Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Shortest Executive Board Meeting Makes Up for Previous One

Reacting to the recent contract ratification debacle which caused some members to miss the opening kick-off of Monday night football, the Executive Board, Monday night, concluded its business in a record 20 minutes.

“I didn’t even get to finish dessert,” complained one disgruntled dissident.

Mendel distributed a letter written by Jeffrey Zaino, the Vice President in charge of elections for the American Arbitration Association, to try to provide cover for the charge that the ballot envelopes were translucent. Despite clear evidence to the contrary Zaino insisted that “the double envelopes….prevented someone who handled the envelopes from seeing how the voter voted.”

The Executive Board had no questions, no reports and considered only one resolution which, not to depart from past practice, elicited one disagreement.

The resolution called for the waiver of the dues increase, despite the alleged fiscal implications, from the retroactive monies we will receive on December 15th. When a question was raised about whether a resolution was necessary and whether this departed from past practice, Mendel stated that it was not unprecedented

An attempt was then made to amend the resolution to reflect this past practice and to prevent the current Union leadership from taking unwarranted credit for something that is always done; Jeffrey Zahler made a motion to table.

It appears that motions to table are becoming the preferred method of Unity Executive Board members to deal with issues that provide full disclosure to resolutions.

Needless to say the motion to table was passed and the resolution that will go before the Delegate Assembly will appear that Randi and her caucus are truly magnanimous.

Some members were seen taking cookies home. They made it home for the kick-off.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Living Under a Sellout Contract…Union Says, “Just SBO It!”

As the impact of the new contract slowly works its way through the schools it is clear that the pre-ratification spin can no longer be spun. Chapter Leader training is scheduled for the next few weeks in each borough. There are more questions than answers, as usual. And even if the Union takes the “aggressive” position it promises it will be hard to protect our members.

Here are a couple of examples.

Under the Circular 6R changes we are now limited to a “menu” of professional items and, of course, the dreaded administrative duties. The Union’s response…just SBO it. Like your principal will agree to forgo this wonderful opportunity to assign us to potty patrol.

The extra 10 minutes and the 37 ½ period at the end of the day….the Union’s response….just SBO it. Make it PD or whatever your chapter wants is the advice. Like we really have a choice.

Now, we are certain there will be Chapters out there with good working relationships with the administration who really can work out some of these things. But, don’t count on your arrangement either being approved or lasting very long.

Under our new contract there is no question that the DOE has the final word on these issues. We will have to learn to live with it.

And there’s more…how do you SBO “Letters to the File?”

Friday, November 11, 2005

New Contract Raises Puzzling Questions

Bob Reich writes in the current CSA News, the monthly newspaper for DOE supervisors, how the new contract will affect his members. He acknowledges that the UFT contract gives more power to the LIS and Superintendent and outlines how a letter to the file should be written since they can no longer be grieved.

Reich notes that administrators may now assign staff to a myriad of non-educational duties including cafeteria duty and bus duty. He cautions that supervisors should give careful consideration to the assignments and the number of staff assigned. “Your supervisor, the LIS the CSD Superintendent or the Regional Superintendent [will] hold you accountable for the decisions you make. A claim that insufficient staff assigned to a particular area (i.e. the lunchroom) resulted in a student injury could result in [an] action against you.”

Reich claims that the new contract gives supervisors the authority to place tardy employees on the time clock. He cautions, however, that letters to the file must be supported by timecards and the Cumulative Absence Reserve card.

The new letters to the file provision has created many unanswered questions. One of the first questions, which should have been dealt with in the contract, is the provision’s retroactivity. Reading the plain language of the provision gives no clue as to how letters which are now in our files more than three years should be handled. Randi, at the last DA, proudly proclaimed that they will all be removed but that is not clear.

What about currently pending Step II’s? Are they automatically converted to Step III’s?

The Union is sponsoring a Chapter Leader’s training on the new contract over the next couple of weeks. How many of our questions will be accurately answered?

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Executive Board Report: UFT Re-Affirms Anti-Union Democracy Policy

In the first post-ratification meeting of the Executive Board our Union’s leadership sent a clear message that any attempt to reform our voting procedures to make them fair and free of the appearance of impropriety will be met with stiff opposition including tactics rarely used.

Opposition Board members proposed two resolutions to permit the UFT to denounce its recent anti-democratic shift in policy to permit unfettered access to staff mailboxes and to assure that voting procedures are secret and confidential. These resolutions, as proposed, were met with stiff resistance demonstrating that our Union’s leadership knows the ratification vote was tainted and needs to be rerun.

Back in 1962 when our Union was in its infancy the Board of Education passed a “General Circular” reaffirming opposition union members’ right to utilize staff mailboxes to distribute union-related material and denying the leadership sole access to this vital means of membership communication.

This right was reaffirmed, again, in the precedent setting grievance of Harriet Baizerman in which an opposition Union member, originally barred from placing literature in the mailboxes, was permitted the access. Chancellor Irving Anker reaffirmed this principle and opposition members have utilized this method of informing the membership of important issues ever since.

That was until October 21, 2005 when the Staff Director, acting on advice of Union counsel, instructed opposition members that the First Amendment does not apply during non-Union office election times.

