Thursday, April 23, 2009


The Delegate Assembly featured a lengthy Contract speak out highlighted by a spirited debate between UFT President Randi Weingarten and Truman High School Delegate and ICE member Julie Woodward. The debate centered on the inadequacy of the grievance process for our members mainly because of us surrendering the right to grieve letters in the file in 2005. Many of the delegates spoke of our need to win back what we gave away in 2005.

Randi in March called for a Contract negotiations discussion at this DA and the opposition caucuses that represent rank and file educators were prepared. Both Teachers for a Just Contract and ICE had leaflets prepared relating to the Contract and our demands. The majority Unity Caucus had literature that led with a piece on how the UFT supports charter schools that was followed by an article on school governance and concluded with one on the budget. There was not one Contract idea in the Unity leaflet.

Overall, the Contract discussion lasted over an hour. There was very little discussion of money although Randi did mention that the police and sergeant’s unions had agreed to lengthy Contracts where the final two years had two 4% raises. Randi also briefly talked about the difficulty negotiating in this severe recession but we believe that these agreements plus the DC 37 settlement of 4% and 4% over two years are pattern setting for other unions so they would impact on us. Interestingly, most of the speakers at the DA focused not on salary but on professional gains that teachers, and other UFT members, believe are essential.

The best part of the meeting came when a delegate brought up the issue of winning back the right to grieve to remove inaccurate/unfair letters from our personnel files. She talked about how the threat of multiple grievances often forced principals to back off of our members. Randi said that in the current system principals don’t care about the threat of grievances. She then added that we gained all of the substantive rights on letters in the file back through the courts and through grievances on other Contractual provisions where the remedy was to have letters removed from files. She said we won the Todd Friedman arbitration on attendance and five or six other cases so it was clear that a letter could be grieved as long as another article of the Contract was violated.

Randi then asked for someone to find any substantive right on this issue that we have lost since 2005. She went on to talk about how after three years, letters are removed from files if we haven't been charged and we could bring up the issue if there were a spike in letters.

Julie Woodward rose from her chair and answered Randi specifically. She said that we could no longer stop Principals from lying about us in letters written for our files with a grievance. She stated that principals could write anything about us and we were basically powerless to do anything in response. In the course of this debate,the standard from the old Contract, inaccurate or unfair, that allowed us to fight grievances successfully was raised. Randi responded that we almost never won and letters were just altered and now they are removed after three years.

Randi neglected to mention that after three years, the letters are basically useless to the DOE because unless it is a criminal matter, the DOE cannot use material that is over three years old against us in 3020A disciplinary hearings. What does the DOE need to keep the letters for if they are inadmissible? Having them challenged before they are three years old gave us a chance to have a letter expunged before it could be used against us and for untenured personnel, it gave them a chance to have some kind of hearing before a neutral person.

Julie then stood her ground against Randi. She blasted the grievance process. She stated that there are very few cases that the UFT takes to arbitration and she went on to say that she had a very strong personal grievance that was delayed for a long time and then it was stopped by the UFT and only through her strong advocacy for herself did the UFT decide to go through and win. She then argued that many members are not so persistent and they suffer in silence when the Principal writes lies about them. She added that when these members see someone grieve and have to wait for years while the harassment from administration continues unabated, this silent majority is not about to exercise their union rights.

This view was also put forward by Peter Lamphere from Bronx High School of Science and TJC. Peter talked about a harassment case that was filed a year ago by 20 teachers in the Math Department that has not gone to arbitration yet, even though there are strict timelines in the Contract. He also told us that the principal is denying the UFT the right to put material in mailboxes with inpunity; a right the UFT won decades back.

ICE in its leaflet is calling for an expedited grievance process. Without a strong grievance procedure that every member can take advantage of, the Contract is basically rendered useless. Lamphere also called for penalties if the DOE violates grievance timelines. He also stated that we need to fight as the teachers in Los Angeles battled with their sit-in at the school board meeting and now they are threatening a one day strike. Randi responded that we have to know what we are getting into with militant actions and arguments were made in favor of using the status quo part of the Taylor law to our benefit. This provision keeps an expired contract in effect for NYS public employees until we have a new one unless we go on strike.

