Monday, September 30, 2019


When you are going to go up against an administration of a school, make sure you have the parents with you or it will be much tougher. There is an article in this week's Queens Chronicle where the parents are standing behind the administration at Maspeth High School, even with substantial evidence of grade fraud that has been reported by Sue Edelman in the NY Post and here and here. I fully understand parents supporting a school as they don't want their own children's diplomas devalued but the evidence here is very strong.

For anyone who may have forgotten the original NY Post piece:
At highly rated Maspeth High School in Queens, students know they can play hooky, skip course work, flunk tests — and still pass.

They call it the “Maspeth Minimum,” meaning everyone gets at least the minimum grade or score needed to pass or graduate, no matter what.

Whistleblowers call it fraud. The secret to the school’s 98% graduation and 90% Regents pass rate, they say, is simple: “Cheat!”

Four teachers told The Post that the 2,100-student high school — awarded a prestigious National Blue Ribbon in 2018 by the federal secretary of education — has an unwritten but iron-clad “no-fail policy,” even for kids who repeatedly don’t do the work or even show up.

“Teachers are not allowed to fail students,” a staffer said.

One recent Maspeth graduate posted on Instagram about taking Mandarin in 11th grade, writing, “there was no way I should of passed that class.”

But in the end, someone raised the student’s failing grade just high enough to earn a credit.

“At the time, I didn’t believe in the ‘maspeth minimum’ thing but I almost never showed up to class and vividly remember having multiple 0’s on quizzes I never took,” the student wrote. “My average was a 45 and then magically turned into a 65 when my report card came in.”

Mayor de Blasio knew about this halfway through the summer. From another NY Post Sue Edelman piece:
The stunning allegations surfaced on July 30, when (Councilman Robert) Holden first met a Maspeth teacher who brought him a binder full of evidence, including schedules with non-existent classes, records of no-show students who graduated, and statements by students who said they received passing grades or test scores they didn’t deserve.

Holden called the mayor’s office immediately. On Friday, Aug. 2, he met with Lydon Sleeper, the mayor’s intergovernmental affairs director, asking him to bring in the city’s Department of Investigation.

Holden then forwarded the evidence to DOI, which sent it to the Special Commissioner of Investigation for city schools, Anastasia Coleman.

The next week, four ex-Maspeth teachers came to Holden’s office to speak with investigators, but SCI said it had no one to send.

To update the story, the Queens Chronicle sent a reporter to the September meeting of the Maspeth HS PTA and parents were not at all upset with the school but instead blamed the whistle-blowers.
As allegations about widespread cheating at Maspeth High School swirl, the September meeting of the Parent Teacher Association saw support for the school last Wednesday.

One mother, whose son who is a junior, said, “I’ve never seen a school so well run,” to applause from other parents.

Another mother said, “I know that this school will succeed even though there was some negative press and will be investigated. And I’m sure that everything will be null and void.”

Her husband noted that their son has improved since coming to the school.

“Every teacher has put that extra effort in,” he said. “So please don’t believe what you hear.”

Accusations from former teachers who came forward to the New York Post include math teachers changing incorrect answers on Scantron exam forms, truant students passing classes and an assistant principal teaching a course where attendance is not required. Two official investigations into the allegations are underway.

Mayor de Blasio's office is also attacking Councilman Holden. Back to the Chronicle: 
Mayor de Blasio’s senior communications advisor, Wiley Norvell, criticized Holden on Twitter last Sunday, saying the councilman’s “conduct here is irresponsible. He is playing fast and loose with the facts.”

“When he learned of complaints, Holden didn’t do the ONE thing all City employees and elected officials are required to do — report these issues directly to the appropriate investigators,” Wiley tweeted.

He added that Holden initially refused to provide details, including the name of the school. The Mayor’s Office contacted the SCI and a few days later Holden disclosed the school in question, which the office passed on to the SCI, according to Wiley.

“Rather than let SCI do its work and investigate, Holden has been trying to score points in the press, repeatedly jeopardizing the investigation,” Wiley tweeted.

Holden shot back on Twitter, saying “Like grade fraud, incompetence is systemic in the @NYCMayor’s administration. @BilldeBlasio cares more about the press than the children affected by this corruption. As is evidenced by him sending his lapdogs to do his spinning.”

I am not sure how contacting the press jeopardizes an investigation. In my experience and I am certain with many others too, when it comes to the Department of Education if the press is not involved, incidents are swept under the rug.

At Jamaica High School in 2010, the DOE initially said there wasn't any transcript fixing when insiders reported it to the NY Post and provided substantial evidence to investigators. The DOE comment on Sue Edelman's October 31, 2010 article:
"Jamaica High School took the proper steps to review documentation and grant credit appropriately,” (a DOE Spokesperson) said. 

Then a week later after the story hit the paper the DOE was singing a different tune:
The DOE at first denied any wrongdoing but "took a closer look at the school’s data' after The Post’s report," said a spokesman.

It found that the school had recently erased some 1,100 credits to about 150 students for 606 “foreign transfer courses.”

Stay quiet at your own peril ladies and gentlemen.

I will be emailing support to Councilman Holden. If you want to also, his email is

Sunday, September 29, 2019


Sue Edelman has a couple of pieces on Maspeth High School's grade fixing today in the NY Post. One concerns a teacher who resigned rather than play the everybody passes game. The other is primarily an interview with Democratic Councilman Robert Holden who provides an account of how he told Mayor Bill de Blasio about what was occurring at Maspeth HS and then nothing happened.

From the article:
Mayor Bill de Blasio was personally alerted to evidence of grade-fixing and fraud at Maspeth High School in mid-August, but ignored pleas to remove the school’s allegedly crooked leaders before the new school year, The Post has learned.

“It was like I had witnessed a crime,” said City Councilman Robert Holden, who demanded to speak with the mayor after meeting whistle-blowing teachers with documents showing a culture of cheating at the highly rated school.

“I wanted him to put it on the fast track. I wanted him to step into this and get those people out,” the Queens lawmaker told The Post.

But the mayor did not act with urgency, Holden charged, prompting him to go public and to meet with acting Queens District Attorney John Ryan, who has launched an investigation.

It is not at all surprising that de Blasio did nothing.

Further down we learn about Holden's conversation with de Blasio in mid-August about Maspeth HS:

After two weeks, when no investigators had contacted him, Holden emailed de Blasio on Aug. 13, a day after the mayor returned from Iowa for his now-defunct presidential campaign.

The subject line: “Need to talk.”

The mayor called back the following evening. Holden went over the litany of alleged misconduct at Maspeth HS, including grade-fixing, Regents rigging, fake classes to give students credits toward graduation, and intimidation of teachers who didn’t play ball.

“They’re gangsters,” Holden said he told the mayor. “They should not be in there one more day.”

But de Blasio seemed more concerned about Holden, a fellow Democrat, going to the press.

“It’s good that you gave it to me, but if you want to be on my team you have to play like a team member,” Holden quoted him as saying.

The mayor noted that Holden was fortunate to speak with him. “You have your district. I have to run the whole city. I’m the big leagues.” he said, according to Holden.

“I just kept saying, ‘Maspeth High School needs attention,’” Holden said.

Classes started Sept. 5 without any sign of attention. The Maspeth whistleblowers finally asked to meet with a reporter, Holden said.

Chaz exposes yet again how this case shows the Department of Education's double standard where teachers suspected of anything would be immediately removed from their schools but administrators  and their supporters stay in place even with overwhelming evidence of wrongdoing. He is 100% right. There should be equal due process. I am also thinking about another angle of this story.

At the Executive Board, UFT leadership said members should give them the information on suspected fraud so they can deal with it. They deal with it by passing it to DOE and then, except for a few cases, the complaints go nowhere while whistleblowers risk retaliation.

