Thursday, June 30, 2022

NY1'S JILLIAN JORGENSEN NOMINATED FOR NY EMMY

Jillian Jorgensen has been nominated for a NY Emmy. My kids and I were on what I believe was her first story when she took over the education beat at NY1. 

It seems like a million years ago when we were fighting to get Monday, December 23, 2019 added to Christmas vacation. The calendar that year was an unforced UFT error. At least we won that one.


Congratulations!

Monday, June 27, 2022

THE BANKS-ADAMS SUPERINENDENTS.

Does anyone have any information on the superindents? Feel free to comment.





NY TIMES EDUCATION PITCHBOT HAS PERFECT SATIRICAL END OF YEAR STATEMENT

New York Times Education Pitchbot@GreyLadiesNYC produces excellent parody on Twitter by poking fun at the awful education coverage that is in the real NY Times.

Here is their satirical farewell message for the school year from the Mayor and Chancellor:


Gotta agree with Sarah Allen whose reaction to the farewell parody message is all too real.

Friday, June 24, 2022

ACTIVE CITY WORKERS NEED TO WATCH OUT FOR UNIONS DISCUSSING HEALTHCARE SAVINGS

This is in the UFT Chapter Leader Update:

Efforts begin to rein in health care costs

The Municipal Labor Committee, the umbrella group of nearly 100 municipal labor unions including the UFT, negotiates the health care benefits of all city workers. The top priority of the MLC and the UFT is to maintain high-quality, premium-free health care for all city workers even as costs increase year after year. The city, with the MLC’s support, issued a request for information on June 16 to let the health care industry know that the city is seeking a 10% decrease in health care costs without sacrificing any of its employees’ existing benefits. This process has been successfully used many times over the years to preserve our excellent health care without raising the out-of-pocket cost for individual members. In fact, the city and the MLC have saved more than $10 billion over the years by aggressively using our buying power to save money on health care. As health care costs continue to rise, it’s more important than ever to find cost-saving measures so we can preserve premium-free health care for all our members.  

Right now teachers are by contract entitled to a choice of premium free health plans as we pointed out last week. Michael Mulgrew and the MLC appear to be in a giveback mood here for this round of collective bargaining. It looks like Mulgrewcare might eventually be coming to active people. Only a judge stopped a healthcare plan that would have denied a choice of free plans for retirees. We called the inferior plan Mulgrewcare.

UFT DELEGATE ASSEMBLY AND EXECUTIVE BOARD DATES FOR NEXT SCHOOL YEAR

Here is the schedule for the Administrative Committee (12 officers), Executive Board, and Delegate Assembly for 2022-23. You have a constitutional right to attend Executive Board meetings.



Thursday, June 23, 2022

DC 37 RALLIES FOR RAISES; BRITISH AIRWAYS WORKERS VOTE TO STRIKE

District Council 37 is a large city union that has around 100,000 members. They have been without a contract since May 2021. According to this piece in Labor Press, "Negotiations with the city have not yet started" for a new contract. The state of our unions has sunk so low that the city can go over a year without even opening negotiations for a new agreement with DC37. Municipal worker unions in NYC have so little power so the city can basically ignore us. 

DC 37 held a rally on June 16 at Foley Square. Several hundred members showed up according to the Labor Press article. What are they looking for in terms of a raise?

“We’re not getting the raises that make a difference. Everything is going up but our paychecks,” DC 37 president Shaun D. Francois told LaborPress before the rally.

Francois, head of DC 37’s Local 372, which represents school employees such as health aides, lunchroom workers, and crossing guards, says that what his members are paid would be a good salary in Georgia, but not in a city where studio apartments cost $2,000 a month. It would take $30 an hour for a two-person household to have a decent standard of living here, he continued.

“Are we going to get that? No.” he said. “We’re going to get the best we can and the most we can.”

The best we can probably means the 2%- 3% the city is setting aside for salary increases for government employees in this year's budget. They concede that they are not going to get raises for their members so they can have a decent standard of living.

For anyone who thinks the DC 37 negotiations will not impact UFT members because we are separate unions who bargain individually with the city, think again and then again. Long-time readers know that city contracts are based on pattern bargaining. One municipal union settles on a contract with the city and whatever salary increase they get sets a pattern and then other unions receive basically the same increase that follows the pattern. Pattern bargaining has been upheld by arbitration panels many times. 

Two weak unions usually set the pattern for all NYC government workers: DC 37 or the UFT. 

If the best DC 37 can do is to pull out several hundred of its 100,000 members for a rally, it is obvious they and then the UFT too will have virtually no leverage at the bargaining table and will be at the mercy of Mayor Adams. Whether or not the members on the UFT Negotiating Committee bargain openly or behind closed doors is rather irrelevant if DC 37 will soon set the pattern for our contract that Michael Mulgrew will happily adhere to.

