Wednesday, December 05, 2018


Dear Readers,

We have written for this blog for over 13 years but now it is time to take a rest.

Norm Scott says over at EdNotes and in the Rockaway Wave, "ICE-UFT was an election caucus through 2010, but currently exists to meet in a diner once a month to gossip about the other caucuses and eat rice pudding."

I'm not much of a fan of rice pudding or really gossiping either so it is time for me to move on. ICEUFT serves no real purpose if we are there just to talk and eat. Furthermore, since I am not working in a school, I no longer have the firsthand pulse on what is going on daily so it is hard to be an effective advocate.

I agree with Norm that UFT elections are futile. It is a stacked deck in favor of Unity. Why not just do what most UFT members do and become apathetic? Can one actually attempt to be apathetic? For me it will take some effort not to care.

I have run for some office and campaigned in every UFT election since 1997. We won often enough in the high schools so we made a very small difference but in the end this is the Unity show and it will continue to be. I don't advocate leaving the UFT as there are just not enough activists to form a better union and something is much better than nothing.

As for our other work to support teachers and other UFT members, the notion of union solidarity and all for one and one for all seems kind of out of place today in many schools. Whether it is the fault of the UFT leadership or the membership hardly seems to matter much. We aren't turning into a union that defends its members and upholds rights no matter what anytime soon.

If Jeff wants to write again, I hope he continues the blog or someone else takes it over but for me, I'm through with the school and UFT stuff for a while at least.

No comments here please. Email me at and I will try to get you to some decent people, particularly if you are in trouble. I feel for each and every person under attack. I know how rough it can be on you, your students, your family and friends. Keep the faith.

For now,  it is time for me to take my activist energies elsewhere.

All the best,


Thursday, November 29, 2018


I saw this help wanted ad today.

Press Secretary, NYSUT
NYSUT, a Union of Professionals, seeks an experienced Press Secretary to lead our media relations strategy.  Will serve as chief on-the-record spokesperson, cultivate and manage relationships with the members of the media, coordinate rapid response and crisis communications efforts, and help train local union leaders in working with the news media, write draft op-eds. Bachelor's degree and 5 years of relevant experience. Apply here by 12.12.18.

I have been a press spokesperson for ICEUFT for a decade. Do you think I might be qualified? And I don't have a paid job right now.

Any of our readers, particularly some of our more creative commenters, interested?

Wednesday, November 28, 2018


I sometimes read Ed in the Apple to figure out what Unity Caucus is thinking. The writer, Peter Goodman, is oftentimes a reliable Unity weathervane. The political climate in Albany for 2019 is quite favorable for the teacher unions with the Democrats in Albany having a huge majority in the State Assembly and now a substantial 40-24 Democratic majority in the previously Republican held Senate. Governor Andrew Cuomo is a Democrat, at least in name, too.

I listened to incoming Senate Majority leader Andrea Stuart Cousins on WBAI. She seems to be fairly moderate. Combine that with Cuomo saying he is not seeking the presidency in 2020 so he doesn't have to pretend to be progressive and we are looking at a political landscape that might not be as progressive as people think. The state's budgetary situation isn't that strong either.  Under these circumstances, what can we expect out of Albany in 2019?

Everyone should head on over to Ed in the Apple where Goodman lays out much what of what UFT/NYSUT will be looking to achieve. I think we can be fairly confident after reading Goodman's piece that the UFT and NYSUT are going to push for a moratorium on creating new charter schools but that there will be no reversal on Common Core in 2019.

From Goodman:

The New York Times sees hard times ahead for charter schools with dems in control. The charter school political action committees (PACs) have been strong financial supporters of the republican side of the aisle, as well as of the governor; however, elections have consequences.

Further down:
From Diane Ravitch to Linda Darling-Hammond, from the Fordham Institute to the Shanker Institute, the reliance on standardized testing to drive students to proficiency is waning. Sadly it’s easier for states to massage the rules to satisfy parents and at the same time “game the tests,” an example: unlimited testing time increases scores, of course, with an invalid baseline.

Let’s take a deep breath, charter schools and choice are not an answer, they are a trompe d’oeil; testing viewed as punitive is a failure: are performance-tasks, portfolios, looping teachers/grades viable alternatives?

Let’s put charter schools on the sidelines and encourage the folks in the trenches to create a wide range of strategies.
Look for a moratorium on charter schools which is a big step in the right direction. Other than that, expect the teacher evaluation law to be changed to put new assessments in to replace some state tests but no big evaluation overhaul. Don't say goodbye to the Danielson Framework. Of course we can also expect UFT/NYSUT to go after more state funding. I don't see big changes ahead otherwise. Even with Democratic majorities in both houses in Albany, don't expect to see an overly progressive union education agenda.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018


A petition from came to my inbox today from Hannah, a member of the UFT represented Occupational-Physical Therapist Chapter. They are still fighting for a contract and need support.

This brave UFT 2,500 strong chapter voted down their contract.  I haven't seen their vote acknowledged by the leadership in their contract publicity or seen  much at all about this from most contract supporters.

Please sign the OT-PT petition. I did.

Saturday, November 24, 2018


Unity Caucus (Michael Mulgrew's political party) has succeeded, without even trying, to get the opposition groups within the UFT to turn against each other while UFT members in so many schools continue to be treated like garbage by administrators. The UFT's answer to what occurs in many schools is to often side with management and even sometimes treat UFT members with downright hostility. Hence the need for an opposition. To be fair in many schools the Union actually does support its members.

