Friday, January 30, 2009



By James Eterno; UFT Chapter Leader; Jamaica High School

Every UFT member should head straight over to EdNotes Online and watch the video of the wine and cheese information session at UFT headquarters put side by side with rank and filers rallying in the cold at Tweed in support of Absent Teacher Reserves. The video is aptly called, "A Tale of Two Rallies" and should be viewed by every UFT member. It's kind of Norm Scott's poor man's "Fahrenheit 911."  Norm's video led to the main resolution at the January 28, 2009 Delegate Assembly. This resolution bans us from transmitting or reproducing words and images from union meetings without permission of members.

Michael Mendel, who was chairing the DA, said that the intent of the resolution was to stop video recordings but after a question from John Lawhead from ICE on whether we can report back to our schools on what occurred at a DA, UFT President Randi Weingarten offered an amendment from the floor saying the UFT will honor past practices so we can report to our schools. She then said the resolution was about modern communications including emails but she did not mention blogging. Randi's amendment carried as did the ban on reproducing member words and images without their consent. I voted no on the amendment and the resolution; members deserve to know how their Union operates.

I don't know if this post violates the utterly absurd resolution so if it is a violation, this post could be the test case. Go see Norm's tape especially if you have never been to a Union function. It is quite telling.

Randi missed the first half of the meeting as she had to be with her mother who is ill. We wish Randi's mother well; our thoughts and prayers are with her and her family.

Michael Mulgrew gave the Chief Operating Officer report where he painted the monthly "doom and gloom" picture. Mulgrew reported that in Albany, Chancellor Joel Klein said there would be up to 15,000 city educators who will face layoff in the fall if we don't get more money from the State. I don't mean to be skeptical, but does anyone realistically foresee 15,000 teacher layoffs in September two months before a Mayoral election? With that said, I do believe the financial crisis is real; the recession is severe and we should join the UFT leadership in this fight for fair funding. I recommend that everyone go to and participate in any actions to help push the federal stimulus plan through Congress. I will also join the UFT in their scheduled huge rally at City Hall on March 5.


Since Randi is a regular reader of the blogs, I have a question and I will send this directly to her and some of the Unity hierarchy. How am I going to convince my members to attend a UFT rally at City Hall on March 5 when they feel abandoned by the Central UFT?

Back in 2007, the secretaries at Jamaica filed a group grievance saying that school aides were doing their jobs. In 2008, their Chapter Leader, Jackie Ervolina, came to Jamaica and urged us to support the UFT's citywide grievance on this issue. We agreed. Last spring the UFT told us they won the citywide case. To date, nothing has improved at Jamaica.

Part of this situation at my school goes back as far as 2006 and before. A secretary who had been doing evening school for many years was replaced by a school aide for most of her hours in 2006. She has been waiting almost three years for arbitration. In addition, two secretaries filed workload disputes. The disputes died at the Superintendent's level. One was supposed to be reconvened in February 2008 and never was.

Our secretaries stood together as a group and were told by the UFT to stand tall and fight. They are a shining example of trade unionism. What has the UFT done in return? When we email their Chapter Leader, or talk to our District Representative, we are told to wait and wait and wait and wait and then wait some more. Do you think I am going to be able to get these courageous UFT members out to a rally? They feel they have been abandoned by the UFT as three have since been excessed. Two of these are ATR's and the other is out of Jamaica.

Furthermore, how do I convince a teacher who can't get an answer from the DOE on her Family and Medical Leave Act request that she applied for in December, to come to a rally? A few days ago this person was told by the UFT that we have to be patient because the DOE is slow. Federal law gives the employer five business days to respond to a FMLA request; the UFT tells us to wait, and wait and wait some more.

How am I going to persuade the many teachers who lost parking permits to come to the rally? Jamaica lost many of our legal parking spaces, not just permits, under the new procedure implemented in the fall. We complained in September and haven't heard from the UFT in months on this issue?