I personally would rather use the British worker approach of threatening industrial action and then striking if necessary. The latest workers to vote to strike are the British Airways ground staff at Heathrow Airport.

From Reuters:

The GMB union said 95% of BA staff at Heathrow airport who voted backed strike action after BA failed to roll back a 10% pay cut imposed during the pandemic. Around 700 workers had been balloted, of whom 80% voted.

95% yes vote and an 80% turnout. What was the turnout of active teachers in our recent UFT election? Around 20%. 

Activism matters, ladies and gentlemen. Anonymous comments won't cut it. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

UK RAIL STRIKES ARE ON; ARE TEACHERS NEXT?

Labor's main weapon is the strike or at least the credible threat to withhold labor. England is seeing a national rail strike this week. This is from ABC News:

LONDON -- Britain faces the second of three national railway strikes Thursday after new negotiations between union and employers ended in deadlock.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport Union accused the government of “wrecking” Wednesday’s talks and said the 24-hour walkout by 40,000 cleaners, signalers, maintenance workers and station staff would go ahead as planned. The union's action this week is Britain's biggest and most disruptive railway strike for 30 years.

Rail infrastructure company Network Rail said it was “disappointed that the RMT have again chosen to walk away from negotiations. We remain available for talks, day or night.”

The union held a daylong strike on Tuesday that brought the U.K. rail network to a crawl, with only a fifth of passenger services running. Another walkout is planned for Saturday.

The dispute centers on pay, working conditions and job security as Britain’s train companies aim to cut costs and staffing after two years in which emergency government funding kept them afloat.

The strike pits the union against 13 privately owned train-operating companies and the government-owned National Rail. While Britain's Conservative government insists it is not involved in the dispute, the union notes that it plays a major role in the heavily regulated industry.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has put blame for the strike squarely on the union.

The railway union's leader, General Secretary Mick Lynch, said the government had “wrecked these negotiations by not allowing Network Rail to withdraw their letter threatening redundancy for 2,900 of our members.”

The final paragraph of this piece is very interesting to me:

Unions have told the country to brace for more as workers face the worst cost-of-living squeeze in more than a generation. Lawyers are planning a walkout, and unions representing teachers and postal workers both plan to consult their members about possible actions.

 You can read more in the Guardian.

Also, look at OpenDemocracy.net:

We could talk for hours about the causes of this, but the simplest is that, in the negotiation over who gets the wealth we all produce with our work, bosses and owners are getting more and more, and workers are getting less and less. And the simple reason for that is that fewer and fewer of us are members of trade unions, and fewer and fewer of us are organised enough to go on strike.

It looks like the teachers could be next up for industrial action in the UK:

This is from The Guardian:

Leaders of the country’s largest teaching union say they will ballot their members on strike action later this year unless the government agrees to an “inflation-plus” pay rise.

The joint general secretaries of the National Education Union (NEU) said in a letter to the education secretary, Nadhim Zahawi, that they would campaign in favour of industrial action if the government persisted in its current plan for a 3% pay increase for most teachers in England, after the latest figures showed the consumer price index rising 9.1% last month.

“You must respond to the new economic reality of double-digit inflation and the threat this poses to teacher living standards. We call on you to commit to an inflation-plus increase for all teachers,” the letter stated.

3% increases aren't going to cut it with UK teacher unions. 2-3% is basically what NY public sector workers are being budgeted for.

Maybe some of that labor militancy will cross the Atlantic from the UK. 

Monday, June 20, 2022

RETIREE GROUP SAYS THE CITY MISLED THE JUDGE IN MEDICARE PRIVATIZATION CASE

It looks like the city stooped to misleading a judge on retiree healthcare. Ace NY Post reporter Sue Edelman along with Richard Calder obtained a smoking gun and published it on Saturday.

City lawyers lied to a state judge in a “shameful” bid to cheat them out of health insurance benefits, according to a retired group of firefighters, cops, teachers and other public servants.

The lawyers have argued in court filings and before a Manhattan Supreme Court judge that NYC retirees must accept a new, privately administered plan or pay $191.57 monthly to maintain current coverage.

However, The Post obtained a Feb 16, 2016 letter from Stephen Louis, a top city Law Department attorney, to then-Labor Commissioner Robert Linn which appears to confirm the city is required by law to pay for all retiree health plans up to a price cap.

“They misled the court,” fumed Marianne Pizzitola, who heads the NYC Organization of Public Service Retirees, when shown the letter, calling it “shameful.”

Louis wrote that the Administrative Code requires the city to pay for any plan “up to the full cost of the health care package offered” by NYC. 

Assistant Corporation Counsel William Fraenkel told Judge Lyle Frank on Feb. 28 that making every plan premium-free would “run contrary” to the law.

