Tuesday, July 31, 2018


Success Academy charter school Queen Eva Mokowitz was obviously rattled by the bad publicity she is receiving over her high school's 70% staff turnover rate. Chalkbeat has obtained her letter to parents in response and Diane Ravitch has commented on it. Ravitch points out how Success High School had only 16 graduates in its first graduating class. Imagine a public school with those numbers.

Some of Eva's letter reads as kind of a warning  for all of us that this will be the future for all teachers unless we have a strong union.

Notice from the letter how Eva can arbitrarily decide to move teachers around to different schools. This year she feels like offering world history instead of American history even though students are required to complete a year of U.S. and two years of world history and social studies teachers are certified to teach both. She just moves the teachers to other locations as she likes. She does the same in science. This is bad for both teachers and students. She claims "most of our faculty will be returning." How does Eva define most? Here is the breakdown of the turnover from the Wall Street Journal:

Of the 67 teachers and administrators at the Manhattan high school last fall, 20 will be back when classes start in August, its officials said. They said 25 quit, nine were dismissed and 13 took jobs elsewhere in the network.

What about Eva's dismal results at her high school? She, as usual, has answers that public schools would be condemned for.

A student who can’t do the work at Success despite all of the supports we provide is unlikely to graduate from college. That is why we will hold a scholar back if he isn’t meeting our school’s standards. It’s better for that student to spend another year in high school than to set him up for failure in college by just passing him along.

If we forced multiple students to repeat grades in a public high school, we would be called a failing school and threatened with closure.

Eva also compares her school to Stuyvesant and then cynically plays the race card:

To receive that (scholarship) money, your child must compete with students at other top schools like Stuyvesant, where 94% of students take Advanced Placement tests and 96% of them pass those tests. Unfortunately, as I’m sure you’ve read, very few students of color are allowed into Stuyvesant and other specialized schools. These students are instead forced to attend schools where the standards are low and where Advanced Placement courses aren’t even offered.

No Eva, you are wrong about so many public high schools. I recommend you visit some public schools to see the Advanced Placement offerings and other college classes that are given in public high schools, some as early as the ninth grade.

When will Eva meet with the parents to address their concerns? At night one would think so working parents can attend? No, Eva will meet with them at 7:45 in the morning tomorrow. Real convenient.

Those of you leaving the UFT so you can save yourselves $120 a month should be sentenced to Eva's high school or her other schools so you can find out for yourselves what working in a non-union charter school is like.

We printed the text of Eva's letter in full below. Thank you Chalkbeat for printing it.

July 25, 2018

Dear Parents,

I’m writing to address the concerns some of you have expressed about changes in faculty at the high school. 

I know it can be hard on students when a favorite teacher leaves, but our number one priority is providing our scholars with the same high quality education that we’ve given them since elementary school. That has required some changes. Our chemistry teachers have been re-assigned to our middle schools because our high school students will be taking biology this year rather than chemistry. Similarly, our American History teachers have been reassigned to our middle schools since our high school scholars will be learning World History this year rather than American History. But most of our faculty will be returning next year and the new faculty we’ve hired have excellent qualifications. They have deep content knowledge in fields such as mathematics, chemical engineering, physics, and biomolecular science, and many have advanced degrees in these fields.

Some of you have also expressed concerns about summer homework and about our standards for promoting students. I understand that it can be hard for our scholars to meet the high expectations we set, but those standards must be high to ensure that our scholars not only get into good colleges but succeed there.

More than 40% of college students fail to graduate and the situation is far worse for students of color. Only 30% of African-American college students graduate within six years. Only 36% of Latino college graduate within six years. This problem even affects well regarded charter schools. While 89% of the graduates of the KIPP schools go on to college, only 33% of them graduate from college. Most drop out.

The problem isn’t that students of color can’t succeed. The problem is that they aren’t given the rigorous education they need to succeed. They are victims of the soft bigotry of low expectations. We will not let that happen to our scholars.
College is hard. At Success, we provide our scholars with a lot of support. If a scholar doesn’t understand the work, we’ll help him individually. If she doesn’t do her homework, we will talk to her and, if necessary, to her parents. Colleges don’t do this. Students are expected to be responsible for their own work — and there is far more of it in college. In high school, students may have a month to read a book for a class. In college, they are expected to do so in a week. In high school, students have two or three hours of homework per day. In college, they may have six or eight hours of homework a day.

A student who can’t do the work at Success despite all of the supports we provide is unlikely to graduate from college. That is why we will hold a scholar back if he isn’t meeting our school’s standards. It’s better for that student to spend another year in high school than to set him up for failure in college by just passing him along.

Holding our scholars to high standards also ensures they will get the scholarship money they need. Only 66 out of 4,000 American colleges and university will meet 100% of students’ financial need. Unless you are in a position to pay over $100,000 for college, your child will need scholarship money.

To receive that money, your child must compete with students at other top schools like Stuyvesant, where 94% of students take Advanced Placement tests and 96% of them pass those tests. Unfortunately, as I’m sure you’ve read, very few students of color are allowed into Stuyvesant and other specialized schools. These students are instead forced to attend schools where the standards are low and where Advanced Placement courses aren’t even offered.

Your child has the opportunity that other parents want for their child: a school that offers advanced courses; 3 electives a semester that range from dance to debate to basketball, and holds its students to high standards. That is why every single one of our graduates this year was admitted to a four-year college and received a combined total of $2 million in financial aid. 

