Monday, August 17, 2009

ICE Called it Right as 4%+4% Pattern Raises for Next UFT Contract are in the City Budget

Our Contract expires on October 31, 2009. Negotiations are about to start for a new one but in reality there might not be much to discuss unless the UFT is willing to push to get back the seniority and other rights we gave away in 2005. (highly unlikely)

The NY Post, of all places, has exposed that the city has budgeted 4% raises for UFT members into its budget for the next two years because of pattern bargaining.

Pattern bargaining is when one city labor union settles with the city on a financial package for a round of collective bargaining and that sets a pattern so other city unions can go in and say, "Me too."

It's the way muncipal labor contracts have been negotiated for decades. New UFT President Michael Mulgrew will claim a great victory if we get the 4%+4% pattern that every other union has already received. ICE-TJC can go in and get the pattern too, as could a Kindergarten kid.

This blog talked about the pattern for our next Contract already being set as far back as 2007 and last year we emphasized how events have not changed in terms of the pattern even with the financial crisis.




The UFT was unable to beat pattern bargaining in the nineties and earlier this decade when our salaries fell way behind what teachers in surrounding districts earn. We were able to bridge the gap with the suburbs a little only by agreeing to major contractual concessions such as the longer day and other givebacks that robbed us of much of our professional dignity in 2005.

In Monday's Post the Mayor provided some clarification about our probable 8% increases: "It would be irresponsible when all of the other unions have gotten [similar raises] for us not to put the pattern into the budget," he said.

"Things are going to be different down the road as we continue to talk to the UFT."

What that means is anyone's guess but I would surmise that since other unions aren't conceding givebacks now, then the UFT won't either. That is unless we want something other than the pattern.

However, the next Contract will expire in 2011 and Bloomberg could be reelected by then and Mulgrew could be established as well. At that time, look out folks. The city's financial situation might not be much better than it is today.

2011 has the potential to be a repeat of the 2005 givebacks. All the more reason why we need to be able to stand up as a real labor union.

Now is the time to go back to union basics and organize for the inevitable difficult battle that lies ahead.

2010 Campaign Kickoff: We need YOU to Help Us Form a Real Union

According to the UFT Constitution, one of the main objectives of the UFT is “To protect members whenever necessary.” Unfortunately, that goal has been abandoned by our leadership which comes from Unity Caucus, the “invitation only” group that has controlled the UFT for almost half a century.

We have posted numerous articles on this blog showing how members (who are required to pay hefty dues) and Chapters have been left hung out to dry by the UFT. Many of us who gallantly try to uphold our professional dignity are left on our own to fight the Department of Education. This must stop at once. However, turning the UFT from its current weak state into a real union won’t be easy. It’s up to YOU to make it happen.

To understand what we are up against, look closely at the August 13, 2009 edition of NY Teacher newspaper for the debut of the latest union style “cult of personality” dedicated to UFT President Michael Mulgrew. We counted no less than eight pictures of the newly appointed leader on the first four pages and multiple articles too.

One such story is a laughable piece on how the Executive Board elected him unanimously. There is no mention that opposition caucuses were not permitted to speak at the meeting where Mulgrew was nominated or about the political make up of the Executive Board. There was nothing about how Unity Caucus obligations require their members to support caucus candidates.

We are not, however, writing this piece to slam Mulgrew or criticize his selection as UFT President. The less than democratic rules for succession of UFT officers have been in place for a long time. In fact, we wish the president well.

We are posting this so we can start to emphasize to the readers of this blog how difficult it will be to unseat Mulgrew and Unity Caucus.

The NY Teacher is a house organ and as such it is a very efficient propaganda newspaper, spinning a positive message about the state of our union and its leaders. In addition, Unity has money as people who accept their invitation to join have to pay a fee.

Since being in Unity has guaranteed victory in UFT elections, Unity has a very deep treasury; they will use it to smear us in the general election in 2010. They are extremely adept in one area: keeping themselves in power. They count on member apathy. Sadly, the vast majority of teachers do not vote.

Unity even has a loyal subsidiary group called New Action. The traditional opposition party has not run a candidate for UFT President since 2001 and yet they remain on the ballot in UFT elections. Their purpose appears to be to confuse people who want to vote for something different. Their reward has been union jobs.

If we want to see real change in the UFT, ICE-TJC can lead the movement. We have union passion. Many in our group are experienced chapter leaders, delegates and activists. Some of us have even sat on the UFT Executive Board. We have served on the inside so we can clearly see how to repair the Union.