Other proposals included winning back some of the other givebacks from 2005 including eliminating the two school days before Labor Day from the calendar, ending school-wide merit pay, or individual merit pay and bringing back the Seniority/SBO transfer plans to put a check on principal power.

People also discussed paid child care and parenting leaves, reducing paperwork, eliminating data entry work for teachers, no further extended time, reworking how the current extended time provision is used, stopping attacks on senior teachers, stopping outside consultants from judging us, having a fixed number of days in the school calendar, limiting the number of periods in a row that elementary school teachers can work, getting more per session for secretaries, allowing people to transfer their sick days to others without a penalty and more. A lively discussion indeed that won't mean much unless we are willing to fight for whatever goals we want to push for.

Randi's Report

The remainder of this lengthy meeting was basically just the Presidents' Report and the Staff Directors' Report.

Randi said she wears the front page assaults against her from the NY Post as a badge of honor. She said that Rupert Murdoch is going after her personally to try to get us to capitulate. She said the vengeance of the attacks on her shows just how powerful UFT advocacy is. She also talked about how the unions identified healthcare savings that were ignored but the battle against us would heat up with the issue of mayoral control being taken up by the legislature after the transit fare is resolved.

She said that as part of the Working Families Party, we were pushing for a solution for the subway fare issue that would be paid for by everyone. She then said that in terms of mayoral control of the schools, with the Post, the Daily News, the Times, the business community in favor of the current system, we might need our members to be on call for mass faxes, emails or a big rally to show that it is 200,000 UFTers and not just Randi Weingarten that want to see the system changed.

Randi and grievance director Howard Solomon reported on a victory on hardship transfers at arbitration. If someone has a hardship transfer for medical or safety reasons and is found qualified, the DOE must assign the member to another school to relieve the hardship within 15 days; that person is not an ATR; he/she is a "hardship transferee."

For the next two years, they will get to teach in their license area or at least be given appropriate work within their license area. However, they cannot grieve their program preferences. After two years, they can be transferred back to their original school if the hardship has abated. The member can appeal and go through medical arbitration or if the issue isn't medical, they can grieve through the regular grievance procedure.

Hardship transferees are required to try to go through the open market hiring system during the two year period to try to find a regular position. After two years, if the person can't get a job on the open market and hasn't been transferred back to their old school, they get full rights and should be placed on the table of organization of the school they have been transferred to. However if they have not made a good faith effort to find a regular transfer through the open market, they can be placed in ATR status at the end of two years.

After reading through this decision thoroughly, I would not consider it a major victory but it is better than no hardship transfers at all and transferee status is a step up from being an ATR.

In other news, there was a moment of silence for a teacher, Lem Martinez Carroll, who recently passed away. Also Councilmen Mitchell, who won a close race, thanked the delegates and Leroy Barr promoted the upcoming Spring Conference where Ted Kennedy will win the John Dewey Award. Finally, Leroy told us that Chapter Leader and Delegate elections are coming. ICE urges everyone to become active and run for Chapter positions.


Anonymous said...

The Weingarten/Unity flier given out at last week's DA meeting.

" It's ABOUT.......

Charter Schools
The late Al Shanker came up an idea for charter schools. He saw them as educational laboratories for new ideas that would lead to positive change for all public schools. UNITY/UFT President Randi Weingarten remains committed to this model which includes a collaborative labor-management relationship that respects educators that use their skills, knowledge and experience to provide the highest quality education to their students.
UNITY/UFT supports charter schools as a means of improving and supplementing, not supplanting, public schools in New York City. The pillars of quality, innovation, real choice, equity voice, and accountability must serve as a guide for fair and equitable access to "public" charter schools."