We owe it to your children to make sure our school is rigorous. I know that can be hard on them but it will be far worse if they go to college when they aren’t ready.

I will be holding a parent meeting on August 1 to discuss the above and hear any concerns that you have.
Wednesday, August 1 at 7:45 - 8:45 am

Auditorium, High School of the Liberal Arts

Hope you enjoy the final weeks of summer, and we look forward to seeing you in the new school year.


Eva Moskowitz

Monday, July 30, 2018


Retired Unity Caucus leader Peter Goodman writes the Ed in the Apple blog. It is sometimes useful to read Ed in the Apple to see what the union hierarchy is thinking.

Goodman wrote a long piece on Saturday explaining the contract negotiating process. He does provide some detail but not much will be unfamiliar to the readers here. Goodman understands that our contract's financial parameters are set through pattern bargaining. ICEUFT has reported on how DC 37 set a pattern for the civilian municipal labor force of 7.25% salary increases over 44 months. The UFT is not beating the basic pattern without givebacks.

Where Goodman's piece becomes interesting is when he delves into the non-financial parts of the contract.

He writes:
Managerial Prerogatives : The most difficult section of the contract will be the issue of managerial prerogatives; how far is the Department of Education (DoE) willing to go in the area of distributive leadership, for example, the number of lesson observations, including the union in day to day operation of schools, “cultural” disputes at the school level, etc. The current contract allows schools to modify sections of the contract and section of DoE regulations.
 Of all the breakthrough ideas in the 2014 contract, none has more potential to empower teachers and their school communities than the PROSE initiative. PROSE stands for Progressive Redesign Opportunity Schools for Excellence, and the opportunities for redesign at the heart of this program are predicated on the UFT’s core belief that the solutions for schools are to be found within school communities, in the expertise of those who practice our profession.
I’m sure the union wants to expand the PROSE concept.
Would the Department agree to “carve out” an autonomy district?  A remnant of the Bloomberg structure remains, there are 150 or so schools that work with not-for-profit organizations (The Internationals Network, New Visions for Public Schools, The Urban Assembly) these schools are called affinity schools and operate under the same superintendents and have some autonomy. They are mostly small high schools.
Since arriving in the spring the chancellor has not addressed questions of autonomy and accountability. He is adding another layer of accountability by adding executive superintendents above the traditional local superintendents (See presser describing new structure here)

On one hand the Department appears to be moving in the accountability direction and away from the autonomy direction, on the other hand the union clearly wants to move towards more distributive leadership in schools, more towards autonomy.
I really don't believe that having more schools that agree to waive parts of the UFT contract is right now the key to expanding learning as the contract is to a large extent a useless piece of paper in too many schools. Goodman, on the other hand, cites Eric Nadelstern, a Joel Klein era Deputy Chancellor, to make his point.
I thought having a faculty govern the school was important because if you give teachers agency, they will do everything they can to make sure kids succeed. In an urban area like New York, that’s the only way you’re going to get teachers to work hard enough to be successful. You can’t pay them enough, you can’t cajole them enough, you can’t scare them enough. You just give them more ownership of effort and then they will do it.
So, we will only do everything we can to make sure kids succeed if we are running the school. Otherwise, teachers won't work hard enough for kids to be successful. Am I reading this properly? I once had a conversation with NY Post reporter Yoav Gonen in which he asked me how much merit pay would it take to make a difference in student learning outcomes? I laughed and said most of us don't do this job for more money but do it because we truly care about helping the kids. Any teacher who is motivated only by some extra bucks probably isn't the best teacher in the world. 
For the record, I fully support teachers being involved in governing schools. It can be very helpful but I personally toiled just as diligently for the students at Jamaica High School over 18 years as Chapter Leader when there were principals who hated me as when there were others who wanted to work collegially with the UFT Chapter. Middle College High School, where I worked for my final 3.5 years, has a bit of that collaborative atmosphere. It is a PROSE school in the Affinity district. This model has great potential but most teachers I worked with over the decades went the extra mile or two for the kids no matter how the school was run. 
Yes, we want ownership but sane administrators in every school who adhere to the contract would be a giant leap forward in creating a healthy learning environment in NYC schools. Setting up decent teaching and learning conditions would include lower class size, lower guidance caseloads, a realistic and enforceable school safety plan in each school, placing teachers in schools where they want to work, fewer observations and an end to the anti-teacher gotcha mentality many administrators have. Our collective judgement  needs to be respected again as it was somewhat when I started 32 years ago. Some of this would cost no money. Just making more PROSE schools I don't think will do much.

Saturday, July 28, 2018


I just read the latest version of The Organizer. Unity's Gene Mann writes a letter to Mark Janus saying there are almost no NYC teachers in Queens who are not in the UFT.

Here is the letter:

Note to Janus et al:  The UFT Will Survive and Thrive

 Dear Mark Janus:
         Congratulations on your new job with the Illinois Policy Institute, the right wing think tank that financed your assault on American public employees.  I’m glad to hear you’re doing well.  We are, too.
         We got the e-mail from your friend, “Amanda Burke,” telling us how we could desert our union. The Mackinac Center for Public Policy, aka, Betsy DeVos, thoughtfully provided Amanda to save us from the evils of union membership.
         Did we take the bait?
Here’s a post from the Facebook version of the Organizer:
I was thinking of not paying my dues until I realized that this is a right-wing conspiracy against unions, public education, the middle class, etc. I WILL continue paying my dues. Getting notices about opting out has made my decision much easier.