Outraged by the fact that Special Reps and District Reps placed biased literature supporting the contract into members’ mailboxes and the absurd position that opposition literature was not similarly protected a resolution was proposed to clarify our right.

After much heated discussion the resolution was “tabled to kill,” which we surmise means that our Union no longer supports the First Amendment right of our members. There is talk that the article in the New York Teacher dated February 17, 2005 affirming these rights was issued in error. It was not clear whether a retraction will be printed.

The second resolution affirming the right of a secret and confidential ballot met with a firestorm of vitriol. After declaring that this right is “perhaps one of our most precious rights’ Randi proceeded to defend the fact that marked ballots could be easily seen through the two envelopes that were provided.

According to our president anytime there is knowledge of a potential impropriety in the voting process it is incumbent upon the opposition to bring these matters to the staff director so something could be done about it,

Just what could be done about transparent envelopes after they were all mailed to the schools?

In any case it does appear that our leadership is preparing for a full defense of the tainted vote and the denial of the protection of our First Amendment rights.

32,000 members voted no. How many will agree that the opposition must remain silent?

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Ratification Vote Shows Leadership Disconnect

While the vote is in and most of the spin has been spun there are some important observations that must be pointed out.

Never in the history of the UFT has so much effort gone into the ratification process. No stone was unturned, union dues spent, or pressure exerted to get this contract passed.

Some examples…

Despite a clear message by the Executive Board last year, reaffirmed by Randi and included in an edition of the New York Teacher opposition literature was barred by UFT leaders from being placed in mailboxes. Yet UFT District Reps and other paid staff members were given unfettered access to stuff teacher mailboxes while ICE members were not even allowed into schools or saw our literature removed from the mailboxes when we did get access.

For God’s sake they even made a pitch in the rubber room (and “forgot” to discuss the new provision dealing with the new right of the DOE to suspend members without pay).!

Randi, herself, along with other high ranking leaders were dispatched to “trouble spots,” schools were information or poll data indicated a strong negative vote.

Union meetings were disguised as information about the contract where they were clearly clever pitches to support the ratification in which most of the negative points were omitted or downplayed.

Despite a resolution calling for the ballots to be mailed to members and that strict rules be followed for the ratification vote (the resolution was ruled “out of order” by our President) the Union insisted on providing numerous opportunities to permit misguided Chapter Leaders to be able to see how members voted by holding the “secret ballot” to the light and not following historical Union practice of requiring Chapter Election Committees to hold the vote.

All this and they only got 63% of the counted votes. With 37% voting no and almost 20% not voting or sending in invalid ballots, there is clearly something rotten at 52 Broadway.

The membership has spoken, to paraphrase Randi, and they want to take back THEIR union!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Results of the Ratification Vote

Yes 39728
No 25962

School Secretaries
Yes 2455
No 618

Yes 8531
No 4491

Guidance Counselors
Yes 1325
No 538

Yes 54473
No 32144

Total Votes Scanned 86847

This was released at 5:03 PM. The breakdown is approximately 60% Yes and 40% No for teachers. More analysis will follow.


In what appears to be the first indication of how the American Arbitration Association will tally the contract ratification vote today UFT Vice President Frank Volpicella announced last night at a high school committee meeting that providing individual school tallies will be “impossible” because of the nature of the voting process.

Numerous documented instances of improper voting procedures were uncovered over the last week indicating that the report of the vote today will be forever clouded in a shroud of impropriety. Of some of the more egregious instances uncovered include the systematic violation of Board of Education rules and grievance precedent in preventing opposition caucus members from distributing literature in staff mailboxes. Additionally “secret ballot” envelopes were hardly secret as votes were easily seen if the envelope was held up to a strong light leading many to conclude that negative votes were discarded. Additionallly enough information was provided to Chapter Leaders to allow for the easy voting tampering by submitting votes for members that were absent or refused to vote.

The vote tabulation begins this morning at the Election Department of the American Arbitration Association at 1633 Broadway, 10th Floor near 51st Street. Their phone number is 212-484-3224. Results will be published here as soon as they are received. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Transcript of Final 2005 General Election Mayoral Debate

If the mayor is going to call it an "extra period" why should I call it anything different?  Does Randi know that this is an extra period, or was there miscommunication when selling this rag of a contract to us?
November 1, 2005

Transcript of Final 2005 General Election Mayoral Debate
On November 1, 2005, the New York City Campaign Finance Board and WNBC played host to a final debate with mayoral candidates Michael Bloomberg and Fernando Ferrer. It was moderated by Gabe Pressman. Questions were asked by reporters Melissa Russo, Jay DeDapper, David Ushery, and Jorge Ramos. The following is a transcript of the debate.


Gabe Pressman: I’ve got a couple of questions on education requiring short answers. Do you favor, Mr. Ferrer, year around school as a way of developing students who can compete with students from other countries, who have much more intensive educational programs?

Ferrer: Yea, I think the kids who are struggling and need more time on task, extending the school year makes an enormous amount of sense, as does extending the school day and week.

Gabe Pressman: Do you agree with that?

Bloomberg: We are doing it. We have summer school for kids who need more help. And the new teachers’ contract has an extra period, four days a week for the kids who are struggling, every class, every school.

Gabe Pressman: Year around means virtually 12 months with a few vacations in between.

Bloomberg: School with summer-school goes almost year around.