For those who have not been following UFT internal politics, unions many times form rival factions with members who have divergent views on how to run the union. In the UFT, there have been many groups opposed to the ruling Unity Caucus for decades but they are up against a rigged electoral system. It is impossible to win a UFT election because there is no way for a group working all day in the schools to get to 180,000 UFT members scattered throughout the country (remember retirees vote) in a meaningful way where most could answer the three main questions of an election concerning candidates from the voters:

  • Do they know you?
  • Do they like you?
  • Do they trust you? 
In spite of the impossible odds, many deeply committed teachers and other UFT members have worked tirelessly to form opposition groups. In the high schools, we were successful in making elections competitive. In fact, many times the opposition groups have won UFT high school elections. Opposition people are known, liked and trusted in the high schools.

I served for a decade on the UFT Executive Board. In response, the UFT has in many ways marginalized high school teachers (see Department of Education school closing policy over the last generation for the best evidence). The opposition even had the nerve to elect a High School Vice President in 1985 so Unity challenged the election and the opposition candidate won a second election. When Unity was safely back in power, they changed the rules to allow the retirees in Florida and every other UFT member to vote for the High School Vice President to ensure opposition could never win a vice presidency again.

In the 2016 UFT election, the opposition from the Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE) and New Action won the high schools so we won a grand total of 7 Executive Board seats on the 102 person Executive Board. During their term of office, the MORE-New Action reps did some very good work even with those daunting numbers staring them in the face.

High School rep Mike Schirtzer brought Emily James, who wrote a petition on paid parental leave that garnered 80,000 signatures, to the Exec Bd. to put the issue of paid parental leave on the front burner. The UFT eventually won a paid parental leave provision that is far from perfect but it is something. Would it have happened without the support of the High School Representatives? Maybe, but bringing Emily in certainly helped. More importantly to me, the high school people brought actual rank and file members who were in trouble to the Exec Bd. to tell their stories of abusive principals. Would they have come in if our people weren't supporting them? I doubt it. In addition, the High School Reps at the Executive Board along with yours truly at the Delegate Assembly (other union legislative body) made a minimum of two observations per year for teachers an important issue and it is now in the contract for many teachers. I don't see that happening without our input. 

In this school year. however, our opposition voices have stopped opposing much for the most part at the Exec Bd.  I believe they would argue that because the UFT now listens to them and since part of what they asked for is now part of the contract, they have succeeded. I would agree with that up to a point but there is so much more that needs to be done to make the job in the schools what it was before Joel Klein came in and basically neutered the UFT. We need an opposition to push Unity much further.

Unfortunately, the opposition today is in a sorry state. MORE ran in the 2013 and 2016 UFT elections and won the high schools in 2016 but MORE's leaders in 2018 wanted more of a say in what the High School Executive Board members were doing as I guess they weren't "social justice" enough or just not easily controlled. When some non-socialists/non-communists stepped up to take over the MORE steering committee in the spring, MORE's active majority, which consists of mainly committed left wing activists, found a way to push the non-leftists out. Soon thereafter, the opposition people on the Executive Board decided they would support just about everything Mulgrew-Unity did. I don't know if that timing is a coincidence.

Since the High School opposition reps don't oppose much of anything, like for example the contract, why stay in opposition? The High School Executive Board people not only supported the contract, two even enthusiastically pushed it. MORE had enough with the Executive Board even before the contract. The contract reinforced their view that winning in 2016 was a disaster.

I have to say that while I encouraged ICEUFT to withdraw support for MORE as the group was no longer open or inclusive, I was happy to again work with MORE to oppose the recent contract. If this is the best the UFT can do when times have never been better for NYC, conditions will only worsen when the economy slows as it will inevitably. Almost 11,000 members said no to the contract, including a huge majority of those who voted from the 2,500 strong Occupational Therapist-Physical Therapist Chapter. They voted down their contract. The contract for teachers and other UFT members still easily passed, helped along by the High School Executive Board members. I respect their vote but disagree with it.

Over the long term losing some of the strongest voices in opposition will hurt us all. MORE is now going back to its left roots and doesn't want to work with other groups and really doesn't care how many votes they receive as they are just looking at the 2019 election as a way to get their program across and maybe pick up some activists along the way.

Meanwhile, the oldest opposition group New Action has no real presence in the schools as their activists are mostly retirees as is the case with us here at the Independent Community of Educators (ICEUFT). NAC in 2004, 2007, 2010 and 2013 did not run presidential candidates and from 2007-2013 they cross endorsed with Unity certain Executive Board seats to ensure some representation. NAC wanted to run with MORE again in 2019 but MORE turned them away and now NAC has decided to go at it alone too ensuring high school defeat for them as well.

The other group left trying to defend teachers independently as their prime objective, as opposed to social justice, is UFT Solidarity. However, in large part due to baggage one of their leaders has with both NAC and MORE caucuses, those groups refuse to have anything to do with Solidarity. Solidarity is willing to work with anyone in the election so they stand as the only inclusive group.

The election comes down to a situation where New Action is running alone in 2019; MORE is running alone and Solidarity is running alone too. Who will lose besides all of these groups running in a four way race? The UFT membership, particularly in the high schools, where it will be an old style Unity monopoly. This will be the case even if the two or three of the most prominent Executive Board members from the opposition take a Unity endorsement while running as independents. They  have already reigned themselves in. Please see New Action 2003-15 for precedent. Or, maybe NAC will ask Unity for seats again. See also NAC 2003-2015 for precedent on how that worked out.

Next year, we will have nobody speaking for the dissident voices who feel the UFT leaves plenty to be desired except for at the Delegate Assembly where it is very difficult to raise anything.

