Friday, December 29, 2006

Weingarten/Unity 2005 & 2007 Contracts Abandon Staff in Closing Schools!

Displaced Staff Must Pound the Pavement or Become Day-to-Day Substitutes

The Department of Education can no longer be allowed to mismanage and inadequately fund schools and then blame UFT members when students don't perform. Unfortunately, Randi Weingarten has gone along with their plan. When the closing of Lafayette HS in Brooklyn was announced, after promising the teachers support, Weingarten said: "It is no secret that there have been problems at Lafayette, so its closing is not surprising. We are working with the DOE to create a redesigned school - and potentially two new schools - that parents will want to send their children to and where educators will want to teach."

ICE is calling for a moratorium on closing/redesigning schools until there are independent studies done to assess the impact of closing schools on entire school communities throughout the city. We are also demanding that the UFT use part of its "Teachers Make a Difference" campaign to publicize the need for full funding for all schools, but particularly the need to push for extra funding for schools where students are lagging behind in order to: lower class sizes, provide modern up to date facilities as well as safe and stable environments as an alternative to closing schools and displacing students and staff, which results in severe overcrowding of neighboring schools.

In the 2005 giveback laden contract, Unity Caucus negotiators and their New Action (former opposition caucus) partners quietly gave away preferred placement rights for UFT members when schools are closed/redesigned or if personnel are in excess, eliminating Article 18G5 that gave members displaced because a school was closing or being phased out "the broadest possible placement choices available within the authority of the Board." The elimination of Article 18G5 in 2005 and in the 2006 contract extension was glossed over in the so-called "fact" sheets put out by the union leadership urging a YES vote. Educators, regardless of their experience or ratinsg, now have to pound the pavement when their schools are closed to find their own positions. If they do not do so, they become Absent Teacher Reserves (day-to-day substitutes in a district with full pay and benefits but no steady classroom assignment). UFT leaders actually had the gall to brand this as an "improvement" along with the Open Market Plan.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Is Randi Calling for Gubernatorial Control Next? When will she ever Learn?

The following is an excerpt of an article entitled "See Spitzer having a Bigger School Say" from The Chief Leader December 22, 2006…

Randi is on a panel with one of the State Regents and a CFE director.

Ms. Tisch {the regent} said that in light of Mr. Spitzer committing significant additional money to the schools, ''There is the possibility of giving [him] an awful lot of say in educational policy in the state."

Ms. Weingarten concurred, saying, 'If the Governor is going to take this kind of responsibility, there has to be some power [vested in his office] to affect that policy."

Her belief she told the audience in the New School's Theresa lang Community and Student Center, reflected political reality rather than a conclusion that mayoral control had been a positive step in the city school system. The UFT plans to set up its own task force to evaluate the impact of creating the Department of Education as a city agency, Ms. Weingarten said, explaining that some of her members vehemently oppose mayoral control because "they do not get to exercise the latitude that good Teachers should get to exercise."

'Relentless Test Prep'

In the past, Ms. Weingarten was sharply critical of Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein's school curricula, arguing that he had stripped teachers of the discretion that was both vital to creative instruction and a prerogative to which senior staff was entitled. In an interview after the forum, she said she had come to believe that the strictures under the Federal No Child Left Behind Law, rather than mayoral control, were primarily responsible for the onerous changes in the city system that included "relentless focus on test prep, re-designing schools."

Didn't Chicago have a corporate style Mayoral takeover of the schools with an emphasis on testing and redesigning schools before No Child Left Behind was passed?

  • ICE said that there might be a deal brewing on renewing mayoral control and now Randi is blaming No Child Left Behind instead of BloomKlein?
  • Do we need another politician (the Governor) taking more control over the public schools?

ICE thinks teachers, not politicians, need to be empowered and that is one of the big reasons why we need new UFT leadership.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

7,637 Reasons to Fight On

There is a real opposition to Unity Caucus in the schools. 7,637 UFT members voted against the two year extension of the worst Contract ever in spite of two years worth of the ruling Unity Caucus' leaders constantly telling us how great it is to: teach an extra small group instruction period four days a week, come back to work in August, patrol halls and lunchrooms, not be able to transfer based on seniority, not be able to grieve file letters and observation reports, have weakened tenure protections, risk being an Absent Teacher Reserve even after dedicating decades of our lives to New York City's students, etc…

The work that the Independent Community of Educators, Teachers for a Just Contract, NYC Educator and others did almost exclusively on the internet made a bit of an impact. It must be taken into account that those of us who oppose the Contract did not have the means to distribute literature urging a no vote to most schools but the ruling Unity Caucus spin machine sent a cadre of employees into virtually all of the schools to sell the Contract. ICE-TJC may not yet be able to reach everyone but we have moved forward.

Consider that back in 2001 before the traditional main UFT opposition group, New Action, decided to form an alliance with Unity (Randi Weingarten's political party), New Action received 11,523 total votes in that year's UFT Election. Traditionally the opposition would get around 2,000 retiree votes in UFT elections. After many years of working, New Action was usually getting around 10,000 active members to vote for them. In 2002 with New Action support, the first extended time Contract received 94% of the vote. Only 4,000+ members opposed that deal. The opposition was in tatters leading New Action to form their alliance with Unity.

In 2003, after New Action made a deal not to run against Randi Weingarten, ICE was formed for the 2004 election. TJC ran in a UFT election for the first time in 2004 also. ICE and TJC presidential candidates combined to receive a total of 5,374 votes in the 2004 election, including retirees. Now in 2006, there are 7,637 active people who voted no on a Contract. This group constitutes a growing working base opposed to the ruling Unity Caucus. Recall that retirees do not vote on Contracts. Therefore, we can conclude that after only a few years of existence as political organizations, ICE-TJC are growing and getting close to reaching the level where New Action was after working for many, many years.

Now is the time for ICE-TJC to diligently pursue other potential supporters. There were approximately 7,000 disgruntled members who voted in the 2005 Contract ratification but didn't bother to vote this time around. Why was the turnout lower this year? Some people have apparently given up in disgust and we need to give them a reason to vote for the opposition in the 2007 UFT election. Also, there were over 32,000 members who voted against the 2005 giveback laden Contract. It is our job now to reach each and every one of them and give them our alternative view on how this union should be run.

We believe this Contract was approved by an overwhelming margin not as a vote of confidence for Randi Weingarten and the Unity machine but as a sign of resignation that we can't do any better under Unity-New Action leadership.

Unity-New Action's main strategy is to wait for DC 37 to settle up with the city and go in and say, "Me too," and get the same deal based on pattern bargaining. Pattern bargaining means that when one city union settles on a contract to start a new round of collective bargaining with the city, then all other city unions subsequently receive the same pattern settlement. If DC 37 sets a lousy pattern, then Randi will again trade away more of what's left of our Contract to get us some money as she did in 2002 and 2005.

It's up to ICE-TJC in the next few months to get the message to everyone that we can organize to improve UFT member salaries as well as teaching and learning conditions without trading away our rights.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


    Several years ago, the leadership of the UFT made a blunder when a committee the Union formed to study how schools should be governed issued a report that said the UFT would favor the Mayor controlling a majority of the Board of Education. Eventually, that report led to the Union giving its ok to the 2002 law that allowed Bloomberg to take over the schools. We must not let history repeat itself. The law granting the Mayor full control of the schools sunsets in 2009. We must start the fight now so that the NY State Legislature does not renew it in its current form.

We cannot stay the course with this failed policy. Now is the time for the UFT leadership to admit that they made a mistake in endorsing full Mayoral control of the schools and we need to move forward and find a system where parents, teachers and others in the community have a real voice in decision-making in our public schools.

We cannot merely hope for the right mayor as each new mayor will invariably seek to remake the schools in their preferred image, and manipulate the system for their political and ideological advantage. ICE favors real shared decision making at the school level as an opening demand. In order to achieve this, we need first to get the Mayor out of school governance to the maximum extent that we are able to and get school personnel and the community back in.

To win back the schools, ICE raised a proposal on Monday evening at the UFT Executive Board when the leadership of the Union called for the creation of a multi-partisan UFT committee to examine how the schools should be governed in the future. ICE proposed the following amendment as a foundation for the committee:


RESOLVED, that it is the explicit policy of the United Federation of Teachers that the School Governance Law not be renewed or extended in 2009.


In other words, ICE CALLED FOR THE END OF MAYORAL CONTROL as a starting point for any discussion on how the schools are run in the future.

