Tuesday, May 05, 2015


A fairly strong contingent of Absent Teacher Reserves and our supporters were at the UFT Executive Board last night.  I was given the honor to represent the ATRs and Leave Replacement Teachers as we made the case for having a UFT Chapter with representatives of our own choosing.

Leroy Barr and lawyer Adam Ross represented the UFT and they made what all in the back considered to be a case that was laughable at best and truly pathetic at worst.  They claimed that ATRs have an equal chance of winning elections at schools that some of us just got to today. In addition, when we are moved to the next school, they both said with a straight face that we can still be the Chapter Leader for the school we are just passing through this May.  The audience of ATRs and our friends just chuckled and had to be told to be quiet.

In the end a couple, or maybe it was a few, New Action people voted with the ATRs while the remainder of the New Action representatives and the Unity rubber stampers all voted with Barr and Ross against the ATRs having equal voting rights or didn't vote at all.

As one observer put it: ATRs have democratic rights on paper but not in reality.

I would like to head to the AFT for an appeal. Is anybody with me?

UPDATE: New Action co-chair Jonathan Halabi emailed me tonight saying that the New Action representatives voted four with us and one abstention.  For the record, I only saw two hands go up to support our protest.  One was my old friend Doug Haynes, who is a fine human being, and the other was the woman sitting next to him. The other two apparently voiced their no vote rather than show us who they were.  Nobody called out for an abstention which is standard procedure. Jonathan claims he emails the tallies in. I guess NAC gets do-overs.

Halabi and the other NAC Co-chair Michael Shulman seemed lukewarm at best in their speeches last night. Halabi called for ATR liaisons in the borough offices.  That would not solve our legal problem at all but in the interest of fairness, I am responding on the blog to what he put here in comments and sent in email.

  Executive Board Appeal
May 4, 2015 

My name is James Eterno; I am a Temporary Leave Replacement Teacher at Middle College High School in Queens but with no permanent assignment.

I’m here tonight because there are many union members who happen to be Absent Teacher Reserves, Leave Replacement Teachers or Temporary Provisional Teachers have no chapter and therefore are being denied fundamental democratic union rights that are guaranteed in federal labor law. 

Pretend you are on a business trip to Hawaii for a month or even a little longer.  Do you think you should have a right to vote for who the governor of Hawaii should be since you happened to be there on Election Day? 

Do you think you should be eligible to run for governor of Hawaii because you happened to be in the state on Election Day? 

Both of these situations are completely ridiculous.  But this is basically the kind of chapter election system for ATRs the leadership of this union proposed and this Executive Board recently approved in the Chapter Election Guide and Bylaws for this spring’s elections. 

ATRS and Leave Replacement Teachers vote at the school we are just passing through in May even if the school has an election in June and we are no longer there. That violates the federal law. 
ATRs, Leave Replacement Teachers and Temporary Provisional Teachers are supposed to run for chapter leader or delegate from those same schools we are just passing through this May. This is absurd and also flies in the face of the federal law. 

Since the Delegate Assembly is the highest policy-making body in the union, it must be elected.  This is what the Landrum Griffin Federal Regulations say concerning eligibility to be candidates and to hold union office: 

Every member in good standing is eligible to be a candidate and to hold office subject to reasonable qualifications in the union’s constitution and bylaws that are uniformly imposed. 
Is it a reasonable qualification that if I want to serve as a delegate or chapter leader, I have to run for office in a school where I have absolutely no right to a job in that school when my term of office would begin in July? Past union policy has been that once a person is removed permanently from a school they are no longer the chapter leader, particularly after 3020a cases are settled and a person becomes an ATR.  That is why Mr. Portelos is no longer chapter leader at his school.   

Is there now a change in policy where people can serve as chapter leader if they no longer are in a school? That might help to stop vindictive principal excessing of our chapter leaders but if that is the new policy, I would like to know why Mr. Portelos is not chapter leader at his former school and why he can’t run again there 

The whole policy of us voting in schools we are just passing through makes a mockery of democracy.  Remember, federal regulations say qualifications have to be reasonable and uniformly imposed.  Clearly the regular members of a chapter have an automatic advantage over ATRs in chapter elections.  That is not reasonable and certainly not a uniformly imposed regulation. 

In the past we were always told that ATRs can’t get our own chapter because we don’t want to institutionalize and thus accept what is a temporary position.  This argument was always weak but now it is completely mistaken because the UFT embedded a whole Section 16 into the contract that concerns ATRS. We have weaker due process rights; we are compelled to go on interviews, some for jobs which don’t exist and we are forced to resign if we happen to not check our emails and miss two interviews.  Due process be damned for ATRS.  Some even can be denied interviews by the Chancellor.  (Now with out of time schools coming, a new category is being created that looks like year to year ATRs.)  We are embedded. There is even a temporary group of teachers that was recently assigned to a chapter; Peer Validators. They exist in the contract for only two years and yet they were sent to the teachers assigned chapter.  Only ATRs are constantly told no. 

ATRS/Leave Replacement and Temporary Provisional teachers have been asking for almost a decade for our own chapter with a chapter leader and delegates to deal with our unique status.  I don’t know too many executive board members who have walked in our shoes. Functional chapters such as the guidance counselors use the chapter leader in the building they are at and then can call on their own elected central guidance chapter leader and delegates when needed for unique guidance issues.  Several categories of teachers including teachers assigned and teachers of the home-bound have their own chapter leader too.  If you continue to insist the temporary nature of the position is a problem, we have a solution:  We can put in the bylaws that we will dissolve the ATR chapter if all of the temporary provisional, leave replacement and atr teachers are placed. We can even make it one of our goals. The citywide Ed Evaluator chapter was dissolved.  We too can be dissolved if some sanity returns to the Board of ed and we no longer exist.

