Friday, November 10, 2017


The UFT is in uncharted water with the threat of the Janus Supreme Court decision coming in 2018 that will almost certainly make union dues optional in the public sector, including the UFT. Some who comment here are looking forward to the ruling so they can stop paying union dues and pocket the money while people like me feel opting out of a union is a terrible move that will make all of us vulnerable to losing many of what is left of our hard earned rights in the work place.

Long time activist Norm Scott encouraged me to get involved in helping to edit a newsletter called Another View in the UFT so that some of us who are critical of the Unity Caucus (Michael Mulgrew's invitation only political party that runs the UFT) could put out something at UFT Delegate Assembly meetings. Norm, High School Executive Board members Mike Schirtzer and Arthur Goldstein and I put out our first issue at the Wednesday DA.

We were hoping that the Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE) would be doing this work but MORE is fully on board with Unity's campaign to get members to pledge to stay in the UFT and has at least for now pretty much ceased being openly critical of the UFT leadership in literature at the Delegate Assembly meetings or during the actual meetings.

Some of us disagree with this position. We feel we must continue reporting on how Unity Caucus is running the Union as sort of co-managers of the school system with the Department of Education and not as a real trade union. Norm called out the leadership on this the other night at the Executive Board in his brilliant speech in defense of teachers and against administrators who abuse our members.

Here from the NYC Educator summary of the meeting is an account of Norm's speech:

SpeakerNorm Scott—Speaks about NY Knicks and NY Jets.

Says he was first speaker here 15 years ago, spoke of abusive principals. Asked to defend chapter leaders, they opposed it in 1999. Every week we come here, and there are still abusive principals.

Spoke against principal tenure, was voted down. Sandy Feldman loved it, but said politically it was untenable. At that time they were willing to put something in paper, and had regular features about them. Last week Tottenville High School was here. Principal sounded like the Mooch.

Last year we got rid of two principals, CPE1 and (Townsend) Harris, where parents and students rose up. That’s what got those people out. Union had nothing to do with 50 people who came up, when CL was pulled, and when delegate was pulled.

What about teachers who don’t have 50 parents coming? We could rouse the 50 parents if we wanted to. State of fear exists in many schools because you (UFT leadership) won’t go public. Maybe there’s an arrangement with CSA. Union won’t step on too many toes.

And now we hear, from union, that teachers have to be held accountable. We need same for principals. We have almost zero say, despite committee, on how administrators are chosen. We need to hold them really accountable to parents and teachers at schools. They used to have fear of union.

When are you, leadership, going to be accountable? You say the DR is wonderful, when teachers say otherwise. You don’t hold principals or yourselves accountable, yet you say teachers should be observed 4 times a year instead of two.

Let’s see everyone accountable.

Schoor responds they are accountable every three years.

Every three years there is a UFT election that is essentially rigged because there is no way for a group opposed to the ruling Unity Caucus to have sufficient access to almost 200,000 UFT members spread out throughout the country to have enough meaningful contact with those members to win an election.

This blog documented this cold hard fact back in early October.

Is this the kind of union that the opposition MORE caucus wants us to pledge to remain in? There is basically zero accountability for the leadership and they fully know it. That is why the Union leadership fears Janus. They know that this will be the first chance active teachers and others have ever had to stop giving the UFT money.

I know we need a union as much now as ever but I am having a very difficult time seriously committing to encouraging people to pledge to give dues to anything run by Unity Caucus. The October 5 posting here explained how difficult it will be to fix the UFT from within and what it would take to accomplish the nearly impossible task of starting our own union by fragmenting the high schools (or any other division) from the UFT.  We hoped that people might be interested in taking up that cause in the high schools or working to fix the UFT.

There is some interest for starting a petition drive to decertify the UFT as the high school teachers bargaining agent and start a militant high school teachers' union but not nearly enough to be a threat to the Unity Caucus.

As for fixing the UFT from within, I see little or no growth in the opposition caucuses even though the six Executive Board members from MORE-NEW ACTION are doing a great job against the 95 strong Unity majority that all votes the same way on just about every matter before them.

We need people to step up and join us. The new newsletter is one way to tell members that we must do more than just pledge to say yes to staying in the UFT or complain on the blogs. However, it also needs to be read in the schools and not just online or at the DA.