Have you heard much from the UFT on grade fraud in general? I think we all can agree that UFT President Michael Mulgrew is part of de Blasio's team as the UFT doesn't say much negative about the mayor in public or private and Mulgrew even helped to fund raise for the mayor's presidential campaign. Touting the system, as the UFT does, is a very questionable strategy.

Besides less public support for charter schools compared to former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and two sub-par contracts, what have we gotten in exchange for Mulgrew kowtowing to de Blasio?


Like many news junkies, I am very interested in who will be the next President of the United States. After reading his Thurgood Marshall Education plan and his Workplace Democracy plan, I (not speaking for ICE-UFT) am sold that Senator Bernie Sanders is a friend of teachers, workers and public education. I even donated to his campaign like about a million other people.

However, because Bernie has the socialist label attached to him, and his plans are so people friendly, I am not naive. The establishment/elite/ruling class/donor class/oligarchs/billionaire class or whatever you want to call them will do just about anything in order to knock him down. Can the public ignore the noise and vote for someone who is really on our side? Who knows?

Some of my friends are really looking close at Elizabeth Warren as an alternative. A former student is working for her. Senator Warren is rising in the polls. Is she our friend or is she just shilling for our votes and then she will abandon us for the donor class like so many Democrats have done in my lifetime once elected? (See Barack Obama supporting the firing of teachers and Race to the Top for quick examples)

The Network for Public Education Action has excellent reviews of all of the 2020 presidential candidates. This is some of what they say about Senator Warren:

Senator Warren’s Senior Education Policy Advisor was a TFA teacher and a policy intern with the Alliance for Excellent Education, a reform leaning 501(c)(3) organization that has received almost $20 million in grant funding from the Gates Foundation.

At a recent Oakland rally, she was introduced by a former charter school teacher who who was a fellow and blogger for GO Public Schools, a charter school lobbying organization.

There are red flags on testing too but on the positive side on donors:


This Super PAC spent $1,026,590.17 to oppose Warren’s election. Paul Singer is a main contributor to the PAC. Singer is a billionaire hedge fund manager who makes large contributions to Success Academy, the largest charter school network in New York City, and to pro-charter New York PACs.
Diane Ravitch calls Warren's education positions "murky at best." Here is what Ravitch concluded last week after citing a critical analysis of Warren's education positions written by Eric Blanc:

If Warren wants the support of public school teachers and parents, she must issue a plan that clarifies her plans on testing and privatization.

She needs to be crystal clear about whether she would eliminate the federal mandate for annual testing in grades 3-8, a leftover from George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind, which has been an expensive dud. The testing has enriched the testing industry but had no effect on student scores.

Warren needs to take a stand on the federal Charter Schools Program, which is Betsy DeVos’ slush fund for corporate charter chains that are already amply funded by billionaires.

I would vote for Elizabeth Warren over Donald Trump or Cory Booker but is she really with us? 

Friday, September 27, 2019


I am often in disbelief about how underutilized the UFT Contract is. It is a worthless document if people don't use it to exercise their rights. One of the easiest and most powerful ways to show solidarity and union strength is through the UFT Consultation Committee. Contract Article 19H3 covers consultation at the school level:

The head of the school and the school chapter committee shall meet once a month during the school year to consult on matters of school policy and on questions relating to the implementation of this Agreement.

Teachers have the right to meet in the school with the Principal regularly. The Chapter Leader can select or have an elected Consultation Committee and the Principal has to meet with them monthly. This is a contractual obligation. In these consultation meetings the Chapter Leader sets the agenda on what school policy matters need to be discussed and what problems there are in implementing the Contract. I would think that from over 1,600 non charter schools in NYC that this would be the simplest way for a UFT Chapter to sit across a table on equal footing with the Principal. However, at the UFT Executive Board the other night we learned from Arthur Goldstein's report that there are only 230 schools that filed over five reports of Consultation Committee meetings with their Principals last year.

Here is exactly how Arthur put it in his minutes of Michael Mulgrew's President's Report:

Report on last year’s consultations—1400 schools filed at least one, 230 over five. Wants at least 7 from all this year.

Let's do some simple math to see how active UFT Chapters are. The Department of Education Website says there are 1,840 schools as of September 2018. Of those 1,840, 235 are charter schools. I think some of those charter schools are UFT and subject to the Contract but for our purposes here, I'm going to exclude all 235 because I don't know who is UFT and who isn't. That leaves 1,605 schools. 230 schools had more than five consultations. 230 divided by 1,605 = .143. If we put that into percentage terms, that means 14.3% of the schools have chapters that are meeting with their principals more than once every two months. That is frightening.

I'm going to assume for our argument that less than 235 are doing monthly consultations with the Principal because Mulgrew stated that 235 did over five and he is known for painting optimistic pictures with numbers. Maybe some schools are meeting but not filing reports but any which way you slice it, this shows that the overwhelming majority of UFT Chapters are inactive at a very basic level. To be fair, Mulgrew boasts that 1,400 did file a report of at least one consultation. That is something but one Consultation Committee meeting a year is inadequate. Mulgrew's figures concede that around 200 don't consult at all or can't be bothered to file one report that the Union asked for.

If I were the President and I had this information, I would call this a school level engagement crisis in need of immediate attention. I would be directing every District Representative and Vice President to make sure their Chapter Leaders were holding monthly Consultation Committee meetings, even if they have good relations with their administrators. I would check on this every month. All of the officers would be showing up at the dead Chapters and forming Consultation Committees. I would run meetings if people were afraid to. I would go so far as to publish the list of  Chapters doing their job and maybe list the Chapters that are not. Union presence at the school level is so important and it seems to be so lacking these days.

This is not exclusively leadership's responsibility. If I was teaching, I would be working with colleagues to find out about Chapter Committee consultations. A group of us would show the Chapter Leader the Contract so nobody has to face a Chapter Leader who might be in bed with management alone. That is called organizing.  I would do that instead of anonymously commenting here. If UFT members get together, they can't all be targeted.

The UFT needs to be rebuilt from the ground up. We now have some evidence from the President to show that there is much work that needs to be done. If you want to know how far we are behind our peers in Chicago in terms of member activism, this week the Chicago teachers in their schools took a strike authorization vote and 94% voted in favor of striking. They did this while they are being offered 16% raises over 5 years.  They are demanding better teaching and learning conditions. Yes it could happen here if we rebuilt a real union from bottom to top

Tuesday, September 24, 2019


There was no fanfare and no announcement at last night's UFT Executive Board but the Department of Education has quietly changed the calendar for the 2019-20 school year. School is now closed on Monday, December 23rd, 2019 in New York City.

The updated calendar says this:

Dec 23-Jan 1 Winter Recess (Schools closed)-Dates updated

We can take a little bit of credit for the change as pressure from parents and rank and file teachers, which we certainly helped to motivate, convinced the UFT to keep fighting for December 23. Our April 26 blog piece and our NY 1 appearance did something to bring this issue to the public sphere where we looked reasonable by using precedent. When December 23rd came on a Monday in the past, it was always a day off going back 33 years. It will be this year too. We didn't ask to give back a day like others did either. The rest of the calendar is unchanged.

Enjoy your full Winter Recess everyone!

Monday, September 23, 2019


The NY Post after exposing the Maspeth High School grade scandal says the floodgates are now open and they cite our friend Chaz and another source to make their case.

This is the Saturday piece:

Maspeth Cheating Espose Opens Floodgates for other Examples of Academic Fraud
by Post Staff Report

Last Sunday, The Post exposed rampant cheating at Maspeth High School in Queens. The bombshell report triggered a Queens DA probe and reactions from educators and students across the city, many of whom claim the same academic fraud occurs at their schools.

