Friday, June 29, 2012


For a union that claims victory even when it loses, the UFT, along with the Council of Supervisors and Administrators, can today boast about a true win as an arbitrator has ruled that the Department of Education violated our union contracts when they excessed entire schools and forced people to reapply for their jobs but only had to hire half back. The phony closing of 24 turnaround schools has been stopped and our members will get their jobs back in their schools if they want them.  This is a tremendous day for teachers, administrators, other educators and students. For the mayor it is a stinging defeat.

To all of the UFT and CSA members in the 24 impacted schools, I say congratulations but look out because the mayor does not normally take kindly to losing.  We will need to be a really strong union in the months ahead.  Make no mistake about it.

Hopefully, this is the day in history where it will be shown that we turned the situation around and stopped the school closing madness.  However, we won twice back in 2010 when the courts stopped the mayor from closing 19 schools. The mayor responded by coming back a few months later to close most of the schools again. My school (Jamaica High School) was one of those schools and we are still in court with the 2011 lawsuit to stop that round of school closings.

 I am all in favor of a legal and political strategy to go against this mayor's insane education policies.  However, without a full mobilization of the members of this union, that strategy ultimately could easily fail. Let's not see 2010 happen again. Stay active from day 1 turnaround school people.

Saturday, June 23, 2012


UFT President Michael Mulgrew is claiming a major win in Albany as a bill has been passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor that will limit release of Teacher Performance Ratings to parents of a student's actual teacher.  As usual in any agreement, the devil is in the details and some analysis has already been done showing that this appears to be another Unity Caucus (ruling party of the UFT) gain that can be easily turned against us. 

The Daily News calls it a step in their direction.  That should worry everyone as their ultimate goal is to end the profession essentially. The News wanted every teacher's rating to be published with their name so they could shame us. Research and experience show that teachers count for only a very small percentage of student performance but the new teacher rating system when negotiated between the city and DOE will make 40% of our annual rating based on growth of student achievement so the new rating system will be a flawed way to judge teachers. The News and NY Post couldn't care less nor could Mayor Bloomberg.

The UFT is claiming a win because the new law doesn't go as far as the News, the Post and Bloomberg wanted.  Since the legislation will only allow a parent to find out how his/her own child's teacher was rated and the public will receive the data with names redacted, this is a big gain according to the UFT.  My friend Jeff Andrusain did a little analysis and sent this to ICE Mail:

No protection at all. Another "victory" for Unity.

Board of Ed puts out "redacted info", parents add their "confidential" info to this and within a short time all is public. All you need is one parent from one class or maybe two classes to figure out the rest. Not too hard for a zealous reporter or a "concerned" parent or PTA.

Mulgrew and company tell us this is a victory. 

We all believe him.

I love my union.

What more can I say?

For further analysis, check out the Accountable Talk blog.

Saturday, June 16, 2012


At the June 13 Delegate Assembly, UFT President Michael Mulgrew announced publicly for the first time that the UFT is taking our contract dispute with the city to "non-binding" fact finding arbitration.  While the process is not supposed to be binding on either side, in the past each time we have gone to fact finding it has become the basis for our contract so this is really a major step in the contract fight that has gone almost completely unnoticed.  I believe it is a step in the wrong direction as history shows us that fact finding will result in losses for the UFT.

The issue was raised at the DA in a very innocuous way as a Delegate asked a question about our contract. Mulgrew casually mentioned fact finding in his president's report and then answered the Delegate's question by saying that we are going to fact finding but that the city under Bloomberg would probably reject the fact finding report.

Bloomberg may oppose whatever the fact finders come up with but based on the past, we can be sure that the report will not be favorable however it will eventually become the basis for a contract.

Fact finding is part of the New York State Taylor Law.  It is the final stage in the process to try to settle an impasse between the UFT and City.  A three person panel  is formed and they write a report that becomes the blueprint for a new contract.  One arbitrator is picked by the UFT, one is chosen by the city and these two pick the third arbitrator to lead the panel.  Both sides can accept or reject what the arbitrators say but in the past these reports have always led to contracts.

Arbitrators are basically trained to give each side something so it is very rare for one of the parties to get all that they ask for.  Arbitrators are also moved by pattern bargaining.  Once a city union settles on a contract, it sets a pattern and then other unions basically receive the same settlement.  The pattern in the last round of collective bargaining that most other unions have already received is raises of 4% and 4% over two years with no givebacks.  It is a decent pattern.  We have been over two years without a contract so the entire contract will be retroactive.  One would think it would be easy for the UFT to receive the same raise that every other union in the city was given but Bloomberg has said no specifically to educators.  Hence, the call for arbitration.

The irony is that when we went to arbitration in 1993, 2002 and 2005, we were trying break from the pattern because we were attempting to catch up with the salaries that teachers in the suburbs earn.  We never really broke the pattern in arbitration but instead had to have time for money swaps in 2002 and 2005.  We work extra hours in exchange for more money. Management has been allowed to use that extra time in most schools for a small group instruction period.  We are earning the added salary by doing more work so that is not what I would consider a raise.