In response, Randi Weingarten accused of us of playing politics with the issue and the Unity dominated Executive Board voted overwhelmingly to form a committee that will examine all forms of school governance, including the possibility of renewing mayoral control of the schools. We respectfully disagree with the Unity Caucus. The Union needs to be bold by drawing a line in the sand and saying factory model (corporate style) top-down public schools do not work for students or educators. Now is the time to begin to take that initiative.

Do we need to have a committee even consider renewing a top-down school governance structure that the vast majority of UFT members know is an unmitigated disaster for education in New York (and other cities such as Chicago and Philadelphia where it has also been used)? Examine what Mayoral control has brought in NYC:


  • Micromanagement of lessons, lesson plans and other aspects of our day
  • Micromanagement of bulletin boards
  • Testing run amok
  • UFT Contracts where our members have lost numerous rights in exchange for raises that don't keep up with inflation
  • Mandatory "Professional" Development that has little if anything to do with what most of us actually face in the classroom
  • Millions of dollars in no bid contracts
  • Two restructurings of the of the bureaucracy: first into ten regions and now into empowerment zones
  • A Secretive, opaque form of management and policy-making that has proven itself impervious to oversight, checks and balances, and democratic dialogue that is necessary for a healthy school system


Now is the time for the UFT to take a strong stand against what Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his hand picked non education Chancellor Joel Klein have done to New York City's schools.


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Q&A On Proposed Contract

The ballots for the proposed Contract are hitting the schools so it's time to answer some frequently asked questions before you vote. Vote with your eyes wide open.

Question: Does a yes vote mean that mean we still have to go back to school in August?

Answer: Yes. The longest school year in the NY metropolitan area will continue through at least the 2009-2010 school year. Next year we are slated to return to school on August 30th for "professional development." Returning to school almost a week earlier than usual was not pleasant. Only by voting no could we have a chance to organize to win back this and the other givebacks from last year.

Questions: So, all the givebacks remain then if we vote yes? Does a yes vote mean I still can't file grievances for letters in the file or unsatisfactory observation reports? Does a yes vote mean that most of us will still have to work the 37.5 minute small group instruction period four days a week? Does a yes vote mean we are voting for hall, cafeteria and potty patrols? If the Contract is approved, can members still be suspended without pay for certain offenses before they have a tenure hearing?

Answers to all of the above: Yes.

Question: Does a yes vote mean that transfers are still up to principals instead of seniority or school based hiring committees like in the past?

Answer: Transfers will be up to principals if the Contract is ratified.

Question: What about if I am excessed? Do I have a right to be placed before new teachers are hired?

Answer: No. All you have a right to is a job as an Absent Teacher Reserve (day-to-day substitute) teacher somewhere in your district/superintendency. If the city has a fiscal emergency, we can be laid off.

Question: Many schools have been closed or reorganized in the last decade. If my school closes do I have preferred placement rights?

Answer: No. Under the current Contract and the new proposal, members only have the right to an Absent Teacher Reserve position. Even if you are a veteran teacher, when your school is phased out, there is no guarantee that you won't have to pound the pavement and find your own position.

Question: Shouldn't we be happy that the Contract is settled a year early with a salary increase that will put the top teacher salary at $100,000 in 2008 and adds a new $1,000 longevity for UFT members with 5-9 years in the system as well as other little sweeteners?

Answer: Many people will be looking at the money and no further. We believe that this is a "tunnel-vision" perspective. The salary increases (2% +$750 bonus in 2007, 5% in 2008 and 0% in 2009) will not even keep up with inflation while the worst working conditions in the NY metropolitan area won't improve at all (highest class sizes, most dangerous dilapidated buildings, etc…).

Question: Have we at least gotten the 25 years in the system, 55 years of age retirement incentive that was promised in the last Contract?

Answer: No, it must still be negotiated.

Question: What is this new severance package I keep hearing about for people who are in excess for over a year? Isn't it voluntary?

Answer: The Department of Education and the UFT still have to negotiate the package and we don't know what it will look like or if there will be pressure put on teachers who don't accept irrevocable retirement or resignation. We do know that the UFT should not have even talked about this subject as even the anti-UFT arbitrators from the last round were asked by the DOE to recommend that teachers in excess for 18 months be terminated and the arbitrators left no doubt by saying that they "specifically reject this proposal." Klein bringing it up again in 2006 was an insult. He should have been told emphatically no and then given strong UFT demands to win back all of what we gave back last time. Instead, Klein was able to take a second bite at the apple and won a severance package. The UFT asked for nothing and got nothing. You can't win big gains if you don't ask for them.

Question: Have there been any improvements made to working conditions in this Contract?

Answer: We don't see any. The UFT claims that three new provisions are improvements but we disagree. First, a new provision saying we won't get letters to our file if corporal punishment charges are unsubstantiated does not help us because we don't get letters to the file now if charges are not substantiated. Second, a new committee to reduce paperwork is just an extra committee added to the two committees we already have on this subject. Finally, a new peer Intervention Program that is not confidential and can be used against us in hearings to fire us does not look like a gain to us.

Question: What about our health benefits and Mayoral Control of the schools? Randi said there were no deals on these two subjects in exchange for the Contract. Is this true?

Answer: Let history be your guide on this one. In the 2002 Contract, New York State provided funding for our first swap of us working more time in exchange for money (6% extra for 20 minutes more per day that became "teacher detention" otherwise known as "professional development Mondays"). That particular Contract was so bad that it was renegotiated three times in the next three years. In 2002, Randi said that there was no deal with Governor Pataki for that money but he was soon thereafter endorsed for reelection by the UFT and he won the John Dewey award. Coincidence? You be the judge. Much is undecided today. What is certain is that the Municipal Labor Committee will negotiate the health plan and we will not vote again on it. In the last two Contracts, the MLC negotiated the health package before the UFT Contract was settled. In addition, Mayoral Control must be renewed by the state in 2009? We believe it should be opposed unequivocally by the UFT working with parents and replaced with real School Based Shared Decision Making.

Question: The DC 37 Contract that set the financial pattern that we are following was approved by 97 % of the DC 37 voters. People are so frustrated that they will jump at anything and no additional givebacks looks like a plus. Why should we vote no?

Answer: We are in dangerous un-chartered seas. We believe a yes vote is a very shortsighted move. Members should think very carefully about how they vote on this proposed Contract because the future of the school system and UFT members hinges a great deal on how this vote comes out. An overwhelming yes vote would send a signal that educators are content with the way the system is being run under Mayoral Control. Think about how it felt working in August; it didn't help students. Think about being an ATR. Think about suspension without pay. Think about the lost right to grieve unfair letters in the file; it's November and people are already being summoned in many schools to meet with administration over petty matters. Since Bloomberg has taken over the schools, we have seen our working conditions and rights deteriorate dramatically and there is no improvement in sight. A strong no vote would send a message that thousands of educators know something is wrong.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Contract: What’s the Rush?

The tentative contract agreement reached on November 6 between the DOE and the UFT, comes almost a full year before the current contract expires. Within two days it was rushed through the negotiating committee and the Executive Board and brought before the UFT Delegate Assembly. Most delegates had little chance to take a hard look at the details of the contract or inquire into the many questions that it raises. They certainly weren't given any time to consult with their school chapters. Why the rush? Did the UFT leadership want to get the contract signed, sealed and delivered before members had a chance to read between the lines and discover what may be lurking behind the "great gains" portrayed by the UFT and the news media?

The City is Flush

During previous negotiations we have grown accustomed to the mayor crying about the city's poverty, but let's take a look at the current fiscal condition of the city:

In the fiscal year that ended in June, the city had a budget surplus of $3.5 billion after predicting at the start of the year that there would be a shortfall of over $7 billion. For the current year the mayor expects a small surplus but come June the likelihood is that it will be much larger if the last few years serve as a guide to how accurate the mayor is in his estimates.

The stock market has risen greatly this year and this will enable the city to greatly reduce the amount it must contribute to meet its pension obligations.

The Campaign for Fiscal Equity's (CFE) lawsuit will certainly be settled shortly as a result of the recent election results. This will provide the DOE with additional school funding of more that $1 billion a year.

In these circumstances we should expect our union to bargain for a contract that would start to make up for lost ground economically and at a minimum relieve some of the pain foist upon us as a result of the last contract. So how does this proposed contract measure up?