There will be consequences in my opinion to there being no strong opposition at the Executive Board or really anywhere else within the UFT. Unity is not exactly responsive even when there is an opposition. A day rarely goes by when I do not get emails, texts or multiple phone calls from UFT members who want to exercise their union rights and are often not encouraged to do so by the UFT at the chapter, district and central levels. In the future, we can look forward to even less of a response.

Citywide, schools are being closed and reorganized and there is nothing to stop more Absent Teacher Reserves from being created. The disincentive to hire senior people remains in the new contract. The UFT's answer to just about every problem in the schools is to start more committees so union officials can meet with their Department of Education friends to try to make problems disappear quietly without setting too many systemwide precedents. Only the strongest of chapters will thrive under these conditions and even there it is basically dependent on having an enlightened principal who doesn't call DOE legal every five minutes for union busting advice.

In addition, we have an inferior Tier VI pension where a teacher coming fresh out of college at 22 years old will have to work 41 years to be eligible for a pension that will be based on a lower rate than the one I enjoy on Tier IV. Tier VI full pension is 55% of the final five year average salary. Some have told me the 401k option that CUNY teachers now have would be better.

Also, it takes four years to have a chance for new pedagogues to come off probation and extensions are routine if that tenure portfolio is not up to speed or there is a lousy supervisor.  New city employees are also about to be placed onto HIP-HMO instead of having a choice of healthcare plans in year one.

Add to this, conditions in the schools where student disciplinary problems are often swept under the rug, high class sizes and a whacky evaluation system that has only been moderately improved all make the job basically impossible in many, many schools. UFT's outlook is since salaries are generally good, teachers basically should shut up and be grateful. In that kind of environment, one would think an opposition group would have a decent chance of making some gains by winning support in the schools and online to put some real pressure on the UFT leadership. However, it isn't going to happen in the 2019 election with MORE running alone, NAC running alone and Solidarity running alone although Solidarity wants to run with the other groups who won't go near them.

ICEUFT has not run in an election since 2010. I have no idea who, if anyone, we will support.

As three caucuses are running against Unity, right now, Mulgrew-Unity should easily win even the high schools.

There is a little irony here as the anger UFT members feel as they perceive that they have absolutely no voice within the UFT may cause them to decide to bolt from the Union in 2019 since the Supreme Court in Janus allows it now without having to pay an agency fee for benefits an employee receives because of the union. The UFT's contractual opt out period is in June.

Under these circumstances, it may be time to keep some of what remains of my own sanity and move on from UFT politics.

Should the ICEUFT blog boycott the election as a totally rigged process overall that is now apparently going to be futile even at the high school level?

Should we support Solidarity, NAC or MORE?

What do you think?

I'd really like to know your thoughts. I plan to keep helping individual chapters and members who reach out but is it time to say bye-bye UFT elections? 

Wednesday, November 21, 2018


From the Chief Leader civil service newspaper:
Occupational and Physical Therapists who work at the Department of Education have chosen to forgo what they believed were minimal raises in order to achieve parity with other staff members who work with students with disabilities by voting against the United Federation of Teachers contract that was ratified Nov. 2.

Though 87 percent of the 90,000 UFT members supported the deal, just 36 percent of Occupational and Physical Therapists voted in favor of it. About half of the 2,500 non-pedagogical employees cast ballots, with 796 voting against the agreement, according to the American Arbitration Association. Employees in these titles will not receive the planned 7.5 percent raise and other provisions in the 43-month pact.

Nurses, who are under the same bargaining unit and overwhelmingly supported the contract, will also not receive the raises. It was unclear what steps were available to them in seeking better terms.

According to Ed Notes, it seems the UFT's answer to the Occuational-Physical Therapists rejecting their contract is for the Nurses Chapter that shares the OT-PT bargaining unit to break off from them so they can get their raises on time. This came up at the Executive Board on Monday.

The UFT as usual showing that union solidarity. Well, maybe not.

I think that the OT-PT people might want to consider leaving the UFT and forming or joining a different union if this is how they are going to be treated moving forward. According to the Chief Leader article, there are 2,500 OTPTs. That is a significant number of UFT members. What are they supposed to do if they are going to be punished by their union for rejecting a contract?

Tuesday, November 20, 2018


Back in early November, active UFT members received a check for the money owed from the interest free loan we made to the city for money we worked for at lower wages from 2009-2011 and after where we should have been paid at a higher per session rate. Retirees who worked per session during those years are still waiting for this money. People have emailed the blog asking about the money.

Does anyone know when the per session lump sum payment for 2018 will be coming for retirees?

Also, if any retiree wants to check the stub for the lump sum regular payment that came in October, please go here. I went there and my UFT dues were $119.78 for the lump sum payment. I guess we aren't charged at the retiree rate.

Speaking of dues, we learned of another teacher who was overcharged by the UFT for union dues while on Paid Parental Leave and then subsequently received a refund from the Union. We are happy to be of service to our members here at the ICEUFTblog as we certainly got the ball rolling on this issue.

Saturday, November 17, 2018


Here is a no brainer for anyone who supports public education from Diane Ravitch.

The Network for Public Education and the New York State Allies for Public Education—a consortium of 50 parent and educator groups—have issued a joint statement calling on the state’s two authorizing agencies to stop authorizing new charter schools. The agencies are the New York Board of Regents and the State University of New York.

NPE and NYSAPE invite you to support their action.

This is rather easy to get on board with. We now have a Democratic State Senate and State Assembly so maybe the political times are right.

