Friday, October 19, 2012


There was plenty of irony at the first UFT Delegate Assembly meeting that took place on Wednesday, October 17 at 52 Broadway.  The UFT honored Dr. Annie B. Martin, head of the New York City Branch of the NAACP, posthumously for her role in the labor movement, the civil rights movement and her support for the UFT. The amazing Dr.Hazel Dukes from the NAACP spoke to us about the struggle for our rights but after she finished UFT leadership descended into their usual autocratic ways by stifling all dissent at the DA.  

As this was the first DA for many new Delegates who were elected this past spring, there was a sense of anticipation.  However, when anything controversial came up, the Unity Caucus (ruling political party that runs the UFT) blocked any substantive discussion. Anyone opposed to anything proposed by the leadership had no opportunity to voice their views. This explains why so many Delegates don’t show up at these DA meetings. They see it as a joke.

The most contentious issue was the UFT-AFT support to mobilize for the reelection of Barack Obama.  The Union had a resolution to mobilize support for Barack Obama on its agenda and Delegate Marjorie Stamberg had her own resolution for the UFT to oppose the reelection of Obama. (Read her view and resolution in the prior post.When the new motion period came (the period in the agenda where Delegates can raise new business), Marjorie was given the floor.  She printed and distributed her motion beforehand as per UFT rules.  Since she wanted it on this month’s agenda (next month it would be mute as the election will be over), debate is not allowed and there needs for there to be a 2/3 vote in favor to add it.  When Marjorie tried to motivate her resolution, Mulgrew properly stopped her.  

However, the leadership did not stop here as Secretary Michael Mendel (usually a sensible and fair person) took the unprecedented step of not allowing Marjorie to even read her motion. He would only permit her to read the title. He said that Delegates have it already so they can read it to themselves. This is absurd since there must have been twenty handouts given out at the door so to even find this motion in our packets was very difficult.  

Mendel came to me afterwards to talk about what happened and said that Marjorie was trying to motivate the resolution and that is why he stood up to halt it. I agreed with him on this but I told him that DA policy has always been to allow someone to read their motion.  How can someone make a motion if they are not permitted to verbalize it?  We will see if silent reading is now the new policy at DA’s.

I was not totally angry at this point because there was the leadership’s resolution supporting Obama on the regular agenda that I thought Mulgrew would go out of his way to allow someone, preferably Marjorie, to speak against.  I was wrong.  When it was time for this motion, New Action (another party within the UFT that supports Mulgrew) leader Michael Shulman gave an impassioned speech on why we have to mobilize to support Obama.  Earlier in the meeting AFT President Randi Weingarten was introduced by Mulgrew and Randi gave a twenty minute summation on why we have to mobilize to reelect the US President.  After this entire one sided discussion in support of Obama, any fair minded leader would have asked for an opposition voice to speak. Unfortunately, the next person called on asked that debate be closed (calling the question).  Instead of following his role as chair and ruling that the motion to close debate was out of order, Mulgrew let the body decide and the Unity majority closed debate and voted to mobilize to support Obama.  Here is what Roberts’ Rules says about closing debate:

“Debate of a question is not ended by the chair’s rising to put the question to vote until both the affirmative and the negative are put.”

Fairly clear and obvious, right?    In addition the word debate is defined by "noun 1. a discussion, as of a public question in an assembly, involving opposing viewpoints."

We should add for the dictionary people that this definition does not include UFT proceedings.  Needless to say it was a very frustrating moment as there is a case to be made on why we should not support Obama. 

I am not advocating for Romney who would be a total disaster for teachers and all of labor nor do I necessarily support staying neutral.  The Green Party is certainly a viable alternative even though they have no chance of winning.

