Wednesday, January 30, 2013


In spite of Mayor Michael Bloomberg blowing up a deal on teacher evaluations at the last minute on January 17th, UFT President Michael Mulgrew, Governor Andrew Cuomo, the State Education Department and leaders in the State Legislature are determined to make a deal so New York City teachers can be rated based in part on student test score growth. The system they want has no scientific validity so it has been termed junk science but it is the law. Rather than sending throngs of us up to Albany and down to DC to change the law, the UFT is once again ready to acquiesce.

This blog in our analysis of the failed negotiations on evaluations predicted that Mulgrew would go running to the state to get a new evaluation system. If you read Mulgrew's letter to Chapter Leaders, it will show how we were correct.

After being one of the few bloggers who predicted that an evaluation deal might not happen between the UFT and the city by the January 17 deadline, it was not that difficult to surmise that the UFT would not take no for an answer and would go right over Bloomberg's head to the state to get a new evaluation system. There's too much state and federal money out there for the union and politicians to grab. Add to this the fact that the UFT-NYSUT were instrumental in seeing to it that the evaluation law was changed to allow us to be rated on junk science and observations based on the Danielson framework and anyone could easily see that the negotiations were doomed to eventually succeed. To expect the UFT to change course and admit that this new system is a disaster waiting to happen was wishful thinking.

Jeff Kaufman, earlier this evening on this blog, already forecast what arbitration on the new evaluation system will be like so I will prognosticate the future under whatever system is finally agreed to. Most readers will not like these predictions but most of you probably would agree that they are likely to occur:

  • Since the city will still be implementing whatever evaluation system is negotiated by the UFT and the city or decided on by an arbitrator, you can bet your pension it will not be teacher friendly; it will not be about improving teaching in a great many schools; it will be used to play "gotcha" against teachers in countless schools and it will be unworkable as well as being overly complicated throughout the city.
  • The appeals process will be a joke like the PIP+ process. Validators will generally just rubber stamp ineffective ratings and those who are rated ineffective twice will have little recourse. Tenure as we know it is about to be a thing of the past.
  • The city Department of Education will try to get around whatever is negotiated and the UFT will scream about why it isn't working and they will tell us if only we had a better mayor, this would all be so wonderful.  

What should the Union be doing?  The UFT should be educating the membership on the pitfalls of junk science and the trouble with having the Danielson framework being used and probably abused by multiple administrators in the city.  Colleagues at Flushing and Bryant, where Danielson was used in 2011, tell me it was very easy to be rated ineffective.  Since we are by far the largest teacher union local in the country, we should take the lead in mobilizing members, parents and the communities in a huge battle against so called school reform which is just a cover for privatization and education profiteering.

Rating teachers based on student test score growth is absurd. Standardized tests for students were not designed to rate teachers. Teachers are only responsible for a tiny fraction of student outcomes and measuring our effectiveness based on student scores on standardized exams or other assessments is faulty and should be stopped. The UFT needs to expose how resources are distributed unfairly throughout the school system and this skews results as of course does the impact of poverty.

Blog readers should be telling Chapter Leaders, Delegates and other UFT members that the time to make concessions is over and the time to stand up to the teacher bashing is now.

However, since  the union's strategy appears to be to appease and concede just to get some money that probably will never see a classroom, we are in for some dismal days ahead.

We hope our predictions are totally off and that there are true safeguards built into the final system but fear we will be spot on right again.

Dear James,
Governor Cuomo said today that if the city won’t come to a teacher evaluation agreement with the UFT by a set date, he will direct the State Education Department to set up a binding arbitration process that will get us to an agreement.
We welcome Governor Cuomo’s involvement, and while we would prefer a negotiated settlement, it’s good to know that should the talks fail again, people who actually understand education will be part of the decision-making process. 
We are frustrated with this mayor and his games. We all understand that state law requires that New York City change its teacher evaluation system. Moving forward this way will mean that New York City schools will not risk further loss of state money.
We were open to binding arbitration last year, and this year — as the Jan. 17 deadline approached — we called for a mediator. In each case, it was the city that refused to go along. Given the total failure of the Bloomberg administration to negotiate in good faith, binding arbitration may be the only hope we have of getting to an agreement that helps teachers help students.
Michael  Mulgrew
Michael Mulgrew

Mulgrew: Quit While We're Ahead...Arbitrate?!?

It was bound to happen. Nothing like snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Mulgrew has made it clear. He wants no part of the final evaluation decision. In a message to Chapter Leaders Mulgrew blamed the mayor's refusal to even accept a mediator as evidence that we need an arbitrator. Cuomo suggested binding arbitration (something he can't get without UFT backed legislators' approval) as a way to stop the bleeding of funds from the DOE's budget.

Bloomberg knew that the State could not sit by and allow the loss of Title I and other funds. He figured at some point they would cave. And true to the awful UFT history of allowing 3rd parties to determine our contract Mulgrew and Cuomo took the bait.

