Thursday, May 30, 2013


          The following piece is taken from last Friday’s UFT weekly update for Chapter Leaders.  My take is both the UFT and city are planning to claim victory when State Education Commissioner John King releases his arbitration decision on Saturday.  I am very skeptical; the devil will be in the details.
The UFT expects to receive a decision from the state on Saturday, June 1 about the new evaluation system for teachers in New York City. The state’s decision will come out of binding arbitration between the union and the city’s Department of Education, which will culminate in two days of hearings in Albany in late May (this week).
           The arbitration is necessary because of the Department of Education’s failure to negotiate in good faith. Upon release of the state’s binding arbitration ruling, the union will carefully comb through it. The UFT’s staff will come into work on Sunday, June 2, to prepare a fact sheet and other materials that will explain the details of the evaluation system to members.               
UFT President Michael Mulgrew warned delegates at the May 22 meeting to expect the DOE to read the state ruling differently than the union. He said the union will fight to make sure the DOE implements the evaluation system correctly: as a tool for supporting teachers and helping them develop throughout their careers. Chapter Leaders should be aware that in response to a question from a delegate about the DOE’s planned team training in the Danielson Framework for Teaching, Mulgrew said, “We never signed off on this. We don’t approve of it.”

Is there anybody out there who believes the new evaluation system will be a tool for "supporting teachers and helping them develop throughout their careers?"

At Jamaica, we have had multiple "low stakes" administrator observations being done to practice for the new Danielson framework.    I had seven administrators in my room, some from Jamaica and some from outside,  for a class last week. I would call that an unnatural environment for learning. I believe this type of observation is quite disruptive to the learning process.   It is good to know the practice is not signed off on by the UFT.

Thursday, May 23, 2013


Just about everyone is aware that AFT President Randi Weingarten is helping raise money for Bill Thompson in the race for New York City Mayor. Only those who truly want to believe the UFT is independent from the AFT took the UFT at face value when at yesterday's Delegate Assembly it was stated that they hadn't made a decision yet on who to endorse.  Maybe officially they have not endorsed a candidate but all signs point to Thompson.

Since Thompson is supported by Chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents Merryl Tisch, a true ed deformer who is no friend to teachers, the UFT move in this direction is curious and would have been a great topic for debate at the Delegate Assembly.  However, the Union did not have a discussion on the issue and instead just had the Borough Representatives give short reports on how the mayoral forums in each of the boroughs with the four top Democratic candidates went. The floor at the DA was not opened for Delegates to voice their opinions on the candidates.  So much for democracy.

Onward to the rest of the meeting where there was an unusually short report from President Michael Mulgrew.  I missed most of it so this is from a friend's notes

Fact Finding
Contract is going through non binding arbitration process. We presented our case and told them that we are the lowest paid teachers in the region and certainly deserve a salary increase.  (I don't know if this was mentioned but the UFT has also been arguing that the projected deficits in the city budget always end up turning into surpluses at the end of each fiscal year so there is money for salary increases.)

June 12 Labor Rally
There will be a huge Municipal Labor Committee rally of all the city public unions at 4:00 pm on June 12 (same day Randi Weingarten will be in town raising money for Bill Thompson.) Mulgrew wants us to promote this rally and bring everyone.

PCB Settlement
The Department of Education has agreed to fix the PCB problem by 2016 to settle a lawsuit, This is years earlier than they originally planned.

Mayor's Race
We need the person who has the right policies but also someone who has the team in place to win the election. (Political Director Paul Egan also reported.)

Staff Director's Report
Staff Director Leroy Barr promoted the June 12 rally and told us that the officers, the Executive Board and the Delegate Assembly would all be meeting on June 19, the day the UFT will be endorsing a mayoral candidate officially.  Apparently, they want to keep the endorsement a secret.  (Does anyone believe it won't be Thompson?  This looks like the worst kept secret on the planet.)

(period shortened by five minutes to ten minutes)
Question: What is the UFT plan for implementation of the new teacher evaluation system?
Mulgrew Answer: UFT does not agree with training being done by DOE.  We are not recommending that teachers attend the training.  DOE believes a good lesson plan=a good teacher.  We don't support this notion.

Question: How can UFT protect older teachers being harassed by a Principal?
Mulgrew Answer: Put the Principal on the UFT's Principals in Need of Improvement list.

Question: How can we get a new facility for Coop Tech building that is being torn down?
Mulgrew Answer: Coop Tech is only BOCES program in NYC.  Mayor giving away city assets.  In order to tear down a school they need to build a new facility with the same number of seats but they should build one with more seats because new luxury apartments means we will have more residents in the area so Coop Tech and other schools in the neighborhood will need more seats.

Resolved the UFT supports our sisters and brothers at the legal services association UAW Local 2320 who were forced to strike on may 15 and urges the management of legal services NYC to immediately negotiate a fair contract with its staff.

It was unanimously added to the agenda and then carried unanimously.  John Antush from MORE introduced it.

A motion on re-instituting Glass Steagall was ruled not necessary because it is already UFT policy.

Special Order of Business
1. May City Council Endorsements
Manhattan District 2          Rosie Mendez--Democrat
Bronx District 15               Ritchie Torres-- Democrat
Queens 20                         Peter Koo--Democrat
Queens 22                         Costa Constantinides-- Democrat
Queens 26                         James van Bramer--Democrat
Queens 31                         Donovan Richards--Democrat
Brooklyn 33                      Stephen Levin--Democrat
Brooklyn 39                      Brad Lander--Democrat
Brooklyn 41                      Darlene mealy--Democrat
Brooklyn 42                      Inez Barron--Democrat
Brooklyn 47                       Mark Treygor--Democrat
Staten Island 50                 Steven Matteo--Republican

All carried easily.  There was opposition to all of them from Marjorie Stamberg who objected to all Democrats and Republicans and wants a new working class party to support.