         My “other” union, the Professional Staff Congress-CUNY has re-signed its members at a 96% rate.  This is despite the fact that one Bob Bellafiore, another friend like Amanda, has e-mailed PSC members instructions for opting out.
         Here’s what we e-mailed him in return:

Dear Bob,

I want to thank you, the anti-unionists paying your bills, and Betsy DeVos' friends at organizations like the Mackinac Center for reminding working families of all the reasons we are sticking with our union.

Every email you send to a teacher, firefighter or police officer in New York shows us the lengths you are willing to go to help wealthy special interests undercut working families.

We have a message for you: We knew you were coming, we know who is backing you, and we know what you want.

Strong unions mean higher pay, better benefits and improved working conditions for our members. You know that, which is why you are trying to destroy us.

Knowing this will make signing my re-enrollment card and paying my union dues even more of an honor and a privilege.

I'm sticking with our union!

             There’s even better news at the UFT:  There are 29, count them, 29 , among all the teachers, counselors, school secretaries, occupational therapists, and ed paras in all of Queens, who are not dues-paying UFT members!
         In all of the alternative high schools (District 79) there are two non-members!

We’re sticking with our union!

We linked Friday to an Op Ed from NYSUT President Andy Pallotta who says that only nine people, that's right just nine, have left NYSUT in the first two weeks after Janus.

Here is the relevant paragraph from Pallotta:

In fact, in the two weeks since the Janus decision, just nine members quit NYSUT.  In contrast, more than 9,000 members signed new cards re-committing to the union, even as another 1,300 fee-payers – who previously were not full-fledged members – have decided to join NYSUT, some for the first time.

This space previously reported on the news coming from the AFT Convention where the UFT boasted that over 99% are staying in the Union.

What is going on here?

I see four possibilities:

1-Virtually nobody is trying to leave the Unions. Maybe there is real solidarity.

2-Unity has a strategy to say virtually nobody is opting out and hopes that it will become a kind of self fulfilling prophecy.

3-Unity is in serious denial. We heard a report that said that DOE HR phone lines were overloaded in the days after Janus with people trying to leave their unions. There have already been way more than Pallotta's nine that have said they are dropping out of the UFT in the comments section here. Are they all Koch brothers plants?

4-Unity has something up their sleeve to make it very difficult for people to quit the Union.

I have no idea what the answer is. I am just reporting what I am seeing and hearing.

Personally, I want everyone to stay in the UFT. Please keep paying dues or organize a better, stronger union. I don't see anyone organizing an alternative right now. Therefore, the Unity led UFT is a much lesser evil than having no union or an even weaker one with thousands of defectors. A union with fewer members will have absolutely no leverage in negotiating with the city.

Friday, July 27, 2018


This is from the latest NYSUT Leader Update. NYSUT is fighting back against the attempts to bust our union. This is an encouraging development.

Tell Bob and his anti-union buddies to bug off

By now, you've seen or heard about the emails from Betsy Devos and her elite friends trying to convince people to leave our union. The latest comes from Bob Bellafiore and the billionaires backing his front group, New Choice NY. While Bellafiore won't disclose who the group's donors are, we know who they are and what they want. Take action on the MAC and send Bob and his deep-pocketed buddies a message. In just a couple days, we sent more than 3,000 emails saying buh bye, Bob. Meanwhile, in an op ed this week, NYSUT President Andy Pallotta says members are sticking with their union and the Janus case is only making us stronger.

Thursday, July 26, 2018


Dear Colleagues,

Please forward this announcement to anyone you think might be interested.

The John Dewey Reading Group

Meeting of August 4, 2018

12:30-2:30 p.m.

Brooklyn Central Library, Room 6

10 Grand Army Plaza

Brooklyn, NY 11238

Room 6 located in the Information Commons at the rear of the main lobby on the first floor. Take a 2 or 3 train to Grand Army Plaza or the Q to 7th Ave. Coffee is for sale at the cafĂ© in the lobby. No outside food is allowed in the room.

Topic:  "Education as a Necessity of Life"

Readings: Chapters 1 and 2 (about 30 pages) of Democracy and Education.

Let’s spend some time examining what John Dewey meant by education. Heobserves in the first chapter that schools are “one means, and compared with other agencies, a relatively superficial means” of transmitting knowledge and values. What are the other means of education?

Copies of the reading will be available at the meeting. Note that we will proceed at a pace the group agrees to and may not be able to cover both chapters.

The book can be accessed in digital format at this link:


A paginated kindle version is available from Amazon for 99 cents.

A free audiobook is also available from Librivox:


Who we are

We’re a group of parents, educators, and interested community members, meeting to discuss the writings of John Dewey (1859-1952) and related books and articles.

Many people are concerned about what children experience in school these days. What's most disturbing is not just that students are used as guinea pigs in a race for better achievement scores. It's that only rarely does anyone in the mainstream press pause to examine the faulty assumptions that sent public education into this infernal trajectory.

What should be the purpose of public education? What is the role of schools in a democratic society?