Thursday, November 15, 2018


I can't overemphasize how important it is that the Occupational-Physical Therapists, a UFT Chapter with well over 1,000 members, rejected their contract by a fairly substantial 64%-36% margin. This is the first time since 1995 that I am aware of where a bargaining unit within the UFT has had the guts to say no to a contract presented to them by the leadership.

Norm Scott has extensive coverage of the OT-PT situation over at EdNotes.

Here is something from a therapist that everyone should see:

A lot of DOE employees don’t know that the OT/PT chapter voted down their contract... all that was publicized was that 87% of the union voted yes and the contract was ratified. But not ours and for valid reasons. Since we are such a small chapter, we often get no mention, and the union doesn’t want to draw any attention to this one small, frustrated, and unhappy chapter. But here’s some background if anyone’s interested to understand our point of view...

By the end of our pay scale, we are paid almost 30k less than speech therapists (speech has the most similar daily workload to OT/PTs so it’s interesting to compare ourselves to them);

-our masters degrees are undervalued and paid literally thousands of dollars less than others’ (teachers, speech, etc.), and those of us with doctorates get absolutely nothing for that;

-we get an unpaid 30 minute lunch; because of our unpaid lunch we don’t accumulate enough hours and are not guaranteed the right to an FMLA in the case of an emergency unless we’ve worked summers;

-if we choose to work summers we get paid several percentage points less than everyone else (I think we’re 13% while everyone else is 16 or 17%); if there’s an emergency we can borrow 10 days while others can borrow 20;

-we were required to hand over our NPI numbers so the DOE can use our notes to bill Medicaid with no compensation while speech therapists are given an extra $5000 a year for it;

-we get no prep time and have 30 minutes a day to complete our documentation (8 daily notes, progress reports, IEPs, etc.)... speech has the option of completing paperwork at home and being paid for it, not us; speech also has the opportunity to take on an extra session during the day, if the school needs, and be paid for it, not us;

So when we’re told that we’re so lucky that we don’t have to attend parent teacher nights, we’d like to clarify.... we would HAPPILY attend those evenings if we were compensated equally. The union’s announcement that the “UFT members vote overwhelmingly to ratify the DOE-UFT contract” with absolutely no mention of us was not only insulting but also dishonest. We love, respect, and support our colleagues: speech, counselors, teachers, paras... everyone. I am amazed and inspired by many of the people I’ve had the opportunity to work with. But we are very frustrated that the OT/PT chapter is consistently under-represented and are fighting for parity with our colleagues.

Suport your OT/PT sisters and brothers as they fight for a fair contract. Don't forget them. A strong majority of them had the guts to do what thousands of teachers did by saying NO to an inadequate contract and now they are out there by themselves. They should not be abandoned or worse yet punished by the UFT leadership for standing up for themselves.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018


Our friend Gloria sent this out earlier today. Not a bad way to think about teacher unions in 2018.

Monday, November 12, 2018


NYSUT did its job helping to elect Democrats to the New York State Legislature. No longer will we have to worry about the Independent Democratic Conference or the Republican controlled Senate as the regular Democrats had a great night last Tuesday in New York. Democrats have a clear majority in the state Senate, a huge majority in the Assembly and at least on paper a Democratic governor in Andrew Cuomo.

Not at all astonishing that NYSUT President Andy Pallotta would take a victory lap.

This is Pallotta in the Albany Times-Union:

In New York, fed-up teachers Tuesday night played a major part in flipping the state Senate — to change the state's broken system of standardized testing and teacher evaluations.
While NYSUT has always been a political juggernaut, the past five months have jolted our union's political action operation more than anything since Sen. Alfonse D'Amato attacked teacher tenure in 1997 — and was sent packing because of it.
Last June, faculty rooms buzzed with anger after Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, his entire Republican conference and five Democrats betrayed them in the waning hours of the legislative session. A bipartisan bill — sponsored by 55 of 63 state senators — died because Flanagan tied evaluation reform to a last-minute proposal to add more charter schools. Flanagan turned his back on teachers to curry favor with the billionaires who bankroll the GOP conference and the charter industry.
Two weeks later, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against public-sector unions like NYSUT in Janus v. AFSCME. While NYSUT today is as strong as ever, the decision affirmed for many that corporations and the wealthy have unfairly rigged the system against working people.
Last month, Flanagan rubbed salt into those wounds. He called NYSUT's more than 600,000 hard-working members — the people who teach in our schools and colleges, and care for the sick in our hospitals — "a force of evil."
Enraged NYSUT members had had enough: With Flanagan in charge, the Senate would never change, they reasoned. The makeup of the Senate itself had to change.

NYSUT members — who are truly "forces of good" — relentlessly campaigned for a new Senate, knowing the stakes have never been higher. Everywhere I went, I heard the same refrain: It's time that New York has a Senate that listens to educators and that fights for good health care, a sustained investment in public schools and colleges, and for policies that help working people, not billionaires.
We agree with you President Pallotta but the problem is those same billionaires who bankrolled Flanagan funded Cuomo as we pointed out before the election.

Keeping this in mind, expect NYSUT to ask for little change to evaluations and to get a bill passed that still ties teacher evaluation to student assessments. They will only be somewhat different assessments. If you want to see the entire teacher and principal evaluation law repealed and a truly professional evaluation system become the law in NYS, sign our petition and spread the word to others to do the same. Maybe we can get somewhere with our new progressive State Legislature.

Sunday, November 11, 2018


Teachers and other city employees are extemely restricted in what we can accept in gifts but not union presidents. Today Sue Edelman NY Post brought to light how UFT President Michael Mulgrew has accepted thousands of dollars in expensive US Open tennis tickets for years. The tickets came from Randi Weingarten's former law firm.

