Thursday, May 08, 2014


It was a very sad day indeed in the history of democracy at the May Delegate Assembly.  The meeting was moved to the NY Hilton.  I am going to dispense with my usual lengthy summary of what President Mulgrew said because you've already seen most of it in the UFT propaganda literature or you will hear it when union representatives come to your schools.

Mulgrew made the case for the contract for over an hour and then doubled the question period to half an hour to speak some more.  He finally allowed for debate on the contract after 6:00 pm when there is an automatic adjournment at 6:15 p.m. His basic argument is that the city has no money for raises because former Mayor Bloomberg depleted the labor reserve. The one sided discussion was worse than even the usual DA mangling of democracy.  It was a complete sham.

After Mulgrew finally finished talking, one Unity person (majority caucus of the UFT which does not allow dissent) spoke in favor of sending the contract to the membership for ratification and then Mulgrew pointed to a second Unity member and that is when I sprung forward and called for a point of order.  As everyone who regularly reads this blog knows, debate is supposed to alternate between speakers for and against every topic according to Robert's Rules.  Since there was a speaker for the contract, there should be one against.  The Unity speaker was willing to yield the floor so Mulgrew gave it to me.

I had a thorough speech ready (see below) where I was about to go point for point to refute much of what Mulgrew said.  I started right out on the economics. 

"Up until two months ago at the DA, Mulgrew was telling us that the city has money but they always say they are broke.  I keep reading in the papers that the city surplus is growing."

(Mulgrew in February:
“We look at the city’s fiscal numbers all the time; it is clear to us that there is money out there. We need our teachers to be paid at least at the level of the school districts around us, which we are not.”)

I continued: "The city is not in bad shape financially so why are we settling for so little.  If we take out the 4% + 4% for the first two years that just equals the last pattern (and we won't see it until between 2015 and 2020), the pattern we set for the rest of municipal labor is 10% total over 7 years."  That is the worst pattern in municipal labor history (at least as long as I have been around)."  At this point, Mulgrew stopped me and said I was wrong.  I responded that according to Robert's Rules when I have the floor, he has no right to interrupt me. I also told him that I have an interpretation of what's in the agreement and so does he and that doesn't make me wrong.

Someone then called a point of order and said that during the question period we agreed that people would only get 30 seconds to ask a question so I was only entitled to the floor for 30 seconds and my time was up.  Mulgrew said I could make one more point and I responded by telling him that the 30 second rule was for the question period.  I also stated that I sat and listened to him politely for an hour motivating the contract and now it was my turn.  He claimed that was my one point and time was up.  I then proceeded to say that I wished I was being recorded (earlier he said UFT policy is no recording) because the entire membership should be permitted to see how he treats people who are dissidents.  There was fairly loud applause as I walked away. 

Maybe I should have stayed and further held my ground but I felt I blew away his no money argument and other people could handle some of the other issues as well or better than I could.

Unfortunately, they never had the chance.  The opposition's next speaker took his 30 seconds to point out how Mulgrew was wrong on his 30 second rule as it pertained to the question period.  We had one other Delegate who had the chance to speak.

Mulgrew then stopped the debate at exactly 6:15 p.m. and called for the vote.  The overwhelming Unity majority obeyed their caucus obligation and supported the contract.

Time allotted for contract discussion:
  • Pro contract side talked for well over an hour. 

  • The opposition was given about 3 minutes of which half of the time was spent trying to keep the floor and tell the president he was out of order.  Would you call that a fair debate?

I have written out the points I wanted to make and will instead make them here.  Below that is a statement on health care.  We don't have to make up anything about the contract.  It is bad enough to fall on its own.