John Dewey was a highly original thinker who published books on philosophy, logic, ethics, psychology, politics, religion and art. He was an avid commentatoron the events of his day who had both radical and conservative tendencies. He wrote with prescience in 1916: “A society with too few independent thinkers is vulnerable to control by disturbed and opportunistic leaders. A society which wants to create and maintain a free and democratic social system must create responsible independence of thought amongst its young.”

Please join us for a focused study and open discussion of the topics that Dewey confronted. We ask that everyone come prepared by completing the readings beforehand.  See you soon!


John Lawhead


Charter Spectrum technicians have been on strike since March 28, 2017. That's a long time.

Here is a recent posting  from the NYCable Truth blog:


Is there ever going to be a resolution? These workers have a possible answer that I find intriguing. It is called a worker cooperative. It is not as far fetched as people may think.

There is an article in Labor Press on the subject.

Here is a major portion:

 Strikers Introduce New Plan To Succeed Charter/Spectrum In NYC With Worker Cooperative
July 25, 2018
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – A group of striking Charter/Spectrum workers holding the picket line for nearly a year-and-a-half have introduced a new business plan to break the corporation’s stranglehold on cable-TV service in New York City and replace it with a new worker cooperative that benefits everyone.

Striking IBEW Local 3 members have a plan to create a new worker cooperative to succeed Charter/Spectrum in NYC.

It took the group of about 50 strikers just three months to assemble the comprehensive business plan, which they maintain could be enacted with limited disruption to New York City cable-TV subscribers.

“The best time is now,” striking IBEW Local 3 member Troy Walcott, 39, told LaborPress this week. “If [the city] were to deny [Charter/Spectrum’s] Franchise Agreement now, for the stuff they’re doing in the city, [Charter/Spectrum] would still have two years that they have to service the city; during which time we could be building out our network to make the transition as seamless as possible and have as little disruption as possible.”

Charter/Spectrum’s existing Franchise Agreement with the City of New York expires in 2020, but a New York City Department of Information Technology & Telecommunications [DoITT] audit of the agreement completed earlier this year, determined that “because of Charter’s overly broad interpretation of the term ‘located in the City’, Charter failed to engage in practices with respect to its vendor selection that demonstrate compliance with the requirement set forth in Section 17.4 of the Franchise Agreements.”

Additionally, the DoITT audit also noted that an “Administrative Law Judge at the NLRB [National Labor Relations Board] found labor law violations on the part of Charter that constitute a default of its obligations under Section 17.1 of the Franchise Agreements.”

A new audit set to begin by September 1, will determine if Charter/Spectrum — the number two cable-TV provider in the nation — is actually in compliance with the terms set out in its Franchise Agreement with New York City.

Charter/Spectrum is in hot water across New York State for allegedly failing to complete the buildout it agreed to as part of its buyout of Time-Warner Cable in 2016, as well as falsely advertising subsequent connection speeds to the public, and providing shoddy service.

Walcott, IBEW Local 3 shop steward at Charter/Spectrum’s College Point facility in Queens, argues that as members of a design and survey team tasked with bringing cable-TV to areas of the city lacking service — he and his fellow strikers are perfectly suited to succeed Charter/Spectrum on city streets.

“We know the system because we built it,” Walcott said. “The system was already crumbling and the infrastructure needed to be redone. This is something that’s going to have to get done anyway. We’re saying, instead of letting them do it, let’s start doing it and rebuilding it ourselves — the people that are actually going to build it anyway.”

Although the 18-page “New York City Communication July 2018 Business Plan”is limited to the five boroughs and Bergen, New Jersey, Walcott says it is a “proof of concept” that can be expanded statewide.

We wish these workers the best and hope they succeed. Launching a worker cooperative would be an excellent way to check corporate power in NYC. I am of course skeptical that the so called progressive Mayor Bill de Blasio will have anything to do with it. He appears on Spectrum's NY 1 channel regularly. If he was really pro worker, maybe he would refuse to go on the anti-labor Spectrum owned channel and get his message out elsewhere.

The concept of empowering workers has been discussed in the schools. I personally believe giving teachers a major say in how schools are run would make a huge difference. Checks on administrative authority usually have a positive impact.

Meanwhile, any support you can give the striking Spectrum workers I'm sure would be appreciated.

Update Friday: Spectrum is being kicked out of NYS by the Public Service Commission for failure to live up to their merger agreement with Time Warner.

ALBANY, New York (WABC) --
New York announced Friday that Charter Communications, Inc., doing business as Spectrum, is no longer permitted to serve customers in the state.

Regulators said that Spectrum, the largest cable provider in New York, failed to comply with several conditions mandated when the state approved Charter's 2016 merger with Time Warner Cable, Inc.

Spectrum reportedly failed to meet deadlines, attempted to skirt obligations to serve rural communities and used unsafe practices in the field.

As a result, the New York State Public Service Commission revoked the approval of the merger.

"Charter's repeated failures to serve New Yorkers and honor its commitments are well documented and are only getting worse," Commission Chair John Rhodes said. "Charter's non-compliance and brazenly disrespectful behavior toward New York State and its customers necessitate the actions taken today seeking court-ordered penalties for its failures, and revoking the Charter merger approval,"

Spectrum provides cable, internet and telephone services to more than 2 million New York subscribers in Manhattan, Staten Island, Queens and parts of Brooklyn, as well as other major metropolitan areas like Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Albany.