What will happen in binding arbitration? While some may argue it's hard to predict nothing could be further from the truth. Only a small handful of school districts refused or failed to come up with evaluation agreements. The fact is that almost all of the districts agreed to some really strange, yet to be determined, metrics with the basic indicator being some form of the VAM.

While it is true that most of the districts had sunset provisions to allow for future renegotiation (and binding arbitration might impose that) the fact is that the arbitrators will look to the agreements already agreed upon and shove this nonsense down our throats. Some of the smaller details like how the appeals system will work are harder to predict but whatever happens you can  be sure that Mulgrew and Unity will claim victory. After all we could all be in Kansas where bills to prevent collective bargaining about class size and evaluations will very soon become law.

Thank you, brother Mulgrew. You really could have been a contender.

Sunday, January 27, 2013


ATU Local 1181 is still on strike and they need our support.

The picketing at Tweed Courthouse/DOE Headquarters has been extended and the strikers will be out there next week from 8:30 am-5:30 pm.
Come out on Tuesday, Jan. 29  and walk the picket line with the Bus Drivers, Matrons and Mechanics as they demand job security for the workers and  safety for the students as they ride the buses to and from school! The Mayor would like to break their union just as he is working hard to do the same to ours!
When: Tuesday, Jan. 29
Where: Department Education, 52 Chambers Street
Subways: City Hall-N, Chambers- J,Z,  Brooklyn Bridge- 4,5,6,  Park Place- 2,3 Chambers- A,C
Time:  3:30-5:30pm
Bring signs that say: (suggestions)
Teachers/UFT support ATU Local 1181
Teachers support the Bus Drivers!
DOE: Safety Before Profit! Keep the EPP
We demand experienced Drivers and Matrons for our students!
Union busting NO! EPP YES!
(Add: MORE/uft to the bottom)
Bring cameras!
 For other picket locations, see:
And here’s an update from PIST( Parents To Improve School Transportation)
It is still on, the mayor is pretending the discussion needs to be between union and companies but union and even companies are saying talks are pretty pointless without the city being at the table.

Meanwhile buses are going out without properly certified matrons.  Parents are still PIST.  We are emphasizing that transportation is a related service on the IEP legal contract, a right,  not a privilege.

We have a leafleting campaign and other strategies but also there might be an outdoor action next weekend with solidarity squads from out of town, specifically the Boston school bus drivers.  

Friday, January 25, 2013


In arguably his sharpest critique to date, my colleague, Absent Teacher Reserve Marc Epstein slams education reform in his latest post at Huffington.

In another article, Will Johnson describes the horrors of working in a New York City top rated school under the business model.

Finally, life under the new evaluation system upstate is described by teacher Jacqueline J. Goegen in the Buffalo News. She works in a district where she says they are supportive of teachers.  Imagine what the evaluation system will be like in NYC where the atmosphere is not exactly teacher friendly.

You think Gothamschools will link to any of these pieces?

Friday, January 18, 2013


At the January Delegate Assembly meeting, we heard from UFT President Mulgrew about tough all night negotiations between the UFT and Department of Education that finally culminated at 3:00 am in an agreement on a new teacher evaluation system. Unfortunately for Mulgrew, the deal was then killed by Mayor Bloomberg.  Bloomberg apparently didn't like that the deal had a two year sunset clause and also provided for extra dates for expedited arbitration for teachers if the DOE didn't follow the procedures in the new system.

Mulgrew was so thrilled with what he negotiated he said it would ensure fairness and that the main job of a union is to advocate for members and this is what his team of 25 people had done through many late evenings.  Among the highlights he said there was to be a reduction in paperwork since teachers are so bogged down now in paperwork that we can't do our jobs but this new system would stop the silliness.  He then acknowledged that some people would be upset with the agreement but it was the mayor who came in after there was a deal with the DOE and said no because he wanted more. He wanted the deal attached to the contract forever and not just for two years.  (Gotham Schools reported that 90% of evaluation agreements across the state are for one year. Mulgrew mentioned this later in his lengthy report.)

The President also talked about how the mayor only wants the system to be about firing teachers but he doesn't have to do that because of 3,500 new teachers hired this year, already 1,000 have left.

He then said that part of the deal was about our working conditions and we all would like it.  There would be time set aside to implement the new system and there would be teacher voice in the form of a committee set up in each school on evaluations which would have equal veto power for administration as well as teachers.  There would then be a central committee on assessments to review portfolios and what would be used for the growth models. (You see how well the committee set up by his last grand agreement is working with the ATRS being rotated from week to week.  Does this committee even meet?  What about that District Rep selection committee?  We met once several years back.)