How do I tell the Absent Teacher Reserves in my school that they should come to a rally when some aren't put back on our school's budget even when they are teaching full programs (planning, teaching, and assessing)? We've been working with Michael Mendel on this all year and the Principal basically refuses to move unless the situation is obvious and even then it takes a long time for action.

Administration improperly excessed a UFT Delegate and it took us two months, a great deal of effort and a grievance to get her back. Both the delegate and I thanked Mendel personally for helping us in this arduous fight but the central UFT has allowed conditions to exist in the schools where Principals can try to illegally excess a union activist with impunity.

In addition, a teaching fellow was teaching a full time math program all fall but the school would not put him on our Table of Organization. The UFT was informed. Once again, patience was preached. This young teacher ended up finding a job at another school rather than risk getting fired on February 3. Subsequently, that full time math position was left vacant (filled with coverages) for the last two months of the semester. The UFT has told us nothing. Another math teacher who was excessed and is at another school, applied to return to Jamaica and grieved. How do I convince these people that the Union cares about them?

A colleague and I have emailed Randi several times on how the Principal habitually violated our Contract. There are plenty of other examples I could cite but let me just sum up by saying that if I had a dime for each time a UFT member came to me and said that they trust me but the UFT is full of you know what, I would have the salary of a UFT officer. OK that's a little exaggeration but you get the point.

If this is the situation at Jamaica High School where we are not afraid to stand up to the DOE as we rallied at a Panel for Educational Policy meeting last year and wrote to the state twice this school year demanding equity for our school, I can only imagine what is occurring at other Chapters.

To Randi and Unity readers: I'll be there on March 5 and I'll urge people to join me, but could you please give me some tips on what I can say to get my members to have some faith in a Union that is great for "lip service" but has let us down on so many occasions.


Michael Mulgrew gave a report on how there will be a federal, state and city phase to the budget battle. He said we would be lobbying quickly. He then reported on the fellows being allowed to keep their jobs until February 2 but they are gone after that. This leads to the question of whether or not there is a no-layoff agreement in the contract as the Union contends.

Leo Casey reported on a KIPP Charter School being unionized. Mulgrew returned to say that the Art Institute has a Contract. Then there was a report on how our drug plan has switched for the most part from Express Scripps to Medco. Benefits will not be diminished. Mulgrew then told us that Eric Nadelstern is the person who all principals will report to but the DOE is not saying this is another reorganization. He then stated that Garth Harries, the guy in charge of closing schools, will now run District 75 and the UFT is asking for a review of special education. Mulgrew then talked about the school governance report (Mayoral control). There will be a DA next week on this issue. At this point Randi showed up and the Unity crowd roared their approval.

Randi talked about the House of Representatives passing a stimulus plan and how this would be a lifeline for cities. She then said she is thankful that Obama, not McCain, is president but we will have fights at some point with Obama. She then told us we need 50,000 people on the streets on March 5 and how the Democrats call on unions to get things done. Leroy Barr then gave a Staff Directors' Report, mostly about a raffle.

This was followed by a question period. A question about a retirement incentive was answered by Mendel who said we have asked for one but the city has not responded. He continued by noting that even if the city agrees, it would still need to go to the state. A question on charter schools taking over space of existing schools was answered by Randi who asked delegates how many schools have just one school in their buildings. The answer was a surprise to me as most delegates present were from schools that share their buildings with other schools. Randi did say we are working on this issue and school communities have to become involved to keep small schools and charter schools from invading their space. Michael Mendel then angered most of the delegates when someone asked if supervisors would be impacted proportionately by potential layoffs and he said that principals and assistant principals are our labor brothers and sisters. This did not go over too well. He did then state that we would work to see that they were let go in proportionate numbers if there were layoffs.