In the context of this political climate where many teachers are uneasy about Obama, it must be pointed out that between Mulgrew, Randi and Shulman the name Arne Duncan, who happens to be Obama’s Secretary of Education, never came up.  Duncan was the architect of much of the privatization of the Chicago Public Schools during his tenure there. As Obama’s Secretary of Education, his Race to the Top program is a disaster for public education since federal funds are tied to deforms we hate such as merit pay, closing schools, turning them into charter schools, evaluating teachers based on student test scores on standardized tests and more.  Duncan even applauded the firing of a whole district of teachers in Rhode Island.  Delegates never heard this nor were the Obama supporters able to refute these arguments because they were never made.  Stifling debate leaves us much weaker as a union and ironically makes open minded people less likely to support the UFT’s position.

The same Unity one-two combination was used on a motion to support a change in the UFT Constitution which would add a new Vice President for non-Board of Education employees who are part of the UFT.  It was not made clear if retirees count in this title.  The Amendment says the new V.P.  should be “from a chapter whose members are employed by an entity other than the Board of Education of the city School District of the City of New York.”  I think retirees would not qualify but technically retirees are not Board of Ed employees.

I have no issue with people from United Cerebral Palsy, or a charter school that has been successfully organized or any other non-Board of Ed UFT member having their own vice president.  However a legitimate question to ask is why we in the schools will be voting for who will represent the non-Board of Ed UFT members and why are they voting for who will represent those of us who work for the Board of Ed?  It makes no sense.  It would be like someone in New York having a vote on who will be the governor of California. I had my card raised very high but nobody was given a chance to speak against the Amendment and before I could raise a point of order, the question was called and voted on.  

The Amendment easily passed so we will all be voting for who will represent the non-Board of Ed employees and they will be voting for our divisional vice presidents. Someone please tell me why United Cerebral Palsy UFT members are voting on who will be the UFT Academic High School Vice President.

President’s Report & The Rest of the DA
Michael Mulgrew was honoring Dr Annie B. Martin when I arrived.  He then had Hazel Dukes from the NAACP speak to us and then he proceeded to talk national politics.  He told us he had recently traveled to Florida to address the retirees.  He said this election was serious stuff.  Mulgrew then introduced AFT President Randi Weingarten who addressed the Delegates by telling us that if the Republicans win, they will do what Scott Walker did in Wisconsin: take away labor rights.  She said Republicans would continue to privatize education.  She added that we might not always agree with Democrats, but they at least stand up for investment in public education.

Mulgrew came back to tell us that it is seven weeks into the school year and DOE management is at an all-time low.  Over 300 lawyers are now running things and lawyers and education do not mix well according to our President.  He then talked about the contract.  We have now been almost three years without a contract and we are at fact finding.  (Three arbitrators will issue a non-binding report that in the past has been used as a framework for our contract.) He said he wants to make the fact-finding report the centerpiece of the mayoral election campaign as we have such a strong case because of New York State law and pattern bargaining.

Mulgrew then mentioned the NAACP Legal Defense Fund civil rights complaint with the federal Department of Education which says that the specialized high schools are no longer integrated.  Mulgrew would like to return to the Discovery Program where in the past admission was based on more than just the results of a test.

Mulgrew then talked about how the UFT Charter School is a K-12 school that takes in all students and doesn't throw them out.  He claimed that the school is on track for a 95% graduation rate but the UFT won’t play the games that other charters do.  He then told the Delegates that United Cerebral Palsy workers, who are represented by the UFT, just reached a settlement with a 4% raise and no givebacks.  These are private sector employees who would not be subject to Taylor Law fines and they were ready to strike. 

Mulgrew then spoke about the Teacher Effectiveness Pilot Schools and he emphasized that we need a better evaluation system.  He added that the city now wants to certify teachers instead of the state but they need to figure out how to retain teachers.  He then went on to say that if we do not reach an agreement by January 16, 2013 on a new evaluation system, we will lose $300 million in state aid.  He concluded by declaring that the evaluation system must be supportive of teachers or no agreement will be reached.

