure.

Motion for this month to move resolution on member engagement during contract negotiations from 5 to 1 on this month's agenda. 769 yes-128 no online. In building, no numbers are given but Mulgrew says it passes and so it moves to number 1.

Motion for next month: Resolved that delegates regardless of political affiliation respect civil debate and respect each other. It's very contentious this year. Dedicate to working together. 

Melissa Williams speaks against quoting MLK tweet. Civility counts but it isn't justice. Sometimes civility not an appropriate response in the face of injustice.

The vote is 716 Yes-148 No. Internally, it passes and will be put on the February agenda.

Move to suspend the rules to extend the motion period by 10 minutes and extend the meeting by half an hour. Online 312 yes-556 No. It does not pass.

Special Orders of Business:

Expand member engagement resolution. Someone from FDR Hs says he is dedicated to hearing as many voices as possible as we go into contract negotiations. Another person speaks in favor. Amendment to add a resolved clause that says that the results of member surveys will be released to the members of each bargaining unit. Last contract, members never saw the results of the contract survey. We don't know the priorities if we don't know results of survey.

Brooklyn Borough rep says we are publicly negotiating. These are private conversations. We are the strongest union in this country. We didn't get there by negotiating in public. A delegate speaks in favor of the amendment by saying how not transparent the DOE is so the UFT should work to increase transparency and fairness. Negotiating committee must be open, fair, and transparent.

Mike Sill argues against the amendment as we can't let enemies see what we want. The resolution already makes clear that we have a representative committee speak on behalf of the membership. Someone says we have a right to know and it could be after. Question is then called. 

Vote to close debate is 674 yes- 152 no online. Debate is closed. Mulgrew does not announce a live vote.

Vote on amendment: 314 Yes- 529 No. Amendment fails.

Resolution on more member engagement vote online is 534 yes-199 no. No announcement of the live vote but resolution passes.

Resolution on NY Senate bill 728. Occupational therapist wants pharmacists to dispense medication that helps prevent HIV. Preemptive medication needs to be taken within 72 hours of exposure. Some in Black and Latina communities are reluctant to get medical help. 

Beacon HS delegate moves to suspend rules to vote on all resolutions on agenda as one. Mulgrew clarifies that it would be without motivation or debate.

349 Yes-359 No. It doesn't get 2/3 vote.

Resolution on Senate bill 728  gets 614 Yes-85 No. It passes. 

Meeting is adjourned. Mulgrew thanks members for work they have done.



Tuesday, January 18, 2022

GOVERNOR HOCHUL PROPOSES FOUR-YEAR EXTENSION OF MAYORAL CONTROL OF NYC SCHOOLS

I probably wasn't going to vote for Kathy Hochul as she is a typical corporate Democrat but after seeing her Executive Budget includes extending the mayor's control of the New York City schools for four more long years, that sealed the deal: Hochul's gotta go. 

From the Budget Briefing Book:


NYSUT looks happy that the state aid will keep pouring into local districts. I have no problem with state money coming to NYC however we have seen that extra state aid coming to NYC seldom finds its way directly to the classroom. See our higher class sizes in NYC for evidence.

Mulgrew?

LIVE BLOGGING FROM LYDIA HOWRILKA COURT HEARING

 Lydia is arguing before a judge that the Department of Education's safety policy is arbitrary and capricious. She is claiming the masks are inadequate. KN 95 masks last only 25 hours. She also says the ventilation is deficient. She goes on to say the class sizes are too high. She then adds that the courts have ruled on many occasions to override school policy. She says switching to remote will cause learning loss but that is much less harmful than keeping buildings open because switching to temporary remote would keep many more people healthy. She adds that she caught COVID in school in January. She asks that the schools be remote through February  1. She cites numerous statistics to back up her argument.

Judge asks who she represents. Lydia argues that she represents all people who signed her petition, which is thousands of people. Judge asks her to show her citations and Lydia does.

City attorney argues that their plan is rational. Parents will have issues if schools are remote. DOE has mitigation strategies. Lydia can't bring a class action pro se. New York City DOE has an obligation to provide for children and is doing it. The issue is moot because she asked for schools to go remote until January 18 and that makes it moot. 

Lydia gets a rebuttal saying 75 DOE have died since pandemic started. She goes over masks again. 

City says there is a rational basis for what they have done. 

Judge says he will make a decision. It's over at 10:16 a.m.

UFT SOLIDARITY VERY ACTIVE

I went to the UFT Solidarity member support meeting on Zoom last Friday. It was very informative and I think Lydia Howrilka for giving me a chance to speak for a couple of minutes.

Here is the presentation, written by Nick Bacon from New Action with some help from Lydia and Solidarity's Quinn Zannoni, on knowing your rights. It is well worth looking over.

She also provided advice on dealing with abusive administrators.


In addition, we heard from Lydia updating us on the lawsuit she filed pro se (without a lawyer) looking for temporary remote learning during the height of the Omicron spike.

 Oral Arguments for the pro se lawsuit are at 10am on Tuesday. I will have to take a personal day (which sucks because I will miss my students!).

Given the latest news about the Chancellor suddenly being open to a remote option, I'm wondering what the City's argument is going to be when I face them over Microsoft Teams on Tuesday.

Solidarity also wants to know what you are thinking on school safety unlike the current UFT leadership that rarely looks to hear from the membership. 

Please take the UFT Solidarity School Safety Survey.

Solidarity is fighting for all of us. As soon as we have more information, we will post it. 

Sunday, January 16, 2022

REMOTE OPTION IS HERE

This was reported by Sue Edelman in the NY Post today.

A remote option is coming back to city schools in response to plunging attendance amid a surge in COVID-19 cases.

Under a new Department of Education policy, students who don’t show up even though they are not sick or under quarantine won’t be marked absent if they meet with teachers on Zoom office hours and get class materials online.

Students can still be marked present, for instance, if they log onto Google Classroom to view PowerPoint presentations, subject notes and assignments. They can also communicate with teachers via email.

“We’re giving students permission to stay home as long as they are showing some level of participation online,” a Queens teacher told The Post.

“The city is making attendance rates go up.”

The change, quietly posted online Friday and first reported by Gothamist, came a day after Mayor Eric Adams revealed he was willing to negotiate a “temporary remote option” with the teachers’ union. Schools Chancellor David Banks, speaking to a parents’ council the day before, cited “political pressure” among concerns.

After the holiday break on Jan. 3, attendance in DOE schools sunk to 67 percent. On Friday, the attendance was 75 percent. With an enrollment of 938,000 students, that means 234,500 kids missed classes. 

Thoughts?

Friday, January 14, 2022

Thursday, January 13, 2022

CHANCELLOR BANKS SAYS HE WANTS A REMOTE OPTION BUT HE NEEDS UFT DEAL

I couldn't believe my ears when I heard Chancellor David Banks responding to parents about why there is no remote option.

This is from Twitter:

Watch the video for yourself. This does not sound much like what Michael Mulgrew stated at the town hall yesterday. I didn't hear anything about the Chancellor trying to give a remote option and UFT negotiations holding it up. 

The UFT responded to Banks with a statement:

"Clearly the Chancellor has been misinformed about the UFT’s position. We have long called for an instructionally sound remote option and have been speaking directly to the Mayor about creating one, a program that will work for students,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew in a written statement Thursday.