The cable provider is required to continue operations for 60 more days without interruptions in service, as the state transitions to a successor provider.

Go to NYCCableTruth for the PSC press release.

I think this is really positive labor news. As the federal government goes completely anti-union and anti-worker, our state is moving left. Keep challenging the corporate Democrats like Andrew Cuomo and they have to respond.

We should be challenging the politicians on the teacher evaluation system. Please sign our petition to repeal the terrible evaluation law.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018


ICEUFT will be meeting on Thursday at 3:00 P.M. in Manhattan. Anyone interested in coming just email us at ICEUFT@gmail.com so we know how many will be there.

Here is an informal agenda from Norm Scott: (material in parentheses is from me)

1- Janus and the UFT -- how to be critical without supporting the right wing?

2-Is the opposition being put in the same position as New Action was in 2003? (New Action did not run against Unity for UFT president in 2004, endorsed Randi Weingarten in 2007, and endorsed Mulgrew for president in 2010 and 2013. In exchange, Unity did not run against NAC high school executive board candidates in 2004 [they lost] and Unity gave NAC some executive board seats in 2007, 2010 and 2013. Reason for alliance was union was under attack from Michael Bloomberg and Joel Klein so NAC felt we had to come together.)

3- Report on meeting with New Action (members) over UFT elections.

4-I (Norm) present once again the case for not running in UFT 2019 elections:  If you do the same thing for 25 years and get the same result why keep doing it unless you can expect a different outcome this time? Can we?(Norm has made the case not to run in every election since 2010 but has been outvoted and then worked hard on each election campaign petitioning, writing and leafleting).

5- The general state of the opposition.

6-The AFT convention shows same old same old.
What Lois Weiner has been writing about -- can UCORE and other social justice caucuses be the game changer?

If you want something added, just email us and it will certainly be considered. Maybe we can see a new face or two.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018


We have said on this blog that New York State is not Wisconsin, Michigan or Ohio in that here in the Empire State the government and public sector unions have a very cozy relationship with each other. Some would say they are in bed together. If one wants to see evidence of the government-public employee union bond, look no further than the New York State Department of Labor's Guidance on the Janus Supreme Court decision. New York is interpreting the Janus decision in a very narrow way.

Our new progressive "friend" Governor Andrew Cuomo directed the Labor Department to issue this Guidance. Please read it very closely to understand how little is changing here in New York even after Janus.

Guidance for Public-Sector Employers and Employees in New York State
New York State has a long and important tradition of supporting the organized labor movement and the fundamental right of workers to organize. Public-sector employees play a crucial role in communities across New York State. Each day they work hard to ensure public safety, protect public health, and to provide other critical services to New York residents.

The Supreme Court of the United States issued a decision in Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, 585 U.S. ____, 138 S.Ct. 2448 (2018) on June 27, 2018. The Janus decision overturned decades of established law and practice relating to the right of a union to receive the payment of fair share agency fees from public sector employees who decline union membership. As a result, there has been much confusion and this Guidance is intended to provide clarity to employers and employees. The only change under Janus is that public employers may not deduct agency fees from a non-member’s wages, nor may a union otherwise collect agency fees from a non-member, without the non-member employee’s affirmative consent. All other rights and obligations of public-sector employers and employees under state law remain unchanged. For example, unions have, in the past, presented dues deduction cards, or other similar evidence of union membership such as membership lists, to public employers and those employers previously collected union dues from its employees on that basis. The decision in Janus does not require a union to obtain new dues deduction cards or obtain other evidence of union membership or remove a public employer’s obligation to collect dues from members of a union. Public employee unions are not required to produce dues authorizations cards for members from whom the employer has previously deducted dues. 

Collective Bargaining  
• Under New York law, the rights of public-sector employees to collectively bargain are unaffected by the decision in Janus.  Employees maintain the right to: 
           -form, join, or assist any employee organization for the purpose of bargaining collectively through representatives of their own choosing on questions of wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment; and
            -engage in lawful, concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining. 
• Employees also continue to have the right to be free from threats, interference or coercive statements when exercising their protected rights to engage in concerted activity. 
• Public employers are forbidden from interfering in the formation of a union, discriminating against or terminating an employee based on union membership or activity, and refusing to bargain in good faith with a union. 

Union Dues & Agency Fees 
• The Janus decision does not impact any agreements between a union and its members to pay union dues, and existing membership cards or other agreements by union members to pay dues must be honored. The Janus decision only impacts the mandatory collection of an agency fee by individuals who decline union membership. 
• Employees who are non-members and paying agency fees may choose to become dues paying union members. 
• Employees may pay dues through a payroll deduction. 

Member Access & Personal Information
• Under many collective bargaining agreements, and under Civil Service Law § 208, public employers are required to provide in a timely manner, the collective bargaining representative with the names and contact information of any newly hired employees. 
• Public employees have the right to keep their personal information protected by their employer. An employee’s personal information, such as home address, personal email address, home or mobile telephone numbers, and other contact information is protected from disclosure (with limited exceptions). 

Employees who believe their rights have been violated should contact their employer or their union. 

Please note there is not a word, not one single word, on union members opting out of their union. There is a Frequently Asked Questions that clarifies the Guidance.