The next issue was curriculum writing.  Mulgrew said we have Common Core Standards but no new curriculum and that will lead to many students failing standardized exams.  He then told the Delegates that this issue has been taken to the Public employees Relations Board because teachers are not supposed to write curriculum as we are not qualified to write curriculum on the Common Core since we have not been trained on it.  The next hearing will be on December 6 at PERB.  People who have evidence need to contact UFT lawyer Adam Ross.

On special education reform, Mulgrew announced that UFT collected data showed that pilot schools under-performed non-pilot schools.  UFT members who have been asked to change IEP’s need to file Special Education Complaints. He ended this segment by noting that we have the longest arbitration in UFT history on CESIS.  Mulgrew finished up his report by pushing Teacher Union Day which is November 4.  Staff Director Leroy Barr followed up by telling us about dates for various union events.  He also made a pitch for people to bring out members to do phone banks for Obama and other UFT endorsed candidates.

Next up was the question period.  A Delegate asked about the Chicago strike and why we couldn't do the same.  Mulgrew answered that we have the Taylor Law in New York which has crippling fines if we strike but Illinois does not so their strike was legal.  He also stated that Chicago had to get many rights back in their struggle that we still have. He concluded by noting that the Chicago Teachers Union and their President Karen Lewis really didn't have a choice.

A Delegate then asked about retroactive pay in the next contract.  Mulgrew said we have always gotten it in the past.  He then told us we probably cannot settle with Bloomberg because we will not sell out the Absent Teacher Reserves.  He declared that we would not become at will employees and that the successor to Bloomberg is not going to have it easy as he/she attempts to fix the system.

Someone asked a question about wrap around services. The UFT President said we are collecting data from parents and teachers.  Finally, a Delegate asked about Eva Moskowitz starting a school at Washington Irving.  Mulgrew answered that we understand she does not like us and we don’t like her but she has money. However with all of the attacks on us from the Daily News and NY Post, we still have a 62% approval rating and new charter schools are capped by law at 20 start ups per year.

New motions were next.  Delegate Peter Lamphere raised a resolution for next month to support the NAACP Legal Defense Fund civil rights complaint about the specialized high schools.  This carried and will be on next month’s agenda.  The only other piece of business was to endorse Andy King for City Council.

Overall, I can say that there were many new Delegates at this meeting and I can predict with some certainty that there will be lighter attendance in November..

Thursday, October 18, 2012


It was clear to all after a protracted pep rally for Obama at the October 17 Delegate Assembly, for which Randi Weingarten returned for a star appearance, that not one word of criticism of Obama would be allowed on the floor of the D.A.

I had distributed a one-page “Resolution on 2012 Presidential Election,” handing it out as delegates came in and placing it on the literature table. The resolution began, “WHEREAS, it is self-destructive to continually endorse Democratic Party politicians (and Republicans) who are attacking teachers and seeking to gut our unions.” And after spelling out the roles of Rahm Emanuel and President Obama, the resolution ended, “THEREFORE, Be It Resolved that in defense of union rights, public education and the political independence of labor the United Federation of Teachers hereby repudiates the national AFT endorsement of Obama and calls for no vote for Democrats, Republicans or any party or politician representing the interests of capital against the working class, poor and oppressed.”

It was important that this opposition resolution come before the body as the teachers unions have repeatedly provided the troops for phone-banking and house-to-house canvassing

for the Democrats. Yet, it was noteworthy that not one of the several opposition groups in and around the UFT had a word to say about these elections. The M.O.R.E. did put forward a supportable resolution against the racist discrimination against black and Latino students in the specialized science high schools. But on the critical issue of breaking labor’s ties with the parties of Wall Street and capital, nothing.