Special Orders of Business were next. Mel Aaronson was nominated to stay on the Teachers' Retirement Board by Mona Romain. Mona told us how thanks to Mel's lobbying, we were able to keep out of a federal bill a provision that would have lowered the fixed rate on the TDA to between 3-4% from the 8.25% we currently receive. Nice job Mel. No opposition to this one.

There was very little disagreement to a resolution to support the Employee Free Choice Act which would make it easier to unionize and finally there was the anti-Norm video resolution. There was no time for nine other resolutions. Also, nobody raised a new motion during the new motion period. That was astonishing but I guess since we often don't have a new motion period these days, nobody was ready.

We'll be back next week with a report on governance. ICE strongly opposes Mayoral Control of the schools.


Anonymous said...

1 CommentClose this window Jump to comment form
Anonymous said...
In the 60's the Merry Pranksters would create farcical disruptions to expose political hippocracy. It is time to begin a relentless, ongoing campaign to change the UFT. March 25th you say?

There will be a meeting @ the Georgia Diner @ 1pm on Sunday, Feb. 1st. All are welcome.

11:17 AM, January 30

Anonymous said...

If there is a layoff in the schools who will be fired first?

Anonymous said...

Layoffs go by reverse seniority within a license citywide.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, James, I'll try to get the word(s) out.

I totally agree with your questions to RW. I can't imagine one single person in my school going down to any rally put together by this UFT management, except of course me and the chapter leader.

And by the way: it should be mentioned the feeble response to Mulgrew's "rallying" efforts. A clap here, a clap there, but mostly a great big ho-hum round the whole room. Even Unity members were in low gear.

People smell it when labor leaders lose their guts and throw integrity out the window.

What about the guffaws that went out when RW said she is thankful that Obama is president and not McCain. Obviously, but she threw her eggs into Hillary's basket, and ANYTHING she says now about what Obama is up to has to be taken with a great big tablespoon of salt.

To clarify your Medco news, because some people may not understand (I know I didn't): The UFT changed to Medco for most drugs, as you say, but is staying with Express Scripts for the PICA (injectible drugs and chemo) program. So members need to look out for — and hold on to — two different drug cards.

Anonymous said...

About the Gag resolution on videotaping and internet. Trust me, I gagged.

But apart from that: when the resolution said "words and images" - I will continue to take this phrase to refer to videotaping, not written material.

Because Lawhead is totally correct: It is our JOB to disseminate information to our members, and as a delegate to my school, I have told people many times: Check the ICE blog for what you need to know, because half of the stuff on the UFT website is just spin. When Unity starts giving Delegates expenses and per session to disseminate hard copy reports of meetings, maybe then we can start discussing whether internet is or is not appropriate.

As for Randi's amendment about honoring "past practices." I can't find the amendment yet on the UFT site, and would prefer to read it again before I say anything, but here goes anyway: It was off-the-cuff and dumb.

"Past" is anything that goes from this moment backwards. Norm's video was posted before the DA, so as I see it, the video falls under a "past" practice. So do all the other videos of meetings and rallies he or anyone else has ever done. Are we finished with this discussion?

As to blogging: That certainly is past practices. And if Edwize can blog its head off, so can we.

Anonymous said...

Julie's analysis is right on target.

Anonymous said...

I hope ICE is able to attend the upcoming hearings in the 5 boroughts on mayoral control starting Feb. 5th in Queens.

Get the word out!!!

Anonymous said...

All the layoff drama is just posturing by randi and bloomy. They are both in cahoots to keep their precious newbies. Rest assured not one of them will be laid off. Who will foot the bill? Why the older senior teachers of course. It will come out of our health care and pensions off course while randi and bloomy both pat themselves on the back with glowing headlines All Teacher Layoffs Averted. Unions agree to give backs! And as usual the older teachers will pay and pay and pay as we have been doing the past ten years since the randi/bloomy nightmare began. Eat your old but oh my no, never eat your young. They cost less and they vote for every contract.

Anonymous said...

This last analysis is perfect. I think it will be our health care where we pay.