“Have I been told in a staff meeting, by a Superintendent who is now an Executive Superintendent, that ‘You’d better not fail any of those children?’ Absolutely. Did she mean pass kids who had terrible attendance and hadn’t mastered the curriculum? Absolutely. Did she mean to go as far as Maspeth? No, but when you send that kind of message, here’s what happens.” — Jane Roth, a New York City teacher, on social media

“Some kids are like, ‘Why are you upset? They’re helping you out.’ They’re not helping me, they’re doing it for their own image. They’re trying to save their own ass. I’m not an idiot.” — current Maspeth HS student in an interview with The Post.

Maspeth High School alum's shocking admission about school's 'no fail' policy
“Can someone name a school not doing this type of so-called cheating? This is what the city wants principals to do.” — commenter on Chaz’s School Daze, a blog for teachers

“I wish someone would investigate my school, Flushing High School, where we can’t give zeros to students who plagiarize an assignment or who don’t turn it in. They have to be given 55 . . . Our principal brags about the graduation rate going up to 70 percent . . . as long as you have the numbers, that’s all that matters to the DOE.” — commenter on Chaz’s School Daze

I really want to know if these schools are the rule in NYC schools. For me, Jamaica High School was closed in part because we wouldn't play the game so we exposed an attempt at giving credits for phantom classes back in 2010. After Jamaica phased out, I then moved onto Middle College where the principal at the time questioned passing grades if students did not have the proper amount of seat time. I certainly respected that. Judging from what I see here, my experiences were a total outlier.

Please comment but leave names of school or schools where you know grade fraud/inflation is taking place. Your anonymity is assured. If you are an ATR, just tell us one or two schools you have been to where the cheating exists. Spread the word if you like.

Thank you.

Saturday, September 21, 2019


The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) believes in the power of the strike and they will be voting on whether to authorize one in the next few days. Chicago teachers are voting on a strike even though they are only legally allowed in Illinois to strike over salary and Chicago Public Schools' management is offering decent salary increases.

This is from NBC via Norm Scott:
CHICAGO — If Chicago teachers accept the pay raise they’ve been offered by the city’s mayor and school board — a 16 percent bump over five years — they could soon be some of the highest paid big-city teachers in the nation.

But here, in a city where many schools lack resources to help children in poverty cope with trauma and other challenges, and where a strong history of union activism has already triggered two teacher strikes this decade alone, union leaders say a pay raise is not enough.

What? Could you even contemplate UFT President Michael Mulgrew saying a pay raise is not enough in NYC?

Back to the NBC article:
As educators in the nation’s third-largest school district prepare for another strike, some even call the city’s raise proposal a distraction.

“It’s a very strategic thing they’re doing,” said Katie Osgood, a special education teacher and a rank-and-file member of the union’s contract negotiating team. “They want to use that to decrease the public support that we have, to say: ‘C’mon greedy teachers. Take the deal.’”

While Osgood acknowledged that the pay offer is “not the worst,” she said teachers are focused on more than just paychecks.

“We’re actually asking for real demands,” Osgood told several dozen parents, activists and supporters at a meeting of a group called the Chicago Teachers & Staff Solidarity Campaign last week. “Real demands that will change things.”

The teachers’ demands — including smaller class sizes and the hiring of additional school nurses, librarians and social workers — are similar to those that have echoed across the country in the last two years amid a wave of teacher activism not seen in the U.S. in decades.

As stated above, llinois law only allows teacher strikes over salary. They can bargain over other issues like class size but not strike. I find it very interesting the Chicago Public Schools are offering 16% over 5 years. Certainly, they want to make this look like a battle against selfish teachers. The union is asking for 15% over 3 years. How they go around the law to threaten a strike over educational issues should be fascinating.

For more information on the CTU situation, I went to Substance, the Chicago equivalent of EdNotes.  Here is a part of George Milkowski's report on the September House of Delegates meeting:
(Financial Secretary) Maria (Moreno) said the Board is trying to split us by offering higher raises while ignoring everything regarding working conditions. A strong “yes” vote on a strike is necessary to get the Board to move in negotiations. She also reminded the delegates that according to Illinois State law, those who do not vote will be counted as a “No’ vote.

They will be taking that strike vote in the schools in the next few days after the Delegates voted unanimously for a vote to authorize a strike.

To show the differences between the UFT and CTU, just read more of the Substance report on the Delegate meeting:

President’s Report – Jesse (Sharkey) was brief. He said an overwhelming vote to strike is our best opportunity to get a good contract. He stressed that we need a written guarantee in the contract to hire clinicians, nurses, and so on. We cannot rely on verbal promises.

He is basically saying we are fighting for more than just money and his report was brief. Think about that NYC UFT Delegates as you sit through the next Michael Mulgrew hour long report at our Delegate Assembly.

I know some reader is going to say that Chicago teachers make less money than NYC teachers. Let's do a comparison. Chicago teachers start out at $52,000 and max out just short of $100,000 a year. If they accept management's offer, they will end up close to starting at $60,000 by the end of the contract and they will max out in the $115,000 range. Toward the end of our contract in May of 2021, teachers in NYC  will start  at $61,070 and max out at $128,657 a year. NYC teachers will be ahead of Chicago even if the CTU's demand for a 15% raise over three years is met. However, when we compare the cost of living in the two cities, teachers are doing pretty well out in the windy city even before they obtain raises in their next contract.

This is from
Overall, Chicago, Illinois is 42.9% cheaper than New York, New York
- Median Home Cost is the biggest factor in the cost of living difference.
- Median Home Cost is 65% cheaper in Chicago.

Cost of living 42.9% lower in Chicago compared to NYC; that is a major difference. NYC teachers certainly don't make 42.9% more money than our Chicago colleagues. 

To be fair there is one clause in our contract that is light years better in NYC compared to Chicago. Absent Teacher Reserves in Chicago get a few months after schools are closed or downsized to hook on in another school and if they cannot, they are terminated. I hope the CTU does something to address this. NYC teachers can remain ATRS forever. If I was in Chicago, it would have been very difficult to keep my job after my school closed. I condemn the UFT for giving up seniority and SBO transfers in 2005 but credit them for not allowing the DOE to finish the job and terminate teachers after schools are closed or programs downsized.

That said, what is the advantage to taking an early contract, as we did in NYC in 2018, and not at least threatening some kind of militancy? NYC teachers won very little as is shown in our current contract with its less than stellar raises and working conditions that continue to deteriorate or at best stagnate. Note that the CTU was also not afraid to say that 23 CTU members opted out of paying dues this year. Not bad for a union with tens of thousands of members.

Oh I almost forgot about this: What presidential candidate will be joining the Chicago teachers on Tuesday at a giant labor rally? 

We will see how this all plays out in Chicago. 

Thursday, September 19, 2019


Each September the UFT has their annual Chapter Leader meeting in Manhattan. Yesterday was the day for this year's meeting. We have Arthur Goldstein's report. We will attempt to sum it up succinctly:
  • Happy talk on the state of the schools from Mulgrew: the system is doing the better than ever according to the President.
  • There are plenty of concerns from the schools and the UFT's goals this year are to empower, organize and engage each school site. 
  • Nothing new on December 23rd being a day off; Mulgrew mentioned a possible NY Post editorial if we get the day back as a day off which we always had off in the past when December 23rd fell on a Monday.
Here is the December 23 material right from Arthur's minutes of Michael Mulgrew's lengthy President's Report:
December 23rd—Been dealing with state and DOE since calendar came out. Believes common sense and rational adult thought will prevail in a short period of time. If we lose one day, we still have three snow days. Lots of confusion now, will play out. You know a certain NYC paper would write an editorial about it were it to happen. We have to be reasonable—most people work on the 23.