Here is a significant pair of questions along with the answers from the State Department of Labor:

What does this decision mean for union members? The Janus decision does not impact any agreements between a union and its members to pay union dues. Existing membership cards or other agreements by union members to pay dues must be honored. The Janus decision only impacts the mandatory collection of an agency service fee by individuals who decline union membership. 

Does Janus affect current union members and the deduction of dues? No.  Historically, unions have presented dues deduction cards, or other similar evidence of union membership such as membership lists, to public employers, who collected dues from employees on that basis. The Janus decision does not require a union to obtain new dues deduction cards or obtain other evidence of union membership.  Public employers still have an obligation to collect dues from union members. 

Those of you looking to opt out to save your union dues are not going to find a friend in New York State government. New York is, for lack of a better term, a company union state in the public sector.

Politicians obtain union assistance with phone banking to help win elections and in return those elected officials leave the unions alone and allow them to be kind of co-managers, along with the government, of the public sector workforce. It is a strange relationship but it describes the unions in NY. If one belongs to a stronger union such as the PBA or Transport Workers Union Local 100 and some others, the workers have unions that at least look out for them. If one belongs to a weaker union such as the UFT or DC37, union support is often lacking. If you are lucky or really knowledgeable, maybe they will do something for you. The government and the unions are not going to risk their friendly arrangement.

This leads me to a thought: Does the UFT have to accept your Koch Brothers backed opt out letters?  This is the last line of the retired teachers' chapter membership application (I couldn't find the active teacher membership application online):

It is understood that this authorization shall remain in force and effect until revoked or superseded by a new dues deduction authorization card executed and filed by me.

Nothing on opting out of the UFT. Sending a letter to quit the union might not be as straightforward as you defectors are hoping. You think the unions and the state are going to make it easy to quit? Once again, we are not Wisconsin. Cuomo has done a 180 degree turn and is now the best friend of labor.

Your opt out letter just might not be accepted as valid by the United Federation of Teachers or the Department of Education. The Department of Labor is recommending employees go to their employer or union if they feel their rights aren't being upheld. Good luck with that.

The Koch brothers have never had a direct fight with the Unity Caucus who will do whatever it takes to protect the Unity empire. Unity now has a very friendly state government siding with them. For the rank and file these are very difficult times for sure as the unions will do even less than ever to upset the government hand that is almost literally feeding them.

Sunday, July 22, 2018


Doenuts blog was on the story back in June of the new executive superintendents the Department of Education is adding. Sue Edelman in the NY Post cited the Independent Budget Office in a story today saying the cost of the new administrators will be a minimum of $2.5 million. Central administration spending has increased greatly under Mayor Bill de Blasio.

From the Post:

The nine new “executive superintendents” that Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza is adding to the education bureaucracy will cost at least $2.5 million a year, officials say.
Each extra edu-crat will get a salary of $190,000 and up. Fringe benefits add at least $82,000 apiece to the cost, according to the Independent Budget Office.

Department of Education officials say the posts will streamline operations.
That last line is very difficult to believe. What will they be doing? Further down in the article we hear the answer.

The new execs will oversee 31 district superintendents and report to Carranza along with five deputy chancellors and a new “chief academic officer.”

Just what the schools need: more central administrators. Well maybe not. I guess we can possibly see some positive in that perhaps central DOE will reign in crazy superintendents but more likely these new positions will just be another layer of useless bureaucracy.

Doenuts gets the last word here:

Tweed re-orgs have become like rugs in the Oval Office. Each new boss gets to pick his or her own and when it's picked, that's "the look" for the next few years. But this new re-org has all the looks and feels of an entity that will not alienate its current employees and can navigate the politics of the time.

Oh and one more last, last word: Has anyone seen an UFT official reaction?

Saturday, July 21, 2018


The anger in the comments that followed our posts last week on the AFT Convention was understandable and very well placed. At the convention in Pittsburgh, union leaders bragged how virtually everyone is staying in the union after Janus gave us the option to withhold all of our union dues. Some here called it a premature victory lap.

The UFT-NYSUT-AFT leadership headed by Michael Mulgrew and Randi Weingarten's Unity Caucus has deteriorated into being a weak appendage of the corporate establishment wing of the Democratic party and it is not changing. They are probably incapable of doing anything any differently. Even so, I will not come out and say we should rescind our membership in the UFT. It is the lesser of the evils compared to not having any union at all or having an even weaker one.

The problem with the UFT is not that difficult to explain. Unity Caucus demands loyalty as a condition of joining their caucus.To become a Unity member one must agree "to support the decisions of Caucus/Union leadership in public or Union forums." Dissent is not allowed. Anyone outside of the caucus is basically shunned or ignored.

The Unity people go to the AFT Convention or NYSUT Representative Assembly where they vote as a giant bloc. The sheer size of the UFT gives them the opportunity to dominate the AFT and NYSUT because the Unity/UFT leadership can afford to send 750 Delegates to AFT and NYSUT. Those Unity UFT Delegates control committees because the UFT is by far the largest local in both the AFT and NYSUT. After Janus, teachers in the comments here are making a strong case that by withholding union dues, we can starve the Unity beast and force them to change. There is one fatal flaw in that argument. I have asked in response to cite one example in history where a weaker union with fewer members has led to improved salaries and working conditions for workers. Nobody has yet responded. Merely leaving is not the answer.