Scraps From The Table

Despite the rosy financial picture for the city, the UFT leadership has agreed to raises that do not come close to even meeting the rate of inflation.

Raises of 7% over two years

The Consumer Price Index (CPI), which measures inflation, has risen 5.2% in the first nine months of the year in the NYC metropolitan region

No raise during the last 18 months of the contract

Lump sum payment of $750 to be paid in January

A cynical person might conclude that getting a lump sum payment ten months before the old contract has expired could be a means of getting swift approval of the contract or that this payment will be made just a couple of months before the citywide UFT leadership elections take place. Perhaps they could save the city some time and money and just send the checks out along with the ballots.


The decision on whether or not to approve the proposed contract must be made with all the facts in front of us, but right now there is a lot that is not known. In the current tentative agreement we are being asked to reach a decision before all of the facts are known. Let's remember that we have still not gotten the 25-55 year retirement that was supposed to have been won in our last contract. Will the 7% raise turn out to be much less?

For the first time in UFT history a clause has been inserted into the agreement which specifies that negotiations will take place with the city and its unions with the aim of reducing health costs to the city and that the resulting agreement will not be voted on by the membership. In the past the Municipal Labor Council has negotiated changes to health insurance by tinkering with co-payments and deductibles, but the fact that this is being put into the contract for the first time implies that what is now going to be discussed will result in far greater impact to the membership. The mayor has made it very clear that he intends to force city workers to pay a much larger share towards the cost of providing our health insurance. We must keep in mind that the demand on the Transit Workers Union (TWU) was for them to pay 1 1/2% of their salary towards the cost of health care each year. If that becomes the new pattern for all of the unions we will lose a significant chunk of the 7%.

In the press release issued by the mayor's office announcing the agreement, there was a section talking about the increases being provided to the UFT Welfare Fund and the initiation of a new five-year longevity increase. The section was preceded by the following: "in order to address specific needs, the UFT generated internal funding to provide the following benefits." What does this mean? Are there agreements that have been made that we will find out about later?

Our union leaders are playing on our fear of something worse to get us to take the money and run. But UFT members must ask why Randi Weingarten and Mayor Bloomberg are in such a rush to have this contract - negotiated in a questionably short time – written into stone long before the expiration of the old one.

No Fightback For The Givebacks

Our union leaders, who don't work in the schools, have turned their backs on the increasingly difficult working conditions and loss of rights that union members have to face for the foreseeable future since there is NOTHING in the contract that deals with the tremendous givebacks. The approval of this contract will mean that we will live under our present conditions for three (instead of one) more years until October, 2009. These include a longer school day (which has not benefited our students) and school year and the stripping of protections against excessing or unsatisfactory letters in the file. It does nothing to give us weapons to fight back against abusive administrators. It does nothing to protect the thousands of us that will possibly face the closing of our schools that are deemed to be "failing" so they can be reorganized - the old staff excessed and left on their own to find other jobs or become day to day subs despite the number of years worked in the system. There is not a teacher in NYC that is safe from this happening to them. To add insult to injury, the new contract calls for the DOE to offer buyouts to those people who have not found a job after a year as a day to day sub. The price has not been set and will be left to some third party to decide. Can you imagine the pressures that will confront a teacher in that situation to accept the offer even if it means giving up their chosen career? The UFT puts this forward as a gain instead of the threat it is to every UFT member's job.

Diminished Expectations

It is a union's job to fight for better working conditions, not roll over and play dead like they have with this contract. It is only because the expectations of UFT members are so low as a result of the last few contracts and the abuses they have faced throughout the system without any noticeable protection from the UFT that this contract is being viewed as acceptable. It is a sign of how weak and mismanaged this union really is. Do we really trust that this leadership will fight for us in the next contract?

Sunday, November 12, 2006


As you ponder your vote on the proposed Contract that is basically asking us to extend the worst Contract ever for nearly three more years (almost a year remaining on the old one and two on the extension), ICE asks that you to take our Contract quiz.

Part I-- Givebacks from 2005 that continue in the two year extension that will last through 2009

  • Are you happy coming back to school in August?

    Yes No

  • Are you content knowing that NYC educators have the longest school year (190 days) in the entire NY metropolitan region?

    Yes No

  • Are you satisfied with the 37.5 minute small group instructional period that most schools have to endure four days a week?

    Yes No

  • Are you delighted with hall patrol and cafeteria patrol for teachers?

    Yes No

  • Are you thrilled that UFT members are now considered guilty until proven innocent and can be suspended without pay for 90 days for certain offenses?

    Yes No

  • Are you filled with joy knowing that administration can write anything they want and put it in your personnel file and you can't file a grievance to get it out?

    Yes No

  • Are you glad that administration can write unfair/inaccurate observation reports and you can't grieve them?

    Yes No

  • Are you rejoicing over the fact that transfers are now based on the whims of principals as opposed to hiring committees made up of a majority teachers or seniority as they were in the past?

    Yes No

  • Are you elated knowing that if you are excessed you have no right to a job and new people can be hired while you are demoted to a substitute (absent teacher reserve)?

    Yes No

  • Are you pleased knowing that if your school is closed or redesigned you no longer have preferred placement and can be stuck as a substitute (ATR) while new people are hired?

    Yes No

  • Are you satisfied with a shorter break if you are a school secretary or more work time every day if you are a lab specialist, social worker or guidance counselor?

    Yes No

Part II—The new two year extension of the worst contract ever that will last through 2009.

  • When the city has billions of dollars in surplus revenues as the Stock Market sets new records, should UFT members settle for salary increases (2% in 2007 along with a $750 bonus, 5% in 2008, 0% in 2009) that do not even keep up with the current NY area annual inflation rate of 5.2%?

    Yes No

  • Do we need Randi if a kindergarten student could go in with the city, present the DC 37 settlement and say, "Me too," and get it based on 30 years of precedent saying when one city union settles, the other unions are guaranteed to receive roughly the same percentage raises without givebacks? (The DC 37 pattern settlement was 6% over 20 months; UFT's extends it a few more months to make it 7.1 %.)

    Yes No

  • Is now the right time to settle the Contract right before Governor Elect Spitzer says he will soon settle the 14 year old Campaign for Fiscal Equity suit so there should be an influx of funds headed to the city schools?

    Yes No

  • The NY Times reported on November 7 that Mayor Bloomberg wants "separate talks aimed at achieving crucial savings and healthcare and pension costs." Should we give Randi Weingarten and Bloomberg a "blank check" to charge us for health insurance that is now free and not let us vote on any changes as we have in the last two Contracts?

    Yes No

  • Should we agree on a new Contract when the City still has not convinced the State to come through on a 25 years in the system and 55 year old retirement plan that was promised in the last contract?

    Yes No

  • DC 37 members won the right to live outside of the city in the current round of collective bargaining. Are these provisions actually gains for us?

-A new provision saying we won't get a letter for our file if charges of corporal punishment are "unsubstantiated" If charges are not substantiated, you don't get a file letter reprimanding you now.

-A new committee to reduce paper work on top of the two committees we already have in Article 8I

-A second Peer Intervention Program in addition to the one we already have but the new program is not confidential and can be used against us in 3020A hearings?

Yes No

  • Should we allow the city to offer a "voluntary" severance package that is irrevocable for people who are excessed through no fault of their own and can't find regular assignments because they are not politically connected?

    Yes No

  • If we continue not asserting ourselves, do you think the next Mayor will be any better to us when the city's labor commissioner has been James Hanley since David Dinkins was Mayor?

    Yes No

  • Have you been so beaten down by the school system that you are not willing to stand up for your rights and win back what was robbed from us?

    Yes No

Answer key:

The correct answer for every question is NO.


Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Sale Ends Today!

by John Elfrank-Dana, Chapter Leader, Murry Bergtraum High School

Ever been in an appliance store and were not certain about that big purchase? You wanna go home and think about it. But the salesman says, “The sale ends today!” Then you go, “Oh, what the hell!” and whip out that credit card. You weren’t sure, but it’s done. Now we’re being asked to decide something else in haste.

A new contract!!

Whew, that’s a relief. No more worries for two years! After taking a beating the last time your sighs of relief are well understood. But, does this contract have its own uncertainty built in? Look deep down the list of provisions to #17. It says that the bargaining of our health care benefits will be under the purview of the Municipal Labor Committee. The UFT leadership says it’s no big deal; that it’s practically always been that way. So, if that’s the case, why’s it in the Memorandum of Agreement? Something must have changed. Why haven’t we gotten an explanation to this question from the union? In a search for answers there are two pieces of information you need to look at; one from the New York Times and the other from the DOE itself.