Both Norm Scott and I are quoted being critical of Mulgrew here. Norm has a suggestion on raffling tickets to raise money. NYC employees can accept up to $50 in gifts annually from a firm doing business with the city. The rules for us, of course, do not apply to Mulgrew.

Tennis anyone?

Chaz also posted on this today.

Saturday, November 10, 2018


On October 31, we wrote about a teacher on Paid Parental Leave who had more than double their usual union dues taken out of the UFT Welfare Fund Paid Parental Leave payment. It came to over $400 in dues for six weeks worth of pay. We were a bit surprised about this but not at all shocked as the UFT took a nice chunk out of the lump sum payments from the 2009-11 interest free loan we made to the city that we are finally getting back in dribs and drabs through 2020. It was not impossible to think they would double union dues on Paid Parental Leave payments.

We were pleasantly surprised that a UFT official reached out to us to ask the parent to get in touch with the Union on the excessive dues coming out of the Paid Parental Leave check. Today, we are happy to report that the parent received a dues refund check for the excessive dues payment in the mail. Nice job UFT recognizing the error and making the parent whole!

For those of you who ask why I continue to do this work when it seems so futile so often, it's because when we can help and obtain real results for UFT members, it certainly feels good.

Friday, November 09, 2018


I have no idea why this took a week, but tonight the UFT released final tallies on the contract ratification. The UFT noted that it was overwhelmingly approved by most teachers and others but they did not even bother mentioning how the therapists resoundingly defeated their contract. I added the bold for the therapists just for them. Almost 12,000 no votes and opposition wasn't in too many schools. If only we organized in them.

Job Title                                                        Yes             No           Percent Ratifying
(all titles covered under teachers' contract)       53,107        8,601                86%

Paraprofessionals                                                          17,862         1,891               90%                                                                                                                 
School Secretaries                                                            2,335        180                  93%

Guidance Counselors                                                         1,878         282                 87%

Psychologists & Social Workers                                  904         135                 87%

Occupational and physical therapists      455          796          36%             

Staff Nurses                                                                        267             15                 95%

Attendance Teachers                                                      109               2                 98%

Hearing Officers                                                                  106               6                95%

Supervisors of School Security                                  56              0                100%

Lab Specialists                                                                  39               5                 89%

Supervisors of Nurses and Therapists                            21                6                  78%

Sign Language Interpreters                                       18                0                  100%

Directors of Alcohol and Substance Abuse               7                0                   100%

Totals                                                                               77,164        11,919                 87% 

There were 89,083 total votes cast this year compared to 90,459 in 2014. That's 1,376 fewer voters. In terms of teachers, there were 61,708 votes cast in 2018 compared to 64,232 in 2014. I can't explain that 2,524 drop in numbers for teachers. Perhaps it shows where the UFT is dead in some schools.

Thursday, November 08, 2018


Nobody is holding the UFT accountable for the contract referendum vote totals since Norm Scott didn't spend his entire weekend watching the vote count. I am usually not a conspiracy theorist but it does not take six days to count roughly 90,000 votes, separate them into each distinct bargaining unit (teachers, guidance counselors, secretaries, paraprofessionals, etc.) and then release the results.

Since Norm Scott has a bit of a life and didn't want to stay overnight on Friday at the American Arbitration Association to observe the contract vote count, there was nobody but Unity (Michael Mulgrew's faction that controls the UFT) representatives watching or reporting on the numbers. All that they released was an overall 87% yes vote and that close to 90,000 voted. As stated, I'm not a conspiracy theory kind of guy and I really have a hard time believing that there is something funny going on with the UFT count. If there was something nefarious going on, the UFT would more than likely not have announced that the nurses-therapists voted their contract down.

However, why are the UFT/American Arbitration Association not releasing the individual bargaining unit results? They released them in the past. A look at the 2014 numbers shows that the count was done on June 3 and the results were in the June 5 NY Teacher. What has changed in four years? The vote count was on November 1 and today is November 7.

The longer they take, the less we can trust this process. I'm discouraged that nobody asked about this at the Delegate Assembly yesterday. Does everyone just accept the UFT at their word?

Tuesday, November 06, 2018


I've already heard from people saying that the only answer to the strong yes vote on the contract is for us to withdraw from the UFT and stop paying union dues. Many teachers I know repeatedly say the Union does nothing for them.

It is very difficult to make that argument when the starting salary for teachers in NYC in 2021 will be  $61,070 and top salary will increase to $128,657 after 22 years on the job and a Masters + 30 credits. That is nothing to sneeze at even in high cost NYC. In addition, it will only take ten years with an MA+30 to get to $100,000 per year in 2021. 

On the other hand, the situation is far from ideal for teachers and others in NYC schools. We are paying for these higher salaries with a reduced rate on the fixed TDA coupled with a vastly inferior Tier VI pension system that started in 2012 where someone fresh out of college would need to work 41 years to obtain a full pension that will be smaller than a Tier IV pension and way less than our Tier I and Tier II colleagues have. There are also healthcare givebacks on top of the last round of healthcare givebacks that now include new city employees being forced into managed care for their first year on the job. If this doesn't result in enough recurring savings for the city, we will likely be asked for further healthcare concessions. We also know the city has the ability to pay us more. 

Just as important, many teachers are treated horribly in the schools. Numerous probationers have to practically stand on their heads to get tenure. In addition, principals are still able to hire new teachers to save money rather than hiring absent teacher reserves. UFT claimed victory because an ATR who is hired won't be averaged in when computing a school's average salary through the end of the contract but the school still has to pay an average salary for the ATR. Hiring a new teacher will still lower the average salary while hiring an ATR will not reduce it. Threatening to close schools or reorganize them to make more UFTers ATRs is still a major weapon that will be used against us. The blame the teachers culture has not altered. Overall teaching and learning conditiions depend almost entirely today on the quality of the principal in a school. Many teachers that I come into contact with have never felt less empowered than they feel now.