Opposition to Contract 2014
This Contract is based on deferred payments. President Michael Mulgrew told us that we have had wages deferred before.  He mentioned a wage deferral from 1991(in an email).  Let’s go look at that deferral and compare it to the current proposal.  
Back in 1990 we had a union friendly mayor who gave us a one year pattern bargaining busting raise of 5.5% however the economy was about to go into recession and the city soon thereafter found itself in a cash crisis.  The city threatened to lay off thousands of teachers including me.  To bail the city out, the UFT agreed to loan part of our raise to the city.  In order for the city to get us to accept loaning them our money, they had to sweeten the deal.
In return for loaning the city much of our raise, we gained:
* An ironclad no layoff agreement
* The February midwinter recess (we used to work that week)
* The ability to retire directly after a sabbatical
* A very generous retirement incentive that gave people up to three years pension credit allowing those with thirty years in the system to leave as early as 52 years old 
* 9% interest on the loan when we got the money back in 1996.

Thanks to the majority of the members of this union who agreed that solidarity with our most vulnerable members like me was important, my job and the jobs of thousands of other teachers were saved.

Let’s fast forward to today where again we have a union friendly mayor but now we have been beaten down by corporate school reform for a long time.  The city again wants us to defer money. This time it is the 4% + 4% raises other unions got that we are owed since 2009. In addition we are setting the worst pattern in municipal union history that other city unions will have to swallow of 10% over 7 years. I look at the city budget and I don’t see a crisis.  I see surpluses but let’s accept the premise that the money is tight.

If unions accept less money, then what are the sweeteners in this deal for us?

* Changing the use of the 37.5 minutes.  By my count, the extended time provision has been reconfigured 6 times since it went into the contract in 2002.  What makes anyone think this change of two days of professional development and parent outreach will be better than the tutoring or other uses of extended time? It is not a gain. 
* Merit pay or career ladder.  The ambassador teacher, model and master teachers just creates different classes of teachers.  It flies in the face of union solidarity.  We are one union. Funny how there is money for merit pay and the hard to staff school differential but not for our raises. As for the argument that it isn't really merit pay, paying select teachers more than their peers is merit pay. Don't they need to be highly effective or effective which means it will be based in large part on student test scores? If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it usually is a duck. 
* We get a curriculum.  Not exactly a gain. We also now have to write unit plans.
* Up to 200 schools will be run like charter schools with short contracts.  I thought the UFT started a charter school to show how schools can succeed if they follow the contract. Now we want to run schools like charter schools without contracts.  
* Slightly altering Danielson but still basing our ratings in part on student test scores.  No gain there as now the whole lousy evaluation system is part of the contract.
* No interest on the deferred money unlike in 1991 when we got 9%.
* An insulting severance package for ATRs.
* Weaker tenure for ATRs.  Two documented occurrences of "problematic behavior" and we are in a 3020a hearing.  This provision divides the union into two types of membership; regular and ATR.  It’s antithetical to union  solidarity. We are one union; we should have one tenure system for all of us. If this new system for ATRs is so good like the President says, why not give it to everyone?  How can one argue this isn't worse than a major giveback? 

If we are deferring our money, where are the gains?  Where are the sweeteners?  All I see is the acceptance of the basic tenets of Bloombergism but tweaking them a bit. Those are not gains.

In 1990, The DA rejected a loan to the city and sent the Negotiating Committee back to the table to get a better offer.  They did.  In 1995 against a tough mayor, the membership rejected a contract and got a better offer a few months later that had a retirement incentive, a 25 year longevity reduced to 22 and a 5% reduction in new teacher pay was eliminated.  Where are our sweeteners now?
Yes these are tough times for unions and educators but this union has a choice: we can accept this contract which basically leaves the Bloomberg anti-teacher system in place or we can follow the lead of the teachers in Portland, Oregon and St Paul, Minnesota who have fought back and gotten better deals for their schools including lower class sizes.  The UFT did better in 1991 after this DA rejected an original loan proposal and we did better in 1995 when the membership voted down a contract. We can do better now. 


The contract is bad enough on its own.  We don't need to say anything that isn't true.  This is what UFT Welfare Fund Director Arthur Pepper said on healthcare.

