I think there is ample evidence to conclude that Michael Mulgrew is no longer the head of a labor union but is Bill de Blasio's Deputy Mayor in charge of the teachers. Mulgrew is certainly the official apologist for everything de Blasio.
Take last Wednesday's Delegate Assembly for some examples.
When Michael Bloomberg was mayor, the UFT would at least rant and rave and even sue when schools were closed. Now the UFT supports it when schools are closed or reorganized. Our apologist president now claims that schools have been closing for thirty years and we can't have schools with low enrollment. What about the members who work in those schools? Couldn't sometthing be negotiated with our supposedly union friendly mayor and chancellor to keep our members from being displaced? Update: If anyone has word on what happens to UFT members in these schools, please tell us. We will update again.) Watch out as de Blasio is threatening to close more schools. I am fairly certain he will get the union's seal of approval for any school he wants to shut down.
Mulgrew even left the chair to argue against Vice President for High Schools Janella Hinds who wanted to strike from a resolution UFT support for the mayor's affordable housing plan. I have been going to Delegate Assemblies since the mid 1990s and I have never seen a UFT vice president disagreeing with the union's president on anything until last Wednesday. I have no idea if this was orchestrated or not but it was interesting to hear that Janella introduced an amendment to oppose a de Blasio initiative and then our president left the chair to argue from the floor how we have to support the mayor's program. (I had to leave early so I missed this. Someone sent it to me.) President trumps a VP so of course the crowd supported Mulgrew.
Then there are adverse ratings. The UFT President repeats over and over at the DA how the number of ineffective ratings is down compared to how many unsatisfactory ratings we used to get under the old teacher evaluation system. What he doesn't say is that teachers are being brought up on charges even when they receive developing ratings or that after two ineffective ratings, teachers are now presumed to be incompetent. To put it another way, we are guilty until proven innocent under the current evaluation system.
We have now toiled for two years under former State Education Commissioner John King's imposed, UFT endorsed teacher evaluation system. The question to ask is not how many ineffective ratings there have been but rather how many tenured teacher are being forced to resign or will be terminated for incompetence in the new system compared to the old one?
If we start talking about how many teachers have had their probation extended since Mulgrew became president as opposed to the past, we clearly see a much weaker union. Has the UFT done anything to stop the abuse of non-tenured teachers? We don't hear our president talk about this subject much at all at Delegate Assemblies.
Surely the union must have something to say about the many principals and assistant principals who are not working in any way shape or form to help teachers better the educational process. All the President will say is that we have always had bad principals so it is nothing new. We wouldn't want to insult our chancellor and mayor who it seems can do no wrong. At this month's Delegate Assembly, Mulgrew admitted that we are still dealing with a culture that says a principal can do whatever he/she wants. What is the union doing about it? Not much.
He told the Delegates we are having a disagreement with management because 70% of school breakfasts are being thrown out. This blog favors students eating and disapproves of so much food being wasted but is that the only issue we are at odds with the administration on this month? That and some Integrated Collaborative Teaching problems that in the past would have prompted citywide grievances at the very least but now prompt a survey. The reality as everyone knows, is that conditions in the schools are as bad if not worse today for most schools as they were under Bloomberg. The major difference is the UFT is now the official apologist for the administration instead of putting up a little resistance.
Last month Mulgrew told Delegates that there have always been bad principals. His previous line was we had to give de Blasio-Farina time to get principals in line. Notice he doesn't say that any longer.
The 2014 contract with its meager city pattern setting raises of 10% total over 7 years, one month, while making us wait 11 years until 2020 to get money most other city unions received back in 2008-2010, and throwing in yet to be seen healthcare givebacks, is another example of de Blasio apologist trade unionism on the part of our union.
Mulgrew is such a friend of the administration that he would probably accept a position as deputy mayor for education or even chancellor but he couldn't take the pay cut to be a deputy mayor or the lack of job security for chancellor. Personally, I just wish we had a union president and not a de Blasio-Farina apologist.
Reality Based Educator has called the UFT basically a company union on this blog. He has a point but the term doesn't really fit the UFT because we don't work for a company; we work for the government. As such, the union is part of the Democratic Party establishment for better or worse. The term "party union" doesn't sound very catchy but the union is a part of the party at the city, national and state levels and that party takes us for granted. I say this as someone who voted for de Blasio and sees only bad alternatives for 2017. The problem is how do we make the UFT an independent trade union again. We can't be the union arm of the Democratic Party.
Step one: We need to spread the word in our schools and then vote for Jia Lee and the entire MORE-New Action slate in the spring UFT election. We need to send a message that we want a union president and not a deputy mayor in charge of the teachers.