Saturday, January 13, 2007

Executive Board Report – Elections Are Coming…Unity Controlled Executive Board Moves to Silence Opposition

Spending more than an hour in acrimonious debate the Executive Board approved, over ICE-TJC opposition, rules for the conduct of the coming election for union officers and others that clearly demonstrate that our Unity leadership knows no limit when it comes to their attempt to stifle the voice of the opposition.

Amy Arundel, chairperson of the Election Committee, reported that a unanimous Election Committee approved rules that would prevent opposition caucuses from using union membership mailing and email lists to distribute campaign literature, provide assurances to members placing campaign literature in mailboxes without fear that they will be prevented access to the mailboxes by principals or others acting on their behalf, and providing space on the UFT website which would publish the rules for the election.

The message was clear…opposition caucuses must be silenced at all costs.

While it is true that space is provided on a limited basis in the New York Teacher to the caucuses this space is clearly not what Congress intended when it provided in Federal Law that "a union must comply with all reasonable requests by a candidate for distribution of campaign literature at the candidate's expense."

The UFT has, for past several years, collected email addresses of our members and controls the only available list of home addresses of union members. The New York Teacher is dripping with stories and pictures of Unity candidates that are prejudicial to opposition campaigns. When only one statement from the opposition is published in the NY Teacher, it is obvious how unfair that is.

Resolution after resolution calling for Weingarten to comply with Federal law were defeated by the Unity dominated Executive Board. Our interpretation of Federal law, according to Special Assistant to the President Jeffrey Zahler was "wrong." This was echoed by Weingarten, who claimed many years of labor law practice to "prove" that Calhoun v. Harvey and its progeny as well as Section 401(c) of the Landrum-Griffin Act did not provide for opposition candidates to have access to these lists, whether or not Unity decided to use them.

This is the first time in our Union's history that approval of the Election Committee's rules was not unanimously approved," commented Weingarten after the vote split the body along caucus lines.

And for good reason…Don't try to silence the opposition and don't try to violate our right to distribute campaign literature.

In other Executive Board business, James Eterno, ICE's High School Rep, submitted a resolution calling for the UFT to get off the fence and call for a moratorium on the closing of schools before an independent evaluation can be concluded.

While hundreds of our members face excessing Weingarten showed how she can fiddle while Rome burns and substituted a watered down resolution which called for the DOE to "refrain" from closing schools.

Thanks, Randi. Way to stand up to BloomKlein who close schools for political reasons and to create large pools of excessed teachers. But what could we really expect, especially when you completed a sweetheart deal to continue the decimation of seniority, loss of grievance rights and other basic rights of our members? You showed your true colors when you "agreed" with the closing of Lafayette. The teachers and staff at Lafayette thank you as well.

The resolution follows:

January 2007 Resolution Calling for a Moratorium on Closing Schools

WHEREAS, the Department of Education (DOE) chronically mismanages schools, refuses to provide schools with adequate funding and then blames staff for failing results; and

WHEREAS, there is no valid evidence that proves the educational benefits of the DOE’s policy of closing schools, not admitting new students, displacing staff, and then reopening the same building as a different school or group of schools; and

WHEREAS, there is no clear standard for what constitutes a failing school yet the DOE in December announced the closing of five more schools; and

WHEREAS, the resulting period of uncertainty can have a deleterious impact on students in the effected schools as well as in neighboring schools that become severely overcrowded by accepting incoming students who would have gone to the schools being phased out; and

WHEREAS, new/redesigned schools do not have to accept special education and Limited English Proficiency students in their first two years of existence, thus creating fewer educational options for some of our students most in need, and concentrating disproportionate numbers of these students in other facilities, straining the resources of those schools too; and

WHEREAS, the 2005 UFT Contract eliminated Article 18G5, which gave staff in closing or phased out schools the “broadest possible placement choices available within the authority of the Board;” and

WHEREAS, the current Contract throws staff (experienced and new) from closing/phasing out schools en masse onto the “open market” where they must look for their own jobs or become Absent Teacher Reserves (day-to-day substitutes) thus discouraging UFT members from wanting to work in difficult schools; and

WHEREAS, many of the schools that replaced previously redesigned schools are now themselves failing and in danger of closing; therefore be it

RESOLVED, that the UFT call for an immediate moratorium on the closing down/ redesigning of schools by the Department of Education until independent studies are done to assess the effectiveness of the newly redesigned schools as well as the overall impact of closing/redesigning schools on students, staff and communities throughout the system; and be it further

RESOLVED, that the UFT use part of its “Teachers Make a Difference” campaign to publicize the need for full funding of all schools, with particular attention paid to calling for extra funding for troubled schools 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, displacing students and staff resulting in overcrowding of neighboring schools.
It’s time for the UFT to use its resources to stop allowing the Department of Education to get away with holding teachers and students accountable for their mismanagement.