He then told us how our arbitration process is clogged up (we agree here as a member in my school has been waiting since 2006 for arbitration) and the U rating appeals process is terrible.  He stated that there are 50 cases where there is nothing in the teacher's file but the U rating is still being upheld by the DOE. (We are supposed to trust these same people to implement this new evaluation policy?) He said that the UFT suggested an expedited arbitration with added dates for the new system.  He then told us each side would get 20 minutes to present their case.  (Personally, I think where there are strong chapters the committees and expedited arbitration could be helpful.  My experience with the expedited reorganization arbitration process has been positive. We have used it many times at Jamaica and nobody has ever lost. However, Gotham is reporting that this expedited arbitration process could only be used for procedural issues. I doubt very much people would be able to challenge supervisory judgement.)  Mulgrew then went over the history of the negotiations as he mentioned some of the barbs that were fired back and forth between him and the mayor.  He said repeatedly that the mayor is now lying about who killed the negotiations. (Update--Looking at the evidence that is coming out, it is pretty clear Mulgrew is right about this.)

He then briefly discussed linking the evaluation system to the contract but didn't elaborate much on why they gave up this idea in order to reach today's non-agreement.  He also made it clear that this would now be part of fact finding for the contract.  He concluded his remarks by noting how these were tough negotiations because of the inexperience of many of the DOE people.

Leroy Barr then gave a brief Staff Directors Report where there was a moment of silence for a Chapter Leader, Elaine Montez who recently passed away.  After this he told us Teacher Union Day was on January 27th and that January 31 is the deadline for high school pupils to apply for the Albert Shanker UFT Scholarship.

Before the question period began Mulgrew read a statement from Council of Supervisors and Administrators President Ernest Logan who said they were working hand-in-hand with the UFT and they had a one year agreement with the DOE but the city wanted it to be indefinite.

Questions followed and they were mostly about the new evaluation process.  One person said the UFT should resist the new system but Mulgrew disagreed saying teachers should be evaluated in part based on student learning growth.  He said how much growth there is throughout the year is a major part of our job but we can own the growth under what we negotiated. A Delegate from Brooklyn Tech asked about suing the DOE for age discrimination.  He made the point that things are bad for veterans and new teachers alike.  Mulgrew responded that he doesn't know what else to do with the DOE so we sue them often enough and are usually successful.

Mulgrew then made a staunch defense of the growth model and said students with Individualized Education Plans would not not be treated in the growth model the same as students who are taking Advanced Placement classes.  He said student growth was appropriate to evaluate our work and teachers should be able to say when they get a student in September that a year from now that student will be in a better place. (There was plenty of muttering in the audience about how easy this model would be to abuse by administration.)

The new motion period was next.  Marjorie Stamberg made a resolution to support the bus drivers who are out on strike and to also hold a citywide rally of all of labor to help their cause.  This was voted down as it needed a 2/3 vote to get on this month's agenda but received substantial, I would say majority, backing.  Mulgrew did talk about the bus drivers at this point and said the mayor was union busting pure and simple with the strike.  He said there is plenty of waste as the city lost a great deal of money by not filing for Medicaid reimbursements so it is clear this isn't about saving money.

Megan Behrent then moved that the UFT support the teachers at Garfield High School in Seattle who refused to administer a high stakes exam. This motion received the 2/3 vote necessary to be placed on the agenda but there was some opposition coming from the front of the room where the officers and biggest Unity (majority caucus) members sit.  It was no surprise that Mulgrew ran out the clock so that this resolution would not have to be discussed.

Regular business was next.  There was a resolution to support Downstate Medical Center workers that easily passed and then there was one supporting the efforts of Local 32BJ and Local 94IUOE to secure fair contracts that was amended by someone from MORE to include the bus drivers.  Someone from the Unity section actually tried to table the amendment in support of the bus drivers and then tried to argue for his motion but was stopped as a motion to table is not debatable.  The entire resolution supporting all of these unions then passed unanimously.

There were three more motions that followed.  The first was to support Malala Yousafzai, a brave 14 year old girl who was shot in October and badly wounded in Pakistan for advocating for the rights of young girls to receive an education.  The UFT resolved to support her, condemn the attack against her and endorse her cause. This passed unanimously.

There was then a resolution in support of Green Apple Bonds which will be used to fix PCBs in schools and save money.  Comptroller John Liu is responsible for this program. This passed but not until someone asked what the interest rates would be on the bonds.  Mulgrew didn't know.

There was a motion to extend for five minutes to finish the agenda.  The final regular piece of business was a resolution to support the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington that was motivated passionately by retiree George Altomare.  This carried but then Mulgrew said there was no time to handle the resolution to support the teachers who refused to administer the high stakes test in Seattle.  That is a standard Unity trick when some of their people oppose something even though the body at large clearly wants it.

FINAL ANALYSIS took all kinds of credit for figuring out that the mayor didn't want a deal. This blog said the following last week: "The UFT is willing to concede on almost everything but Bloomberg's people may make it so humiliating that President Mulgrew would not even get a fig-leaf out of this.  On the other hand, the Union could demand real safeguards (a right to grieve any unfair evaluations) so the DOE would reject any agreement."  We were almost completely right except it looks like it was the mayor and not the DOE that inserted the poison pills. The fig-leaf was the two year sunset clause and the expedited arbitration if procedures weren't followed. Trust me these were not great gains.