In a November 8th article in the Metro section the Times stated that Randi Weingarten promised the mayor she’d help find a way for the city to save on health care costs. The DOE announced that the new teacher contract would be paid for by internal savings from the UFT. Wait a minute! What do they mean by “internal savings”? Could it mean that we will be paying health care premiums where we didn’t have to before and more in premiums for those already paying? I wonder how many months of health care premiums $750.00 would pay for. Or, that will be $750 MINUS the taxes, so about $590.00 worth of health care premiums. Say, a month or two? Given the catastrophic costs of health care, it’s plausible all of our so-called raise (about 3.5 percent a year, minus an average of 4 percent inflation leaves you at NEGATIVE .5). Ok, let’s call it a partial COLA, that doesn’t keep up with the one set by Social Security, which just went up 4.1 percent for 2006.

We said “NO” to a contract offer about ten years ago. Sandy Feldman had to go back and renegotiate. And that was against Giuliani! Remember him? Guess what? WE GOT A BETTER DEAL! The same arguments were made then: the mayor is tough and the economy even tougher. Well, maybe Bloomberg is tough too, but now the city is flush.

Could it be that Randi wants a quick deal because she’s up for reelection a few months after you get your $590 of chump change on January 2, 2007?

Add to this the following points:

1. There isn’t a single provision in this agreement that helps us at the school. No movement to reduce over- crowding, placing ATRs in classrooms to reduce class size, nothing to win the support of parents and to better serve our students.

2. The buyout of ATRs (likely victims of age discrimination in hiring under the new plan) could be opening the way for a future mandatory buyout. Who knows how much they will offer? Another unanswered question.

But there’s one thing you can be certain of from the contract- You’ll still be coming to work in August instead of September.

Precedent is being set and we don’t even have all the answers.

What’s the rush? The sale ends today!

Friday, November 10, 2006

Transit Workers Set a Precedent of Paying for Health Care. New UFT Contract: Could we be Next to Pay?

2002 and 2005 UFT Contracts settled any health care changes beforehand and were attached to Agreements. Read the language for yourself below this article.

The new language in the 2007 Agreement is different from what we had in the past two Agreements. Furthermore, in our old Contract in Article 3G1 it says, "The Board agrees to arrange for, and make available to each day school teacher, a choice of health and hospital insurance coverage from among designated plans and the Board agrees to pay the full cost of such coverage." (emphasis added by us)

The new Agreement would seem to potentially eliminate this robust provision. We don't think we are being paranoid in saying that the Contract that we were presented with to vote on this week is incomplete and if we approve it, we are giving Randi a "blank check" to force us into payroll deductions for basic health care that is now free. Look at how co-pays for drugs and doctor visits have risen in recent years. While we acknowledge that Article 3G permitted the city and union to incorporate changes into the health agreement, we never had language talking about a future "cost containment initiative."

What does this mean?

Shouldn't we be able to see what it means before we vote on the Contract?

The transit workers were able to vote as part of their contract package on whether they should have to pay for health benefits that previously were free. All we're asking is for UFT leaders to be open with us about this issue. When we raised the subject at the Executive Board, we were accused of fear mongering by Randi. We just want to be told the entire story.

The NY Times printed an article Wednesday, November 8 entitled, "New York Looks at Worker's Health Costs." The first line says, "After announcing a tentative contract with the teachers' union late Monday, the Bloomberg administration signaled yesterday that its next major negotiating goal was to achieve savings on health coverage for 300,000 municipal workers. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is quoted in the Times article as saying, "Randi [Weingarten] has said a number of times she has a commitment to try to see if the city can't provide better benefits more economically." Later in the article the Times says, "In the past, Mr. Bloomberg has said he would like to persuade the unions to have municipal workers start paying part of the premiums for health coverage." It seems perfectly reasonable to worry that other city unions are having a clause like our Section 17 (see below) in their Agreements and that when enough unions settle, Randi as head of the MLC will then negotiate away our free health coverage and there's nothing we will be able to do about it.

We're not the private sector. Many UFT members settled for lower salaries to be able to work with young people as well as to get stable benefits and some degree of job security. Tenure protections have been steadily eroded in our Contracts. Lately so have our health benefits. The city has 300,000 workers. It can afford large group rates. With the city swimming in black ink, there is no reason to even consider health benefit modifications. Does anyone at Unity ever mention how higher co-pays for drugs and health care have eaten into our supposed huge salary increases? Meanwhile, many more of us are going to need the health plans because the abysmal working conditions we toil under are making us sick. One thing we can all do to stop this:

Vote No!!

2002 Contract Section 5-Health Insurance and Welfare Fund

"a. The Health Benefits Agreement, dated January 11, 2001, is deemed to be part of this Agreement. The side letter agreement between the City Commissioner of Labor relations James F. Hanley and UFT President Randi Weingarten, dated February 8, 2001, is deemed to be part of this Agreement. Pursuant to those Agreements the parties have agreed to a series of payments to the Welfare Fund. Such payments are delineated in APPENDIX B.

b. Pursuant to the Municipal Labor Coalition Benefits Agreement, the Union Welfare Fund shall provide welfare fund benefits equal to the benefits provided on behalf of an active welfare-covered employee to widow(ers), domestic partners and/or children of any active welfare -covered employee who dies in the line of duty as that term is referenced in Section 12-126(b)(2) of the New York City Administrative Code. The cost of providing this benefit shall be funded by the Stabilization Fund."

2005 Contract Section 5-Health Insurance and Welfare Fund

"The Health Benefits Agreement, dated July 22, 2005, is deemed to be part of this Agreement. The side letter agreements between the City Commissioner of Labor Relations James F. Hanley and UFT President Randi Weingarten, dated June 30, 2004 and July 13, 2005, are deemed to be part of this Agreement."

Now look at the change in language on health insurance from the new Agreement which has been split into two sections.

2007 Agreement- Section 5 Welfare Funds

(This section describes Welfare Fund Improvements paid for according to the Department of Education with "UFT generated internal funding." What does UFT generated internal funding mean?)

2007 Agreement- Section 17 Continuation of Certain Health Benefits

"The parties acknowledge that collective bargaining regarding health benefits is within the purview of negotiations between the Municipal Labor Committee and the City. Cost-containment initiatives and program modifications in the City Health Benefits program shall be discussed with the Municipal Labor Committee."

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Tentative UFT/DOE 2007-2009 Contract at a Glance

Oct 13, 2007 to Oct 31, 2009 (2 years 18 days) 4 months 13 days longer than DC 37 Settlement

Givebacks from Last Contract Remain in Full Force
No improvements in teaching or learning conditions.
Hall and Cafeteria duty remains.
No ability to grieve unfair/inaccurate material in personnel files.
No ability to grieve unfair/inaccurate observation reports.
37.5 minute small group instruction period continues four days a week.
Longest school year in the region with 190 days continues that includes school in Aug.
Transfers for teachers subject to whims of principals.
Excessed teachers have no right for placement in a vacancy.
Teachers from schools that are closed or redesigned have no rights to be placed in a vacancy.
Members accused of certain acts are still guilty until proven innocent & can be suspended without pay.

Wages and Benefits
$750 one-time lump sum payment on Jan 2, 2007
2% effective Oct. 13, 2007
5% effective May 19, 2008
0% final seventeen months and twelve days of the Agreement
New five year longevity: $1,000 for teachers with 5-9 years experience and $500 for paras starts May 19, 2007
Direct Deposit for all new employees.
With this agreement UFT member salaries have increased at roughly the same rate as every other city employee over the last thirty years except we are working ten percent more time for 10% extra..
Increase in city contribution to our Welfare Fund to allow a $1,000 per family annual drug co-pay cap.
Per session activity maximums increase by twelve sessions.
Secretaries and Lab specialists hired after July 1, 1985 are eligible for restoration of health sabbatical leaves.
Transit-Chek program extended to include LIRR, LI MTA buses and Metro-North.

Healthcare & Pension Negotiations Incomplete
According to the November 7, 2006 NY Times, Bloomberg wants “separate talks aimed at achieving crucial savings on health care and pension costs, which have climbed in recent years.”
Contract assigns to the Municipal Labor Committee a “blank check” to negotiate cost containment initiatives and program modifications to City Health Benefits Program that are not subject to our approval.
If MLC agrees with Mayor, UFT members will not vote on any potential mandatory health care contributions. (Transit workers were able to vote on whether or not to contribute 1.5% of their salary for health benefits.)