All of that said, can anybody make a reasonable case that we would get anywhere near the salary and benefits we have without a union? I don't think so. 

So what comes next?

We all have to support our nurses-occupational therapist-physical therapist colleagues who had the courage to vote no on their contract as they are nowhere near pay parity with teachers. The negative email sent to them by President Michael Mulgrew saying they would have to navigate the "difficult road ahead" was a bit strange since the Triborough Amendment to the Taylor Law keeps their current contract going and there isn't a salary increase until the middle of February. Surely, something can be done between now and then if the UFT leadership wanted to. The argument that they should have pay parity with other professionals in the UFT is very strong. The city has the ability to pay but pattern bargaining works against the therapists as does the approval of the contract by the other UFT titles. We need to put the pressure on the UFT leadership not to abandon the nurses/therapists.

For the rest of the UFT members working in the schools, chapters have to organize to win respect. The new contract gives chapter leaders and chapter committees the ability to file complaints on excessive paperwork, curriculum, professional development, and adequate instructional supplies. However, these provisions mean nothing if chapter leaders aren't willing to file complaints. Individual teachers and individuals in other UFT titles are left almost powerless here. Well organized chapters can make a difference and are now essential if UFT members are going to improve what are now atrocious teaching and learning conditions in way too many schools. The UFT members working with decent administrators are not worried but those who work for abusive administrators are hurting now as much as ever. That can only change at the grassroots level.

It won't be easy but I cannot be totally pessimistic because even higher paid tech workers at Google walked off the job last week. Who inspired them? From the statement of the organizers:

This is part of a growing movement, not just in tech, but across the country, including teachers, fast food workers, and others who are using their strength in numbers to make real change. We know that it can be more difficult for other workers to stand up which is why we stand in solidarity with the temporary and contract workers here at Google, but we encourage everyone who feels this injustice to take collective action.

We can all learn a little from this statement.

PS We are still waiting for the final numbers from the contract ratification count broken down by bargaining unit including teachers. I can't help but wonder why it is taking so long.

Sunday, November 04, 2018


The other day I set the over-under on the contract at 89% yes. The votes are in and it is 87% yes on the contract overall. No truth to the rumour that I am getting a job in Vegas as an oddsmaker.

Please note, however, that all the numbers are not in yet. There are 14 separate bargaining units within the Department of Education's UFT represented staff so we still do not have results broken down for teachers and others but teacher numbers are traditionally lower than the overall percentage. Therefore, I am optimistic that we will have a lower yes percentage for teachers than 87% so maybe Vegas won't be calling.

I am really interested in seeing the results for occupational-physical therapists. I saw a couple at the latest MORE meeting and they seemed ready for a real battle.

Here is the email sent to the nurses and therapists from UFT President Michael Mulgrew. What do you think of the tone?

The American Arbitration Association tallied the ballots, and the nurses and therapists contract was the only DOE-UFT contract not ratified by the membership.

As a result, all the new contractual benefits, including the pay increases, will not take effect for the therapists, school nurses and supervisors of nurses and therapists covered by this contract.

Of the nearly 90,000 members who cast ballots, 87 percent overall voted "yes."

We respect the decision of the UFT members who voted not to ratify the nurses and therapists contract, and we will walk with you as you navigate the difficult road ahead.

At an Oct. 24 meeting with your chapter's executive committee and OT/PT chapter members, I answered questions about the reprecussions of voting "no" on the contract. If you did not attend that meeting, I trust the executive committee conveyed that information to you.

Please reach out to the OT/PT Chapter executive committee to share your thoughts about where to go from here. I will be meeting with the executive committee to hear what next steps they want to take.

As always, we will be there to support you and fight on your behalf. Thank you for everything you do.


Michael Mulgrew
UFT President

Friday, November 02, 2018


Reality Based Educator sent this to me from the Washington Post:

U.S. workers are seeing the largest nominal wage increase in a decade, the Labor Department reported Wednesday, as companies compete harder for employees than they did in recent years.
Wages rose 2.9 percent from September 2017 to September 2018, according to the Labor Department’s Employment Cost Index for civilian workers, a widely watched measure of pay that does not take inflation into account.
That is the biggest increase — not adjusted for inflation — since the year that ended in September 2008.

Prices have risen significantly in the past year, especially for gas and rent. 
The news in the October employment report shows even higher wage growth.
Average hourly earnings rose five cents, or 0.2 percent, in October after advancing 0.3 percent in September. That boosted the annual increase in wages to 3.1 percent, the biggest gain since April 2009, from 2.8 percent in September. 
Aren't all of you happy that you have a union that fights so diligently that it settled its contract four months early for average wage increases of around 2% for almost the next four years?  2% would be about 1% under the average national earnings growth.
Did any of the union's negotiators bother to remind the city that Congress passed a tax cut that is now pumping tons of money into the economy? Unemployment is at its lowest level in half a century. I know we are increasing deficits but that bill won't come due until the bubble bursts which might not be for years. As we stated previously, the prosperity of the last decade will almost completely pass city workers by. 
The answer is not to kill the union but to fix it. If only more people heard our message. 

Thursday, November 01, 2018


They don't take scientific polls on how a contract ratification vote will go but as ballots were due at the American Arbitration Association on Wednesday, we would like to take a guess at how the contract ratification vote will turn out.

