Monday, April 26, 2010
[Note 1: Norm Scott put up a post on MM's sleazy comments at the DA on the RR and politicians. I heard every one of them, and I thought he sounded like he was talking to a teamster's union. More important in this post is the list of SEVEN QUESTIONS that no one at the DA would ever get to ask him about the RR agreement, and that is a shame.]
[Note 2: MM himself, in the Huffington Post.]
MM: "Privateers shouldn't be in the state of New York." He wants to push the point that if the state gets Race to the Top grant, "not a penny can be used to fill a budget gap." His main concern is the budget itself.
He gave updates on Florida (the Gov. Crist was able to veto what MM calls the "disgusting bill" that had been passed in both houses there), NJ (the public bought its governor's campaign that teachers are only out for themselves; Paterson is doing the same thing in Albany, setting parents against parents and younger members against vets), DC (they removed seniority layoff protections 5 years ago and Rhee's been trying to to destabilize the system since then; DC loses 60% of their new teachers every 2 years, 75% leave in first 5 years).
On the UFT/NAACP lawsuit against the DoE for closing those schools, MM says the city is appealing this, but he doesn't think they'll win.
MM applauds the bill of Sen. Harkins bill for a $23 billion bailout for public education, but says he's already been hearing some legislators at Albany saying good, then the state won't have to find the money.
MM is calling on the membership to attend the "Good Jobs Rally" that the AFL-CIO is mounting against Wall St. on April 29th. Begins at City Hall, then a march down Broadway to Wall St. to give them "a piece of our mind." 4 - 6 pm. "We don't want the children to pay the price for what other people did."
Another rally, he says, is set for October 10th in Washington, DC. The labor leaders want 2 million people to show up for that.
As for our contract. They had the first mediation session.
Regarding the Diaz and Bing bill on getting rid of seniority, he says it's not going to pass but it's out there. Klein is trying to split the members (newest against vets), UFT is fighting to protect all members. MM said all our UFT energy is to make no layoffs. "Can you imagine leaving [firing] it to the discretion of the principal?" UFT is picketing Bing's office, and will do the same at Diaz's soon. MM asked the Municipal Labor Union to write Bing and Diaz to tell them to withdraw the bill; a letter was sent to both on 4/21 saying "Your efforts and ours should be devoted to making sure the layoffs do not occur."
MM actually is looking to run candidates against these senators. (MM: "[We have] two idiots who have been living off our support for years...."). He says the UFT has to make a major statement - Seniority is "absolutely the issue." Wants citywide leafleting. He says: "When we protect all members, they will protect children."
[Note: Finally he sounds like he's fighting for our members. I've complained more than once that he and Randi always claim they're fighting for children. I see this wording as a very small shift.]
The Municipal Labor Council, he said later, now has a sub-committee to deal with the city - like their $3000/hr consultants (I think that was a joke) and the use of non-unionized contractors. But he said the UFT is trying to hold back until they're at the city budget time, "so if they want to to cut us, we could say: Here's your spendthrifts."
On the budget: He says it's the most dangerous thing in 35 years. The UFT faxes [mentioned above] and picketing are having an effect, and there are ads running in the rest of the state for keeping the education budget. Albany is starting to move a bit. Keep the pressure on the "electeds." "If this goes to June, we got problems." After pressuring the state, the union will have to go after Klein. Nobody's done anything about actual funding for 6 years. No-bid contracts are up. DoE has upped their lawyer headcount to 73 (from I think he said 4 -- could that be right?). The UFT foiled the headcount at Tweed, and it doubled this past year.
Question period was tame.
Sunday, April 18, 2010
ON THE SURFACE IT APPEARS TO BE A STEP FORWARD
3020A cases, where the DOE is trying to terminate a UFT member, should move along faster now as the number of arbitrators has been increased from 23-39. In addition more arbitrators will be added for less serious cases where the DOE doesn’t seek a penalty greater than a four week suspension. Some of this looks good at first glance. I think all of us can agree that justice delayed is justice denied so having more arbitrators seems like it is a positive move. In addition, trying mediation for current people reassigned is a move in the right direction.
WHAT’S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE?
If we are adding sixteen arbitrators to expedite teacher discipline (and more to hear less serious cases), then sixteen arbitrators should have also been added to expedite our grievances against the DOE.
There is a member in my school who has been waiting since 2006 to have a grievance heard at arbitration. I don’t see the NY Post, the Daily News or the NY Teacher complaining about our stalled grievance process being delayed justice. I am quite sure that there are many other UFT members waiting for years to have their cases resolved while the DOE continues to blatantly violate the contract. If the DOE wants to expedite cases against us, then a fair deal would have been for them to expedite grievances against them. That didn’t happen. The UFT once again gave in without getting equal value in return.
Here is our prediction on how all of this will go. As there will be many more arbitrators hearing disciplinary cases and extra hearing dates, there will likely be more members than in the past charged with incompetence or misconduct. Add to this the fact that the DOE will have sixty days after removing someone from a school to charge them, or put them back in school and charge them later, but UFT members only get 15 days to respond (I have been told we don’t even get a NYSUT lawyer until we are charged.). Therefore, DOE will most probably attempt to overwhelm the system with 3020A cases.
Incidents that a few years ago would have generated a letter for file will now be brought before 3020A arbitrators and the ranks of teachers who will be fined, suspended, or terminated will increase. Meanwhile, our grievances against DOE will continue to languish for years. I hope my forecast is totally wrong.
WILL THE RUBBER ROOMS BE CLOSED?
The new agreement will give the DOE four options as to what they can do with a UFT member they want to reassign. The DOE will be able to suspend someone with pay. More than likely they will use this option very sparingly. Other options will include suspending someone without pay for an expanded number of causes until their case is finished.