They’re Giving us Sand in the Desert Provisions
If charges of corporal punishment or verbal abuse are not substantiated, UFT members won’t get a letter for the file. Currently, members should not get a file letter if charges are not substantiated.
New paperwork reduction committee on top of the two that already exist in Article 8I.
New Peer Intervention program (we already have one); new PIP is not confidential and can be used in 3020A.

Voluntary Buy-outs for Excessed Staff
The DOE may offer a voluntary severance package (the amount of which still must be decided) to all excessed personnel who have not secured regular assignments after a year. Excessed staff who accept the package must resign or retire “irrevocably”.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Negotiating Committee Approves Virtual Extension of Giveback Contract

In a vote with 3 members voting in opposition the negotiation committee agreed to a tentative deal, last night, with the DOE almost one year before our current sellout contract expires. The details of the agreement provide for a pattern increase (Randi will spin that this is larger but the contract is now extended for 24 months instead of the DC 37 pattern of 20 months.)

What is most disturbing is the failure of the negotiating committee to put before the DA a contract which deals with any of the givebacks of our current contract. We still can't grieve letters or go to step 2. We still have the 37 minutes and 6th teaching periods disguised as Circular 6 not to mention potty patrol and loss of seniority transfers and erosion of our workplace rights. The negotiating committee did not deal with the current pain that our members go through each and every day.

We lost the right to even question administrative decisions and we stand at the mercy of anti-union principals who control through intimidation. I guess in the final analysis we lost any attempt to return to the professionalism teaching once proudly exhibited.

The new contract proposal contains some items of concern which have been termed by Randi as "gains." These include a voluntary severance package to get rid of ATR's who have not found a job in a year. The right to have an outside person evaluate your lesson and have that report admitted at a hearing to terminate you. And of course a wonderful provision which basically waives our right to bargain about health benefits and gives this power to the Municipal Labor Committee. That, of course, means that we will never vote on any loss of valuable medical benefits.

It is clear that our Union's leadership believes that we are incapable of organizing our members, a promise that was made early on.Why settle a contract with one year to go this time and wait over two years last time? It is clear that the contract will be rammed through so that the membership will forget our current contract when the UFT elections are held next spring.

Why else is there such a rush?

The Executive Board meets Tuesday at 10 AM and the DA will have it on Wednesday. (Wow, are we lucky we reserved the Hilton. It's like we knew what was coming down the pike).

We can do better. Let the negotiatiors negotiate. Don't rubber stamp a contract that gives us nothing but the pattern and institutionalizes further the givebacks we current toil under.

Vote No!

Saturday, November 04, 2006



by James Eterno

ICE has no problem with the economic demands which the UFT Delegate Assembly endorsed for us, in coalition with other city unions, to advocate for in bargaining with the City. The economic demands, if achieved, would be a decent settlement and might actually even beat the rate of inflation. We voted for the economic demands at the the Executive Board and the Delegate Assembly.

We also believed that the very limited non-economic demands that were put forward last month were part of our coalition strategy to work to get us a gain equal to DC 37's workers no longer having to reside in the city. (We already have that benefit.) We didn't think these demands were the complete list for the whole Contract and we don't recall ever taking a vote anywhere that authorized Randi Weingarten to close a final deal on an entire new Contract. However, with authorization to negotiate only an economic package, it appears that Randi is working to close a complete deal on a new Contract, not just a salary increase. This is a classic bait and switch. Bait us with money and then switch to make it a negotiation for the whole Contract so we can never talk about trying to win back what we gave away in the last round of bargaining. That's not what we sent her to do.

The DA never voted to authorize the negotiating committee to negotiate a complete Contract deal.

Our position is that we should attempt to get an economic package together as soon as we can and later work to achieve all of the non economic advancements we need such as fixing the excessing provision so excessed teachers get placed before new hires, winning back the right to file grievances for unfair letters in the file, ending cafeteria duty, getting rid of school in August, etc... If the money is settled, we could even ask for lower class sizes as we could battle with the Board of Ed and the issue would not be salary increases so we could easily garner public support. Imagine a contract fight that was not about money. We will be bargaining for better learning conditions for the students.

Unfortunately, the Unity bait and switch strategy may get us to a finished Contract before we know it and that would be a disaster for all of us. Forcing educators and students to endure two or three more years with this Contract's awful working conditions may be the death knell for many NYC schools. By the time the Contract ends, the UFT will be more of a dues collecting organization than a union and tens of thousands of educators may just give up all hope.

Finally, for those who say that we have to settle the Contract now or Mayor Bloomberg may pull the money, this is non sense. The DC 37 pattern 6% over 20 months without givebacks will be there for us. There are 30 years of precedent that says when one union sets a pattern for a settlement, then other unions are guaranteed that same pattern. We could send a kindergarten student in to negotiate and all he/she would have to do is present the DC 37 deal to the city and say, "Me too." We don't need to pay Randi and her team to do that.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Chapter Votes Unanimously to Win Back the Givebacks!!

Jamaica Chapter News
October 30, 2006
by James Eterno


As per suggestion from UFT President Randi Weingarten, the Jamaica High School Chapter did not distribute but rather we discussed the UFT’s bargaining demands for the next Contract at Friday’s Chapter Meeting in the library where there was standing room only. Even though the current Contract does not expire until October 12, 2007, the UFT is in a coalition with other unions to try to negotiate economic and some non economic matters.

After the demands were presented to the body, Debbie Saal noted that the UFT did not ask to win back any of the givebacks from our latest Contract. The Chapter seemed revolted by this fact. Debbie proposed that the UFT demand that we take back what we gave away in the last round of negotiations. These take-backs would include:

A full summer vacation, no school before Labor Day

Preferred placements in vacancies for members if a school is closed or reorganized

Right to fill a vacant position if a member is excessed

Transfers based upon seniority and/or School Based Options Committees, a majority of who are UFT members

Chapter leaders collaborate, not merely consultation with principal, on professional activities menu

Hall patrols and cafeteria duty strictly prohibited by contract

Members will be allowed to grieve unfair/inaccurate material in their files

Members will be allowed to grieve unfair/inaccurate observation reports

No member shall be suspended without pay based upon probable cause of serious misconduct or sexual misconduct (members are innocent until proven guilty)

No expedited 3020A hearings for time and attendance matters

The end to the 37.5 minute small group instruction period they have in many schools.

Eric Chasanoff seconded the motion to take back the givebacks and Bob Klugman third, fourth and fifthed the proposal. A full discussion followed with the only reservation being that we separate the economic from non economic demands since some will cost us money that could be taken from a potential pay increase. It was agreed to prioritize them. Some of the math teachers pointed out that in the last two Contracts we have added about a month's worth of extra teaching time (extended day and year) but we were never fully compensated for that time as our sick days remain at a NY Metropolitan area low of ten per year.

Mike Pallisco summed it all up when he made the following statement that could be our rallying cry: “A bad Contract is a bad Contract; let’s fix it.” You can’t get something if you don’t ask for it so the Chapter voted unanimously after the discussion to demand that the UFT take back the givebacks. Later in the day the same proposal to win back the givebacks was made by me and unanimously endorsed by the Independent Community of Educators (ICE). It should be noted that the city and the coalition including the UFT are in serious negotiations for new Contracts. More details will follow on this issue soon.


We would like to Know if your Chapter is Discussing Them

By James Eterno

The UFT has submitted its bargaining demands for a new contract, even though our current contract does not expire for about a year. We have done this because we are in a coalition with 16 unions for economic demands for the next round of bargaining. The UFT presented the demands to the delegates who approved them at the last DA.

Randi then asked us to go back to our chapters and have a meeting to discuss the demands, instead of printing them. We have heard reports that some schools are discussing the demands but many are not.

ICE urges rank and file members to ask that their chapter leaders have a meeting to discuss the bargaining demands, both economic and non economic if they have not yet done so. We will not print them so as to honor the president's request that they not be printed and distributed but we would like people to have discussions in chapter meetings. We discussed the demands at an ICE meeting as did the Jamaica HS Chapter where we had a full debate and vote.

Please tell us if your chapter is discussing the contract.