What happens next?  I see the UFT going over the mayor's head to the state to try to get the system into law. What should people be doing?  Call, email or talk to your union representatives, particularly Unity Chapter Leaders, and tell them you want no part of this and the real fight in Albany and Washington DC is to change the law so that no part of any teacher's rating is based on junk science.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


We received an update last night from President Mulgrew on the evaluation negotiations.  While the Assailed Teacher, and I am sure many others too, are expecting a deal soon, I still hold out hope that UFT leadership will reject a bad evaluation system which I believe is the only kind the city would ever agree to. Mulgrew's email to members is printed in full below.

Scroll down to read our full January 12 piece on the negotiations.

Also, please read the AFL-CIO statement in support of the school bus drivers who have called for a strike on Wednesday to protect the right to have experienced, well trained drivers transporting our kids to school. Here is a link to their petition.

Dear colleagues,
Monday marks the third straight day and night of intensive talks with the Department of Education over a new teacher development and evaluation plan. Although our negotiating team has been able to make progress on some matters, there are still many key issues that remain unsolved.
We will continue to negotiate around the clock in an effort to break the stalemate and reach an agreement that gives you the support and time you need to give students a great education. As of now, the DOE will not commit to such a plan and is once again putting politics above children. However, we will persevere.
We continue to plan for two possible scenarios. If we are not able to reach an agreement, we will have to quickly engage with parents and the community. We will need to make sure New Yorkers understand that it was the mayor and his disrespect for teachers and the work that you do that undermined negotiations.
However, if we are able to reach an agreement and the Delegate Assembly approves it, our priority will be getting clear information out to all of you so that we can combat the fear and misinformation that are bound to come with a new teacher development and evaluation system.
We will keep you updated.
Meanwhile, I personally want to thank the thousands of members who participated in Monday's leafleting to parents and commuters across the city as we continue to put pressure on the mayor to do the right thing. School-based efforts like these are critical to the work that we do.
Michael  Mulgrew
Michael Mulgrew

Sunday, January 13, 2013

DOE Predictably Puts Blame for Bus Strike on Bus Drivers "Who Only Want to Hurt Children"

The Chancellor just finished a news conference falsely claiming that the union’s strike would be illegal due to a Court of Appeals case brought two years ago. The case, Matter of L&M Bus Corp  was brought by bus owners to strike down the Employee Protection Provisions of a bid for bus services. The EPP provided some job protection for unionized drivers by providing that new bus route bids be provided first to laid off drivers  The DOE went along since it help to guarantee that bus companies would hire experienced drivers instead of less expensive, inexperienced ones. 

The DOE and union appeared in the case to defend the bid but it was eventually struck down by the Court of Appeals. The Court did not outlaw seniority provisions or protections but said that the EPP was not proper since it was overbroad. The DOE then issued a bid without any provisions for seniority and refused to bargain about seniority provisions (sound familiar) and unlike the UFT the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181 is preparing to strike. There are many bus companies and a few unions. It is unclear what these other companies and union members will do. Walcott believes the strike will go forward but could not give a date but has been assured that Local 1181 will give 24 hours’ notice.

A summary of the case referred to by Walcott follows.

Petitioners, 23 transportation vendors, commenced a CPLR article 78 proceeding to prevent the Department of Education ("DOE") from implementing allegedly illegal bid solicitations related to a school transportation contract. At issue was whether certain specifications in the bid solicitations of the DOE comported with the public bidding laws. The court held that the "Employee Protection Provisions" ("EPPs") contained in the solicitation were subject to heightened scrutiny and held that the DOE had not proven that the EPPs were designed to save the public money, encourage robust competition, or prevent favoritism. The court, however, applied the rational basis review to the remaining disputed bid specifications and held that the DOE's actions regarding pricing of school transportation and discounted payment arrangements were rational business judgments that lie within the DOE's discretion.'

Saturday, January 12, 2013


There are so many rumors going around the schools about the new teacher evaluation system and a possible contract so it is time to try to address some of what is being discussed.  Let's first say what we know.

There is a January 17th deadline imposed by Governor Andrew Cuomo for union locals in the state and the Boards of Education to reach an agreement on a new teacher evaluation system or lose an increase in state aid.  New York City's share of the increase is said to be around $250 million. Most other districts have reached agreements and the research I have done shows that most have contracts also.  Teachers have not had a contract in New York City since 2009.  The law ties together evaluation systems to new contracts but does not mandate a new contract to get an evaluation agreement.

It is no secret that the UFT and the DOE have reopened negotiations and are attempting to hammer out an evaluation agreement before the Governor's arbitrary January 17 deadline. On the other hand, there is no evidence that there is anything new on the contract and the chances of it being settled with the evaluation system are not good.