Another choice for reassigning people will be for someone to be reassigned within their own building to administrative duties. Imagine the indignity of coming to work in your own school and being removed from the classroom to sit on hall patrol all day. I foresee this choice will end up being very popular with the DOE as they try to wear people down and convince them to quit.
The final option for the DOE will be to send a member to “a DOE administrative office to do work consistent with law (an ‘Administrative Office Assignment’).” Sounds like the “rubber room” before Joel Klein’s days. Calling it a gain to have our members “alphabetizing paper clips” or doing other such administrative tasks is a huge stretch. If someone still can be removed from a building and reassigned to an administrative office based on the whim of a principal who gets a rubber stamp approval from above, it still is essentially the rubber room.
To put it all very succinctly, I saw Joel Klein interviewed on MSNBC last Friday. He was lauding the rubber room agreement while criticizing the governor’s veto in Florida of the bill that would have ended teacher tenure in that state. The UFT is also hailing the rubber room agreement but I have seen nothing yet at UFT.org or in the Chapter Leader Update about how teachers took matters into their own hands in Florida and emerged victorious. This tells you something.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
By now most of the NYC Board of Education community has received news of an 8 page agreement in which our Union has ceded to the City's contract demands for few, if any, concessions and entered without membership approval.
In the wake of his electoral victory our newly elected president has determined that membership consultation or approval of DOE contract demands is not necessary. As widely reported the DOE has sought a way out of the embarrassment that the rubber rooms have caused. News reports on almost a daily basis have highlighted long-term rubber room detainees waiting for long periods with nothing to do but read or sleep while they remained on payroll. Despite contractual guarantees, approved by the membership, grievances challenging the long delays were either never brought or abandoned as the grievances were delayed.
Now, on the eve of the premiere of a highly anticipated documentary, The Rubber Room Movie, our union comes to the aid of Klein and Bloomberg in what is sure to be a public relations nightmare. And our new president is proud of it.
To be sure the Rubber Room issue needed to be resolved and contract negotiations are the perfect place to deal with it even though it might not be a mandatory subject of bargaining. But in the context of negotiations what did we, as union members, get for this agreement that our leader has unilaterally agreed to.
We got the right to be suspended without pay for an expanded list of charges.
We got the right to perform a full day of cafeteria or bathroom duty if the DOE thinks we are not a danger to students.
We got the right to sit an office and do who knows what (perhaps sleep and read) if the DOE deems we are a danger to students.
We got the right to "expedited hearings" which currently were reserved for time and attendance issues for any case that the DOE wants a suspension for more than 4 weeks. This means that cases which might involve the need for a full and fair record but could "only" cost a teacher a one month's fine can be performed in the kangaroo court of time and attendance arbitration.
While theoretically hearings should proceed in a more expeditious manner and that is generally a positive aspect of this negotiation it is clear, as always, we gave up way too much and received little in return just to allow the Mayor and the Chancellor to answer the Post and other critics of our rubber room.
People have asked us to comment on the NYC rubber room deal. We will have something to say after we study it. For now, we should all be pleased with what happened in Florida. Maybe the push back in support of teachers that started there will spread around the country.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Meanwhile, the sickout in Miami, according to the Miami Herald, was more like a pandemic as teachers in Florida took action without union support to fight a bill that was passed and is awaiting the governor's signature that would end tenure.
Here is the actual bill.
Wake up everyone we are fighting for our lives.
Monday, April 12, 2010
We are so thrilled that some of the teachers who called in sick today used their names when talking to the press. That's real courage. Tenure in florida is hanging by a thread; it will be gone if the governor signs a controversial bill.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
The threat to us is national. In Florida a bill was passed by the legislature that is ready for the governor's signature that would mean the end of tenure and would basically destroy the teaching profession as we know it. The reaction from the teachers is wildcat actions. Let's see if they go through with their threat of a sickout.
Send Charlie Crist, the governor of Florida, an email to veto the bill. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org
In a sharply worded decision Justice Marcy Friedman of the Manhattan Supreme Court ruled last Thursday that a Bronx Regional High School tenured teacher did not deserve the "U" rating her principal had given her because the principal failed to follow formal observation procedures.
The teacher, a 42 year veteran of the system had been "U" rated for the 2006 to 2007 school year for the first time in her career. During the next school year she was observed three times; twice without a pre-observation conference and once with a pre-observation conference. The observation she had with a pre-observation conference was rated satisfactorily and the others were "U" rated. She was given a second "U" rated annual performance review.
After the teacher appealed the second rating and lost she hired private counsel and brought the matter to the Manhattan Supreme Court. Justice Friedman found that the contract required that "U" rated teachers be evaluated only by formal observations which require pre and post observation conferences. Since the only one that followed this procedure was "S" rated it was irrational to "U" rate the teacher for the full year and ordered the Board to reverse the rating.
Justice Friedman also noted the need to file grievances where procedural safeguards are not followed. She noted that the Bronx Regional High School teacher could have grieved the observations held without pre and post observation conferences but her failure to do did not waive her right to contest the "U" rating based on these observations.
A copy of the decision can downloaded here.
Wednesday, April 07, 2010
Yes, the turnout was low and apathy is still high among teachers, who mostly did not vote, and of course Unity has every advantage in the world so UFT elections are not played out on a level playing field but 91% of those voting voted for Mulgrew and that cannot be discounted.
For the thousands of members who voted for us, particularly in the high schools where we had most of our support and finished a strong second, we say thanks but we still haven't found a way to reach the vast majority of teachers to get them involved in our union.
As we move ahead, we will work as hard as we can to build a strong union. I think that is a goal all union activists can agree on.
Friday, April 02, 2010
Here is the original radio spot which was broadcast over WINS last Sunday.
Click on the small arrow on the right side of the player.