Thursday, October 19, 2006


At the October 17 Executive Board and October 18 Delegate Assembly, Randi and Unity once again showed their clear biases. Randi created excuses nobody ever dreamed of to ensure that non Unity people cannot win Chapter elections on Tuesday and she stalled for so long on Wednesday that delegates were never allowed to vote on restoring union democracy in the hiring of District Representatives.

Two Chapters filed appeals of the Spring 2007 Chapter Elections to the Executive Board . Grady High School had a challenge to a Delegate election and Forest Hills High School had a Chapter Leader Election challenge. The UFT Constitutition empowers the Executive Board to settle such appeals.

At Grady the main question to be decided was how to proceed if candidates are disqualified from running for Teacher Delegate positions. For years Grady allowed two non teachers (a paraprofessional and a guidance counselor) to be Teacher Delegates. This obviously violated the UFT Constitution. What is very strange is that this obviously unconstitutional arrangement was condoned by then chapter leader Michael Mulgrew who was subsequently promoted to UFT Vice President for Vocational and Technical High Schools by the Unity machine. If a chapter leader didn't know that only teachers can serve as teacher delegates or blatantly chose to ignore the rules for years, it leads us to question his competence or his judgement. After Jeff Kaufman pointed out Mulgrew's obvious negligence, many of the members in the audience at the Executive Board were asking, "WHAT DID VP MULGREW KNOW AND WHEN DID HE KNOW IT?"

Interestingly, Weingarten took a Point of Personal Privilege and proceeded to shoot off a vicious personal attack against Jeff Kaufman instead of addressing Mulgrew's actions. When the body finally returned to the Grady issue, there was some interesting debate because the UFT Election Rules are silent about what to do if nominees are disqualified after an election takes place. Do the qualified nominees who had the next most votes win or is it proper to have new nominations and a new election? Unity decided to make up new rules and allow for a second election to take place. Would they have created a new rule to have a second election if the people who ended up winning election number one were members of the Unity Caucus? We doubt it. The Forest Hills High School fiasco proves our point that Unity actions have nothing to do with democracy and everything to do with pushing the Unity political agenda.

At Forest Hills, veteran Chapter Leader Barbara Kaplan-Halper ( also a member of the UFT Executive Board elected from ICE) was out sick for much of last year. Her temporary replacement was Eddie Mesadore who didn't bother to have some of the new teachers sign up to join the UFT. Mesadore was courted by Unity and had nothing to do with any opposition caucuses so the Union obviously had a favorite candidate when Mesadore decided to challenge Kaplan-Halper for Chapter Leader last spring. The first election resulted in a tie. The Forest Hills High School Election Committee on advisement from the UFT decided to run a second election on June 23. The second election was meticulously run by the Election Committee and it was another close vote (95-95) except that there was a disputed ballot that was set aside. After all the votes were counted, the Election Committee ruled that the person who had made a scribble in the Mesadore box and then a clear X in the Kaplan-Halper box had voted for Kaplan-Halper. The Committee declared Kaplan-Halper the winner 96 to 95. There were two challenges: one questioning the disputed ballot and the second questioning who was eligible to vote. The Election Committee scrupulously made sure that only union members could vote so they were not worried as they had been calling the UFT to make sure only proper UFT members were voting.

Instead of investigating if ineligible voters cast ballots and looking at the challenged ballot, Queens Borough Representative Harolyn Fritz overturned Kaplan-Halper's victory. She told Barbara, Jeff Kaufman, Norman Scott and James Eterno who met with her that she was following the election rules of the American Arbitration Association in voiding the disputed ballot that she never saw. We examined AAA election rules and there is nothing about voiding ballots that have scribble in a box. Fritz told us there were no other issues. She then ordered a third election to be run by the Queens Office and they put a notice in mailboxes while people were attending the school's graduation stating that there were irregularities in election two and there would be a third election the next day. This angered the Election Committee who had already certified the second election but it pleased the administration as Barbara is known as a strong chapter leader. One of the assistant principals gave an endorsement of Mesadore in a Department meeting. Mesadore won a close third election but many of Kaplan Halper's frustrated supporters had seen enough by then. Barbara challenged Fritz's decision to void election 2.

At the Executive Board, Randi did the best job of obfuscation that many eyes have ever seen. She talked about anything but the second election which Kaplan-Halper clearly won in order to try to make a motion for a fourth election if irregularities in election 3 could be proven. Once again she sparred with Kaufman who demanded that the disputed ballot in election 2 be counted and that Barbara's election be upheld. Two members of the Forest Hills Election Committee supported Jeff. Randi and the Unity disciples finally decided to set up a "Tripartite Committee" to examine all of the issues in the Forest Hills Elections.

What's next for Randi: Drinks with Catherine Harris to discuss stealing elections? As Barbara Kaplan-Halper is from ICE, it looks as though Unity will do whatever it takes to make sure she doesn't win.

Unfortunately, that's not all folks. At Wednesday's Delegate Assembly Meeting, Randi ran out the clock better than a football team with a small lead that wants to hold the ball until time runs out . Randi spent time allowing a number of speakers from outside to address the body and she even extended the question period. We spent about an hour discussing a resolution that had support from over 99% of the delegates. Ironically, we had two speakers tell us how important it is to vote in the November elections and another came in to plug his political party. All of this prevented the delegates from having a discussion on union democracy as the issue of electing UFT District Representatives or continuing top-down appointments from President Weingarten wasn't addressed because time ran out.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Letter-in-File Grievances, R.I.P.

One of the worst givebacks in our current contract was the right, under Article 21A, to grieve letters in the file. We have addressed this loss in the past but today, I had the rare opportunity to participate in one of the last letter-in-the-file arbitrations we shall ever see unless we win this valuable right back.

Under Article 21A supervisors can include in your personnel file letters of a disciplinary or negative nature limited only by whether they were "unfair" or "inaccurate." In past contracts any unfairness or inaccuracy would invalidate the whole letter. Under more recent contracts this was watered down to allow the arbitrator to change the improper parts.

With our new contract, of course, there is no right to grieve these letters. The principal can write anything he/she wishes without fear that a grievance procedure will change or delete the letter. When the U-rating is given the letter can theoretically be challenged but U-rating appeals are run by DOE supervisors. They will clearly not provide the forum to remove the letters that our Union has been so successful in doing at arbitrations. (According to Gary Rabinowitz, Special Rep in charge of LIF Arbitrations, the Union had a 50% success rate at arbitration).

At the time of the present contract's implementation there were a number of letter-in-file grievances at Step III. The Union and DOE agreed that these grievances would all be heard at "expedited" arbitrations. Today, I participated in two of these.

While there are some very fundamental problems in which LIF grievances are (should I say were) handled there is no doubt how empowering the procedure is to the member and the Chapter. The principal and assistant principal, who were after one member of my chapter, had to explain and testify to support what they had written. The grievant and I then explained and testified what really happened.

The grievant received a U-rating based on these letters so if the arbitrator removes or changes the letters in a favorable way she will be able to keep her job. It is difficult to predict what the arbitrator will do but at least she had a fair opportunity to confront her supervisors and demonstrate that these unfair and inaccurate letters should be removed.

I explained to my member that this arbitration existed in the "twilight zone" and that if the letters were written today she would only have the U-rating appeal to deal with the letters.

She gazed at me quizzically and said, "Why, in the hell, would anyone have voted for this contract?"

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Q&A on Edwize, the UFT Blog

We were recently contacted by a member of the media to respond to questions about the UFT's blog, Edwize. The following are the questions and the answers we submitted:

Q.: According to UFT staff, Edwize was intended to be a vehicle for the UFT to join the debate about education policy. It was not intended to be a space for discussion of internal union politics. However, before and during the contract vote last year, Edwize became a forum for discussion of the contract. Is this accurate?

A.: Edwize not only supported the contract but vehemently attacked the opposition. Some of the attacks were personal.

Q.: Is Edwize a valuable resource for you and other UFTers? Why? What should Edwize be that it is not, in your view?

A.: Edwize is viewed by a handful of people since it was clear, early on, that it was an uncritical mouthpiece for the then current union policies. It is clearly partisan and those members who view it, know this.

Q.: Was Edwize an important forum for debate of the contract? What were the limits? What were the benefits? Did rank-and-file members who were not already activists talk about Edwize and content posted there?

A.:While the main posts were in total support of the contract certain comments were deleted. There was a clear agenda and they did not hide it.

Q.: Did you experience any censorship of your views on Edwize?

A.: See above.

Q.: Should Edwize be a forum for discussion/debate in the upcoming UFT elections?

