Saturday, February 18, 2017


New York State United Teachers is our state union. It has been pretty much controlled by the UFT since our union is by far the biggest local in NYSUT. In addition, there is enough patronage for other large locals to be bought off to ensure nothing changes at the state union level. This does no good for New York State teachers as the record the last few years shows.

Andy Pallotta, the man responsible for our many legislative failures in Albany, has now been tapped by Michael Mulgrew's Unity Caucus to run for NYSUT President. Let's closely examine his abysmal record as Executive Vice President where he has been directing how our political contributions in Albany are spent.

There have been two new teacher evaluation systems passed into law so teacher ratings are now based on student test scores on faulty exams and the totally subjective Danielson observations. In addition, it now takes new teachers at least four years to obtain tenure. In the past it was three years of probation. There is an inferior Tier 6 pension, where a career teacher who starts right out of college must work over forty years to obtain a full retirement allowance which is lower than the Tiers I through V pension. There has been a change in professional development rules that has made it more difficult for teachers in NYC to get PD. We also have the 2% tax cap that limits education spending in most school districts unless a super majority votes to override it. UFT/NYSUT's legislative record under Pallotta has been nothing short of disastrous. His major success the last three years was to get himself and other NYSUT officers extra pension credit like Unity officers and District Representatives have in the UFT.

Only in the twisted world of Unity Caucus can an officer totally fail to make any improvements for the rank and file and obtain a promotion.

In 2014, then NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi and the other NYSUT officers, except Pallotta, took a bold step to buck the UFT/Unity leadership to move NYSUT in a more adversarial direction against anti-public education, anti-worker Governor Andrew Cuomo. It cost Ianuzzi and his team their jobs as Pallotta backed by UFT President Mulgrew led the breakaway movement to unseat Iannuzzi's team.

Iannuzzi led the Stronger Together Caucus and ran to keep his job without UFT and other big city local support. The UFT/Unity machine backed Karen Magee who was elected NYSUT President with around 61% of the statewide vote. Her margin of victory was secured through unanimous UFT support as our union's Delegates to NYSUT do what Mulgrew tells them to do. Since 2014, NYSUT has continued in its free-fall under Magee and her team which of course includes Pallotta. In 2017 Magee has either been dumped by Unity or has had enough. Pallotta and Mulgrew no longer even want to put a fig-leaf to cover over the reality that the Unity/UFT leaders control NYSUT.

Stronger Together in 2017 is running against the state Unity Caucus again. ST announced their top four officer slate recently. Although I strongly disagree with ST not running anyone from New York City for any position, Mike Lillis as a candidate for President is clearly superior to any alternative backed by the UFT/Unity leadership. Lillis is the President of the Lakeland Federation of Teachers.

Not that my support means much even though more NYC high school teachers voted for opposition MORE/NEW ACTION than Unity in last year's UFT election so I should be the High School Vice President as that is the position I ran for. However, Unity has rigged the electoral system so I am not the High School VP and the majority of high school teachers who participated in last year's UFT election are totally disenfranchised in the NYSUT election.

No self respecting teacher should ever vote Unity. On Facebook in the comments to a ST post promoting their top slate, Lesa Aloan Wilbert explains the problems we have in the UFT, NYSUT and AFT in a few lines when referring to last year's NYSUT Representative Assembly. Every public school teacher in the USA should read this.

Lesa Aloan Wilbert My first RA was last year. I sat next to a lovely woman who agreed with pretty much every topic we discussed. When we stood for votes, she sat. When I asked her why she didn't vote with me, she said, "I'm not allowed to vote against the UFT." Corruption in our midst. Go Stronger Together Caucus!

I'm not happy that ST didn't agree to support any of us UFT dissidents for NYSUT office, particularly since some of us joined ST when it formed back in 2014. Arthur Goldstein (Chapter Leader Francis Lewis High School in Queens) ran for Executive VP back then against Pallotta. It is true we did not meet the deadline ST set up for applying for officer positions for 2017 but we asked about the Board of Directors and were rebuffed there too based on the fact that ST wants reforms that would eliminate certain positions. I think their move can be construed as anti-NYC teacher. ST also threatened my friend Mike Schirtzer from MORE who sits on ST's Executive Committee representing NYC. ST needs to reopen a dialogue to mend fences with NYC opposition members for sure.