We can all agree that Unity cares more about Unity Caucus than the rank and file. They have power and they will not relinquish any of it under any circumstances. That control is more important to them than representing union members. How do we change this? Opting out is not the answer. You might save some money and cost Unity some bucks but you are making the situation worse for yourself and everyone else. A commenter said it best the other day:

I'm not opting out. So you got a bad contract last time? What kind of contract will a fraction of the membership win for all? It's not the Koch bros, but the politician sitting opposite you at the bargaining table that you need to worry about. What politician wouldn't like to win some points with the general public by "saving money" (giving us less)?

I was under a terrible AP. (G-d help us all, he's now a P). The union leadership needs to address the bad admins, excessive observations, fair student funding... Any leadership that's not taking care of business needs to be voted out.

This robust argument has one major shortcoming. It is impossible to vote Mulgrew/Unity out. UFT elections are essentially rigged in a very sophisticated way. Anyone who has ever completed Political Science 101 knows that in order to win elected office, a candidate needs to be able to have the voters answer yes to these three simple questions:
1-Do they know you?
2-Do they like you?
3-Do they trust you?

There are close to 200,000 UFT members who are scattered all over the country. Most are not working teachers. Nobody working in a school could possibly get to enough of them to have any possibility of winning a UFT general election as a dissident. We have explored the UFT election farce in depth as recently as last October. Nobody is winning anything beyond the high schools and maybe the middle schools because an opposition group could never get to voters spread out over 1,800 schools, many other worksites such as hospitals and charter schools and of course the retirees who live all around the US and beyond.

Mulgrew/Unity has access to the membership regularly through texts, Facebook, Twitter, the NY Teacher, email along with face-to face meetings with members hosted by Union staff and officers. They pretend to be democratic by allowing one ad buried in the NY Teacher and an email at election time for opposition groups. It is not nearly enough to answer even the "Do they know you?" question. Best case scenario is winning 12 seats (high schools and middle schools) on a 102 member Executive Board. The rank and file knows the opposition in the high schools and somewhat in the middle schools. Having twelve Executive Board seats may move Unity an inch or two in the direction of the membership but there will be no fundamental changes.

I outlined in that October posting what it would take to form a separate high school union. Since there are about 20,000 high school teachers, we would need about 6,000 signatures (30%) on a petition before we have a new contract to go to the Public Employees Relations Board to ask for a separate bargaining unit for high school teachers. It would take about 100 activists to obtain 60 signatures each from high school teachers exclusively. Maybe ten people stepped up to volunteer to obtain signatures when this was raised. It's not enough to scare Mulgrew or Randi into altering how they do business. I can't advocate for that high school union since people aren't willing to do what it would take to form it. Teachers have to step forward beyond anonymous comments.

It would take an even greater effort to get a referendum to decertify the UFT as the teachers' bargaining union.

Enter once again Norm Scott of EdNotes fame. Norm has had it with the Unity Caucus and the opposition caucuses. In his latest post, he recommends a kind of targeted nuclear option because of the difficulty organizing everyone.

Here is the start of Norm's piece:
Warning to Unity trolls --- many of us are discouraging people from pulling dues - telling people to stay in the union. That may not last forever.

If the current structure of the union stays the same there will be moves to get people to not just not pay dues but to take that money and fund a move to organize an alternative. You guys will go nuts and attack the shit out of them and accuse them of dual unionism. You will say they are being funded by the Koch bros (they used to say Ed Notes was funded by Bloomberg).

But imagine even 100 people kicking in $1400 bucks to start an ad campaign to get people to join them. They would say how pro union they are but that Unity has failed some crucial tests of unionism. 

Norm's conclusion:

Let's see what happens over the next 3 years. The danger is if the Koch type people use e4e to do exactly this. Don't think Randi is not aware of this danger and that is why they are trying to co-opt E4e.

So, the Unity machine may be able to keep membership through threats and intimidation. But one day some people may just decide to look for an alternative.

I think teachers have to do more than look for an alternative. They have to become that alternative.

Maybe something can get up and running on social media. Norm has suggested that teachers who want change should start a Facebook group and get as many people as possible to agree to collectively threaten to withhold union dues unless the UFT agrees to a series of changes such as each division (high schools, middle schools, elementary schools, functionals [non-teaching UFT members]) electing their own vice presidents instead of every UFT member voting for the divisional VPs at large. Other reforms would be Chapter Leaders or members in a district voting for District Representatives instead of Mulgrew appointing them or proportional representation for the UFT election (get 20% of the vote, then you win 20% of the seats on the UFT Executive Board, the AFT Convention Delegates and the NYSUT Representative Assembly Delegates). These are good ideas but maybe teachers have their own suggestions on what to fight for. Teachers have called for two observations per year, placing Absent Teacher Reserves in schools that they choose. How about calling for a union that protects its members as a primary goal and makes everything else secondary in this dangerous time for working people? All of this will amount to nothing if teachers are not willing to come out of the shadows and fight for it.

I have been an activist since 1995. I have never been so pessimistic. I find myself promoting a union whose leadership I think has led us to this state by conceding in so many ways to management, thus making the bulk of the rank and file indifferent toward the union. On the other hand, if the people working in the schools are not willing to come together for some kind of alternative, then yes Unity is better than having no union or one where thousands and thousands drop out. We will have even less leverage than we have now.

As John G stated on EdNotes, "For those of us who would like the union to reform, the options are between 'sucks' and 'sucks more'." 