This is a little less confident then what he stated last week at the Executive Board but still somewhat optimistic. However, I fear when Mulgrew says we have to "be reasonable". Does that mean givebacks? Also, waiting too long on this hurts people who are attempting to plan for that week including my family.   

If we are so afraid of the pro-charter school NY Post's editorial board, I just just checked the Success Academy charter school calendar. You are not going to believe this on Eva Moskowitz' schools:

Monday, December 23 – Monday, January 6 No School: Winter Break K, 1, 2, 3, 4

Monday, December 23 – Monday, January 6 No School: Winter Break 5, 6, 7, 8

Monday, December 23 – Friday, January 3 No School: Winter Break 9, 10, 11, 12

That should stop the Post editorial dead in its tracks. 

Can anyone find a school district that is open on December 23rd this year besides NYC? 

Our Schools are doing Better than Ever:
 Again right from Arthur's minutes of Mulgrew's report:
Disturbed we are hearing nothing good about school system. Enemies are happy at that. Parents saying we don’t believe in standards, suspensions, G and T, only makeup and demographics. Fact is school system doing better than ever but we don’t hear it. Even with vocational diploma never had grad rate this high. Outperformed rest of state four years in a row. Not heard in public discourse.

Further down:
No one is hearing about graduation and dropout rates, or outperforming state, but only these things . We need to take what we’ve been doing and work with communities to show our successes. No one would have anticipated this 15 years ago.

How did the system achieve these huge advances in the graduation rate? 

Just go to the second question from a Chapter Leader and you get the answer in the question:
Q—What can we do to expose abuses inside schools before media? Sometimes done wrong way with teachers blamed. Schools pushed to pass students. We know that much of it is fake. Happening everywhere. We are under pressure from abusive principals. Untenured play along, will backfire. Leaders use comp time to create a clique, de facto admin.

(Mulgrew) A—If we’re going to make an allegation, we need documentation to prove it. If there’s something going on, we want to know. CL has right to say no to comp time positions. It’s tough. People who want jobs are members, but you have to say no if it’s making someone de facto admin. You have right to do that. DOE denies this stuff, but ends up in paper. Use consultations to build case for when we go public. We will back you.

You heard it: "We will back you."

If you want to read about the new call centers, new class size procedures, special ed, removing disruptive students from class, how the UFT is going to empower, organize and engage each school site, protecting Bill de Blasio's pre-k legacy and much more go over to Arthur's site. It's all there.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019


It goes without saying, but we will say it anyway, we totally support the 50,000 General Motors workers who are on strike for a second day today.

From CNN:
Nearly 50,000 General Motors (GM) employees across the United States walked out late Sunday night after GM and the United Auto Workers union failed to reach an agreement on a new four-year contract.

Workers participating in the strike are spread across 31 General Motors factories and 21 other facilities in nine states.
Here's what you may have missed:

This is the US auto industry's first strike in 12 years, and it's also the biggest strike by any US labor organization in the same time span. GM, America's largest automaker, has nearly 50,000 full-time and temporary UAW members on its payroll. The last autoworkers strike was also against GM, and lasted three days.

What workers want
The workers want higher hourly wages, lump sum payments and a better profit-sharing plan. They also want GM to agree to limit the use of temporary workers and give them a clearer path to permanent employment. The UAW says the two sides are far apart on other issues including health care benefits and job security.

Another big issue revolves around what will happen to two iconic assembly plants that are poised to close: One in Lordstown, Ohio, where work stopped earlier this year, and the Hamtramck plant in Detroit, which is scheduled to shut in early 2020. GM is offering to build an electric truck at Hamtramck and to make batteries for electric vehicles in Lordstown, according to a person familiar with the matter.

But even if the union agrees to those terms, work wouldn't start immediately. The plants will remain dark for some time. Production could start sometime in the next four years.

What GM is offering
General Motors says it's willing to work "around the clock" to reach a deal and end the walkout.

In a rare move for union negotiations, the automaker went public with its most recent offer. the automaker said it would commit to the following:
Preserving 5,400 jobs and investing $7 billion in its US plants
Offering wage or lump sum pay increases in all four years of the deal
A signing bonus of $8,000 per member
An improved profit sharing formula

Monday, September 16, 2019


You can't make this stuff up. The NY Post is exposing DOE waste with alarming regularity.

An excerpt:
The city Education Department shelled out taxpayer money for scores of GPS units clearly unrelated to DOE vehicles — including one off the coast of Africa and about 30 in California, a scathing new report shows.

The global glitch is just the tip of the iceberg of massive, multimillion-dollar issues with the DOE’s school-bus tracking system, according to the city’s Special Commissioner of Investigation.

A SCI report released Monday asserts that the GPS company Navman “billed the DOE for duplicate license plate numbers, vehicle identification numbers (“VIN), serial numbers, and instances where devices sat in parking lots and other non-DOE locations such as California and off the coast of Africa.”

DOE worker noted the Africa snafu in a Sept. 9, 2015, e-mail to a department employee who was supposed to be helping manage the system.

“We seem to have a bus off the coast of Africa,’’ the underling quipped — adding a smiley face to his note.

Another e-mail in July 2018 from a DOE employee to a deputy finance director added, “We’re seeing about 30 GPS units that have been in [California] at TTNM [Teletrac Navman]’s office for more than a year that are showing up on our monthly invoices.”

When will the state finally conclude that Mayoral control does not work? We need accountability and integrity.

Saturday, September 14, 2019


Sue Edelman, with help from some teacher whistleblowers, has exposed what looks like completely out of control grade fraud at Maspeth High School in Queens. This is not pretty and commenters here will tell you this is the norm in NYC high schools.

From the article:
At highly rated Maspeth High School in Queens, students know they can play hooky, skip course work, flunk tests — and still pass.

They call it the “Maspeth Minimum,” meaning everyone gets at least the minimum grade or score needed to pass or graduate, no matter what.

Whistleblowers call it fraud. The secret to the school’s 98% graduation and 90% Regents pass rate, they say, is simple: “Cheat!”

Four teachers told The Post that the 2,100-student high school — awarded a prestigious National Blue Ribbon in 2018 by the federal secretary of education — has an unwritten but iron-clad “no-fail policy,” even for kids who repeatedly don’t do the work or even show up.

“Teachers are not allowed to fail students,” a staffer said.

One recent Maspeth graduate posted on Instagram about taking Mandarin in 11th grade, writing, “there was no way I should of passed that class.”

But in the end, someone raised the student’s failing grade just high enough to earn a credit.

“At the time, I didn’t believe in the ‘maspeth minimum’ thing but I almost never showed up to class and vividly remember having multiple 0’s on quizzes I never took,” the student wrote. “My average was a 45 and then magically turned into a 65 when my report card came in.”

There's plenty more. I have very little doubt that all of it is true although the allegations should be fully investigated and all should receive due process. The DOE reaction is clueless as usual:

"We take any allegation of academic misconduct very seriously, and there are strict protocols in place to ensure complaints are reported, investigated and addressed. These allegations are currently under investigation,” said DOE spokeswoman Danielle Filson.

Our readers tell us again and again how Sue Edelman has barely scraped the surface of DOE fraud.

We ask once more where is the UFT to stop the fraud? Teachers are afraid to go to their union or the UFT can't or won't help them. Maspeth HS's cheating looks blatant and incredibly arrogant.

It seems to me the biggest problem in way too many schools is lack of academic integrity. The UFT should be leading the charge to bring integrity back to the system. Instead, the Union engages in happy talk. Check out the UFT back to school commercial for evidence.

Thursday, September 12, 2019


It looks like there won't be much controversy at the one party state UFT Executive Board that is now 100% Unity Caucus but Arthur Goldstein is still providing reports. The report from Monday's first love fest  meeting of the school year shows that it looks like we are having an impact on getting Monday, December 23rd back as a day off.