On the other hand, another Unity shill Andy Pallotta as NYSUT President does not help our cause. His failures do not merit a promotion. It is of primary importance that it be a pro-union group that punches a hole in the Unity machine. ST/Lillis are better than Mulgrew/Pallotta/Unity on teacher evaluations and many other issues impacting members.

ST wants to repeal most of the onerous parts of the Education Transformation Act of 2015 which set up the current teacher evaluation system. ST opposes it taking at least four years on probation for a teacher to be tenured. ST is against receivership where the state takes over so called failing schools and can easily get rid of the teachers and other staff. ST is also in favor of opting out of standardized tests while Mulgrew calls opt out dangerous. ST is no friend of Andrew Cuomo while Mulgrew and Pallotta give him a wink and a nod at best.

ST clearly has superior positions over Unity. That is more important than any personal disagreements we may have with ST leaders over how decisions on candidates were made or controversy over top-down vs. bottom-up unionism which is an important theoretical discussion to have but not that critical right now when the union movement itself is in so much peril.

I believe Mike Lillis/ST are a better choice at NYSUT than anyone who Unity Caucus runs. I'll be backing ST and offering them my assistance if they want it. Since the giant UFT contingent will all vote as they're told for Pallotta at the NYSUT Representative Assembly in April and other large locals are in the pocket of the UFT leadership, this will be a very difficult race for Lillis to win. It is extremely expensive for many of his potential supporters from small locals upstate to travel to NYC and stay at a high priced hotel just to have the right to vote in this election. The UFT membership pays the expenses for our bought and paid for Delegates to do as they're told by Mulgrew. Considering what they'are up against, I am under no illusions that ST will have it easy. Let's hope ST can unite a strong opposition to Unity/Pallotta.

*The views expressed here are my views only and have not been approved by the Independent Community of Educators (ICE), MORE, New Action or anyone else.


Anonymous said...

This post offers no evidence to vote for ST other than theyre not Unity. In fact if they would win, they've shown time and time again they will lead as Unity has: without any effort to engage members, no transparency, bully tactics to forward their agenda, and and without organizing to challenge those that seek to destroy unions and public schools. They are more of the same- "we will save everyone" how? - they offer nothing. theyre ads on facebook are nothing short of silly. Compare them to the platform, newsletters, agendas put out by MORE. We put forth a comprehensive vision and have lived up to it. We have been the voice for the rank and file on the executive board and beyond.
Let your readers and potential supporters decide what has ST done to build the caucus? What public positions has it taken? When and where has it challenged unity? What was the process of the so called ST endorsement committee? Why are minutes of their meetings never published?
James left NA, but has not publicly condemned ST for begging for a joint slate which Randi, Andy, and Mike turned down.
We should even bring up the personal threats made by ST leadership and candidates because I, on behalf of MORE, refuse to bow to them
I would direct your readers to

I want to reiterate MORE doesn't operate on democratic centralism, James is free to identify and run with whomever he likes. But we're interested in building a movement to save our union and fight those that want to get rid of us. ST has not been part of that since Beth left. James was a large part of the reason MORE/NA has 7 seats on UFT executive board, but once again this post does not speak for any of us involved from MORE other than James.
I have emails and texts I would love to share with your readers. I will not out of respect becuase they were done in private, but should any of the so called leaders of ST or their supporters care to see them let me know.
Mike Schirtzer
UFT Executive Board

Anonymous said...

Shitzer sounds like a jilted ex boyfriend.

Anonymous said...

First of all calling him Mike Shitzer is disrespectful. That said he is basically telling us that ST sees no political value in MORE. So Mike feels since he cant get any love from ST they deserve no respect from him. They won't endorse MORE for any seats. But James feels like anybody but Unity. The end result is still the same. MORE's claim to fame of getting 7 exec board seats means diddly squat to everybody but them. I guess it's official. The More caucus is a political dead end.

Anonymous said...

It's not disrespectful to call him Mike Shitzer. Everyone in more calls him shit for brains behind his back. Even Jia. She knows he wants her position and to run for president against Mulgrew next time. It's the worst kept secret in more.

James Eterno said...

The name calling has gotta stop. We are teachers. As for Mike's comment, I gave plenty of evidence on why ST is a better choice by looking at the platform and plenty of places where they have come up short. Mike is correct that I would support just about any pro union group opposing Unity. They have done much to harm us at the state and city level.

Anonymous said...

You guys need to get your shit together the way MORE and NAC did last year.

Unknown said...