That is what we know so now let's investigate what likely is going on behind the scenes.

It is pretty clear the UFT is prepared to accept huge concessions to reach an evaluation agreement.  We attended a High School Committee meeting on Wednesday and were told to expect major changes in how we are evaluated because our new system must conform to state law which bases 40% of each teacher's evaluation on student learning and 60% on traditional factors such as observations.

What the 40-60 split means varies depending on who I talk to. A teacher must get 65% out of 100% to get a passing annual rating but if someone does not get at least 5% in the student growth portion, then it is impossible to get a 65%. Some tell me not to worry about this but others say it will be used to attack teachers.

I gather that it would also be impossible to get a 65% if a teacher receives a full 40% on the student growth portion but the teacher only gets 24% in the other part.  As for using the Danielson framework for observations, it is something I am not totally familiar with.  Let me just say the teachers I know who have been rated under Danielson do not like it at all and believe it will be used to play "gotcha" against unpopular teachers.

At the High School Committee meeting this past Wednesday, there was a lengthy discussion with many Chapter Leaders expressing deep concerns over the potential new system.  I was pleased with the way new Vice President for Academic High Schools Janella Hinds conducted an open discussion and just let people express themselves.  Many Chapter Leaders were very worried about how the new system could be easily abused by incompetent and/or malevolent administrators.

It was up to the desperate UFT District Representatives to defend what will more than likely be an indefensible new process. The Unity (leadership caucus of the UFT) spin on whatever is negotiated is basically going to be that this is the best we could come up with because of the law; being evaluated 40% on student test scores is not as bad as other states; the Danielson framework for observations will allow teachers to grow and the current satisfactory or unsatisfactory system is flawed as the principal can rate anyone unsatisfactory and there isn't much teachers can do but under the new system there will be multiple measures to rate teachers so if a principal doesn't like someone, that teacher can use student data to improve his/her rating.

There was also a debate about the difference between a growth model and a value added model which went way over my head so I will defer to NYC Educator on this one. Both growth and value added seem like inaccurate junk science to me so basing 1% of a rating (forget 20-40%) that will impact someone's livelihood on junk is 1% too much.

Although this was not stated at the meeting and I have no first or secondhand knowledge of the negotiations, I can say with a reasonable degree of certainty that what the DOE and UFT are probably negotiating are details such as how many times teachers will be observed, whether or not teachers can have a pre-or post observation conference with the observations, what will be the pre-tests that determine the baseline for the student growth portion of teacher ratings, what can teachers do do if they are not happy with observations and will the system be used this year to rate pedagogues highly effective, effective, developing or ineffective instead of satisfactory or unsatisfactory.

Basically, the Unity officials are right as we are constrained within the framework of the law.  We already gave up most of the store when we supported the change in the law back in 2010 that allows the burden of proof to switch from the Board of Education to teachers in the new system in hearings when tenured people face dismissal for incompetence.  In the new system, anyone with two consecutive ratings of ineffective will be presumed to be incompetent.  Teachers will have to prove they are competent which will be next to impossible.

The UFT says we need not worry since they hammered out an appeals process last year and put it into state law. 13% of NYC teachers rated ineffective will be chosen by the UFT to be able to appeal their rating before an independent three person panel and the other 87% will get a review by an independent validator. Most people I talk to are not at all convinced that the validation process will be fair since the current Peer Intervention Plus program is supposed to give teachers rated unsatisfactory the help of an independent reviewer but instead sources such as Chaz tell us around 90% of teachers receive negative ratings from the "independent" reviewers.  Subsequently, they have no defense in termination hearings so they are fired or have to resign. This is the future under the new system.  Tenure in many cases will basically be a two year delay process instead of a guarantee to a fair hearing before dismissal.  (This blog wrote about this when the deal was struck on the appeal process in 2012 .)

There are only four variables that will save many teachers.  First, there will be an enormous amount of paperwork involved in rating teachers ineffective which many administrators won't want to do and then they will have to set up Teacher Improvement Plans which will be another headache. Read the NYSUT literature on the new system to see how complex everything is. Expect the DOE to make loads of procedural mistakes. Second, some principals truly want to work with teachers and will not buy into the new nonsense. Third, if administrators go forward to hang as many teachers as they can, they will find that there aren't enough arbitrators around to finish off so many people so inevitably there will be huge backlogs that will save some people. Fourth, arbitrators cannot terminate everyone as that would appear to make them biased so a few teachers will be able to prove they are not so bad and will keep their jobs.

What the UFT should be doing now is educating the membership in every school about the pros as well as the pitfalls of the new system and calling for a membership referendum on anything they agree to. They rejected this idea at the last Delegate Assembly even though it is an enormous change in the contract. There is a petition demanding such a vote from the MORE caucus that is linked here

If they can't reach an agreement, then they should work with enlightened administrators and districts across the state to demand that the State fix the evaluation law or face a massive educator rebellion. It was only a few years ago that New York State passed a law saying teachers could not be evaluated based on student test scores.  That, however, was before President Obama's Race to the Top disaster caused the state to change course to go for federal money and for some inexplicable reason, the UFT and NYSUT in 2010 supported the law linking much of teacher ratings to student test scores.