As for this evening, without wanting to show any disrespect, I was told that Leroy Barr was chosen to make the report on our election complaint.  Leroy spoke passionately against an ATR chapter in October at the DA and he rejected my arguments in November when we met for our equal voting rights. His lack of objectivity on this subject presents a conflict of interest. 

I would like to close by asking an important question: If this body rejects our very reasonable request for fair voting rights and equal rights to serve in office for ATRS, Leave Replacement Teachers and Temporary Provisional teachers, then we will go up the ladder to the AFT who we have already contacted and then to the Department of Labor who I have spoken to and they are interested in our case. Some, not me, are going to go to PERB too.  The UFT is going to waste a large amount of time, money and effort fighting against its own members because we want to vote and serve in office in the same way as everybody else. Ten or twenty delegates and a chapter leader won’t make much of a dent in any caucus majority at the DA so why is anyone afraid of us?  We want to have the same voting rights and rights to hold office as all other UFT members. Save that money, time and effort by giving us fair democratic rights.  Create a chapter for us tonight. 


Philip Nobile said...

ATRs Unite: only a hunger strike or an occupation of 52 will advance our chapter case.

LeRoy Barr, is there a bigger stooge in Unity?

Anonymous said...

A hunger strike at the Exec bd? Never. The food is too good.

Bronx ATR said...

Maybe an article in the AFT, with James and Leroy presenting their arguments for and against. Could you imagine teachers throughout the US reading Barr's comments?
The nation would realize what the UFT has become.

jd2718 said...

New Action Exec Board members were free to vote their conscience (our caucus had not taken a position on a chapter, and will be discussing it later this week), but from where I sat, none of us voted with the leadership.

Jonathan Halabi
co-chair, New Action

James Eterno said...

Jonathan - I saw Doug Haynes, who is an absolutely wonderful guy, and a woman vote with us for a Chapter. Nobody else raised their hand or said anything for a no vote that I could see from where I sat. In addition, none of you called out for an abstention. Hence, my saying you guys were for Barr's report.The Executive Board has traditionally recorded abstentions for the record which you and Michael know. I was watching and listening to you guys closely as that was the only suspense in the vote. If the yes vote is to say I and the no votes say no and raise their hands and you don't raise your hand but two of the members of your caucus do, then I can reasonably conclude the rest of you did not oppose Barr. If it was more than a couple of no votes, then correct me please.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Halabi,
What a crock of shit!

Bronx ATR said...

J. Halabi- How do you account for the verbal slap in the face that I and another ATR got from one of your Executive Board members, and which I recounted verbatim?


Anonymous said...


Harris L. said...

Proud to call you my friend, James Eterno. Not much, I know, but it's the best I can do as a retired teacher who will write a letter of support--again, hardly a meaningful response to another injustice in the Cloud-Cuckoo Land of Leroy Barr and his Kangaroo Court of Unity supporters.

Keep the faith, Brother James and all the members of our union against whom this travesty is being enacted.

Anonymous said...

PERB should have been contacted immediately when the issue first arose, most likely in the context of filing an improper practice charge against the UFT with them.

What's all the dilly-dallying about?

Anonymous said...

James you do not realize how much of an impact the ATR's had on Monday. I received an email from my district rep at 7:30 pm about the meeting and the complaints levied against the union (chapter leaders NEVER welcome the ATR's, being forced to punch in and out, no one being there to help ATR's). Thank you for your hard work.

Anonymous said...

It is ironic that the best place for many to be is in the ATR pool. Not a single member has been terminated for evaluative reasons as an ATR. Yes interview attendance is essential and require strict vigilance, corporal punishment is, of course, banned for all pedagogues, which leaves excessive absence and lateness as the only other reason why our ATR's are dismissed. While the governor and others are aiming their guns on our teachers, ATRs will live to fight on another day. The real question is how do we empower our union to advocate for its members in every corner of our membership?

Anonymous said...

New Action representatives were free to vote their conscience. Are you saying that once New Action takes a position, they are not free? Sounds like you have a loyalty oath like Unity. Small wonder you guys get along so well. Birds of a feather....

Francesco Portelos said...

We will be at the next meeting and outside the DA on May 20th. We will be at 65 Court Street.

I have the PERB injunction ready, but have to send Improper Practice charge. See a copy here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/vrcbkh0doughdau/Final%20ATR%20PERB%20Improper%20Practice%20Complaint%20Against%20UFT%20Notarized.pdf?dl=0

jd2718 said...

No. But as co-chair I won't vote against a caucus position. We usually, but not always, vote together. I worded that poorly. I should have written that "since the caucus had not taken a position, each New Action member of the UFT Executive Board made up their mind individually"


Anonymous said...

Given the alliance between Portelos/Solidarity and New Action, one would wonder exactly where Portelos stands on the New Action position at this meeting? Still hoping for New Action to put him on the Unity ballot for an executive board position? Or maybe have New Action and Unity help get Solidarity on the ballot for UFT elections so as to split the vote amongst the opposition? This is a 3 act play.

Francesco Portelos said...

I don't think you've been paying attention on what's been going Anon May 10 12am.

Actually, come to think of it, I think you've been paying very close attention to what's going on... and it's been scaring the crap out of you. ;)

Anonymous said...

The last two comments show some infighting I don't get. I need a scorecard to understand who is doing what. We don't like Mulgrew, Unity and New Action right?