The DOE is successfully implementing the Grover Norquist “Starve the Beast” policy and it must be stopped. Norquist recommends tax cuts and more tax cuts so that government won’t be able to function and then his people complain that the government is doing a terrible job and needs to be cut some more.

The DOE chronically under-funds schools. The courts have declared that the city doesn’t even give adequate funding for a sound basic education. The DOE adds to the problem by chronically mismanaging schools and then blaming us when schools don’t get everyone to be proficient.

Instead of thanking the teachers and other UFT members for performing educational miracles with so many students in situations that are virtually impossible, our schools are deemed failing by some criteria that nobody knows about. The schools are then closed down, we are displaced and have to apply for our jobs back in our own schools. Kids who would have gone to the school closing are directed to other schools which become more overcrowded and then they are deemed as failing. The new schools don’t have to take special education students or ESL students for two years so they look like they are succeeding but the success and extra funding later dry up and certain new schools have already been deemed as failures. This has been going on for years. This cycle must cease as nobody has shown any concrete evidence that any of this works for students

The UFT’s position on all of this has been to wait. In 2003 the Manhattan High School Chapter leaders came up with a resolution calling for a moratorium on the breakup and redesign of large high schools. I cosponsored the introduction of that resolution in this body and it was tabled. The UFT put together a small schools task force that called for among other things a study to be done on the effectiveness of small schools but it didn’t call for the DOE to stop closing schools until we have the data.

In 2006 the Parents Citywide Council on High Schools called the Chancellor to substantially delay the implementation of small high schools in part because of the issue of special ed and ESL students not being accepted in new schools. I asked last year at this body if the UFT supported that resolution and I was sent a copy of the small schools task force and later the UFT sponsored a resolution reaffirming the value of large high schools but not calling for the DOE to stop closing schools.

Now we need to go further. When the DOE brings in an outside agency to review schools and they find Tilden High School is proficient and then soon thereafter it is announced that Tilden will be closing, there is something that doesn’t smell right. Small schools versus big schools is not the issue. The issue is what constitutes a failing school? It’s not only large high schools that are in danger. Schools that have already been redesigned are in trouble. Many of us are being threatened with being closed because we exercise our contractual rights. I have been told that I better tone it down or Klein will come in and shut us down.

What this resolution asks is for the DOE to stop shutting down schools until we can get some fair, independent studies done to assess the effectiveness of newly redesigned schools including examining the impact on neighboring schools. This resolution also asks for the UFT to publicize the need for fully funding all schools but particularly schools that are in trouble so we get what we need to succeed and stop the madness of closing schools, displacing students and staff and then overcrowding other schools where they then are deemed as failing. That cycle must end now.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for the report Jeff.

Anonymous said...

They're thanking Randi at Tilden, South Shore and a couple of smaller schools as well. Randi continues to do very little to stop the closing of schools. Unity should be voted out.

Anonymous said...

John Lawhead a teacher at Tilden asked Randi a few pointed questions when she dropped in at Tilden the morning of the Exec. Bd meeting so she could say she was there. She came 15 minutes late to a half hour meeting before school began. Exactly what was the point? Oh yeah, I forgot. The photo-op.

When she was contacted by people at Tilden when the closing was announced she ignored them but once the quality review came out showing Tilden in a better light, she tried to jump from the DOE side of the fence back into the usual straddling position.

Lawhead has written a fabulous analysis of the situation at Tilden (which is posted on the ednotes blog) pointing out how the DOE manipulated the school into closing. One would hope the UFT would do the kind of work John did instead of meekly going along with the DOE.

John attended the Ex. bd meeting that night and used the 10 minutes to make his points. Randi wasn't there to hear about her failures and was hiding behind her magic curtain where she received the ICE resolution on the closing of the school and quickly rushed down a watered down substitute which required them to reprint thousands of materials for the DA the next day. Oh, the trees!

Anonymous said...

Please explain in language that a first grader would understand without the Whereas and Resolved just what would happen to a teacher who put campagin literature in the mailboxes or emailed their friends about the opposition??????

Who exactly would be policing this policy?

Anonymous said...

Distributing literature:

Let's seperate the election period which we are now in from other times since we in the opposition have different interpretations that Unity/UFT on this matter.

The DOE (based on a ruling from the 70's that some of us fought back then when we were in a caucus called the Coalition of School Workers) acknowledged our rights because unequal access favored Unity, the party in power.