Arthur Pepper reported that the UFT found the necessary savings the city wanted so there will be no effect on members.  We will have the same access to doctors, hospitals and the drug plan won't change.  There will be no premium for members.

Sadly Leroy Barr's mom passed away so our thoughts and prayers go out to Leroy and his family.


Anonymous said...

Thank you James. My delegate Voted No as well. Roseanne, PS8x.

Anonymous said...

The larger venue and larger turnout guaranteed the result they wanted. Working teachers struggled to get there on time and many of us ended up in the back. The assembly was a farce. The question and debate part was severely truncated to not allow for dissent. It was shameful. I knew my no vote wouldnt matter. Just as I know the teachers who are uninformed and don't know their history will assume this contract is good and vote yes once ballots come out.

Anonymous said...


You mentioned a number of times:

"Anyone who Retires Before July 1, 2014 Wins Big---
The winners in this deal are anyone who retired from 2009 through now and anyone else who retires by July 1, 2014. They will get all of their retro pay calculated and get it at once. People who already retired will have their pensions recalculated as well as receiving retro payments for the time they worked."

The MOA makes no mention of this scenario. What happened?

Anonymous said...

I wish you had started with the ATR provision first since that's the worst part of this deal.

Teachers in general seem to be happy with the payout, but once again they are voting their pocketbooks over substance, and that's what I find the most distasteful about this contract.

Jeff Kaufman said...

Artie Pepper's statement about assurances of no changes in our health care benefits is beyond belief. With health care cost rising and the City putting out a new RFP there is no guarantee, something will give. Mulgrew may call it a myth but will he bet his phoney contract on the RFP "adjusting" our benefits in a way that it will either cost more for our members or we will see a diminution in benefits? I doubt it.

Anonymous said...

I would like clarification on how the contract handles the 4%+4% for people who will be retiring in 2014 and 2015. I understand they will get the retro money in lump sum or payout, but what about their final average salary? Will it be recalculated to include the % increases? And I agree, the ATR provision is unacceptable. ANY of us can find ourselves in that position, through no fault of our own.

Anonymous said...

It is my understaning that we would be made whole in 2020 therefore anyone looking to retire will be made whole in 2024. Even if where ready to retire we would have to work another 10 year
because the raises from 2009 will be fully phased in the charts to 2021. Then starts the fas calculation starts with the full phase in of the 4+4.
all other city unions will get their raises included in their pension. We lose past, present, future.
Vote No!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 8:30

What documentation have you seen which reflects:

"I would like clarification on how the contract handles the 4%+4% for people who will be retiring in 2014 and 2015. I understand they will get the retro money in lump sum"

I looked through the 47 page MOA and do not recall seeing anything about a lump sum payment.

AXC said...

Also, it says "IN SERVICE" members will get retro. In service at time of payment or in service this year? If I choose to quit 6 months from now, I should get retro since work was already done.

Anonymous said...

Oh James, I am a recent retiree also but you are talking in this blog about a sad situation for anyone who has ever called themselves a NYC teacher. You are writing about fighting for all of us and everyone is asking you about money. My heart goes out to you. Sure, I would like the money but sometimes standing up is more important. I have convinced many active teachers to vote No. You have my support. My best to you.

Anonymous said...

A question for anyone who attended the DA meeting last night:

Did Mulgrew mention the lump sum retro payment for those who retire after July 1, 2014?

Anonymous said...

Mulgrew is a creep. How can we trust a union head that's on the board of trustees for New Visions? I mean, I knew I couldn't trust him before finding that out but seriously?

Anonymous said...

The city loves this deal and they win big. Experts are predicting a rising interest rate environment over the next decade. That alone will allow the city to make enough on the interest of our deferred salaries to fund this dog of a contract. Couple that with rising inflation, which is also being forecast, and the UFT membership would be making a huge mistake to accept this. The worst part of this is that this was crafted by our own union president, Michael "Brutus" Mulgrew

Anonymous said...