On the current negotiations, we don't know if the city or union are inserting poison pills to make sure  they fail. The UFT is willing to concede on almost everything but Bloomberg's people may make it so humiliating that President Mulgrew would not even get a fig-leaf out of this.  On the other hand, the Union could demand real safeguards (a right to grieve any unfair evaluations) so the DOE would reject any agreement. If I were negotiating, I would do this but I don't expect our leadership to be so bold.

I'm not sure I buy the argument that all of this is settled and this is all a kabuki dance. If there was already the framework of a deal in place, then why would the UFT have changed the date of the January Delegate Assembly twice? If they are smoking cigars in a backroom and laughing at teachers who work in the schools, then they would have just signed the evaluation agreement by now.  Look at Mulgrew's letter to us that is copied in its entirety below. You can read the tea leaves yourself. My take is the UFT is willing to give in but the DOE is looking at this deal to be the final nail in our coffin.

Finally, by de-coupling the contract from the evaluation negotiations, something the union appears to be doing, the UFT is throwing enormous leverage away.  In Yonkers an evaluation system agreement was held up because there was no contract.  Guess what, the Yonkers Federation of Teachers just received a new contract along with submitting their evaluation proposal to the state.  Their financial situation is not so grand up there.

In NYC, other city employees received two 4% increases without givebacks years ago.  NYC teachers have been without a contract since 2009. I have to believe the skeptics are 100% correct here and Mulgrew is conceding that the contract has nothing to do with the evaluation agreement because he knows if evaluations are part of a contract, it would be voted on by the membership and a horrible evaluation agreement (the only kind the city would probably ever agree to) might go down in flames even if there is some money thrown in.

Dear colleagues,
Next Thursday is Governor Cuomo’s deadline for New York City and other school districts around the state to submit their plans for a new teacher evaluation system. The governor has said that districts that do not submit plans by Thursday, Jan. 17, will forfeit state school aid. In New York City’s case, we stand to lose upward of $250 million.
The UFT’s position remains unchanged: The current evaluation system is inadequate. Teachers need a new evaluation system — one in which the Department of Education is responsible for supporting the schools, and administrators in the schools are responsible for supporting the work that we do in the classroom.
In the aftermath of the fight you have seen play out in the press, the DOE has come back to the negotiating table. We expect meetings to take place throughout the weekend and into next week, but the outcome of these negotiations is still very uncertain. I am writing to you today so that you and your colleagues can begin preparing for one of two possible scenarios.
If an agreement is reached, we will need to do a lot of work very quickly to stop the spread of myths and misinformation. Communication and collaboration between colleagues will be key. Every school will also need to have a clear understanding about how to proceed.
If no agreement can be reached, it will be because the mayor cannot be brought to accept our position of what a teacher evaluation system needs to be, and he will once again try to blame teachers. If that happens, our work will then center on getting out into our communities to make sure that parents and others know that we, as always, are fighting to make the school system better for the kids we serve.
With all the uncertainty over the negotiations, a lot could happen in the coming days. Earlier today I sent a message to UFT delegates that we have changed the date of our next Delegate Assembly to Thursday, Jan. 17, to align with the governor’s deadline.
If a tentative agreement is reached, it will be up to the DA, the highest decision-making body of the UFT, to decide if we will accept it as a union. If no agreement is reached with the city, the DA will serve as a planning and operational meeting to push back against the mayor as we have so many times before.
We have fought very hard for three years in Albany so that New York City teachers can have an evaluation system that respects and supports the work that we do. An agreement would mean a complete paradigm shift for the country’s largest school system, where every administrator will need to understand that their job is, first and foremost, to help and support teachers.
A great deal of work is being done to make sure our vision is realized, but it will not be easy. We will not come to any agreement unless that vision can become a reality for every school.
We will keep you updated. In the meantime, we will be leafleting outside schools and at major transportation hubs throughout the city on Monday to engage parents and the community and put pressure on the mayor to get to a fair deal. Please talk to your chapter leader to see how you can help.
Sincerely,Michael  Mulgrew
Michael Mulgrew

Monday, January 07, 2013


A member driven union should be the goal of any labor union worthy of the title. The UFT was described by one time AFT President David Seldon as operating more like an insurance company than as part of a movement.

Last Friday, a UFT District Representative sent the email copied below to the Chapter Leaders in the district.  Apparently, someone raised their hand and spoke some blasphemy about President Mulgrew at a district Chapter Leaders' meeting. Elected Chapter Leaders need to get information from the union leadership but just as importantly Chapter Leaders  need to raise issues that are concerning members in their schools. Without open discussion where people can make statements on what is happening with their constituents, a union is not a democratic organization.  The email explains just what is wrong with the UFT structure and why there needs to be change.  If this is happening in one district, I wonder if this is how other districts operate.