This is directly from his minutes of President Michael Mulgrew's report:

December 23—We are continuing convos with state and city. Commissioner has resigned. Thinks we’ll get there. Should never have happened, they know they were wrong. Safety issue, under ESSA we have to report attendance. Thanks parents and teachers for getting voices heard.

Parents and teachers? Have you seen any official UFT call to action on the December 23 issue? Someone forwarded an email from a very top UFT official from the spring that said the UFT was consulted on the calendar and they tried to resolve concerns before the calendar was finalized. There may very well have been UFT acceptance.

The pressure and publicity came from the rank and file, the parents and us. We have 8,822 hits on our first December 23 piece and plenty of reaction on UFT Facebook. Others used the information we provided for their push. Our teacher and parent outrage changed this conversation. It can work but it just has to be a whole lot of us. Keep calling your UFT concierge and/or the DOE.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019


In thirty two years of teaching there are certain days that I remember almost everything about. One that obviously stands out as a New York City teacher was September 11, 2001.

I think everyone recalls what a bright, sunny morning it was. The night before there was a UFT Executive Board meeting where I can't even recollect what we were arguing over with then UFT President Randi Weingarten but I do remember being tired that Tuesday morning as I got to school. My friend UFT Delegate extraordinaire Barbara Cohen wanted to talk about some dreadful injustice the Principal of Jamaica High School was perpetuating on someone and we spoke for a while before my first class which was period 2. Period 2 started right around 9:00 A.M.

As period 1 ended and I walked toward class, my colleague Mike Pallisco gave me the news that a plane crashed into the World Trade Center. I responded by saying something like "huh?" I didn't want to be late for class which was a Participation in Government course. I was all excited looking forward to spending at least a few minutes talking about the Democratic Primary for mayor that was taking place that day. The UFT endorsed Alan Hevesi. We were going to get rid of anti-teacher Mayor Rudy Giulliani in just a few short months. I wanted to talk about the election and maybe get a few students interested. I was neutral in class so I was pondering how to bring it up as we were covering a unit on the foundations of government.*

I was teaching in room 301 that term. If someone went across the hall to room 302, on a clear day it was easy to see the World Trade Center. After my friend told me a little of what was going on, it kind of made the election rather irrelevant but the magnitude of the story still hadn't hit me. I rushed to class without going to room 301 to look at the towers.

In those days there was no such thing as a Smartboard, certainly not at Jamaica High School. High tech for us consisted of an electrician coming in after years of waiting to upgrade the electricity in the Social Studies Office so we could use the copying machine and coffeemaker simultaneously without blowing a fuse and then having to call the Custodian and wait a while to get the electricity back in the office.

At that point the ever frustrated inner journalist in me had to know what was going on and this story seemed very important so I did what I did during the 2000 election recount. I told a few kids to take out their ubiquitous Walkman radios to keep us updated on what was occurring in lower Manhattan.

Remember the Walkman? They were the smartphones of their day; a real pain for teachers to attempt to get kids to put away. Walkmen were prohibited in schools at the time. Since it was the beginning of the term, many students didn't really know me. I had to do some persuading to convince some correspondents to take out their well hidden radios. This was high school, not the third grade; I figured these seniors could handle it and I had no clue how utterly disastrous the situation was. A few kids finally pulled out their little radios and were monitoring what was going on and feeding the class information.

It only took a minute or two to realize this was beyond serious and no accidental plane hitting the Twin Towers. Young people who didn't know that there was an AM band on their radio were suddenly listening to 1010 WINS and were telling the class this was really bad as the second tower was hit. One pupil just sat there listening to his headphones and didn't say a word. Suddenly, he burst out crying and I mean bawling. He was just crying really loudly and I asked him what was going on. He then told me to listen and there was the reporter on 1010 WINS talking about the people jumping out the windows from the high floors of the World Trade Center that was burning.

I had to tell the class that this was not an ordinary accident or attack. That particular student then told me that his dad worked in one of the towers. His dad was fine but we all didn't know who was okay and who was not at the time. I remember we just talked to each other as a kind of support group for the rest of that period. Everything I said was not overly reassuring until I told the class that the people who did this obviously planned out their targets and Jamaica High School was in all likelihood not a priority as their next target. That received some really enthusiastic, if nervous, laughter from the class. When the bell rang to end class, I went over to room 302 to look at the World Trade Center for myself and after seeing the burning towers, it hit home big time how awful this was. A little while later when the low flying military jets flew by outside our windows, we knew our world had changed for good. The next period was just a support group as the parents were already coming to pick up their kids.

As I attempted to just listen and talk to the kids, I was worried about my own brother who was an NYPD Captain who worked downtown at police headquarters and took the subway to the station under the twin towers each morning. I knew my mom would be worried sick at her home and she was trying to call me on my useless cellphone throughout the morning. What about all of those other people? I don't know how any of us made it through classes that morning but we somehow got through a second class. Jamaica's building was quickly emptying. Kids and now staff were heading out trying to figure out how to get home as subway service was down. Everyone understandably wanted to be with their loved ones.

By 12:00 noon it was just teachers, administrators, other staff and a handful of kids who had no place to go left in the building. The teachers were mostly sitting in rooms watching tv's with coat hangers as antennas (no cable at Jamaica). Some were asking their chapter leader (me) when they could leave. The Principal to his credit didn't try to hold anyone back. He knew people wanted to be with their families but that enough of us would remain to make sure the students who stayed behind were safe and he thanked me for not running out. I got a voice message from my mom that somehow came through saying my brother was safe but what about everyone else? I don't think my brother came to his house for days. I left school around regular time and checked on my mom. She was nervous but okay. I was very lucky that all of my family and close friends were safe.

My brother's wife was pregnant at the time with Julia, my niece, who just this fall went off to college. As the years went by, September 11 came to mean less and less to the kids I taught as it was no longer personal to most of them. By 2010, high school students were barely in elementary school on 9-11. Later groups of pupils were in diapers in 2001 and now the high school students were not even born on that day like Julia. I realize that we can no longer commemorate 9-11 in the same way. It doesn't mean the same thing to today's teens.

Since this is a dissident union blog, I gather those reading want to know how it went with the UFT after 9-11. The next Executive Board meeting was a few weeks later and the UFT had a resolution supporting George W Bush's military response to the 9-11 attacks. I said nothing but my colleague Ed Beller rose and opposed the resolution saying we didn't need a military solution but a criminal investigation type of reaction was called for to apprehend the suspects behind the attacks. In the usual spirit of open debate, a Unity hack who was once in the marines took to the microphone and threatened to beat Ed up. That got me boiling. And yes at some point later on Randi Weingarten compared dissidents in the UFT to the terrorists. In the final analysis as we now have our military in Afghanistan for 18 years, Ed had a point.

For anyone thinking about that helpless feeling of that day, follow the link below and go to Soundcloud to listen to Beth Sorrentino's Beautiful Day. Beth's lyrics (printed below) capture the powerless feeling perfectly. If there are any nineties alternative people in the audience, you may know Beth from Suddenly Tammy, one of my favorite bands.

Beautiful Day- Beth Sorrentino

As I sit here playing
I can't hear a word that they're saying
I'm only thinking of you
As I sit here singing
I know my phone is ringing
and I just let it ring through
I will leave it to fate
that this is a day that you're late

Can you feel this way?
It's such a beautiful day

The sky's unusually blue

I try to call your phone is busy
I bet the air makes you dizzy
You don't usually follow the crowd
So leave your work behind
and find your place in line
and run to me uptown
cause I'm still around
leave it to powers above
please get to the ones that we love

Can you feel this way?
It's such a beautiful day

I'd give my line for you

Now I will leave it on
and turn my head and you're gone
through all the red white and blue

And can you feel this way?
And can you feel this way?
And can you feel this way on such a beautiful day?