Norm can have the last word:

The problem with MORE Lit is often an unwillingness to take on the union leadership or even mention Unity Caucus. MORE often has bigger ideas it wants to emphasize and wants to avoid coming off as negative. Like take its "Save Our Union" campaign which a minority in MORE feel is better left to the leadership because it puts MORE in the ticklish position of trying to be an opposition and critic - in theory - while in essence urging people to back the Unity party in power. (Some MORE people did show up to hand out a Save Our Union leaflet yesterday.)

I have no qualms about going after the union leadership and am withholding a blanket "Stay in the Union" pending some signs from the leadership of democratization. I am in my 51st year of UFT membership (and will remain a member) and over decades have seen too much on how the ruling party operates. Some of the younger MOREs may need a few more decades of seeing how they operate before they get riled up like me.

Howie Schoor's response to my speech (see Arthur's report) at the EB meeting the other day where I called on the UFT leadership to be held accountable for he failures to challenge awful principals more aggressively and for the climate of fear in so many schools was that they are held accountable every three years in the UFT elections.

I was already off the mic  -- I wondered how many teachers at Port Richmond and Flushing and Tottenville HS feel that way --- just wait until post Janus.


Anonymous said...

De Blasio on CNBC today, "We are doing great" but we are holding teachers earnings for 11 years, till 2020, because Mulgrew said the cupboard is bare.

Michael Fiorillo said...

I plan on staying in the Union post-Janus, but I can't see myself urging others to do so, as long as The Big Zero (aka Michael Mulgrew) or other Unity Caucus nullities are in power.

As for Mr. Schoor's tone deaf claim that that teachers need to be held accountable (don't these people realize the toxicity of that term after two decades of so-called education reform?), if this is an indication of the reasoning and political powers of the union leadership, then God help us all.

And kudos to Norm and James, as always...

Anonymous said...

Will pulling dues hurt a teacher when they need the union? Or will they really get 100% of what paying members get?

Anonymous said...

What do you get for the money? A rep who tells you to document everything and then maybe files some papers that usually go nowhere.

Anonymous said...

UFT members still get their health benefits even if they opt out of the union since the city pays for them. Can't wait for the Janus ruling

Anonymous said...

Only worthy thing the union does is provide a lawyer at 3020a. A teacher at my school who got brought up on 3020a chargers used his own private lawyer and is now back at school. (Was in rubber room for months) Not sure how much the lawyer cost but after a year or 2 of not paying UFT dues that money could be put in an "emergency account" if you ever get in trouble.

Anonymous said...

A mass exit of members post-Janus will cause this self-serving sister bureaucracy of the DOE to downsize and to a sensible size, dumping so many of these bureaucrats making $100,00+
It will strike the fear of god into the hearts of these fat cats who really couldn't care less about the rank and file. Maybe after the dust settles, the emergence of a grassroots union to oppose this sham we have currently.
Janus is a blessing in disguise for hard working NYC teachers who are being shafted from every direction.

Anonymous said...

Top salary is over $100,000 a year. Shafted?

Anonymous said...


The Union bargains for those health benefits along with the other city unions. Less members, less power at the bargaining table.

Most people pay premiums. We pay nothing. How about paying premiums in the future. Those premiums will be a heck of a lot more than Dues.

We also bargain for strong welfare fund payments. No union. Worse benefits.

And you really thing you will get 7% on that TDA. How about 1.5% like the rest of the free world.

And you will be standing during the required lunch duty after you turn in your daily lesson plans.

Anonymous said...

Law keeps those benefits even with no contract. Unity fear mongering is all you have.

Anonymous said...


You do realize that there will one day be a next contract. A union with less members, just go to the right to work States like Wisconsin, will deliver less of an increase. Less benefits. Worse working conditions.

A lesser union will bring changes in state laws like LIFO and Tenure.

Why do you think the conservatives are behind this movement. They are not doing it to help you. They are do this to kill unions and make you an at-will Employee.

So you bank your union dues and bank yourself into no job at all.

Janus was not meant as a savings plan for you, it was started by the conservative movement to kill you.

Anonymous said...

8:18 is a perfect example of the argument union fat cats will make to membership i order to keep feeding at the trough.

Anonymous said...

Unity has nothing left but to peddle fear to unsuspecting fools. It will probably work. Wisconsin has laws that severely limit what public sector unions can bargain for. NY does not and will not get them any time in the near future.

910 says Janus was not meant as a savings plan for you, it was started by the conservative movement to kill you.