The centerpiece of the rally (which masqueraded as a delegate assembly) was the performance by AFT president (and Democratic National Committee member) Weingarten. She went on at great length about if Obama is not elected, the Romneys, Michelle Rhees and the PACs “are all privatizers,” that the election is all about “the heart and soul of public education.” (Hello!? Rahm Emanuel? Arne Duncan? For the past four years, Barak Obama and his team have been spearheading the privatization of public education and attacks on teachers unions, from Central Falls, RI to Chicago, IL.) In fact, the assault on public education is a bipartisan offensive backed by both capitalist parties, Democrats and Republicans alike.

After the meeting had gone on an hour and a half and delegates were beginning to leave, the floor was finally opened for “Motions directed to the agenda.” I rose to say I had a motion in opposition to the AFT endorsement of Obama. At this point in the past, they usually declare that whatever I’m raising (such as occupying closing schools) is “illegal,” banned under the Taylor Law, or whatever. This time, they kept interrupting me every time I tried to say a word, calling out from the stage that I was not allowed to motivate the motion, I couldn’t summarize the motion, I couldn’t even the read the “Resolved.” UFT secretary Michael Mendel declared from on high that I could only read the title, claiming that this was according to “Robert’s Rules.”

I responded that “I understand from this that there will be no criticism of Obama allowed at this meeting,” and sat down. Mendel then became irate and went on a protracted tantrum from the stage claiming that this was not true, that his censorship was fully in accordance with Robert’s Rules of Order, that it was democratic because I had been able to distribute the motion (a strange notion of democracy indeed). Mulgrew then took over and asked the body to vote on whether or allow the motion on the floor. Even though they had still not heard a single word from the motion, hundreds of Unity Caucus delegates dutifully raised their voting cards to prevent it from coming to the floor.

But this was not the end. In addition to quashing opposition to Obama, they still had to push through their pro-Obama motion. This task was assigned to Mike Shulman of the New Action caucus who motivated at length the E-board resolution to mobilize support for the president who is pushing non-union charter schools, “merit pay,” and teacher evaluations based on student test scores.

The second he stopped, I rose and said I oppose this motion and I want to speak against it. A number of other hands also went up to speak. But a Unity Caucus member up front quickly interjected, “I call the question” to end any debate before it began. President Mulgrew said there could be no debate; I called out that “pro” and “con” speakers are always heard on a motion. He said that speakers on both sides are not required, that is not in Robert’s Rules of Order, why don’t I ask the parliamentarian (Mendel!) who ruled that indeed both sides did not need to be heard. Debate was cut off and the motion (surprise, surprise) was voted.

Since to carry out this censorship, the authority of Robert’s Rules was cited, let me add that the UFT leaders’ claim is entirely false. In fact it directly violates Part I (Rules of Order), Article I (How Business Is Conducted in Deliberative Assembly), which states under Point 4:

“When a member wishes a resolution adopted after having obtained the floor, he says, ‘I move the adoption of the following resolution,’ or ‘I offer the following resolution,’ which he reads and hands to the chair.”

But I was not allowed to read the resolution, to summarize it or even read the one-sentence “resolved.”

Moreover, when on the leadership resolution to endorse and mobilize for Obama the question was called without hearing any opposition speaker although several hands were raised and I verbally objected, this also directly violates Robert’s Rules, which explicitly require that both the pros and cons to be stated before the body, unless there are none. Indeed, the rule in question, under Article VII on Debate, is written as if in direct response to the strong-arm methods of the UFT leadership. Here it is:

“The right of members to debate and, make motions cannot be cut off by the chair's putting a question to vote with such rapidity as to prevent the members getting the floor after the chair has inquired if the assembly is ready for the question. Even after the chair has announced the vote, if it is found that a member arose and addressed the chair with reasonable promptness after the chair asked, ‘Are you ready for the question?’ he is then entitled to the floor, and the question is in exactly the same condition it was before it was put to vote.

“Debate is not closed by the chairman’s rising and putting the question, as until both the affirmative and the negative are put, a member can rise and claim the floor, and reopen the debate or make a motion, provided he rises with reasonable promptness after the chair asks, ‘Are you ready for the question?’ If the debate is resumed the question must be put again, both the affirmative and the negative.”