A.: While the opposition does not need this forum I sincerely believe they will keep far away from election issues for fear of the LMDRA. They do not want their messages seriously questioned.

Q.: Edwize does not link to ICE-UFT, as far as I can tell. Have you asked them to link to your site?

A.: That is correct. I asked the person in charge early on to link us and other teacher sites since their list of sites seemed to be quite extensive. I was politely told that the blog was "not for partisanship." Chalk one up for anti-Union Democracy.

Q.: Any other comments?

The ICE-UFT blog was started shortly after Edwize began. We are consulted by many of our members and the media as the only clear opposition to UFT-Unity politics. We support our Union but not its leadership and all of us work very hard to force our leadership to allow the Union to become more democratic. When we question Union policy we are labeled, on Edwize and elsewhere, as anti-union. While we have a small presence on the Executive Board we are effective in raising critical issues to our members. Our blog has been a strong voice in that effort.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Executive Board Report



UFT district representatives provide direct services to chapter leaders and members within a particular school district. The Unity dominated UFT Executive Board after a spirited debate on Monday voted to continue the corporate style top-down system where President Randi Weingarten appoints district representatives while a newly created committee will study the issue of whether it's better for the Union to have elections for DR positions or to continue the present undemocratic hiring system.

The corporate style presidential appointment system has been in effect since 2003 when Unity used the excuse that the Board of Education was restructuring to cancel DR elections and allow Randi to appoint people to vacant DR positions. We know of no non-Unity member who has been selected by Randi for a District Rep position or any other full time Union job for pedagogues for that matter. Their message is clear that if one is not willing to sign the Unity loyalty pledge, forget about working full time for the UFT.

ICE strongly endorses elections for district representatives. Between 1969 and 2003, DR's were elected on a weighted vote of chapter leaders within a district; the more members a chapter had, the more votes the chapter leader had in the DR election. While this system was not perfect, it functioned well enough so that the accountability for DR's was to the chapter leaders who the district representatives serviced directly, not to Randi. The problem for Unity was that two non Unity chapter leaders were elected to district representative positions: Bruce Markens and then Tom Dromgoole when Bruce retired. Even though the overwhelming majority of the DR's were Unity, two non Unity DR's were too many so Unity used the excuse of the Board restructuring to cancel DR elections in 2003. (Districts still exist by state law.)

Unity sun-setted the 2003 district representative resolution every year and so they had to annually renew it. They overlooked that detail this past June and were caught off guard when Jeff Kaufman from ICE raised the issue on September 11 and told the Executive Board that the President was making illegal appointments since the end of June. Kaufman called for immediate DR elections. Two weeks later Unity had a new District Representative resolution that will continue the top-down presidential appointment process until a committee that is formed by the resolution decides how to hire future DR's or what to replace them with. ICE-TJC Executive Board members were outraged. ICE doesn't want a committee; we need elections.

The ICE-TJC reps on the Executive Board all gave passionate speeches opposing the policy of Randi appointing DR's. James Eterno, Jeff Kaufman and Arthur Colon each spoke about how flawed the current DR hiring process is. Our reps pointed out how the UFT uses a committee to recommend candidates for a district rep vacancy to the president who makes the selection. It is similar to the C-30 process that the Board of Ed utilizes to hire school principals and assistant principals that the UFT constantly criticizes. The UFT in the past created two committees to advocate for reforms to the C-30 system. One of those UFT committees recommended that the Board or Ed allow staff in a school to elect their supervisors. Ironically, the UFT when hiring DR's now emulates the Board's hiring procedures that we called unfair.
In fact, the UFT goes one step further than the Board of Ed because the Board at least allows each constituency on a C-30 hiring committee (UFT, CSA, DC37, parents, students) to choose their own representatives. The UFT committees that submit names to Randi for DR jobs are hand picked by Unity. In addition, it was pointed out in debate that the UFT made a similar power grab back in 1994 after it lost a high school vice presidency to the opposition a few years earlier. Unity then changed the rules to allow at large voting so all UFT members, including retirees and non high school personnel, now vote for the HS VP, instead of only members working in the high schools. Finally out of complete frustration, one of the ICE reps asked Unity why they are so afraid of elections?

Unity argued that things must settle down before the committee created to examine this issue could decide how DR's should be selected. This is the same argument Rudy Giulliani made when he unsuccessfully tried to postpone the 2001 Mayoral election after 9-11. A Unity member even said that he works well with the two non-Unity DR's. (Those two were elected under the old system and would never have been selected under the current arrangement.)

Randi left the chair to debate from the floor and argued that the issue was about servicing the members and how best to do it. She urged opposition members not to boycott the committee that will decide on the selection process in the future. She then tried to resume chairing the debate but was forced to sit down when ICE protested that she cannot participate in debate and then moderate the same debate. Finally, a vote was taken and the overwhelming Unity majority obeyed their loyalty oath and voted to allow the President to continue to appoint DR's, instead of reverting to elections. The ICE-TJC members all dissented.

The only way this decision can be overruled is if the Delegate Assembly uses its power and decides to review the issue. We would like to hear from any delegate who advocates for Union democracy as this is a core issue that separates Unity from ICE.

On a positive note, the Executive Board on Monday voted unanimously to donate $50,000 to the Transport Workers Union Local 100. TWU is suffering under the draconian fines that were imposed after last year's transit strike.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

UFT Leadership Blinks: Still Refuses, However, to Admit Appointment of DRs Is Illegal

As reported here last week Randi could offer no explanation as to why selection of District Representatives was still being made even though the temporary resolution authorizing it expired last June. In the agenda for Monday's Executive Board meeting Randi and her leadership committee approved a resolution calling for the continuation of this illegal practice and the formation of a "bipartisan" committee to study the matter. They have no reason; no emergency; no strategy to explain why selection must continue. Rather they have to form a committee to dream up an excuse.

Study what? Whether democracy is better than autocratic rule?

The selection process for Queens High Schools District Representative is a prime example of how the appointment process passes over clearly competent candidates over a less qualifed applicant who is of course a member of the Unity Caucus. Just like the C-30 process the Union has fought to expose as a sham the DR selection process takes this bogus process one step further; there is no right for non-Unity members to take part in the process or be involved in the final decision making. Thus the "qualification" for DR becomes a competition for who is most loyal to their Unity pledge. And this is democracy?

If it weren't for Federal Law they would try to appoint all of the officers.

I am embarrassed to be part of an organization that touts democracy in other Unions and countries but shuts the door on a process that would make DRs accountable to the Chapter Leaders they serve and become more democratic.

I guess it's not hard to figure out why they want to restart the selection process.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Rikers Whistleblower Wins Small Victory in Case to Return Him to His School

What was supposed to be the first day of trial for Jeff Kaufman, Chapter Leader of Island Academy @ Rikers Island, in his bid to get his job back, became, instead, a small victory as the presiding judge ordered DOE to turn over essential documents for the case.

As you may recall Kaufman was removed from Rikers Island for allegedly engaging in “undue familiarity” as a pretext for his staunch union and organizing activities. The principal concluded that he had to be removed to protect the safety of the staff and inmates when Kaufman exposed how the school refused to provide credit for classes and other improprieties.

Kaufman requested that subpoenas be issued compelling the DOE and the DOC to produce documents which conclusively demonstrate that the principal and warden conspired to remove Kaufman from his teaching post and Chapter Leader position. The City submitted an aggressive opposition to the request which also called for the testimony of the Warden and other DOC officials as well as the Superintendent of the Alternative High School District.

Despite the opposition, all of the subpoenas were signed. The City’s delay in producing the documents has caused a delay in the trial. The next scheduled date has not been set.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Executive Board Report: 09-11-06

Randi to Executive Board “I Don’t Have To Answer Your Stinkin’ Questions About District Rep Elections.”

In a stunning show of arrogance, UFT President Weingarten refused to answer a simple question about why District Reps are still appointed rather than elected when there is no longer any legal authority for it.

A little background. Back in 2004 when the DOE reorganized the Districts into regions the UFT leadership used this as an excuse to end the practice of elections for District Reps. The resolution which passed was billed as “temporary measure” and expired at the end of the school year in June 2005.

The following year the UFT leadership still believed that elections were undemocratic and insisted on continuing the practice of appointing District Reps although there was no plausible reason to do so. A “temporary resolution” was repeated with the expiration date at the end of school in June 2006.