How can we agree in a contract that goes as far as 2020, when at that time we are suppose to have a different mayor, Mulgrew all ready promise something to Deblasio // shame on Mulgrew

Anonymous said...

Per UFT website, If you retire after June 30, 2014, your lump sum will be given to you like all the active teachers. 2015 until eternity. Go read it for yourself. I voted no in 2009 and saw those who voted yes complain until the day I retired last year. This contract makes that one look good. We got more money and right away. ATRs also had protection.

Anonymous said...

Also, it says "IN SERVICE" members will get retro. In service at time of payment or in service this year? If I choose to quit 6 months from now, I should get retro since work was already done

B-Nice said...

I am willing to concede each and every one of your points but then I have only one question, after we vote NO, then what? Please don't tell me that I should vote no without telling me what the strategy is after that point.

Anonymous said...

B-Nice they will have to renegotiate after that. It may take time but can't be worse than the time that has already passed (and the contract cannot get any worse than this one).

James Eterno said...

Let the past be your guide. With a so called progressive mayor, he will have to do better. We might not do much better financially but non financial take-backs like placing the ATRs are a must. We have the power. Let's use it instead of just being sheep.

Anonymous said...

No contract is better then a bad contract

Anonymous said...

Just remember the DA would vote to allow ham sandwiches to teach if Mulgrew told them to. They are like Grand Juries Smiling face with open mouth and smiling eyes.

Martin Haber said...

James, Just a shout-out for the stunning courage and wisdom of Marjorie Stamberg, the first speaker to speak in opposition to this shameful betrayal they call a " contract",who will NOT bow down to Mulgrew's sarcasm, bullying, and "its good to be the King" demeanor; neither will she putter out with the Unity mob hissing and booing like morons, simply because she opposes Der Furher's iron will. Though many lefties will disagree with her brand of Socialism, she calls a spade a spade every time she gets the mic, and makes the case for class struggle irrefutable.

Anonymous said...

I have 5 concerns.
1. The money as stated is a lousy payout. We are waitning 11 years for money we have earned. We are accepting raises not based on what should be our new base. We receive no interest for our loan to the city.

2. ATRs- We are a union of solidarity. We do not put our members in a position in which they will have an 'expidited' hearing for being fired.

3. Since the city is not willing to pay more to the teachers when they provide training, students' instructional time is being reduced by 150 minutes/week. We teachers are evaluated based on students achievement. This reduction in class time makes it so much harder.

4. I believe that HS science teachers will not be able to meet the state's minimum requirement of 180 minutes of instructional time plus one period for lab each week. It is difficult enough to cover the material without having more time taken away.

5. Regarding the schools for innovation, PROSE. Instead of paying the teachers for the extra time they are willing work in order to implement a new model for success, which, by the way, is what charter schools are supposed to be doing, the UFT has negotiated that the teachers should pay for all new innovations.

Anonymous said...

James Eterno. From what I hear you're a very bright man and I wanted to hear what you had to say, but you cannot put all of the blame for the interaction between you and Mulgrew on Mulgrew. You may have had some good points but you didn't put them forth in a very civil way. You seemed very combative, almost as if you were going to explode. I know because I was sitting right next to the microphone and at one point I even whispered to you to "calm down". I wanted to hear what you had to say but I began to feel uncomfortable with how things were going. I understand you're not happy with what you and others perceive as a lack of democracy at the DA, and I can't say I disagree with that. I'm only a Chapter Leader but I am going to make it my mission to help with that cause in the next year. Personally I like to hear what others have to say and I don't like such strict limits on dissenting opinions. I also think it's unfair to vote to limit the time for questions or debate without giving any specific time constraints. I want the DA to be run so that it's fair to all. BUT.... I do not want in anyway to be a party to destroying my Union. When you were given an opportunity to speak you seemed more concerned with "fighting with Mulgrew" about Robert's Rules than you were about expressing your opinion on the contract. Sorry to say that I don't think most of the applause you heard when you stopped speaking was because people agreed with you, I think they were applauding because you were done. I didn't applaud but honestly, I felt relieved.