This is clearly not the best avenue for airing grievances. As someone who has deep respect for the tireless efforts of folks here, we have a huge fight ahead of us. Let's focus our collective energy- there's a LOT here- in shutting shit down. Happy to meet with folks to have in person conversations. My two cents- Jia

Brian said...

James I think this is a really fair post... and I thank you for creating a place to discuss this issue. Mike makes a lot of valid points as well. Unity has been the major contributing factor to why our unions find themselves in the state that they are in. However ST has done little to present an alternate vision and has operated without a shred of democracy or transparency. As someone who does have an actual vote in the NYSUT election, I find it to be very much like our political elections where there isn't a choice to be excited about... and given where public education and labor currently stand it is a tremendously situation.

The anonymous commenter engaging in name calling adds absolutely nothing to this discussion. If you disagree with Mike that's totally fine. James presents a respectful way to do that here. But to resort to anonymous trolling only sets us back further.

As Jia said, I am happy to engage in respectful, in-person discussions about any of this as well.

Brian St. Pierre

Harris L said...

What a complete disaster. What a tragedy.

I stepped away from MORE when I retired and moved out of the City. I have the greatest respect for the people I have met through MORE--many of whom helped me to put my very strange and complicated three year late-career sojourn in the NYC DOE and UFT in some political and analytical perspective. It pains me deeply to read the sort of personal stupidity that we use against each other when it would suffice simply to say what is on our minds.

I was one of the charter members of ST. I was signer No. 12 on Arthur Goldstein's nominating petition. I am proud to have become a personal friend and professional colleague of Beth Dimino and Rob Pearl, among others, during the last three years.

But beyond my personal connection to folks involved in ST and the survey that I filled out this fall I have almost no idea what ST has done or not done during its brief existence. That, itself, seems to me sufficient cause for not voting in this election or for not endorsing a slate. I check my email account at least once a day like everyone else does and missed the same ST self-nomination message that seems to lie at the heart of what has become a procedural and now, of course, strategic, nightmare. I evidently also missed the messages that might have educated me about what ST was trying to do or kept me regularly updated about how it was mobilizing union democrats to press for greater transparency and participation by NYSUT members.

So, now I find myself with the same awkward feeling I had in the voting booth in NYC whenever I would be presented with long lists of the names of people I'd never heard of running for judicial delegate or county committee member. I solved that problem pretty easily because I don't vote for people I don't know anything about or I vote for the handful of people that someone I trusted had told me to vote for.

I shake my head in sadness--and frustration and some anger--that I find myself in a position that I cannot act on my impulse to vote for an "opposition" union caucus because I have no idea who the people running in its election are and my friends are spewing stuff at each other online and on Facebook.

Son or Daughter of Friedrichs awaits us next year unless Congress beats the Supreme Court to it and enacts a "right-to-work" law like the one passed on Thursday in Iowa.

Some people will know who I am. Others not. But I want to assure anyone on the ST slate, as I have personally assured Beth Dimino and anyone else who would listen to me for twenty seconds the last three years, that Son or Daughter of Friedrichs will bankrupt NYSUT within a few years unless the UFT and AFT are willing to pour millions of dollars more than they already do into NYSUT's scrambled accounts and corruptly managed "pension" plan.

I just wish I knew who any of you were and what you've been doing the last three years. I might have been willing to vote for you. But, other than Bianca, your names mean nothing more to me than a name on a New York City list of judicial delegates and I'm angry that I feel just as stupid now as I did back whenever I had to look at one of those.

So, no vote.

Oh well. We're royally screwed however this mess works out. And a mess it is.

James Eterno said...

Harris and Brian, You two guys raise the level of discourse here. I don't mind hearing from Jia or Mike Schirtzer either. Have you seen some of the anonymous comments we get here often from understandably frustrated teachers? The sky really is falling. We need pro-union and not Unity Caucus.

Unknown said...

speaking for someone without their permission. Take my name out of this please.

Anonymous said...

Like it matters or could get worse. I already hate going to these shitholes every day.

Anonymous said...