Can you feel this way on such a beautiful day?

*The UFT wanted a nice corrupt Democrat in Hevesi instead of Michael Bloomberg who was an underdog before 9-11. Later that fall the UFT managed to endorse two more candidates for mayor who both managed to lose for a total of three but that is a story for another day. Do you remember the three: Alan Hevesi, Fernando Ferrer and Mark Green?

Tuesday, September 10, 2019


Police Officer Eric Pantaleo was recently terminated by Police Commissioner James ONeill for the improper chokehold Panteleo used while apprehending Eric Garner who then died. Garner's 2014 death was captured on video. I lean left as most of you know so I would tend to accept the conclusion of the judge in Panteleo's departmental trial and the Commissioner's decision to fire the officer.

That said, I generally support the police and their unions more so than some of my friends on the left. My brother served as an NYPD Captain and gave me some real insight into what the job was like. I know some other NYPD officers and retired cops who are decent people who do their best to uphold the law.

For those of you who did not follow the Pantaleo trial closely, below is an excerpt from from CBS News on the departmental trial :

Pantaleo's lawyer has said the officer didn't mean to hurt Garner and insisted he did not use the banned chokehold. But in a disciplinary recommendation obtained by the New York Times, NYPD administrative judge Rosemarie Maldonado said video of the fatal encounter and autopsy results provided "overwhelming" evidence that Pantaleo used the banned maneuver. In the recommendation that followed a recent administrative trial, she reportedly found Pantaleo was "untruthful" during questioning when he denied using the chokehold.

The judge said fire him and the Commissioner agreed. End of story, right? Wrong.

I really want this post to be about the union angle and not so much the verdict. Teachers are routinely charged, discontinued, terminated and or forced to resign in NYC. The response from the UFT publicly is virtually always stone cold silence. However, when one NYPD officer is terminated, even though there is video evidence that the officer used a prohibited choke-hold, their union (the PBA) still goes absolutely ballistic in support of their member.

From the NY Post in the week after the arrest:
The number of arrests and criminal summonses handled by city cops last week plummeted compared to the same period in 2018 — and law enforcement sources warn it’s the “Pantaleo Effect.’’

Officer Daniel Pantaleo was fired by NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill on Aug. 19 over his role in the fatal takedown of Staten Island cigarette peddler Eric Garner, enraging police officers and their union leaders, who argue the cop was simply doing his job during an arrest.

Police Benevolent Association chief Patrick Lynch responded by angrily telling his members to “proceed with the utmost caution’’ when answering calls — and new statistics obtained by The Post on Monday suggest officers are heeding his warning.

Obviously, there is a bit of a slowdown going on that is succeeding. The generic term for this slowdown is a job action.  However, you will not see the Taylor Law being used against the cops where each officer would lose two days pay for every day that arrests and summonses are way down. The PBA is being emboldened as this continued.

PBA Delegates voted unanimously that they have no confidence in Mayor Bill de Blasio and Commissioner James O'Neill. 

From Politico:
The resolutions approved by the Police Benevolent Association call for O’Neill to resign, and for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to use emergency powers to remove de Blasio from office. They were approved by a unanimous voice vote at a meeting of the PBA’s nearly 400 delegates, elected as union representatives from the city’s precincts and police commands.

“Today’s votes are an unequivocal indictment of our failed leaders in City Hall and 1 Police Plaza. For years, Mayor de Blasio has demonized police officers and undermined our efforts to protect our city. For years, Commissioner O’Neill has cravenly acquiesced to the Mayor and his anti-cop allies,” said PBA president Pat Lynch in a prepared statement.

“The unjust termination of P.O. Daniel Pantaleo was merely the final straw: both men have displayed an appalling pattern of malfeasance and nonfeasance that disqualifies them from continuing to serve in their current offices," Lynch said.

The slowdown looks like it was continuing as last week the NY Post reported on Wednesday that shootings are up but arrests and tickets are down in NYC.

Statistics showed citywide shootings nearly doubled during the past week, from 12 to 23, compared to the same period last year.

That followed a 44 percent spike, from 16 to 23, during the previous week, which began the day of Pantaleo's firing.

Those shootings bought the most recent four-week total to 85 shootings, up 25 percent from 68 last year, after two weeks in which there were a combined 39 shootings, down from 40 during the same time last year.

Further down:
O'Neill also acknowledged an ongoing decline in police activity since Pantaleo's firing, with arrests and criminal summonses down 19,8 percent and 12.5 percent, respectively, last week.

Parking violations also plummeted by a staggering 67.5 percent, while moving violations were down also by 22.4 percent.

Law-enforcement sources have told The Post that while there's no organized slowdown, the drop in numbers was due to the "Pantaleo effect" of cops not wanting to put their careers at risk.

Parking tickets down 67.5 percent but it's not an organized slowdown? Yeah right, it's just police officers proceeding with the "utmost caution."

O’Neill on the union:
"This is something Pat feels he needs to do for his membership, and I'll say it again, I disagree with him very strongly," O'Neill said.

Notice the respectful tone and how he purposely does not call it a slowdown.

Back to the Politico story:
The mayor and police commissioner have taken flack from both sides for their handling of the controversial case. While the union rails against the decision to terminate Pantaleo, Garner’s family and police reform advocates have chastised de Blasio and O’Neill for not taking disciplinary action against more officers.

One officer is terminated and the cops are unofficially staging a work slowdown. Do you think anything beyond losing some vacation days is going to happen to anyone else involved in the Garner case? 

The answer is nobody will be in any further trouble because the PBA would go even wilder and police would basically stop arresting anyone but the most blatant criminals. The slowdown is somewhat restrained and it is successfully making its point. Sorry critics, there isn't going to be any housecleaning of officers involved in the Garner case. The PBA is still a force to be reckoned with.

Now picture a union in which UFT members have that all for one, one for all spirit. Whatever you think of the 1968 strike, (critics say it was a fight to prevent community control while UFT supporters say it was about due process for UFT members), the UFT shut down the schools for two months because 13 members were involuntarily transferred out of a district. Let's take the UFT at their word that it was about due process, the many came to the aid of the few. If we built the UFT back from the ground, not from the top, I guarantee you we would be respected again. We are living off what is left of the gains made back a half a century ago when the UFT was respected. It can happen again. It is up to the rank and file to demand it.

Sunday, September 08, 2019


I read this piece from The Wisconsin Examiner on the teacher shortage from Tim Slekar, a university professor. He calls the shortage an exodus and blames the accountability movement.

Here is the cause of the exodus:
Accountability—loved by Democrats and Republicans—has almost become a religious movement. In fact, the idea of even questioning the usefulness of test-based accountability can cause enraged panic in accountability zealots. “How will we know what children are falling behind?” “How will we close the achievement gap if we don’t measure it?” “How will we fire bad teachers without the data?” “How will we know what schools to close?” “What will happen to my lucrative consulting gig with test company X?”

Time for the hard truth. Test based accountability has done one thing well. Over the past 35 years, we have beyond any doubt, measured and confirmed the achievement gap. That’s it! Nothing else.

What is the effect on teachers? We want out.

Who designed such a pernicious system? Not teachers. They’ve been too busy trying to shield their students from the harm being dictated by policy makers and think tanks. However, all of that shielding has taken a toll and the number of demoralized teachers leaving our classrooms cannot be labeled as a simple shortage. It is an exodus.

How do I know it’s an exodus? Because I have surveyed more than 650 teachers for a book that I am writing. Well over 90% of these teachers have responded that they are leaving teaching, thinking about leaving, telling potential new teachers to stay away, seeking mental health services, taking anxiety medications and losing their own families because of conditions in the classroom created by a reckless belief in test based accountability by those in charge of education policy.