We have supported elected District Representatives for many years and were appalled when then President Randi Weingarten stopped District Rep elections in 2003. DRs were elected by Chapter Leaders in a District in the past.  Therefore, DRs were accountable to the Chapter Leaders they serviced; now they are accountable to the UFT hierarchy. Someone who was not a part of the ruling Unity Caucus, Bruce Markens, was actually elected as a DR and Manhattan High Schools functioned truly independently.  When Bruce retired, Tom Dromgoole, another non-Unity DR, was elected to follow him.  The UFT changed the rules to mirror the C-30 selection process for Principals.  Now a committee with Chapter Leaders and union officials interviews candidates and makes a recommendation to the President who picks the DR.

A committee was formed by Weingarten to come up with a fair process for DR selection several years ago.  It met once.  I know I volunteered to serve on this committee.  It never met again.  We are stuck with the results.

Subject: My Apologies
Date: Friday, January 4, 2013, 8:09 PM

I must apologize for today. Not for my behavior, but for not being able to present to you important information in the way that I had planned to.

My monthly Chapter Leader meetings are for me to give you important information, to teach you about different aspects of what we do as union representatives on a daily basis, to have presenters in specialty areas so that you get great information first hand from the experts in those areas and to have useful conversations about what is going on and what we are to be doing as a union representative.

It is not the place nor the time to get on a soap box and speak about what you want to speak about.  The information that I present or any other presenter speaks about is information passed down from our leadership to you so that you can act as the conduit of information to the membership in your school. We present the information, not to be filtered by you or to be changed in any way, it is to be presented to your members as you have heard it from me or any of the leadership in this union. You might not personally agree with the information given you, however, you were elected as a representative to not only be the defender of our contract and to represent, support and guide our members, but also to pass down the information given as was presented to you.

I feel that our conversations can be good and useful to others if we are all on the same page in terms of who we are as representatives and what it is that we were elected to do. We are not there to preach about one caucus or another, we are not there to talk about how you personally feel about something, we can do that one on one anytime. I do support my union and the leadership of this union, however, I do not preach where I stand in terms of the caucus that I belong to or don't belong to, I do not bad mouth the leadership even if I don't agree with what is being done. I support them because they are the leadership of this union and trust that they have the best interest of our members in the forefront of every decision that is made.

I thank you for your time and for what you do everyday for our members. I truly do appreciate you,


Friday, January 04, 2013


The UFT received a very favorable arbitration decision concerning members being compelled to do special education computer work on non-school time.  The UFT accused the DOE of lengthening the school day in violation of Article 6 of the contract.  The arbitrator agreed with the union so members who had to work extra hours will be paid retroactively at the rate of their regular salary, not per session.  The  SESIS arbitration decision can be read in full at Gotham

We salute the UFT Grievance Department and their director Ellen Gallin Procida for their hard work and victory in this case.  We also wish to acknowledge officers Michael Mendel and Carmen Alvarez as well as people from the schools who all testified in the case.

As a result of the grievance victory, UFT members who had to do special education computer work on SESIS before or after school or on days off from 2011 up until the end of 2012 should be paid by March. This is very good news except that people who did the work during their duty free lunch period will not be compensated, which angered a couple of people in my school.

And what about all of the other abuses that are taking place throughout the city? We have been told that members are losing prep or lunch periods and being forced to attend meetings in certain schools.  We at Jamaica are being directed to give up preps to write a unit of study for the common core.  Of course we have filed multiple grievances and asked for payment as compensation.  President Mulgrew says we are taking the DOE to the Public Employees Relations Board on this issue. I am all in favor of this action but it is not enough.

A commentator on the Gotham piece complained about acuity and assessment pro.  Another wrote about data entry for FITNESSGRAM testing.  He complained about how much work is involved inputting data for this.  We can go on and on about how the belittlement of teachers goes on unabated.  Is the SESIS victory a turnaround moment?  I hope so but my instincts tell me the DOE won't be humbled in the least.

The UFT has won two major victories in court and in arbitration on school closings.  Has this stopped the DOE from closing schools? The UFT won a major grievance to stop school aides and other non-secretaries from doing secretarial work citywide.  Do you think these violations have stopped?  In one of the new schools in my building there isn't even a secretary.  The DOE philosophy will more than likely remain the same after losing on SESIS.  Break the UFT contract or law at will and if they are caught, they just say, "oops, my bad," pay some money and then move on to another area where they can abuse the pedagogical staff.

In the SESIS case people had their rights violated for two years.  Yes they will be compensated but two years is an awfully long time to put up with a major contractual violation. I know of someone who is waiting since 2006 to have their grievance heard at arbitration. Justice delayed for sure.