All teachers in a school have the same rights as UFT/Unity to access the mail boxes to put literature from a caucus (I can't vouch for other more personal material) in the boxes. If the principal told the CL not to use the boxes that is a violation. The same applies to non-CL.

Warning: DO NOT DO THIS ON WORKING TIME - only before and after school and your lunch hour. Be careful when on your official prep if you have a contentious relationship with the principal.

Will your principal give you a hard time anyway? It depends on your relationship and it is here where the "law" how you deal with your boss interact. You do not HAVE to show the material and some people bristle at the thought. I say use judgement. You can establish that you will do this regularly, etc. If you meet resistance do not get hot and bothered but contact us.

We have that original decision reaffirmed in the 90's we use if we have problems. If you want a copy contact us and we'll mail it to you. We have asked the union to make this information avaialble to chapter leaders but are you surprised they haven't done so?

You can expect more opposition from your own chapter leader especially if Unity but also from some who feel their "ownership" rights are being violated.

The principal often calls up the chapter leader to ask about it. Some principals will give you a hard time and say "grieve" it if they are former Unity or have a special relationship with the Unity chapter leader. If you meet obstacles then there is stuff going on behind the scenes which you should know more about before you procede. My opinion is to stop and contact us and we will get Michael Mendel at the union to contact the CL to affirm your rights.

An ICE teacher at Lafayette (pre-Rohloff) was called into the principal's office 2 years ago (Jan 05)-- he was egged on by the CL who became a school administrator a short time after. The teacher contacted us and we all went to the UFT Ex Bd meeting to raise the issue and they to their credit contacted Michelle Fratti the Region Supt at the time and she informed the principal (Alan Seigel I think) that the teacher had the right and he never had trouble again.

This was during a non-election period but after the contract battle last year Unity has started backtracking about the rights issue.

Even Unity agrees that we have the right to go to another school to put lit in boxes as long as we go through the proper procedures of signing in. We maintain we always have the right because they get to iundate people all the time. With email and blogs there are now new battle grounda and we are fighting for the right to have the union send out campaign lit in emails.

Anonymous said...

Great long comment from Norm, but I still don't understand.
Norm is using an old rule. What does the new rule say in layman's terms?

Teachers may not use the school mail and even email others??
What are the consequences?

I have a problem more with the email because if it's going from my personal email to another personal email (not schools@nyc)
why don't I have that right???

Again, please answer with if we can or cannot do it under Unity rules.

And who are the candidates running?

jameseterno said...

You can put opposition literature in the mailboxes without the approval of the chapter leader or the principal.

The Baizerman Decision lets you put opposition caucus (political party) literature in the boxes in your own school as long as it is during non work time.

During an election period, you can go to other schools to distribute literature as long as you are not on work time. We are in an election period now.

We believe that we should be able to stuff the mailboxes in other schools with opposition literature whether or not there is a UFT election taking place. That's the only disagreement now between Unity and the rest of us on the school mailbox issue as far as I know.

I don't understand the question about how email is limited.

jameseterno said...

Also, read the 2007 election notice that should be posted for the UFT election. It says, "The Board of Education policy is to allow 'rival factions' within the union 'to disseminate non-inflammatory election material in employee mailboxes.' (BOE Jan. 18, 2001 memo.)"

Anonymous said...

Amy Arundel, chairperson of the Election Committee, reported that a unanimous Election Committee approved rules that would prevent opposition caucuses from using union membership mailing and email lists to distribute campaign literature.

What email lists are they talking about? If we have each others email, are we able to send out literature??

Anonymous said...

So why would Unity make such a resolution if material can be distributed?

Anonymous said...

We are not talking about your own personal email lists but the email lists compiled by the UFT.

Anonymous said...

I don't want my email going to ANY caucus.

Anonymous said...

I thought there were ICE and TJC people on the election committee report. if there was why weren't some of these issue brought up then?

Anonymous said...

My privacy is crucial. I don't like junk mail and I don't wan't political wonks sending me their propoganda.

Anonymous said...

ICe was shut out of the election committee. ICE would let the UFT email the stuff out so nobody's email address would be given away to anyone who doesn't already have it, i.e. the UFT.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't want any of the caucus to have my email address or my address of residence. If I want to join a caucus I will apply.

jameseterno said...

The UFT could mail the stuff or email the stuff. They already have your address and probably have your email address. ICE doesn't care about the addresses; we care about getting the access so we can get our message out there.

What's wrong with that?

Anonymous said...

How was "ICe was shut out of the election committee"?

Anonymous said...

Ask Randi that question.