Weingarten's people say yes to charter schools but nothing on the Contract.

Charters are for busses only! said...

The UFT Charter School is a disaster. Teachers are disciplined for their bulletin boards and the school is totally mismanaged...even after they changed the Head Teacher. We should be fighting against the syphoning of tax dollars to private control, not encouraging it.

Anonymous said...

The last charter I thought was really good was the Magna Carta.

Anonymous said...

Why was there no mention of anything for substitute teachers in regards to our contract which is actually is a seperate contract that expired in 2007?
Are we getting nothing again?

Anonymous said...

Because the same members of ICE/TJC hogged the mic saying essentially the same damn thing. I don't know why Randi continues to always call the same people. Meanwhile you have Julie Woodward disrupting the whole process. She can't wait for her turn to speak like everyone else, she has to yell out and interupt.

Julie Woodward said...

Now that you dragged me into this, 9:12, here's something you must have missed when you weren't listening.

RW asked a question: Can anyone name one substantive thing that cannot be solved by Todd Friedman?

I repeat: that was a question. From her.

I yelled out an answer to that question: The lies in the LIFs cannot be resolved by Todd Friedaman.

Weingarten then chose to disregard that answer because it wasn't convenient.

So I yelled it louder, and louder again, until she had to accommodate it. Which she did.

For the record: I had no intention of saying anything yesterday. The people who got the mic were doing just fine on their own exposing the horrible givebacks of the last contract.

But if I wished to ask for the mic, I would have definitely asked why Unity keeps HS music teachers teaching 50 on register each class and with no contractual relief — which Weingarten had promised to look into when a couple of years ago. At that time, she called on me the normal way, and asked her henchmen right there and then to look into some non-contractual relief for music teachers, who have to do all the chores everyone else does but half as much again.

She didn't follow through, so a lot of good that did, doing it your "polite" way. It makes no difference to Weingarten. She'll sell us out no matter what because she's playing in another ballgame, not ours.

Who are you, by the way? Looking for a job at Unity?

Anonymous said...

Were we at the same meeting because I would imagine that most people present would recall you wailing like a banshee as you interupted the person who made the LIF commment. That person had waited her turn and she was not finished speaking when you disrupted her with your outburst.

Personally, with the sounds coming from you, I thought you were having a medical emergency. Honestly I was glad you were ok.

Julie Woodward said...

You can call me a banshee and every other name in the book, but I was still only answering a question Randi herself asked, and not once but TWICE.

She was responding to the LIF speaker by asking the whole audience the question cited above. She either didn't hear me the first time or, more likely, chose not to hear me. That's why I repeated it.

If I sounded like a banshee to you, it's because, still sitting at first, I was trying to catch her attention from the far side of the room with no mic — to give her the answer to her questions (same question, twice asked). I only stood when it was obvious she did NOT hear me, or was choosing not to acknowledge me. When she did (she then said: I will hear Julie's point but let the LIF speaker finish) I waited, and wrote out some notes all the time seated. When the mic lady came to give me a mic, I got up, and waited til Weingarten turned to me. That is what happened.

You, on the other hand, choose not to identify yourself. It is very comfortable from anonymity to call people banshees and characterize them in a harsh negative light. Trouble is, your version is not what happened at the DA.

Anonymous said...

While name-calling is never appropriate we can accept a difference of opinion. Unity types don't like discussion or issues raised that cause their leaders to be seen as the politically swayed leaves they are. Keep questioning Julie. There are many of us who would not go to these meetings if it weren't for you.

Anonymous said...

I was also at the Delegate Assembly and while I wouldn't characterize Julie's outburst as being like a banshee, it was still quite the commotion. I think it was more akin to two cats mating in an alleyway keeping the whole neighborhood awake. It was not civilized as she is portraying it here.

As a matter of fact, I thought I saw two guys in the back prepping an AED machine as it appeared that she was mere moments away from giving herself a heart attack.