You couldn’t ask for more clarity. Mendel’s bullying claim that there was no violation of democratic procedure since delegates could read the motion is ludicrous. So why have elections or debates at all?

But the main violation which occurred at our union was not the manipulation and outright negation of Robert’s Rules, it was the trampling over the union members’ rights to discuss and debate major issues. And finally, for a labor union to vote for a capitalist politician, and one who has been in the leadership of the agenda of corporatization, privatization of schools and union-busting, is a class betrayal, which we will all pay for.

The motion I was not allowed to read is appended below:


And Einstein’s Definition of Insanity*

WHEREAS, it is self-destructive to continually endorse Democratic Party politicians (and Republicans) who are attacking teachers and seeking to gut our unions; and

WHEREAS, Mayor Rahm Emanuel declared war on the Chicago Teacher Union even before taking office; and

WHEREAS, the Democratic mayor has sought to institute “merit pay,” teacher evaluation based on student test scores, the closure of over a hundred schools and their replacement by privately run non-union charter schools, which Chicago teachers valiantly resisted in their recent strike; and

WHEREAS, these policies would lead to the layoff of hundreds if not thousands of teachers and deprive our students, particularly those from poor, African American, Latino and Asian families of a quality public education; and

WHEREAS, in his vendetta against teachers unions, Mayor Emanuel was carrying out the policies of Democratic president Barack Obama and his education “czar” Arne Duncan; and

WHEREAS, the Democratic Obama administration’s program of “Race to the Top” is the continuation of the destructive “No Child Left Behind” policies of the Republican Bushadministration; and

WHEREAS, in 2010 President Obama praised the firing of the entire teaching staff of Central Falls, Rhode Island by a vindictive and corrupt school board, as well as the firing of hundreds of teachers in Kansas City, Missouri; and

WHEREAS, Democrat Obama had and has no significant differences on education policy with Republican teacher-basher McCain in 2008 or with Republican labor-hater Romney in 2012, backing the corporate “reform” agenda to regiment education in the interests of big business; and

WHEREAS, Democrats and Republicans have joined in wars for global imperial domination against Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, while waging class war on working people here, deporting 400,000 immigrants a year, presiding over racist police violence, racial profiling of African-American and Latino youth (“stop and frisk”) and wholesale dismantling of civil liberties; and

WHEREAS, the Working Families Party is nothing but a shill for the Democrats; and

WHEREAS, the American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association have called for the reelection of President Obama, the man who bailed out Wall Street and seeks to privatize public education;

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that in defense of union rights, public education and the political independence of labor the United Federation of Teachers hereby repudiates the national AFT endorsement of Obama and calls for no vote for Democrats, Republicans or any party or politician representing the interests of capital against the working class, poor and oppressed.

*Not E=MC2 but “Doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results”.

--submitted by Marjorie Stamberg,

UFT Delegate, GED-Plus, District 79

Class Struggle Education Workers

Sunday, October 07, 2012


The UFT issued a press release last week, that went mostly unnoticed, saying that a fact-finding panel has been established to make non binding recommendations in the UFT's contract dispute with the Department of Education. The names of the three fact finders are Martin F. Scheinman, Mark Grossman and Howard Edelman. Mr. Scheinman was named chairperson of the panel. He has an extensive background with the UFT and DOE.  The other two names I am not familiar with.

This blog has said all along, and we will say it yet again, that going to fact-finding is a mistake because the union will lose something.  It is highly unlikely that the panel will side with the UFT and give us the same 4% and 4% raises without any givebacks that almost all of the other city unions received in the latest round of collective bargaining because arbitrators are trained to give both sides something.