The city lost the case but is appealing. Of course, the city denies that they misled the judge but look at the language of the letter that is published in its entirety in the Post. Here is the key part:

Similarly, the Council committee report explaining local law 120 singled out payment for the "entire cost"  of a "health insurance plan" but did not prescribe the components of any plan.

The important words are "any plan" as I read the letter. It is kind of obvious that it means more than one plan. Look up the definitions of the word "any" if you want to. These two definitions from Webster seem to fit appropriately:

a: unmeasured or unlimited in amount, number, or extent 

any quantity you desire

b: appreciably large or extended

could not endure it any length of time

We can even go to the thesaurus for synonyms:

Synonyms & Antonyms of any

being one of a group

any person who comes in the store today is eligible for the discount

Synonyms for any

each, every

The dictionary pretty much shows that the city is supposed to pay for multiple plans, not just one. That is also what it calls for in the UFT Contract in Article 3G1 which has this title:

Choice of  Health Plans

Then, look at the contractual language:

The Board agrees to arrange for, and make available to each day school teacher, a choice of health and hosptial insurance coverage from among designated plans and the Board agrees to pay the full cost of such coverage.

State law covers public school teacher retirees too.

While there is no guarantee that retirees in the state have the same coverage as active employees, the state Legislature prohibits school districts and BOCES from unilaterally diminishing retiree health insurance coverage unless a similar reduction is negotiated for active employees.

You see why the city wants to diminish active employee health benefits, not only retirees. We have been trying to ring the alarm bell that inferior Mulgrewcare is coming to all of us unless all of us collectively say no.

Michael Mulgrew, the rest of the Unity UFT leadership who just go along, the Municipal Labor Committee, and many of the establishment Democratic and Republican politicians are not our friends on healthcare. The pressure has to come from rank and file city employees that there needs to be a line drawn in the sand on healthcare. We will not accept more cuts to benefits or increased costs to employees or retirees.

Maryann Pizzitola is working on behalf of municipal retirees across many job titles. Go to the website to learn more about the NYC Organization of Public Service Retirees. 

Saturday, June 18, 2022

BRYANT HIGH SCHOOL ADMINISTRATORS THREATENING TEACHERS WHO DON'T PASS STUDENTS WHO DON'T SHOW UP AND/OR DO NO WORK

Sue Edelman and Melissa Klein have an article in the Post on grade inflatiin/fraud under Principal Namita Dwarka at Bryant High School.

One of the complaints:

One teacher said the 11th-hour requests [to pass undeserving students] started during his first semester at the school five years ago. “I was asked to provide passing grades for a marking period I had not taught, for many students who I had never even seen.”

“Last spring, I was reprimanded for not giving a passing grade to a student who had missed almost 100 days of class and had done no work,” the educator said.

Our friend Georgia is featured in the Post piece:

Georgia Lignou, Bryant’s UFT Chapter Leader,  wrote an open letter to principal Namita Dwarka last week, saying she had fielded “numerous” complaints from teachers about the pressure to pass lagging students.

“Teachers are asked to ‘provide support,'” she said in the letter, obtained by The Post. That means that the students can get a few last-ditch assignments and pass “with much less work than what the teacher required in class.” 

We do not feel that a student who was absent for most of the year and has failed previous marking periods can possibly achieve mastery at this time of the year,” Lignou wrote.

Teachers are “intimidated by the tone” of emails they receive from higher-ups, she added.

“What they hear is ‘We want you to pass this student,’ and they do” to avoid run-ins with the assistant principals who supervise them. “They do promote students who should not have been promoted,” Lignou wrote.

Seat time requirements, absent extraordinary circumstances in which work must be submitted that is basically the same as what the class has done, could help solve this problem.

It won't happen as it would cause graduation rates to fall. Grade fraud/inflation leading to far too many virtually meaningless diplomas being handed out is one of the consequences of mayoral control of the NYC schools.

How about a federal solution?

Grade fraud is systemic,” said City Councilman Robert Holden (D-Queens), who sparked investigations of Maspeth HS after hearing from whistleblower teachers. “It’s  inherent in  many schools, and everybody in the DOE administration looks the other way because it’s in their best interest.

“But they’re cheating our children out of a good education. Don’t show up in class? You pass. Everybody passes, and grades are meaningless. I think we need a federal monitor to come in and take over because nobody’s overseeing anything.”  

For those hoping this will bring down Principal Dwarka, The Post spoke to a DOE spokesperson who said: “We take any allegation of misconduct seriously and we will look into this.”

Nobody is going to hold their breath waiting for justice but at least Georgia and her colleagues are trying. The people who hide behind anonymous comments here are not helping. Have some courage. I would not recommend fighting alone usually but a small group can make a big difference.

Integrity matters.