No sir, it is Mulgrew's inaction that is killing us more than Janus.

Bronx ATR said...

LIFO exists in part because of other NYS unions, I believe if the UFT would have dumped ATRs if it could have - the reason I say this is that they have done nothing to stop the individualized budgeting process a.k.a. Fair Student Funding. The end of FSF would end the ATR pool overnight. (Certain union officials have publicly said this and have said they don't understand why the UFT won't move to change this scheme.) UFT members will opt out en masse and get all the benefits paying members receive and all the protections offered by a union. This will, and currently, is because of the strength of other NYS unions that actually work for their members. They won't have enormous amounts of their rank and file dropping out because of it. Janus will force the UFT to actually work for those they have completely ignored and/or betrayed - the most experienced and the least experienced teachers in the rank and file. Personally, I'd like to see a separate High School union and I will not opt out of the UFT in spite of it incompetence and culpability.

Anonymous said...

Let's see if I got the Unity hacks' arguments right: First Unity agrees to lower our TDA from 8.25% to 7% while the administrators who abuse us still get their 8.25% Then Unity says our pension and the 7% are constitutionally protected (NYS constitution) so we have to vote "NO". Then Unity claims that the 7% can be decreased to 1.25% without them running the show and without a large number of the membership remaining post Janus. Yeah----Unity's head is so far up its own ass, it's no wonder they can't smell the bullshit the rest of us clearly recognize after one f'n whiff. I may stay in the union but it won’t be out of fear. It will be to try to change my union from within. Roseanne McCosh

James Eterno said...

Roseanne and Bronx ATR are on to something here.

Anonymous said...

I know I am naive on this matter; Please enlighten..... Assuming they wanted to ...why can't people like James, Arthur, Chaz, Betsy, Bronx Atr start their own union -
Why can't I have a choice of which group I give my dues to? And I want a union that is only pro teacher --- leave social justice issues and global events like PR out of the discussion -- these issues are important and i think there should be a NYC Teachers Volunteer Corp with active & retired teachers who do good works and give money -- this is a great way to show our natural altruism and combat media attacks ---- BUT WE NEED A SEPARATE union that will only work to improve our working conditions and protect our jobs and benefits and expose the corrupt and ineffective leadership of the DOE. I would pay 200 a month for an effective union but I have a really hard time with the argument that a bad, ineffective, asinine, disconnected union is better than no union at all!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 9:50am: read James' prior post for an answer to your question:

James Eterno said...

Thanks 9:58 for sending 9:50 to our October 5 post. About 6500 high school teachers sign a petition and we go to PERB and we could start a militant high school union that basically would do exactly what 9:50 is calling for. Fewer signatures needed for middle schools to do the same and more for the elementary schools.

If that many people enlightened themselves and others, we could probably have the strength to fix the UFT mostly in the way 9:50 wants from within. It's not up to me or any of the other people you mentioned. It's up to the rank and file to get this done. I will do my share to help if a movement gets started.

Anonymous said...

Once you call for people to do something beyond commenting, the comments stop. See why we are so easily beaten. You don't need to go to Harvard or Yale to know we are the problem. Volunteer to help please.

Prehistoric pedagogue said...

Don't hold your breath waiting for volunteers. Old timers think of their benefits as a divine right. Newer teachers think the job was always shitty because they have never seen it any other way

Anonymous said...

Right on 9:50 !!!

Anonymous said...

Ahem, PR is part of the US. Not a global issue.

Anonymous said...

Our union is weak, we constantly give back to earn small percentages. When you compare other unions oh my! Let's start with illnesses. If you get strep, which lets face it working with children is almost expected every year. You could use three or four of your sick days. Other unions have an occurrence, imagine that. Same illness makes perfect sense. How bout a 10,000 bonus every year? How about matching what I put into my retirement fund? How about stop blaming the teacher when students don't pass! Do we blame police for crime, or firemen for fires? There are no rules anymore students have no consequences, there is a total break down with discipline. Principals mandate a 55 rule nothing lower ( check out port Richmond hs new principal) why would students go to class, study or do homework. They know teachers can not fail them, if they do the principal gives a packet and the teacher must pass the student. So let's have more staff development, that's the unions answer. As for staff standing up for their rights check out NY1 port Richmond hs. The main question in this situation is "how does one become a new acting principal while under investigation ".