The sad reality is that the solution is so simple. End the era of accountability, give schools adequate resources, and just let teachers do their jobs. Our future depends on it.

From what I read here in comments, that over 90% number is about right.

The solution  to let us do our jobs is that easy but the forces lined up against us have lots of money and are playing the long game to destroy us.

Thursday, September 05, 2019


This one goes in the want a good laugh category.

This is from the UFT Twitter Page quoting Randi Weingarten in a NY Times article on why some labor unions are holding back on a 2020 endorsement for President.

From Randi: "For us, it is not just about who shares your values; it's not just about who's electable. It is about, do your members feel like they have a real voice in your process?"

This is from one of the leaders of one of the most top-down organizations I have ever known. What really gets to me is she can say this with a straight face. Does she actually believe it?

Maybe she does because technically she says she wants you to feel like you have a voice, not actually have one.

Quick question: Have any of you been asked by the AFT, NYSUT or UFT about the 2020 Presidential endorsement?

Have any of you ever been asked by the leadership for your opinion on an endorsement in the past twenty years except to rubber stamp a candidate who was picked from on high?

Wednesday, September 04, 2019


It isn't just collective bargaining agreements with union workers that the Department of Education routinely ignores. When courts order mandated services for special education students, the DOE takes their good sweet time in implementing them.

This is from the Daily News:
The City's Department of Education is dragging its feet on providing legally required services for kids with disabilities, a motion filed in federal court Tuesday charges.

Thirty percent of students who get a court order for crucial support like physical and speech therapy aren't getting those services within the legal deadline of 35 days, according to the education legal aid group Advocates for Children, which filed the motion.

That puts the city out of compliance with a 2007 court settlement, the advocacy group claims.

"The DOE's delays in providing ordered services are adding insult to injury for students with disabilities and their families," said Rebecca Shore, the head of litigation at Advocates for Children.

"We need a special master to step in and fix this broken system," she added.

This is probably just the tip of the iceberg. If 30% of mandated services are delayed after a court orders them, would anyone like to take a guess on how many IEP services are denied when a court is not watching? We have heard since Joel Klein and gave principals nearly unlimited powers that IEP's are routinely ignored and services dropped for students with disabilities.

We concur with Ms. Shore that a special master is a good idea but it is needed not just for IEP services. There is much more within the dysfunctional DOE that needs someone to watch over it.

The only people who seem content with how the system is going are some of the edu-bureaucrats who are making some really excellent money so they have an interest in seeing everything continue along and the shiny happy leaders of the UFT. Just listen to the sappy UFT radio commercial I hear in the morning now as I drop my wife off at work.

Monday, September 02, 2019


When you call the UFT, you will now be talking to someone who is called either a Level I Operator or Concierge. Apparently, these level One Operators have not yet figured out how to get you through to the borough offices. I have heard from two members who have called and both were not exactly thrilled with the new system.

This is from South Bronx School who calls his piece on the new phone answering policy: "The Tone Deafness of the UFT Never Ceases."

An excerpt:
So I call. I hear, "Hi this is Mike Mulgrew, yada, yada, yada," I raise an eyebrow. Mike asks me to stay on hold. OK. Then I have to listen to New Age music for a minute or two until I hear...

"Hi, this is Tim, the UFT, concierge, how may I help you?"

"Is this the Bronx UFT?" I ask.

"This is the UFT," Tim replies.

"But is this the BRONX UFT?"

"This is the UFT."

I hang up and try back. I get Lance, another UFT concierge. Well, after listening to Mulgrew and more New Age music.

I inquire to Lance why am I getting 52 Broadway even though I am dialing 718-379-6200. Lance informs me that though the Bronx UFT has been open since Monday and apparently they have yet to turn on their phones.

"Can you transfer me there please?"

Lance responds, "We can't."

"Can you try?"

"OK, I'll try."

Lance gives it the old college try. While on hold I hear New Age music and Lance at the same time trying to transfer me and asking others how to transfer calls. This is my UFT and yours too, hard at work. And putting our union dues to good work.

A friend from Queens told me a similar story of trying to call the Queens UFT and no phone was connected so the member went in person to the swanky new $50,000 a month office which was locked around 1:00 P.M. last Friday. The District Rep this member wanted to see was there and tried to leave without talking to the member (benefit of the doubt: maybe nobody on the inside heard the knock on the door). The member found the DR in the building lobby leaving the building a few minutes later.

Here is the UFT take on the new system from retired Unity Chapter Leader Gene Mann's "The Organizer":
 New Cards, New Numbers

You will be receiving a new membership card this month . New UFT Contact Center telephone numbers have been added to the back of the card as well as the UFT Welfare Fund telephone numbers for our DOE in-service members and retirees.

Here are the new UFT Contact Center telephone numbers:

DOE in-service members: 212-331-6311

DOE in-service functional chapter members: 212-331-6312
Governmental/private sector members: 212-331-6313
Retirees: 212-331-6314

These numbers will put you in touch with a Level I call center operator who has been supplied with the resources to answering the overwhelming number of union questions you might have. If the Level I person can’t answer your question or solve your problem, you will be routed to a Level II expert on matters such as payroll, leaves, safety, etc.

The goal of the new system is to get you a responsive human being as quickly as possible, i.e., the polar opposite of the experience of calling HR Connect!

Concierges, Level I Operators and Level II Experts. More customer service from the Union. Good luck getting to the representative you want to talk to. It looks like you now have a new layer of bureaucracy to get through first.. Maybe I am too cynical; perhaps this system will be an improvement.

As always, if you want to get right through to a genuine experienced Chapter Leader, you are welcome to email or comment directly here. We will do our best to answer you and we can refer you to other veteran chapter leaders too. We don't have all the answers but we cut out the middleman here at ICEUFT. UFT members are our colleagues, not customers.

Hope you all had a great summer. All the best for the new school year.

Speaking of the 2019-20 school year, we are seeing a great deal of traffic on the ICEUFT Blog going to our April 26 post on December 23rd for the first time in memory being a work day when Christmas Eve falls on a Tuesday. It should be a day off as it was traditionally as there are sufficient instructional days and hours in the calendar to satisfy state regulations. We know this since there are four extra days that can be used as snow days built in and two non-teaching days before the kids come in on Thursday. My guess is there aren't too many other districts in New York State that are in session on December 23rd. If you want to see an activist (uh, me) explain the situation on TV, check out the NY1 story from May on the December 23rd controversy.

I strongly recommend that each reader here call the number above and tell their UFT Concierge that December 23rd needs to be a day off like it is in surrounding districts and always was in NYC when it fell on a Monday. Then, tell your Chapter Leader, your Delegate, your District Rep, your Vice Presidents and your UFT President how school being open on Monday, December 23rd when Christmas Eve falls on a Tuesday is an outrageous, unacceptable giveback. Tell your Principal too, It's something we can all agree on.

Sunday, September 01, 2019


Bernie Sanders recently released a solid labor proposal. Read the rationale for his Workplace Democracy plan at the campaign website (we copy the proposal below). What candidate for President has a better labor proposal? I haven't seen one. Labor Scholar Barry Eidlin in Jacobin (can't get much further to the left than Jacobin) called it "the best plan for promoting workers’ rights ever proposed by a major US presidential candidate." We agree. If Bernie is elected, the fundamental balance between worker and employer would change in favor of workers. Jacobin had to put up another piece to find anything wrong with the Sanders' plan and that second writer really had to dig deep to find flaws.