Anonymous said...

ICE was shut out because Unity calls them "I Complain Everytime" and Unity wants no complaints on the election committee. ICE is proud of that label because when you have a party in power that is only interested in maintaining power and even has to resort to buying off New Action to do this there is a need for someone to complain every time. ICE is the designated complainers.

Anonymous said...


If you don't care about our addresses, then why were you guys asking for them? By the way, if you care about "just getting the message to us", why don't you do it through the New York Teacher?

Anonymous said...

The truth is that ICE was NOT shut out of the committee. It had an opportunity to be on and in fact a TJC person was on the committee. Because some one calls you a name doesn't mean you are "shut out". I'm afraid that still no one has explained how you've been shut out.

Anonymous said...

You may note that John Lawhead is not the Elected representative of Tilde HS. The CL of Lafayette HS did speak at the DA and said that UFT was very supportive.

ed notes online said...

Sure the UFT was supportive-- sort of. After the quality review came out. When it looked like things were heating up the UFT jumped on board. Check the dates of the posts on Ednotesonline and compare it to when the UFT came on board.

Maybe John's critique had an impact. In fact, John did the analysis and work the UFT should be doing for all schools that are closing. As usual, the UFT is at the tail end of things.

But that's all water under the bridge. If Randi has jumped on board that is great. John has given her credit for getting involved. We support her in this but get it straight-- the UFT doesn't move unless it feels pressure.

jameseterno said...

I have no idea why we were shut out of the election committee. None of us were ever asked to be on that committee.

TJC's person, Ellen Schweitzer, is doing great against six Unity-New Action people. She shouldn't have to be in there alone, particularly since both ICE and TJC ran slates in the last election.

We want more access, not just the limited access of the NY Teacher ad once every three years. That is surely not enough to get a message out and proof is that only around 30% of active members voted in the last election in 2004. That number should trouble everyone.

As for email addresses, we said at the last executive board that we would be perfectly fine with the UFT sending the emails. We don't care if we have the email addresses or the regular addresses.

Why would anyone want to limit access? Too many members don't even know we exist. Where there is a full and fair debate, we are quite confident that we will prevail.

Anonymous said...

Excuse me James Eterno. You and Jeff Kaufman voted to support this election committee. You have plenty of mic time to pontificate about whatever you wish and not one of you said a word about the committee. Now your acomplaining because no one "asked" you to be on it? Talk about whining after the fact. This is just like the negotiating committee. After the election, and Randi wins against Kit, I bet you are going to cry about not being asked who you voted for.

jameseterno said...

"I thought there were ICE and TJC people on the election committee report. if there was why weren't some of these issue brought up then?"

Monday, January 15, 2007 8:43:00 PM

That's the question I was responding to. Randi appoints the election committee. The Executive Board just says yes or no to the whole group. Unity has 83 members on the Exec. Bd.; ICE-TJC has 6. I am not knee jerk oppositionist. I am happy to push for the election reforms ICE is seeking on the executive board floor but they keep getting referred to the election committee, even after they issued their report.

It was only after the election committee was formed that so many problems arose because Jeff and I tried to expand caucus access to the membership to enhance democracy.

We tried to deal with these issues on the Executive Board floor as early as the first meeting after the election committee was formed but they have been sent to the committee. If Randi doesn't appoint us to the Committee, where else are we supposed to make our voices heard if not at the executive board?

Ellen from TJC is doing a fantastic job alone pushing for more democracy inside the committee. In retrospect, I do wish she had some backup but it's not an issue I would go to war over. She can handle herself just fine. I am quite content with my vote to support her for the election committee.

If we take the Unity logic and play it out nationally, a US Senator who did not ask to be on the Senate Intelligence Committee would have no right to complain on the senate floor about the faulty intelligence that led to the Iraq war. Later on that Senator would have no right to say that maybe things would have been better if there had more opposition representation on that committee.

It would be nice if Unity would deal with the democracy issue instead of the usual personal attacks.

As for my vote, I am supporting Kit Wainer and the entire ICE-TJC slate. There, you have that in advance.

Anonymous said...

So in other words you were not really "shut out" of the commmittee.

Anonymous said...

ICE was not asked to join the committee. If that's not being shut out, what is? James answered the questions.

Anonymous said...

Move on Mr. or Ms. Unity. You are making yourself look even sillier than usual arguing about the election committee. ICE isn't on it; case closed.

Anonymous said...

But now you are against it (everything).

Anonymous said...

Jeff posted the January 29 executive board agenda to ice mail and it looks as though the UFT will be changing the election rules. I guess the ICE people do know what they are talking about when it comes to labor law.