The only candidate opposed individually was Ritchie Torres from the Bronx who was a no show at all of the events to help Lehman High School.  The Delegate from Lehman was adamant that this man does not deserve our support.  The UFT leaders said he was great and the Unity faithful rubber stamped the endorsement and ignored the member in the school impacted by Torres. (I voted with the member from Lehman.)

2. Resolution to support June 12th Rally for fair Contracts for all New York City Municipal Workers
All 100 bargaining units are without contracts; the mayor won't negotiate in good faith so the Municipal Labor Committee is organizing a huge rally at City Hall Park on June 12th from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm.  This carried unanimously

3. Resolution to support the labor rights of Bangladeshi garment workers.
This carried unanimously.  There was also an amendment from Abe Levine calling for union organizing rights for Bengali workers.

4. Resolution to support the 2013 Gay Pride March
This carried easily.

Should the UFT be endorsing bill Thompson for mayor?  There won't be a discussion at the Delegate Assembly until after the decision is made. You can comment if you like here.

Saturday, May 18, 2013


In a union election that had implications beyond Chicago, Karen Lewis and CORE were easily reelected yesterday.  Preliminary results show that CORE received about 80% of the vote in yesterday's Chicago Teachers Union election.


George Schmidt's Substance provides the numbers.  It looks as though the turnout was much better than the 20% among active teachers we had here in NYC's recent UFT election. (Based on what Substance said, it was around 60%.)

Chicago teachers walked the walk by going on strike last year.  Now they have given an overwhelming mandate for the leadership that led them out on the picket lines.

If only this Chicago fire could spread.  Hey, why not?

Thursday, May 16, 2013


In the Chicago Teachers' Union, they have a one day election in the schools (I take it the retirees don't vote for who will represent the active teachers like here in NYC). On Friday, May 17, the Chicago Teachers Union is having their election.

We followed last year's Chicago strike and its aftermath fairly closely and although it was not a total victory by any means, nothing will send a stronger and clearer message to the forces that are trying to destroy public education than the overwhelming reelection of Karen Lewis and her CORE caucus in the May 17 balloting. She deserves a second term.

CORE didn't stop the school closing madness with the strike but they did show unions can fight back at the grassroots level.  Their courageous strike resulted in a decent contract with solid financial and teaching condition gains. I don't think there is much doubt that it is better than what they could have achieved without striking.

A big CORE victory in the election will be a nightmare for the people who want to privatize (charter schools) education. A CORE loss will put another Unity style top-down, "Let's collaborate with management" group back in charge of the Chicago Teachers Union.

For an in depth analysis of the election, see Jersey Jazzman, Ed Notes or go right to Chicago and read the latest in Chicago's Substance where there is an endorsement.

Like our friend in New Jersey, we also usually don't get involved in union elections outside our own local but this one is too important and clearly has national implications.

We need three more years for Karen Lewis to lead the resistance against the people who want to kill the unions and end public education as we know it! It's up to you Chicago teachers.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013


This summary came from our friends who were in attendance at the latest Executive Board meeting.

From Monday's executive board:
During Mulgrew's report he said that the teachers are being singled out for worst prospects by the mayor, compared to other city workers. He said that the contract talks are officially going into fact-finding, and that Bloomberg is giving his official fact-finding testimony on June 12, a Wednesday.

Additionally, Mulgrew has secured official support from the Municipal Labor Council for a rally, 4 pm, the same day, outside City Hall, with the theme, Fair Contracts for All. He says that it will be one that he'll push for a big turnout. Mulgrew said that teachers have been working under terrible working conditions.

From another observer:
There was a very interesting exchange between Michael Mendel and an Absent Teacher Reserve who spoke during the Open Mike period.  In the course of the ATR's presentation, the question of unsatisfactory ratings for ATRs who are observed in subjects unfamiliar to them was raised.  Mendel then gave, and repeated several times, what appears to be the UFT's official position on the frequent Unsatisfactory observation reports being given to ATRs who are purposefully being observed while teaching in subjects they know nothing about.  (The ATR at the mike gave the clear example of a science teacher who was observed while teaching a music teacher's program.)  Mendel's response was that the union anticipates that there will be very few ATR U-Ratings at the end of the year.  The evidence he cites for this is that there were very few ATR U-Ratings last year, and no one expects that to change this June.  This, however, in no way speaks to the question of the frequent U observation reports that are being given out.  This appears to be a scam that principals are operating.  It allows them to continue to refuse steady employment to ATRs assigned to their schools.  As long as they continue to justify their refusal to accept the ATRs sent to their buildings as permanent employees, they can keep receiving a steady stream of "free" labor -- paid for by the central Board -- for as long as this insane system continues.  The moment they agree to "hire" an ATR permanently, the salary is charged to the school.  This is more than enough motivation for many, many principals to want to keep the ATR merry-go-round in constant motion.

HOWEVER, if anyone remembers, the original spin that the UFT put on its acceptance of the crazy ATR system now in effect was that constantly moving ATR's from school to school on a weekly basis would give the ATRs more opportunity to be seen by lots of principals, so that they would have better opportunities to be hired permanently.  Of course, this has never materialized.  Indeed, the clever little principals have turned the situation around, and have found a way of demonstrating to the Board that all these people who are passing through their doors are indeed unsatisfactory.  No need to hire them.  But our union's response seems to be:  "It's all right.  Don't worry.  There won't be many ATR U-ratings at the end of the year."