Splitting the settlement to give a little to everyone is how arbitrators stay employed since every year either management or labor can throw someone off of the panel of acceptable arbitrators. If we examine the list of givebacks that the city is asking for, it boggles the mind why the UFT would go near the arbitration process. Yes, the recommendations can be rejected by either side but the fact-finding report will be out there even when a new mayor takes office in 2014 and it will have an impact on the settlement.

For those who have forgotten, our contract expired on October 31, 2009 and our last regular salary increase was on May 19, 2008. The entire UFT press release is printed below.

PERB appoints fact-finding panel for UFT/DOE contract dispute

The New York State Public Employment Relations Board has appointed a three-member fact-finding panel that will take testimony, hold hearings and issue a report and recommendations in an effort to resolve the contract dispute between the New York City Department of Education and the UFT. The UFT contract expired Oct. 31, 2009.
The factfinders, all labor arbitrators, are: Martin F. Scheinman. Mark Grossman and Howard Edelman. Mr. Scheinman was named chairperson of the panel.
In a letter to the parties, PERB said: “Whereas, the New York State Public Employment Relations Board has determined that an impasse exists in the negotiations … a Fact Finding Panel is hereby appointed for the purpose of inquiring into the causes and circumstances of the dispute.”
The panel has the power to subpoena witnesses, documents, and other material; to administer oaths and take testimony; and after hearings will transmit “findings of fact and recommendations for resolution of the dispute” to the parties and the public. The recommendations, while not binding, are expected to help provide a framework for a final settlement.
UFT President Michael Mulgrew said: “For nearly three years we have been unable to reach a new contract with the Department of Education. In the past a review of the issues by independent fact-finders appointed by the state has helped break this kind of deadlock, and it is our hope that PERB’s intervention this time will help lead to an agreement.”
Potential names were provided by the Department of Education, the UFT and PERB. Both the DOE and the UFT were permitted to strike a number of potential appointees, and PERB named the panel based on how the DOE and the UFT ranked the remaining candidates.
The UFT and the DOE have relied on fact-finding panels to help resolve previous contract disputes.

Monday, October 01, 2012


We here at the ICE blog will try to save you some money and time by referring our readers to the LA Times review of the anti teacher union, pro-privatization movie, "Won't Back Down."  I understand the film is not doing well at the box office as well as with the critics so it looks like the ed privatizing crowd has had this one backfire.

I have copied below the beginning and end of the LA Times review written by Kenneth Turan.  The critique can truly be labeled as a classic:

When movies are at their most mindless, i.e. much of the time, it's tempting to wish things could be otherwise. What adult moviegoer hasn't hoped Hollywood could rouse itself at least every once in awhile to pay attention to the issues of the day.
But while the hot button-hugging "Won't Back Down"would seem to do just that, it also serves to warn us to be careful what we wish for. This poor film is so shamelessly manipulative and hopelessly bogus it will make you bite your tongue in regret and despair...

Though the film's pernicious propagandistic bias is irritating and misleading, it can't be overemphasized that what is really wrong with this film is how feeble it is dramatically. When Nora is trying to decide if she should work with Jamie, she remembers her mother's question: "What are you going to do with your one and only life?" Anyone who values their one and only life would be well-advised not to spend two hours of it here.


We are starting to hear horror stories about Absent Teacher Reserves being observed and even an ATR being rated unsatisfactory in the classroom.  Many ATRs have little or no chance to succeed when they are teaching in an environment where students do not know them.

Is this practice widespread?  Please let us know.

My suggestion is if the Department of Education insists on following the letter of the contract on observing ATRS, then ATRs need to do the same in return.

ATRs should insist in writing that they are given a lesson specific pre-observation conference before any formal observation.   ATRs might also want to ask supervisors to model lessons for them.  I am not talking about modeling teaching of an honors class but instead they should show us how to cover classes for absent teachers so that ATRs will get an idea about best practices from the "master teachers."

All of this might be particularly important when the weekly rotation of ATRs starts in October.