Beyond salary the city made huge gains in the 2005 fact finding report as the fact finders agreed with the city to take away teacher SBO and seniority transfers.  This set up the so called open market system where all hiring is left up to principals. Patronage now runs rampant in the schools.  The 2005 fact finding panel also created the Absent Teacher Reserve situation.  Prior to this time, the DOE could only use school closing as a last resort because they knew they had to place all of the teachers from closing schools in one of six schools that individual teachers chose on a wish list.  2005 gave principals a veto on any placement so teachers with many years of experience now have to hustle for a position when schools close or go from school to school as substitutes.  The city doesn't do this when firehouses are closed.  The firefighters from the closed house are picked up by other houses.  Massive school closings would not have been possible unless the UFT agreed with the fact finders to let this system spin out of control.

The fact finders also decided to put us back on cafeteria and hall patrol in 2005 and in both 2002 and 2005 the 3020A process to discipline tenured teachers was modified to make it harder for teachers to defend ourselves.

The fact finders will more than likely not give us the retroactive 4% + 4% with no givebacks that the other city unions received and we should demand.  Instead, precedent tells us there will be some kind of new givebacks. (We can pick our poison from the list of givebacks Bloomberg wants that Gotham Schools published.) The city will not leave the table empty-handed.  Whatever he gets will probably not be enough to satisfy Bloomberg, who wants to destroy the UFT, but it will be more than any other union gave. When the next mayor takes office in 2014, the fact finding report will be there to take away more of our rights.

Why would we agree to go through this process again?

Our negotiating position should be that the other city unions received 4% and 4% without givebacks and we deserve nothing less.  Case closed. Are educators any less valuable than all of the other city employees? Fact finding is part of the Taylor Law that ends our impasse process but there is no need to go there when we have nothing to gain and a great deal to lose.

On the UFT Executive Board in 2004, Jeff Kaufman and I pleaded with Randi Weingarten not to go near fact finding but she brushed us aside.  We have not had the chance to make our case in public this time to Delegates and Chapter Leaders at the Delegate Assembly because President Mulgrew is not even bothering to get  rubber stamp approval to go to fact finding from this body that his Unity Caucus dominates.

The UFT at last Wednesday's June Delegate Assembly passed a resolution reconvening the mayoral control committee that last worked in 2009.  After its work was finished in 2009, the UFT basically supported continuing mayoral control of the schools.  That has not worked very well for us to say the least.

The Independent Community of Educators produced a minority UFT committee report opposing mayoral control in 2009.  This is another area where ICE was right and the UFT leadership from Unity Caucus was wrong. Now they want a do over.  Meanwhile, those of us who work in the schools continue to have to survive under horrible conditions created by the mayoral dictatorship over the schools that my colleague Marc Epstein has again written about at the Huffington Post.

Mulgrew in his Presidents Report spoke about how we have zero tolerance for sexual misconduct as this has been in the news recently.  He then stated that the UFT was successful in getting parents onto Article 18D hiring committees.  He also told us that there can't be a building-wide policy to deny tenure.  If this is occurring, people should contact Michael Mendel.  

He then said that we should work the phone banks for the June 26th primary elections for Congress and that we will have to toil very diligently in the fall in swing states such as Pennsylvania and Ohio to reelect President Obama.

Mulgrew then talked about the budget process in the City Council where we are lobbying for the return of Teacher's Choice and we have a very difficult struggle to stop Bloomberg from privatizing the Day Care Workers.  He added that he does not have much optimism for next year.  He noted that we have a good school system because of our members but that Bloomberg wants to privatize services and attack unions and unions are taking heavy losses but the UFT is fighting back.  He thanked the Delegates for this year as we have been able to convince much of the press and the parents to understand our position.

He then declared that the UFT is standing strong waiting for January 1, 2014 when the mayor leaves office. 

Staff Director Leroy Barr reported that phone banks are open as we prepare for the June 26 Congressional primary.  He then told everyone to come to the silent protest march against the mayor's stop and frisk policy that will be taking place on Sunday, June 17 at 2:00 p.m.  He added that the UFT contingent will meet between 5th Avenue and Lennox Avenue on 110th Street.

The question period followed.  A Delegate asked about the implications of Governor Scott Walker fending off a recall challenge in Wisconsin.  Mulgrew responded that the Democrats were outspent 7 to 1 and exit polls suggested that people were not happy that he was being recalled on policy grounds instead of illegal activity.

A question was asked about the revised student discipline code and the President replied that we have a responsibility to document what is going on with children who act out and misbehave so we can diagnose what is going on with the child.  The contract question was next (see above).  Mulgrew talked about Chicago's difficult struggle.  He said he often speaks with Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis and they showed solidarity as 90% of teachers voted to authorize a strike but public employee strikes are illegal in New York. He also said Massachusetts passed a law doing away with teacher seniority rights so things don't look great.

The Delegates opposed one new motion and then a resolution was passed to reaffirm UFT support for Chapter Leaders and Delegates and a contingency resolution was passed empowering the Executive Board to make political endorsements over the summer.  Next came the mayoral control committee and then it was time to leave.  

I am currently very busy on personal stuff but I will do my best to keep blogging when major news occurs.