Here are the specific details of the Workplace Democracy Plan right from the Sanders' campaign website:

Bernie’s pro-union plan would:
  • Provide unions the ability to organize through a majority sign up process, allowing the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to certify a union if it receives the consent of the majority of eligible workers. Under Bernie’s plan, when a majority of workers in a bargaining unit sign valid authorization cards to join a union, they will have a union. If employers refuse to negotiate in good faith, we will impose strong penalties on those companies.
  • Enact “first contract” provisions to ensure companies cannot prevent a union from forming by denying a first contract. Employers would be required to begin negotiating within 10 days of receiving a request from a new union. If no agreement is reached after 90 days of negotiation, the parties can request to enter a compulsory mediation process. If no first contract is reached after 30 more days of mediation, the parties would have a contract settlement through binding arbitration.
  • Eliminate the “Right to Work for Less.” Bernie’s plan would repeal Section 14(b) of the Taft Hartley Act, which has allowed 28 states to pass legislation that eliminates the ability of unions to collect dues from those who benefit from union contracts and activities, undermining the unions’ representation of workers.    
  • Under Bernie’s plan, companies will no longer be able to ruthlessly exploit workers by misclassifying them as independent contractors or deny them overtime by falsely calling them a “supervisor.” When Bernie is president, his administration will end the ability of corporations to misclassify workers as “independent contractors” or label them as a “supervisor.” 
  • Make sure that employers can no longer use franchisee or contractor arrangements to avoid responsibility and liability for workers by codifying the Browning-Ferris joint-employer standard into law. When Bernie is president, his administration will make clear that a worker can have more than one employer. If a company can decide who to hire and who to fire and how much to pay an employee at a franchise, that company will be considered a joint employer along with the owner of a particular franchise — and both employers must engage in collective bargaining over the terms and conditions of employment.
  • Give federal workers the right to strike. In December, Trump shutdown the federal government for 35 days — the longest in history — depriving over 800,000 workers of their paychecks. Adding insult to injury, hundreds of thousands of TSA agents, air traffic controllers, IRS employees, members of the Coast Guard, and other federal government employees were forced to work without pay and without recourse. Under current law, federal employees are not guaranteed the same labor rights as workers in the private sector. While they have the ability to unionize, they are prohibited from going on strike. Under this plan, federal workers would have the right to strike.
  • Make sure every public sector union in America has the freedom to negotiate.  When Bernie is president he will sign the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act of 2019 to guarantee the right of public employees to organize and bargain collectively for better wages, benefits and working conditions in states like Iowa that currently do not offer these fundamental protections.
  • Require companies that merge to honor existing union contracts.  In February, Wabtec completed a merger with General Electric Transportation in Pennsylvania.  Instead of honoring the existing union contract with its workforce, Wabtec tried to impose substantial cuts to benefits employees have earned, while rewarding executives with over $120 million in bonuses.  Under this plan, companies would no longer be able to abrogate union contracts through mergers.
  • Deny federal contracts to employers that pay poverty wages, outsource jobs overseas, engage in union busting, deny good benefits and pay CEOs outrageous compensation packages.  When Bernie is president he will issue an executive order to prevent companies from receiving federal contracts that outsource jobs overseas, pay workers less than $15 an hour without benefits, refuse to remain neutral in union organizing efforts, pay executives over 150 times more than average workers, hire workers to replace striking workers, or close businesses after workers vote to unionize.
  • Ban the permanent replacement of striking workers.  This plan will outlaw, once and for all, the permanent replacement of workers who go on strike.
  • Protect the pensions of workers. As President, Bernie will protect and expand pension benefits of employees in both the public and the private sector.  Because of a 2014 change in law instituted in the dead of night and against the strong opposition of Senator Sanders, it is now legal to cut the earned pension benefits of more than 1.5 million workers and retirees in multi-employer pension plans.  As president, Bernie will sign an executive order to impose a moratorium on future pension cuts and would reverse the cuts to retirement benefits that have already been made.  In addition, President Sanders will fight to implement the Keep Our Pension Promises Act he first introduced in 2015 to prevent the pensions of up to 10 million Americans from being cut.  Instead of asking retirees to take a massive cut in their pension benefits, Bernie will make multi-employer plans solvent by closing egregious loopholes that allow the wealthiest Americans in this country to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.  If Congress could provide a multi-trillion bailout to Wall Street and foreign banks in 2008, we can and we must protect the pensions that were promised to millions of Americans.
  • Stops corporations from forcing workers to attend mandatory anti-union meetings as a condition of continued employment. Under this plan, companies would be barred from requiring workers to attend anti-union meetings as a condition of employment.
  • Establish federal protections against the firing of workers for any reason other than “just cause.”  When Bernie is president he will fight to make sure workers cannot be fired “at will” and will sign a “just cause” law to protect workers and their constitutional right to speak out and organize in their workplaces.
  • Create a sectoral collective bargaining system with wage boards to set minimum standards across industries. When Bernie is president he will work with the trade union movement to establish a sectoral collective bargaining system that will work to set wages, benefits and hours across entire industries, not just employer-by-employer.  In addition, under this plan all cities, counties, and other local jurisdictions would have the freedom to establish their own minimum wage laws and guarantee other minimum standards for workers.
  • Guarantee the right to unionize for all workers. Bernie will ensure farm workers and domestic workers, historically excluded from labor protections, are afforded the same standards as all workers, including the right to overtime pay and to join a union. He will enact a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights to secure safe working conditions, collective bargaining, and a living wage for domestic workers.
  • Allow for secondary boycotts. This plan reinstates a union’s freedom of speech to take action to pressure clients and suppliers of companies opposing unions.
  • Expand and update the persuader rule. This plan would require companies to disclose anti-union information they disseminate to workers and provide for equal time for organizing agents. This would include the funding of third party anti-union campaigns. This plan will also ensure that whatever contact information (email, phone, mailing addresses) the employer uses is disseminated to the organizing agent. Monetary penalties would be enacted for failures to disclose. 
  • A fair transition to Medicare for All: Bernie will require that resulting healthcare savings from union-negotiated plans result in wage increases and additional benefits for workers during the transition to Medicare for All. When Medicare for All is signed into law, companies with union negotiated health care plans would be required to enter into new contract negotiations overseen by the National Labor Relations Board. Under this plan, all company savings that result from reduced health care contributions from Medicare for All will accrue equitably to workers in the form of increased wages or other benefits.  Furthermore, the plan will ensure that union-sponsored clinics and other providers are integrated within the Medicare for All system, and kept available for members. Unions will still be able to negotiate for and provide wrap-around services and other coverage not duplicative of the benefits established under Medicare for All.

Bernie just doesn't talk the talk. He was with striking AT&T South workers last week on the picket line and has supported workers continually. Bernie also put out a pro public education plan earlier in the year.

I understand why the elites will do everything they can to oppose Bernie but I am missing something.

Elizabeth Warren and Sanders are splitting the progressives in the Democratic Party. I cannot understand why some of Bernie's former supporters are now turning to Warren. On education, this is part of what Network for Public Education Action says about Elizabeth Warren:

Senator Warren's Senior Education Policy Advisor was a TFA teacher and a policy intern with the Alliance for Excellent Education, a reform leaning 501 (c)(3) organization that has received almost $20 million in grant funding from the Gates Foundation.

At a recent Oakland rally, she was introduced by a former charter school teacher who was a fellow and blogger for GO Public Schools, a charter school lobbying organization:

Lots of red flags here.

As for workers, Warren is calling for 40% of  seats on corporate boards to be reserved for workers. She also says she is for "putting power back in the hands of workers and unions." I looked at her campaign website and don't see many specific details on how this would happen.

I try to keep an open mind but I can't fully comprehend why the unions, working people and public school supporters who stand to benefit greatly from a Sanders presidency have not lined up behind him en masse. When it comes to labor and public education issues, this looks to be a clear choice. 

Please note I am talking for me and not ICEUFT here.