Everyone thinks the contract will easily pass. It is just a question of by how huge a margin. The UFT only sends material out that says that the contract is the greatest thing since sliced bread and we dissidents have to spread the word online. In the olden days, we used to trek across to schools to hand out leaflets. At least we knew how many people we were reaching.  It is still a daunting task to try to get through on the internet to over 100,000 UFT members working in the schools. If people only hear the pro-contract message, they will  support it.

I think it is impossible given our lack of presence in the schools and the split in the opposition to Michael Mulgrew's Unity Caucus reported on by Norm Scott (who is against the contract) that we will reach enough UFT members to come anywhere near voting down the contract as we did in 1995. In the summer of 2018, DC37 had a 97% yes vote on a contract very similar to the UFT's. Defeating this has about as much chance as winning the mega-millions without buying a ticket. 94% was the highest approval rate for a UFT contract in my activist years. That contract saw 15% raises in exchange for extended time, but the extended time provision was so poorly done that it had to be renegoiated four times in the next four years and was changed again by the next two contracts.

I am setting the over/under for this contract at 89% approval as that was the yes vote in 2006, the last early  contract. (2005 contract did not expire until 2007; the current contract expires in 2019.) Back then, the opposition to Mulgrew/Randi Weingarten's Unity Caucus was split on whether to support a new contract with New Action Caucus in favor and ICE-TJC (the Independent Community of Educators-Teachers for a Just Contract) against.

However, on the UFT Executive Board in 2006, it was a very different situation compared to now. All six High School Executive Board members from the opposition ICE-TJC, including me, voted no on the early 2007 contract. We were on the Negotiating Committee too but we knew that deal was just an extension of the awful 2005 contract. Even though that contract raised top salaries to $100,00 a year, we concluded it was still an anti-teacher document. Politically, the early deal helped Weingarten. She ran for reelection in 2007 based on that contract and knocked us off the Executive Board. Working conditions under that 2007 contract continued to deteriorate for UFT members even though there were new committees created to deal with certain problems just like the 2019 deal. The other opposition group, New Action, supported the 2007 early contract but they were not on the Executive Board at the time. ICE-TJC easily defeated them in the 2007 election.

Today's High School Executive Board representatives elected by MORE and New Action are all supporters of the 2018 contract to my knowledge. MORE opposes the deal as does Solidarity while NAC has taken no position as far as I know. ICEUFT is split but this blog has been a leading voice in opposition. Not one of the high school Executive Board members represented many of the people that elected them when it came to the contract. Instead, they are basically contract cheerleaders with only one even acknowledging the many negative parts. That hasn't helped the opposition vote and so we might take the over because of that.

I do hope to be totally wrong in my 89% yes over/under projection this week. I have spent enough time being one of the trade unionist voices in the UFT wilderness. Maybe this online activism is somehow getting through to more UFT members. We have received tens of thousands of total hits on our critical contract pieces. Perhaps, that will translate into at least a few more no votes. May modern technology be a bit of an equalizer.

What do you think?

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

UFT DOUBLES DUES FOR PARENT ON PAID PARENTAL LEAVE (Updated with UFT Response and Parent who did NOT Have Double Dues Taken)

The email below came from a reader yesterday. The UFT Welfare Fund is paying the salaries of parents on Department of Education unpaid parental leave who are eligible for the UFT's Paid Parental Leave program. We learned that the UFT is of course taking a nice cut for themselves. (UFT denies this.)


I am probably one of the first members to take advantage of  parental leave. I thought you and your readers should know that the UFT takes over $400 in dues for the duration of the 6 week parental leave. This is absurd and even worse than the retro situation.

The exact amount was just shared with ICEUFT on email. It is $421.98 in union dues.

Normal dues are around $60 per twice monthly pay period so if we multiply the $60 by three for six weeks, we would get around $180. Therefore, we are talking about more than doubling of dues when on Paid Parental Leave.

Gotta love this union. The fun never ends. Has anyone else had problems?

Update--Dealing with DOE-UFT bureaucracy. We all can relate.

1) The DOE never sends you an email or any communication for that matter after you apply for Parental Leave (aside for a submission received from SOLAS).  Nothing indicating that they received your documentation and nothing about whether or not you've been approved/denied.

2) I found out after hounding the UFT that my parental leave was approved the day before I returned back to school.  Which means that there would be no parental leave lumpsum in the beginning of my leave as originally promised.  I got the actual parental leave check in the mail between 7 to 8 weeks after the birth of my child.

3) I applied weeks before the birth, uploaded all the documentation within 24 hours upon receipt (footprints, birth certificate), but it didn't matter.  SOLAS will state that you are missing documentation even if you've submitted it multiple times.  And again, you will not receive any communication or emails confirming that the docs that you uploaded were received.

4) When you are on parental leave your direct deposit gets disabled when you return back to service.  My first paycheck back (today, Oct. 31st) was sent to 65 court.  I have to go in person to pick up my checks unless I send a notarized letter telling the DOE that I authorize them to mail them to me.  Payroll portal's direct deposit does not allow me to change my information online.

UPDATE 2: Someone from the UFT just reached out to me on this topic on Thursday morning.

The UFT response:
I believe there has been a mistake but can't confirm or fix it without the member's specific information. The UFT does not intend to charge more/extra dues to those on PPL. That is a fact. So, if she was overcharged as you describe, it's clearly a mistake.

We hope this gets cleared up and will keep our readers posted.

UPDATE 3: We are very happy to report that we heard from another parent that the UFT only took out $180 (the regular amount) for union dues from the Paid Parental Leave money. It looks like the UFT's word holds up and the $400 was a mistake.  That member should get a refund.