James Eterno said...

Mary- I respect your view but time after time when I try to speak and listen to other dissenters, we usually don't get to say more than two or three words before our president rudely interrupts. It is a matter of the rules of debate. People like Marjorie and I aren't going to just take it. I know a Bronx cheer when I hear one. That was not a Bronx cheer when I left the mic. That was spirited applause. The President is supposed to be a neutral chair but as soon as I mentioned the pattern being the lowest municipal pattern since I've been around, the President said I was wrong. That is completely out of order and he was challenged. When people disagree with me at chapter meetings, I don't try to stop them or interrupt them. I think I did once and then quickly apologized. It is their right to speak. Robert's Rules says someone can go for up to ten minutes. I only would have needed a couple of minutes to say what I did in this post. A chair needs to set an example. Our president does not. I will call him on it. Even Unity people know full well that I am right and tell me privately. I have tried being polite. I have tried working it out quietly behind the scenes. I have sent emails to leadership and I have made phone calls to leadership on this issue. They tell me it will be better and it never is. What else am I supposed to do? I make no apology for standing up for democracy.

Anonymous said...

Whether you agree with the contract or not or agree with the way the meeting was conducted or not the most important part of the meeting was accomplished, which was letting the members decide for themselves if they want this contract. Frankly, I'm appalled that any voting member of the DA would have tried to prevent this. It is important to remember that we represent members but we are not the entire membership.

Anonymous said...

What about in the 90s when the DA voted something down and we got a better deal. Do some of you people even bother to read the posts?

Anonymous said...

Disagreeing with leadership is does not destroy a union. Contracts that give schools the ability to get rid of protections that your union fought for in the past well that might.

Anonymous said...

Great rundown, James.

And hear, hear for Marjorie Stamberg! She indeed deserves a big shout out. She makes clear, courageous, relevant points every time she expresses herself on the issues and is a great advocate for the terribly mistreated ATRs.

I think the merit pay and PROSE (non union rule schools) proposals are horrendous. The evaluation issue -- paring down Danielson points -- is just the sort of inadequate tweaking to an unworkable, awful eval system we are allowed when the horse is out of the barn, ie, when your union leader helped vote VAM into law. Also, I bet the money can be "found" to make the retro payments fair.

Anonymous said...

I went to the delegate assembly last week. What a @#%^& sham job that was.....It reminded me of the Nazi rallies during the 1930s.....the only person missing was Joeseph Goebels. The delegates dutifully clapped and praised Mulgrew when he had the chutzpa to say that he is "improving the ATR process by removing ATRs for behavior inconsistent with expectation established for professionals"...when asked what that meant, he said the UFT is "working on it", but "ATRs will get better 3020A hearings under the proposed contract" because instead of waiting around, they would get accused, tried, and fired within a couple of weeks. No waiting around! This special treatment is not being offered to the appointed rank and file.....just the 3,000 ATRs.

As well, a couple of years ago, Amy Arundle told a group of hundreds of ATRs that we were "lucky to have jobs"....after 20 yrs of teaching "effectively", I'm lucky to have a job? Thanks a bunch..

Get rid of this guy, get rid of Unity, they , like Randi, are on the take from the education reformers.

VOTE NO for the contract that doesn't keep up with inflation.

VOTE NO for the contract that will destroy the ATR.

Anonymous said...

Pepper found over $3 billion in savings and nothing will change!!! That's a miracle in itself and I for one would like to know where that fat came from.
If he can do that, Obama should hire him to work on the National Debt!!

Anonymous said...

If you believe that, we have a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn.

Anonymous said...

I don't believe it, that's why I wrote it!