If elected, we will protect every member and Chapter as fully as possible. No UFT member should ever feel that the UFT doesn’t completely have their back.

We will also mobilize the sleeping giant: the UFT rank and file. It’s time for us to stop being afraid of the DOE and for the DOE and city to worry about our collective strength. Teaching and learning conditions will only improve if we mobilize to make it happen.

However, we are not yet a large group and we are up against the Unity machine which controls all Union patronage and enjoys the status quo. Loyalty to Unity caucus has been a necessary prerequisite if someone wants free trips to conventions or a union job. They will do what it takes to keep their positions. It will take more than just reading the blogs to create a real union in our schools.

ICE is under no illusions that unseating Mulgrew/Unity in 2010 will be simple. It will be a monumental task. ICE-TJC winning a UFT election would be the political equivalent of David slaying Goliath.

Here are some ways you can become a part of a movement to start a rank and file controlled UFT.

We need members to become active in the union in their schools to show how the UFT can work to benefit all of its members.

We need people to help distribute our literature in their schools. You have a right to use mailboxes for this purpose and we will defend it. (Baizerman grievance decision)

We need people to spread the word about ICE-TJC to other schools throughout NYC.

We need people to get on line and spread the word virally about ICE-TJC.

We need more members to become actively involved by joining ICE. We would love to hear everyone's ideas to make this a truly bottom-up campaign for UFT offices in 2010.

To expose Unity, we need money to run a campaign. The ICE website can tell you how to donate.

The U in union stands for YOU becoming an activist so all of us can win.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Terminated Probationary Teacher Wins First Step Getting Job Back

When Principal Diane Gordin and District 31 (Staten Island) Superintendent Margaret Schultz terminated Lisa Capece from her fifth grade probationary teaching position at P.S. 1 they knew they had a fighter on their hands. They also knew that having the Court order a probationer reinstated is very rare. They must have been surprised to learn that Justice Philip G. Minardo, on August 3rd, would order a hearing to determine if Capece's termination was proper.

Probationers, under our law, can be dismissed for any or no reason. In the DOE probationers are entitled, theoretically with an internal administrative method to challenge the termination. The first step, after a principal decides to terminate the probationer, is an "appeal" (more like a plea) to the Superintendent, who has the legal authority to terminate the probationer. Once the termination is accomplished the probationer has the right to an appeal where a three member panel hears the basis of the termination and issues a recommendation to the Chancellor for or against termination. This hearing is fairly informal and, in my experience, our Union does not take seriously.

Once the Chancellor has decided to affirm the termination there is little the terminated employee can do. In order to challenge the termination in Court the terminated employee must bring an Article 78 court proceeding within 120 days of the termination; not the Chancellor's decision. If he waits until the Chancellor's decision it will generally be beyond the 120 days so reinstatement is out of the question. (You can challenge the termination of the license but even if you win, which is unlikely, the Court cannot reinstate you). No one in the Union advises this and many terminated probationers lose their rights right out of the gate.

Now, getting back to Capece's case, it appears that she was scheduled to end her probation on January 28, 2008, but she agreed to an extension of probation in November 2007. Capece alleged that Superintendant Schultz coerced her into agreeing to the one year extension under the threat of immediate termination. The purported reason for this act of largesse apparently orchestrated by Principal Diane Gordin was to allow Capece to demonstrate improvement in her alleged areas of "difficulty", i.e., time management, differentiation in her manner of instruction, adapting her teaching lessons based upon the students' needs, and effectively assessing her students' level of comprehension and individual abilities.

During the extension Capece received two "U" observations, three LIF's and a "U" rating. She was terminated by Schultz and in a split decision, 2-1, the termination was upheld after a hearing by the Office of Appeals and Review.

Capece alleged that she was subjected to harassment and discriminatory treatment due, in part, to her union activities. She was the co-Chapter Leader and claims that she was targeted because she would not give up the position. Additionally she alleged that she was discriminated against due to her religious beliefs when she refused to go to a workshop on a Catholic holiday. She detailed her exemplary two year record prior to her being targeted in her last year of probation.

Justice Minardo, while mindful that the DOE can terminate a petitioner for almost any reason, observed that there were restrictions on the DOE's power to terminate. These include discrimination and union activity which, he wrote, were protected by the 1st Amendment and statutes.

Justice Minardo ordered that the allegations raised the need for a hearing which he scheduled for September 15th.

Capece was represented by private counsel. NYSUT lawyers will generally not take probation termination cases.

The decision is reported here.