A different kind of union would be grieving while simultaneously working with its members to figure out how to stop the violations collectively. We are trying to do that at Jamaica with the lost preps but a citywide strategy of collective action is where we need to be.  We have to build a member driven union where, if something like SESIS abuse occurs, we would all have the courage to rise up to make our employer's lives so miserable they would end the practice immediately.

It's not up to the UFT leadership to make this style of unionism a reality; it's up to the membership.  Maybe this decision will help give us some confidence.

Thursday, January 03, 2013


Michael Fiorello sent us an obituary for a true labor leader who most of us never heard of: Jerry Tucker.  This is from the New Republic.

I am linking to it for two reasons:

1.  The article makes it clear that Tucker was a hero for working people across this country.  He spent his life improving the lives of many union workers.

2. Since the UFT election upcoming in 2013, a debate is starting (please read the comments in the piece from our friend Chaz) over what social justice unionism means in the context of the UFT.  It is necessary for us to define what I prefer to call rank and file unionism as opposed to  top-down unionism (the current UFT leadership structure).

Here is an excerpt on Jerry Tucker from the New Republic piece by Alec MacGillis:

By the mid-‘70s, Tucker was working in the UAW’s Washington office, watching as the tide started to turn against labor. Deindustrialization was accelerating, the business lobby was gaining might, and, even with Jimmy Carter in the White House and Democrats in control of Congress, pro-union reforms of labor laws were watered down and ultimately defeated (by two votes in the Senate, as Carter stood by). Pro-management momentum grew stronger with the election of Ronald Reagan and his crushing of the air traffic-controllers union, prompting many labor leaders to drop back into the defensive, accommodationist posture that has prevailed for most of the years since.
Against this stood Tucker. He didn’t care much for the Beltway – “he was definitely not your quintessential Washington labor guy,” said Joe Uehlein, who worked in the AFL-CIO’s industrial division -- and was glad to be dispatched back to Missouri, where he led a come-from-behind effort in 1978 to defeat a referendum to make his home state right-to-work. The referendum was leading in the polls by a 2-1 margin when he took charge of the opposition; he assembled a broad coalition, reaching beyond labor to churches, farmers and women’s groups, and defeated the measure by a 3-2 margin. “It was true mobilization – having unionists explain why unions mattered, go out into the community, with precinct captains all around the state,” said Nelson Lichtenstein, a University of California-Santa Barbara historian. The victory left Missouri as a haven of union-friendly territory on the edge of an otherwise hostile South, and helped preserve it as a political swing state until just recently. For Tucker, the victory proved that even in an era of anti-union sentiment, direct appeals to middle-class interests could still hold sway. 
He brought the same lesson to UAW showdowns in the 1980s, working as assistant director for the region stretching from Missouri to Texas. Seeing how ineffective strikes were becoming -- employers were more than happy to take a strike and bring in replacements -- Tucker resuscitated the work-to-rule strategy, in which workers frustrate employers by slowing down operations all the while technically hewing to the letter of their contract. Work-to-rule appealed to Tucker because its success depended on the full understanding and empowerment of the entire workforce. In the most practical terms, this meant getting workers to grasp the “reverse engineering” of plant operations in order to identify the bottlenecks that would confound production without breaking the contract. At a time of precious few victories for unions, Tucker’s approach succeeded at one plant after another, two of which were documented in an AFL-CIO manual on the “Inside Game.” “We would organize a communications network on the shop floor, a 1 to 10 ratio, so everyone’s in the loop,” recalled Uehlein. “It would be putting out word for all different kinds of actions...And it did catch on in a pretty big way.”
At one of the victorious sites, the 500-worker Moog Auto Plant in St. Louis, managers expecting a conventional showdown shut off the power the night that the union’s contract expired in 1981. But at Tucker’s direction, employees reported for work the next morning and launched a six-month internal-pressure campaign: a “solidarity committee” came up with work-to-rule tactics and on-the-job protests, workers contributed a little from each paycheck to support colleagues who were fired or disciplined, and workers, white and black alike, skipped work January 15 to object to the company’s refusal to recognize the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. As the “Inside Game” manual recounts, the campaign reached its peak when several hundred tradesmen walked out in protest of supervisors’ refusal to deal with smoke and chloride fumes. Management finally came back to the table with a 36 percent pay increase over 40 months – and recognition of MLK Day. Word started to get around about Tucker’s success. As his obituary in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch put it, “He said he had never lost a work-to-rule campaign, never failed to win a fair contract, and always got illegally fired activists their jobs back with back pay.”
But this approach also represented a challenge to union leadership. Whereas the traditional strike depended on the top-down command of union leaders, a robustly-deployed inside game depended on the engagement of workers, who knew the day-to-day operations of the workplace the best and had a better sense of how to confound them than their union superiors did. This was precisely why Tucker advocated for this approach: It was hugely empowering for workers to come up with their own tactics. Invariably, it made them more supportive of major actions--more willing to “up the ante,” as Tucker liked to say.

Happy New Year everyone!