It doesn't have to be that way. We have each other. That sounds overly sentimental but it's true. If enough UFT members come together in that union spirit, it can make a difference. If it is every teacher for herself/himself, then a middle class lifestyle for teachers will slowly melt away and all of us who fail to take action will be playing a part in the melting process.

Thursday, July 19, 2018


One of the arguments AFT President Randi Weingarten when she was UFT President used to shove down our throats when defending the test and punish system was that our allies in the civil rights movement are in favor of high stakes testing. It was not a strong position for the Union to take as our members were being blamed for circumstances which went way beyond the control of teachers but the NAACP was cited to defend testing. Times are changing.

This is from Diane Ravitch:
Today, the NAACP released a statement (“issue guidance”) opposing the use of a single standardized test score to determine students’ promotion or graduation.

Ravitch and others want the NAACP to go further down the anti-testing road:
I encourage the NAACP to delve further into the misuse of standardized testing, which is scored on a normal curve and should never be used to make high-stakes decisions about promotion or high school graduation, not even as part of multiple measures. 
Meanwhile, we also learned this week that Bill Gates wasted about half a billion dollars in his quest to have teachers rated by student scores on standardized tests.
This is from the Washington Post in the Valerie Strauss blog called the Answer Sheet. It is written by Network for Public Education leader Carol Burris. We copied the first few paragraphs.
The New York Times called it “the first principals’ revolt in history.” During the fall of 2011, 658 New York state principals signed onto a document voicing their strong objections to the state’s new teacher evaluation system. During the next few months, the number of objecting principals would swell to 1,555. Thousands of educators, researchers and parents joined in. The message that united them was simple — evaluating teachers using student test scores was a terrible idea.
With a disregard that bordered on contempt for school leaders, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, the self-proclaimed “lobbyist for students,” pushed himself into the debate by insisting that teachers who were rated ineffective on the student score component of the new evaluation be rated ineffective overall.
By January 2015, he called the 2011 plan he crafted “baloney” and championed a new plan that further increased the test score component, while demanding that districts call in outside observers to evaluate teachers in an attempt to make sure that teachers got the low scores he believed they deserved. A few months later, his approval rating dropped to under 50 percent due primarily to the public’s disapproval of his education policies. A divided New York State legislature is still battling over how to fix the mess produced by an evaluation system that became known as the plane being built in the air.
Was it worth all the political and financial capital it took to create a broken system that few, if any, believe works?
Apparently not, according to the final report of a longitudinal study by the RAND Corporation and the American Institutes for Research (AIR), which was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. 
The study examined the effects over six years of the Gates Foundation’s Intensive Partnerships for Effective Teaching (IP) initiative that included, as a key feature, teacher evaluations systems similar to New York’s. It concluded that the IP project did not improve either student achievement or the quality of teachers. In fact, it did more harm than good.
You can read the specific details if you like but we all know rating teachers based on student test scores is an invalid way to judge teachers. Don't forget we have a petition to repeal the NYS teacher evaluation law which bases half of our rating on student assessments. Please sign but just as importantly, encourage others to do so. We have kind of stalled lately at 1300. We need your help.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018


Norm Scott is a founder of ICEUFT who has been a UFT activist for half a century. This morning, in the comments section here, Norm spoke out forcefully. This is his full comment.

ed notes onlineTuesday, July 17, 2018 8:41:00 AM

I've pretty much given up on organizing people to fight Unity. Let inertia take them down one day. The fact is there will be no one out there to replace them.

Where are the 12,000 people who voted against Unity in 2016 or the 25,000 people who voted against the 2014 contract? They are the problem in addition to an inept opposition in which I have no faith in its ability to organize these people.

So people like James and I are frustrated at the lack of action on the part of even a fraction of these people. They seem to be happy to vote against Unity every 3 years and then go away. That's why I am doing everything I can to stop people from running. Let Unity show how "democratic" they are when they have an election that is Putin's dream.

James' pleas to people on this blog will go nowhere. How can they become active if they won't even use their names? In my district the UFT controlled the political machine and was always on the attack against us - even telling my AP to give me a U rating - which he refused to do, thus destroying his aim to be a principal. So you'll pardon me if I don't have sympathy for all the whining about how bad things are when they won't stand up and fight back. We couldn't get 5 of you to show up at a Del Ass to protest the leadership. I'm there every month waiting for you.

I'm urging James to join me in hammock sitting and not provide this forum until you all actually do something.

If you are dropping out from the union then try to organize people into an alternative union to the UFT. ATRs go from school to school and have enormous access to people.

The fact is some people do stand up, just not enough and they have no sense of organizing people. Basically, the game is over. As the UFT shrinks people like Cuomo will run roughshod over teachers. Maybe you'll get 10 observations a year. Forget about any more raises. Class sizes of 40 will be the norm. In 10 years you will be a version of Wisconsin with no contract at all.

Let us know if you want to do something about it. - we will continue to meet as ICEUFT every month or so to keep ourselves up to date -- these meetings are actually fun - then back to the hammocks.


I would add that the UFT/AFT leadership is a major problem too as they are primarily interested only in keeping their own power so they encourage member passivity.

We all have each other. Taking us down the "everyone for herself/himself " road by opting out is worse than a dead end. You are going the wrong way on an interstate highway. You personally may survive but there will be a major wreck.

Anyone want to step forward or is it off to the hammocks?