Eterno is a hypocrite- leaves New Action for signing a deal with unity, but backs ST for doing the same. He's clearly lobbying for the open slate spot. James was even hanging with that bonafide nut Porty, I guess you like backing losers. The ST caucus slate, local "presidents" hahaha, yeah of twenty people, MORE got nearly 11,000 votes, high school over 2500- MORE represents thousands of rank and file, ST jokers hundreds at best. Mike, Lauren, and Beth Dimino propped up the slate of losers, watch how this unqualified ticket gets trampled by unity. You can call him shitzer or shithead, doesn't change he got more votes than you and does more for kids and teachers than Shittier Together slate. Everyone heard that Leroy laughed so loud when ST came begging, you can hear his laugh on the top floor of 52 Broadway. Unity even put their own at the top of the slate just to rub it in to ST. Bunch of losers, now James is one too!

Anonymous said...

None of this really matters.. Rank and file members are so disgusted with NYSUT the party is over It is just a matter of when

Anonymous said...

Jiasus Lee doesn't want her name to be taken in vain. Very funny.

Anonymous said...

Stop the insanity. Getting votes from members is not the same as representing them. More got beat by Unity 2 to 1 in the member vote count. They don't have a membership of 11 thousand people. Since they lost the election they represent zero members. At least ST local presidents can actually claim to represent their members. Unlike More,who are not delegates and cannot cast votes at the RA. That's why ST sees no value in supporting More. It's amazing how More leaders can beg for slots or for an at large endorsement, get denied and then call out ST as being sour grapes.

James Eterno said...

Too late to get the fifth slot as nominations are closed I believe 7:09 a.m. So much for my opportunism.

I would not have left NAC if they didn't have a deal with Unity or if they got a good one (the high school vice presidency back to the high school division only for example). Power sharing means power sharing like Britain during WWII where the Conservatives and Labour worked together and shared the cabinet. I believe Churchill's government made labour leader Clement Attlee Home Secretary so he had a very powerful job. His high profile helped him win the 1945 election. Back to the UFT, as soon as NAC stopped supporting Unity, I was glad to work with them in the 2016 election.

I don't see Randi-Mulgrew ever sharing any power. it's not in their DNA.

10:12 am-MORE-NEW ACTION won the high schools so we represent over 19,000 high school teachers on the UFT Executive Board. Mike Schirtzer, Arthur Goldstein and others are doing very good work every meeting. We are also chapter leaders and delegates so we represent members in buildings too. Arthur represents in his building as many members as entire NYSUT rural locals. The 19,000 MORE-New Action represent would make us the fourth largest K-12 local in the country and the fourth largest local in NYSUT. The only reason we aren't represented at NYSUT is because of the ridiculous at large election system. I don't support it and would change it in a second if we had a chance but we have to run for office within the system we have. I respect ST's principled stand against at large representation and would agree with changing it but I think you work within the system that exists and don't concede those seats to Unity which they did.

waitingforsupport said...

I'm learning so much from this discussion. Thank you for staying high when the discussion sometimes goes a little low--wonderful example.

Pete Zucker said...

Yeah, keep on bashing Schirtzer and Jia hiding behind the cloak of anonymity. You're ballless wonder. Gee, I wonder who this can be. Who do we know has harassed and haraunged both Mike and Jia in the past?? Hmmm ***wink wink, nudge nudge, know what I mean?**

Lois Weiner said...

As someone who cares passionately about the issues that should be discussed here,I am deeply discouraged by the vituperation. We need to move beyond this name-calling real quick guys. We're in a political moment now that will not last very long. Based on what I am seeing in cities across the country, we have a chance to bring down Unity and the Progressive Caucus nationally within the next few years. That would have global effects. But NYC is the key. Teachers all over the world are being damaged by what AFT does on the international stage. Millions of kids are hurt, literally millions. Keep your eyes on the prize, please. The stakes are huge.

James Eterno said...

Sorry Lois. UFT politics can get downright ugly and we are strong supporters of the First Amendment here at the ICEUFT blog. Teachers are very frustrated and often use this space to let out their frustrations.

ed notes online said...

Lois - I don't know what you are looking at but the chance to bring down Unity and Progressive Caucus is less probable than ever. Especially with the social justice caucuses like Chicago and LA in Randi's fold.

James Eterno said...

Sadly, I have to agree that Norm has a valid point here.

Anonymous said...


Randi is escorting Betsy around public schools. We do not have a prayer.

Abigail Shure

Unknown said...

Really? Is that the extent of your willingness to address the valid questions he's raising? You sound like a party shill looking for an out of the classroom gig in exchange for your hack work. I notice your too chickenshit to give your name.

James Eterno said...

Sean, Mike is raising legitimate questions but how can you argue that Mike Lillis isn't much better on issues impacting teachers and students than Andy Pallotta?