Monday, October 13, 2014


In the past I read Bridging Differences.  I found the back-and-forth between two respected educators Diane Ravitch and Deborah Meier to be enlightening at times.

I guess Ravitch doesn't have enough time these days to keep this dialogue going so she has been replaced by AFT Vice President and one time UFT Vice President Leo Casey

Casey has been dubbed by this blog as the Defender of the Faith as he would defend any union policy, no matter how much it hurt the membership and he would do it in a way that would convince most members that being robbed of their rights and dignity was actually positive for us.  Leo's defense of the indefensible 2005 contract giveaways that he helped to negotiate is propagandist legend.

One 2005 contractual giveback the Union spun as no big deal was the Seniority Transfer System and School Based Option Transfer system being replaced by the Open Market Hiring System, which now leaves all teacher hiring up to principals.

Under the old seniority system, half of the teacher openings in a school were made available for transfer and the transfers were based exclusively on the seniority of the teacher who applied. The remaining vacancies were left to the discretion of the principal. This system pretty much assured schools would have a balance of veteran and newer teachers.  It also gave teachers a safety valve to get out of schools where there were administrators who were difficult to work with. 

Under the SBO system, hiring committees made up of a majority of teachers worked with the principal to decide who would transfer to or be hired in a school.  Criteria had to be fair; teachers could grieve if they were not selected by the hiring committee and they often won.

It was up to each school to decide whether to use the seniority or SBO system for transfers and other hiring.

In the 2005 contract, the UFT inexplicably agreed to replace these two pro-union member staffing systems that covered the whole city. The new Open Market system based on principal choice turned schools into fiefdoms and led to the huge proliferation in school closings because management in New York City knew they no longer had to place the displaced teachers when a school closed.  Instead, they could turn them into Absent Teacher Reserves who have no permanent position but are highly paid substitute teachers.

Leo's spin was the Open Market system would provide many more opportunities for members to transfer.  He saw it as a gain on balance. Here are his exact words from 2005:

"The loss here is that the principal will have final authority but we were able to win language which specifically prohibited a principal from rejecting a transfer on the basis of 'age race, color, gender, sexual orientation and union activities.' The principal will also be required to list all vacancies in his school [only one half of the vacancies are listed under the seniority transfer plan], all caps and limits on the number of teachers who can transfer have been removed and a teacher will hot have to obtain a release from their current principal to transfer, provided that she does so before August 7."

According to Leo, the UFT was able to "ameliorate" what Joel Klein and the fact finders wanted. Note how he says we were able to win language on transfers.  It was a negotiation that the UFT agreed to, not something imposed on the UFT.

In subsequent years, Leo and then UFT President Randi Weingarten would tell us how the number of people moving around the system increased substantially in the new Open Market system compared to the old seniority system. (They never compared the numbers with the SBO system included.) Critics like this blog were dismissed by Leo and others as whiners and complainers who spread myths and disinformation.

Keeping in mind that it takes two sides to make a contract, I was looking at Bridging Differences the other day and much to my surprise here is what I saw: Leo Casey is now blaming the 2005 change in hiring in New York City on then Chancellor Joel Klein and the fact-finders who created the framework for that horrific contract and not the UFT who agreed to it and sold it to the membership.  Here are Leo's exact words from 2014:

"Sadly, in the 2005 contract, this democratic process (SBO Transfer and Staffing) for making hiring and staffing decision was lost.  Then-Chancellor Joel Klein insisted that all power over hiring and staffing be given to the principal alone, and ill-informed fact finders agreed."

The UFT leadership agreed to it too Leo and pushed the change on the members. 

Leo Casey complaining about a loss of democratic rights for teachers as if he had nothing to do with it is quite misleading.  He is leaving out some crucial information. 

The fact finding arbitration process the UFT went to in 2005 was voluntary and non-binding. The UFT agreed to submit the contract impasse to this process. The opposition ICE caucus was on the UFT Executive Board at the time and we strongly urged Leo, then UFT President Randi Weingarten and the rest of the majority Unity Caucus not to go near fact finding with Joel Klein.  We knew we would lose because Klein was insisting that the contract be gutted and the arbitrators, who are trained to give both sides something, would give Klein much of what he asked for. 

Then, when the inevitable negative fact finding report came out, we pleaded with Randi, Leo and the rest of the UFT leadership to reject it as it was non-binding. We were rebuffed. We then led the fight against the giveback laden contract that was negotiated by Leo, Randi and company and not imposed on us as Leo now implies.  

As is just about always the case, Leo and Unity accept no responsibility for the loss of rights members have suffered because of their actions. The UFT Unity leaders agreed to end democratic teacher hiring and transfers in 2005; they urged the membership to vote for principal patronage hiring as a greater opportunity to transfer and promoted better results for years.  Only now, to show he is all for democracy in schools, does Leo Casey bemoan the lack of democratic hiring in schools as if he had nothing to do with giving it away. It was those ill-informed fact finders.

Trust AFT-NYSUT-UFT leadership at your own peril ladies and gentlemen.


Anonymous said...

Hey Leo, don't pee in my glass and call it lemonade. You ain't fooling me!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, James, for this disturbing and important post.

Anonymous said...

These UFT officials wouldn't bite the hand that feeds them. Collecting a UFT salary on top of their DOE salary.
Yes folks, this is your dues money at work.

Anonymous said...

Well if you want to do retrospectives, James, why not include in it that you and the rest of the opposition were opponents of the SBO Hiring and Personnel plan while the UFT had it in its contract. Now you describe it as democratic decision making in schools. And what are you accusing Casey of?

James Eterno said...

Camille's school used the SBO plan. So did others in the opposition. I wasn't on the Exec Bd when it came into the contract. If there was a good relationship between administration and teachers, the SBO plan worked and the seniority plan was a reasonable default alternative. Casey is doing revisionist history as if he had nothing to do with giving away both the SBO and seniority plan.