LAYOFFS THREATENED BUT THE UFT CAN FIGHT THEM AS LONG AS NORM DOESN'T VIDEO TAPE UNION MEETINGS
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 UFT.org 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.
WE INTERRUPT THIS DA REPORT FOR A SPECIAL REQUEST TO UNITY
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.
NOW BACK TO REGULAR DA NEWS
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.