No resolutions were made and we thought it reverted back to elections.


Randi was asked a simple question tonight as to why appointments were continuing without authorization. A call to revoke the illegal appointments was made (Several DRs were appointed over the summer including Queens HS and several Districts). Randi blasted back with a question as to why we didn’t object last June when the Queens District Rep position was being interviewed. Easy…it was legal then. It isn’t now.

Randi, play by the rules…even those that are stacked up in your favor!

The bottom line is that appointment of DRs is clearly undemocratic and violative of the fair and equitable treatment of our members.

In other Executive Board antics that would make a spin doctor dizzy it was announced that our wonderful contract has yielded an unprecedented number of transfers and U-ratings are about the same as last year. Knowing that a principal has unbridled power to make staff life intolerable under our “wonderful contract” demonstrates that these unverified statistics do not mesh with our experience. Spin on guys but eventually you will be tossed off.

Randi made some more promises to teachers in the rubber room. What they need is proper representation not promises. Hire investigators and paralegals to help investigate the circumstances of the charges. Randi made a statement that she was concerned that there were those in the rubber room who didn’t want their cases investigated. Ridiculous.

You think it is better to be left in the dark?

Friday, September 08, 2006

Jamaica Chapter News

September 6, 2005



The school year started off with tremendous energy as an incensed group of well over fifty teachers charged from our meeting in the library to the Principal’s office to conclude the meeting there. We were outraged because the new Contract guaranteed that part of the time in the two days before Labor Day was to be spent setting up our classrooms. However, on Friday the administration scheduled an all day “professional development” session.

Most members agreed that the development was a waste of time and taxpayer money but also teachers were irate because we weren’t given any time to plan for Tuesday’s opening. We needed to set up for the arrival of the students but were denied. Several phone calls were made to union officials demanding that we be given our contractually mandated time and a grievance was filed on behalf of the Chapter. The Principal claimed he did not know about the new provision until after he arranged the professional development but he said it would not happen again. At our chapter meeting, we discussed the issue and we were not happy with the compromises that were proposed so we voted unanimously to continue the meeting in the principal’s office.

Many UFT members told the principal about the need to set up classrooms, prepare labs, obtain materials for Tuesday and do other tasks. We needed the time. The Principal and the union eventually agreed to cut an hour off the professional development Friday to allow us some time to prepare for Tuesday. However, we did not feel this was sufficient so it was also agreed that teachers would not be held accountable by any administrators for the conditions of their classrooms during the first week of school.

While a teacher rebellion was needed to obtain what was our Contractual right, the Contract only talks about part of the day being used for classroom preparation; the exact length of time is left undefined. The money for the “professional development” was already paid for so when we decided to fight for our time, we basically received as much as we could obtain that afternoon. What we did on Friday was a success and proved once again that if we work as a group there is much that we can accomplish for our students and ourselves. For everyone who crowded into the Principal’s office on Friday I say a huge Thank You!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Joel Klein Meets the Press

by Norman Scott

In what was billed as a round-table discussion with the NYC education press corps on Friday Sept. 1, NYC schools Chancellor Joel Klein defended many of his policies that have come under recent attack. Particular attention has been focused on the high number of no-bid contracts, the most prominent of which has been the $17 million given to the consultant firm of Alvarez and Marsal, better known as corporate turn-around specialists than for expertise in the field of education.

A&M has come under scrutiny for their management of the schools in St. Louis which led to drastic cuts that included the closing of 16 schools, cut staff and charges the corporate management turn-around mentality had taken a school system in severe trouble and made it worse. A&M was also hired to manage the schools in New Orleans not long before Hurricane Katrina struck. While it is hard to judge their performance given the conditions, their main focus seems to have been on creating a privatized school system.

Klein defended the contract, which pays up to $1.7 million in salary to some individuals involved in what is claimed will lead to savings of $200 million. He said $87 million had already been saved leading to the hiring of 275 additional teachers.

There are reports that up to 500 teachers remain unassigned in addition to between a reported 1000-1500 experienced excessed teachers from schools that have closed who Klein said will be used as a reserve substitute corps. Klein defended his decision not to assign these teachers to understaffed schools because he wants to affirm the right of principals to choose their own people. This decision will cost around $5 million.

Questions were raised about the expense of the 44 unassigned Assistant Principals, who Klein said he would be forced to carry because of the contract with the Supervisors’ Union (CSA), whose head Jill Levy, has been extremely critical of Klein, claiming he denigrated the unassigned AP’s by hinting they could not get jobs because “no one wanted them.” Some have threatened a lawsuit.

Klein was asked about the expense of the Teaching Fellows and Teach For America programs where a high rate of teachers choose not to remain in the system after only a few years. He said retention rates were going up. He seemed to negate the experience factor in teacher quality when he said even if teachers do leave after 3 years the system benefited from having such high quality teachers for even a short time, pointing out that this is better than having some 20-year teachers who do not function effectively. He did not address charges from some experienced teachers that they have been systematically discriminated against, with some schools openly advertising positions would only be open to first year teachers and openly stating “They must not be a transfer from another NYC public school.” Some have surmised that the move to newer teachers is merely a cost-cutting device.

In addressing issues of the DOE having to pay numbers of teachers languishing in rubber rooms around the city, Klein said this was a matter of future contract negotiations.

He attributed many of the gains of his administration to the success of his negotiations with the UFT, which has allowed him flexibility in the placement of teachers without having to deal with seniority questions. He also praised provisions that have allowed him to pay certain teachers more based on the DOE’s needs through the creation of housing allowances and Lead teachers. He praised the UFT for its willingness to negotiate on many of the items he deems most important and expressed hope for cooperation in future contracts.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

School in August Brought to You By Unity-Weingarten



August 31, 2006


Welcome back to the first ever school year starting in August. The 2006-07 school calendar has a record 190 work days for teachers (more for several UFT job titles). The longer school year was endorsed by UFT President Randi Weingarten and the city during 2005 contract negotiations. Tens of thousands of UFT members voted against extending the school year. Keep this in mind as we slog through this interminable year because in the spring UFT members can decide who will negotiate the next UFT Contract where one of the main priorities should be to get us back a full summer vacation.

The Independent Community of Educators (ICE) is a caucus (political party) within the United Federation of Teachers. Union members join caucuses based upon common ideas. Randi Weingarten’s caucus is called Unity. Unity is an invitation only closed group that has controlled the UFT since it was founded in 1960. Unity has complete control of the Union’s policy making bodies. To join Unity, members must sign a loyalty oath that obliges them to “support the decisions of the caucus and leadership elected from the caucus in union and public forums.” In return, Unity members can receive patronage from Randi that includes union jobs, some of which pay over $100,000 a year with a union as well as a city pension. Opposing Unity does not make us anti-union. President Bush is a Republican. If you are against any of his policies, it does not make you unpatriotic. ICE opposed Weingarten’s policy to start school in August.


In 2004 and 2005 there was a huge debate between the political caucuses of the UFT over whether to extend the year/day for UFT members. Randi/Unity advocated negotiating for additional time in the school day and school year as a way to settle our contract dispute with the city. ICE and Teachers for a Just Contract (TJC) said our day and year were long enough. We argued that adding extra time would not have any educational value and that we should not have to extend the day or year to get a decent salary increase. Instead, we backed educating and mobilizing the membership.

In the spring of 2005, ICE representatives at the UFT’s Delegate Assembly (the union’s highest policy making body) proposed a resolution recommending to the UFT that we reject adding days to the school year in contract negotiations. It was pointed out to the DA that NYC educators already worked a school year that was longer than many of the districts in the surrounding areas. ICE compared calendars in the city with calendars in suburbs and we found that in many Long Island districts the school year had a fixed 183 days for teachers but in the city we were already compelled to toil 185 or more days. We were working a longer school year for significantly lower salaries than educators in the suburbs earn. We saw no justification for lengthening the calendar; we argued that adding days before Labor Day was punitive.

President Weingarten took the rare step of leaving the podium to speak from the DA floor maintaining that she should be free to negotiate a longer school year. Her Unity followers agreed and several months later there was an extension of the school year buried among many givebacks in the new contract. Does anyone want her to negotiate the next contract? Don’t be fooled by the 350 person negotiating committee. It’s Randi and her Unity sycophants that make the decisions. What will they give up next?

It’s time to change UFT leadership. Support the ICE-TJC Coalition that will unite to challenge Randi/Unity in the spring 2007 UFT Election.