Monday, October 29, 2018


I was actually going to write a generally pro-Andrew Cuomo piece today as the governor is boycotting Charter-Spectrum's NY1 cable channel and encouraging other public officials to do the same because of an ongoing 19 month marathon strike by IBEW Local 3 technicians. We have supported the strikers since we heard about the labor dispute and would not consider switching to Spectrum cable even when they offered a competitive price. Cuomo is right on this issue but then we read about Cuomo's latest huge donations from the charter school industry so we still deeply distrust and dislike the governor.

First the pro-labor Cuomo.

From the NY Post:
In an extraordinary move, Gov. Cuomo on Wednesday urged elected officials to boycott NY1 and other stations because their owner, cable TV giant Charter Communications, is involved in a labor dispute.

Cuomo, in another rarity, effusively praised Mayor de Blasio for skipping his regular appearance on NY1 Monday night to protest a nearly two-year strike at another division of Charter Communications.

“I have publicly stated my opposition to and outrage at Charter’s conduct on numerous occasions. I applaud Mayor de Blasio for boycotting the network and encourage other officials to do the same,” Cuomo said in a statement.

The governor is also trying to mediate a settlement of the strike as he shows his pro-union side before his reelection.

Other politicians are also boycotting NY1 including City Comptroller Scott Stringer. 

From a Politico NY article on the boycott:
City Comptroller Scott Stringer, Council Speaker Corey Johnson, 28 members of the Council and a handful of members of the Assembly have all signed a letter to Tom Rutledge, president and CEO of Charter Communications — Spectrum News' parent demanding that the company "comes to the table and negotiates with these workers in good faith."

"As elected officials from across New York, we are deeply concerned that after 19 months, 1,800 of your company's workers remain on strike in New York City," the letter reads. "As long as these workers from IBEW Local 3 maintain their informational leafleting action at NY1's studios, we will honor that action by not entering the studios."

It sounds positive. However, now for the reality check on the Andrew Cuomo we all know and despise.

From the Daily News:
ALBANY — Gov. Cuomo received a late infusion of cash from charter school interests, his latest financial disclosure form shows.

Cuomo over the past three weeks since his last filing took in $130,000 from individuals and groups with ties to the charter school industry, the records show.

The influx comes as the charter schools have largely remained on the sidelines in the tight battle for control of the state Senate. In years past, charter interests were among the Senate Republicans’ largest backers.

Cuomo, a charter school backer who took heat on the issue during his Democratic primary against actress Cynthia Nixon, received three of his biggest donations the past three weeks from individuals with strong ties to the industry, including $25,000 each from Jim Walton and Carrie Walton Penner, the son and granddaughter, respectively of Walmart founder Sam Walton.

The governor also received $40,000 from Sonia Jones, a yoga booster for youth and wife of billionaire Paul Tudor Jones, a big backer of charter schools.

He also received $15,000 from the Great Public Schools PAC created by Eva Moskowitz, the CEO of Success Academy Charter Schools, and $15,100 from New Yorkers for Putting Students First, a pro-charter political action committee.

Billy Easton, executive director of the teacher union-backed Alliance for Quality Education, knocked the donations to Cuomo.

“Here we go again with Andrew Cuomo and his pay-to-play relationship with charter schools,” Easton said.“The Wall Street charter donors lost big when the Independent Democrats got wiped out in the primary, they are investing in Andrew Cuomo now in hopes that he will be the one person still carrying their water in Albany."

Cuomo, according to his latest disclosure filing made public Monday morning, has $6.75 million left in his campaign account after spending $3.1 million, largely on TV ads, the past three weeks and raising $638,687 during the same period.

In addition to charter school money, some of his biggest donations in recent weeks included $33,400 from developer Richard LeFrak, $25,000 from the Building Contractors Association PAC, and $25,000 from Saratoga Gaming Resources.

Now there is the Cuomo we all loathe and he certainly hates public schools and public school teachers. We won't be voting for Cuomo (probably voting Green) although I wish the Spectrum workers the best and totally support their fight for a fair contract. 

Workers don't necessarily have to strike to get a good deal but they sure better be able to have a credible threat of militancy. It is one we will need when Cuomo is reelected and pays back his charter school supporters.

Sunday, October 28, 2018


As voting concludes early this week on the proposed new UFT contract, it's time to show just a little more evidence on why a significant NO VOTE is the best hope we have to actually change the schools in NYC.

Voting no is the easiest way right now we can voice our opinion that the Department of Education-UFT alliance is bad news for everyone except the union and DOE hierarchies. If 90% vote yes, we are signing on to Mayor Bill de Blasio's school agenda as UFT President Michael Mulgrew wants to continue things as they are.

We pointed out in one of our 25 bullet points against the contract that Mulgrew is linking this contract to mayoral control of the schools. Here is what Mulgrew said at the press conference announcing the deal:

“Given the importance of the issues and the long-term initiatives that are part of this contract, the UFT is calling for the continuation of mayoral control as the governance structure for New York City public schools.” 

Mayoral control leads to mayors having to ramp up the public relations machine to show how wonderful their education policies are. 

This is from Twitter from an education reporter:

On the subject of Renewal, the de Blasio admin is hiring someone to study its education agenda. Part of that brief: "providing detailed and compelling stories about the positive transformation of NYC schools resulting from those initiatives."

Detailed and compelling stories about the positive transformation of NYC schools? That's what we taxpayers are shelling out money for.

Anybody want this job?

This is the system Michael Mulgrew wants to continue.

There are many great things happening in the schools. They often occur in spite of how the schools are run.