Anonymous said...

It would be funny the way ICE portrays the events at the DA, if it wasn't such a flagrant lie.

Anonymous said...

The person above needs to cite the specific lies in this post. I say great job Julie.

Anonymous said...

Please cite specifics. Julie explained in a reasoned way what happened last Wednesday. Some of these posts go out of their way to portray what Randi said honestly. Unity man, however, only wants unglowing praise of Randi or he cries that Julie is acting crazy.

Oh and by the way when the Unity person complained about ICErs and TJCers hogging the mic, it was not an open mic as Randi called on delegates.

Anonymous said...

Anyone present could thoroughly describe that Julie did not present anything "in a reasoned way".

You can delete my comment again if you want, but I am telling the truth. She was not poised, composed, or graceful.

As a matter of fact as the outburst was occurring Randi felt compelled to tell a short vignette regarding an experience she observed at a Chicago DA where unruly disruptive members had to be escorted out of the meeting and how it would be a shame if we had to adopt similar measures because certain people could not control themselves.

Anonymous said...

No specifics as usual to anything that Julie said or James wrote that is wrong. The Unity beat goes on.

Julie Woodward said...

Anonymouses, sit down already.

I already said that I was trying to get Weingarten to look in my direction for an answer to the question she herself had posed, and I couldn't do that without yelling across that enormous room. If I had been sitting in one of the rows directly in front of her, I wouldn't have had to raise my voice much at all. To 5:32, there was no reason to be "poised, composed, or graceful" when I was doing this. Delegates don't have to be ballet dancers. They have to work hard for the chapters they represent.

That all being the case, I know that Weingarten would love it if everyone just buys into everything she says. She "controls" the group in many ways, from breaking Roberts Rules and giving an endless President's Report to using sarcasm from the podium at specific delegates and making comments like the one last Wed. about how nice it is to be in front of a well-behaved assembly. But her record is atrocious, and there's a lot of anger for the way she has diminished our profession and is facilitating its demise.

By the way, she never responded to the answer I was giving her: that lies and defamation in the file cannot be removed by Todd Friedman. She knew darn well when she sold out the grievance process that this would happen. What I expect she didn't know at the time was how thoroughly ruthless and immoral principals have become over the past two years, trained and encouraged by a malicious Tweed that is particularly ill equipped to determine education policy in this city.

Anonymous said...

You keep excusing things as being "unity".

Meanwhile, I am not criticizing what Julie said, I am criticizing how she totally lost her cool, was disrespectful, and disrupted the process. Yes, she WAS foaming at the mouth like a rabid rotweiler.

You ICEsickles can criticize Randi for everything but regardless what you say, she does call on you and she certainly did at that DA. With 1,500 delegates present and many hands up, MANY PEOPLE are getting frustrated that we have to hear Peter Lampheer and Johnathan Holloby speak at every DA. Sometimes Peter has ok things to say, sometimes he doesn't do his homework and Johnathan is simply just a moron. There is nothing special about either of them and if I was the UFT President I would not call on either of them.

Anonymous said...

Jonathan is in New Action. I would hardly call that opposition Mr. Unity. Julie explained why she had to be loud. It's a huge room with 800 people in it and she was over in the far corner way away from the podium. She was responding to a question Randi asked. Would you prefer Randi only call on the Unity faithful? Don't answer that please.

Oh and also I think Randi said it was going to be an open mic. Since it wasn't an open mic, she did try to alternate fairly well between Unity and non Unity.

Anonymous said...

"Julie explained why she had to be loud."

Did she explain why she was foaming at the mouth?

And I agree, no more calling on Lamphere or Halabi. It is not fair that they get the mic at every Delegate Assembly.

Anonymous said...

How about no more calling on 9 Unity people in a row before we get to more than one person who is against something Randi wants? Would you favor one for and one against like ICE called for?

Anonymous said...

Cut it out with the personal attacks on Julie.