Thursday, October 31, 2019


The news out of Chicago is that there is a Tentative Agreement on a contract but the Chicago Teachers Union wants the days lost to the strike to be made up. The Mayor is saying no makeup days. The students have missed 11 school days so far.

Update: The two sides have reached a compromise. Students will make up five days. The strike is over.

The Tentative Agreement passed the House of Delegates by a vote of 362 to 242. That means there was a 40% no vote so it isn't overwhelmingly popular. Now it goes to the membership for a ratification vote. Here are some details right from CTU:

Tentative Agreement Highlights
Some major elements of the Tentative Agreement include:

A nurse in every school community every day.

A social worker in every school community every day.

Staffing Pipeline: $2.5 million in recruitment and training programs for clinicians, $2 million in tuition and licensure for nurses, increased investments in "grow your own" teacher pipeline programs and 50 percent tuition reimbursement for English Language and bilingual endorsement programs.

$35 million annually to reduce oversized K-12 classrooms across the district, prioritizing schools serving the most vulnerable students.

Unprecedented enforcement mechanisms for class size relief.

Sports Committee with an annual budget of $5 million (33 percent increase in annual funding) for increases to coaching stipends and new equipment/resources.

January 2019 0.8 percent increase in health care contribution rate rescinded as of 7/1/19; no plan changes to health insurance benefits and reductions in co-pays for mental health services and physical therapy.

Bank of sick days earned after July 1, 2012, increased from 40 to 244 days.

Development of special education Individual Education Plans (IEP) made solely by the IEP team; principals required to use substitutes or release time to provide adequate time for special education duties to the extent possible; common preparation periods with general education teachers where possible; special ed teachers last to be called to cover classes; $2.5 million annual fund to reduce workload.

Clarification on class size language
Many members have read the new language in Article 28 on Class Size and found the table and language confusing. We want to clarify how the new language improves on the class size language in our recently expired 2015-19 contract.

In that last contract, there were advisory class size limits for different grade levels. However, to relieve oversized classes only $6 million per year was allotted for the entire district. When a class was over the limit, the teacher would have to file for relief, a weak joint committee came and investigated. If there was money, and if there was will, the class might get a remedy.

In the tentative agreement, that protection still remains, but is strengthened. The same class size guidelines are maintained and the pool of money to remedy oversized classes is increased more than five times, from $6 million to $35 million. The committee also has more power to award remedies.

The truly new part, however, is the automatically triggered hard cap on class sizes. Those classes that are over the limit by a set amount (differing based on grade level) will be immediately and automatically referred to the committee and relief for the those classes is mandated in the contract. There will be no need for a teacher to report their class and ask for help, the committee will automatically come out to relieve the problem.

Some have mistakenly read the higher numbers as eliminating the previous class size guidelines and raising them to allow even larger classes. That isn’t so. This language keeps the previous numbers and improves the enforcement mechanism quite a bit. Once the automatically triggered classes have been relieved, there is still a larger pool of money to relieve classes that may be over the existing guideline, but under the automatic trigger mark. Those classes will need to request relief, but will still have the stronger committee come to their aid and there will be more money available to solve their problems.

For those who want to know what the hard cap class size numbers are, from the Chicago Sun Times:
On class size, a new joint council will be created to address overcrowding. The council will get weekly updated data and will have $35 million per year to address situations on a case-by-case basis.

Overcrowded classrooms will only get relief, however, when they hit certain hard caps. Those limits are: 32 students in a K-3 class, 35 kids in grades 4-8 and 32 students in core high school classes. The district’s guidelines for normal-sized classes — ones it says it “shall aspire to stay within” — are 32 for K-3, 31 for grades 4-8 and 25 for core high school classes.

So remedies for overcrowding will only kick in when there are 4 or 7 students above what a normal class should have, according to the agreement.

For other details, again we go to the Sun Times piece:
The deal approved by the governing board had a five-year term, the length the city had offered from the start of talks. The union had wanted a three-year deal.

It includes 16% raises over the life of the deal, and virtually no increase in healthcare costs.

The teachers had pushed hard for additional preparation time for elementary school teachers, but it appeared the only new prep time in the contract was for kindergarten teachers.

The union received a guarantee that there will be a full-time dedicated nurse and social worker in every school by July 2023 with staffing ramping up from now until then.

The deal included a “net zero” increase in the amount of board-authorized charter schools over the contract’s lifespan.

You can read the entire Tentative Agreement at this Sun Times link if you scroll down. It is amusing that the back of each page says " FOR CTU MEMBERS ONLY" but was leaked so we have it.

Meanwhile back in NYC, what looks like one of the only militant unions left, Transport Workers Union Local 100, held a massive rally yesterday. They have gone five months without a contract, not almost five years like us, and they are angry. They are also threatening action. TWU International leader John Samuelson is quoted in the Daily News article on the rally.
“This is the biggest rally Local 100 has ever had in my time here,” TWU International president John Samuelsen told The News.

Samuelsen said the union’s members are at their wit’s end with the MTA. While the union is not legally allowed to go on strike, the workers could take things into their own hands if they don’t get a new contract soon, he noted.

“I don’t think transit workers are going to wait months for their fair shake,” said Samuelsen. “I think this situation will organically spin out of control, and the workers will say they’re done.”

As for TWU Local 100 President Tony Utano and other TWU leaders talking strike:
Local 100′s leaders said they are not officially planning a strike, but several of them shouted to the crowd that they will “shut it down” if the MTA does not meet their demands. They counted the crowd at roughly 5,000 members but said a late swell might have taken it up to 8,000 attendees.

A union has to at least be able to threaten a strike that everyone believes is real to have some real leverage. TWU Local 100 has that leverage.

While labor militancy is all around us, the UFT remains virtually silent on how its members are treated. Stop complaining and start organizing.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019


This is from the Massachusetts Teachers Association's online news update on the Dedham illegal strike that was settled on Sunday.

While the strike — the first by educators in Massachusetts since 2007 — was against the law, the agreement waives further court proceedings by the parties in exchange for the payment of costs incurred as a result of the action, such as the expense of police details.

The contract contains strong non-retaliation language protecting all DEA members — including those in other bargaining units who honored the picket lines.

Massachusetts is a liberal state that is quite similar to New York in that it outlaws government worker strikes. The Dedham teachers set a great modern day precedent by getting the Board of Education to waive further court proceedings in their agreement. This is what we need to do in New York if labor militancy finally comes to our state. Workers must stay out on strike until the employer agrees to waive the draconian fines of the Taylor Law.

As for more of the details of the new contract which passed the rank and file unanimously on Monday, the Dedham teachers did fairly well.
 The agreement also bolsters sexual harassment policies and addresses student use of personal technology in the classroom. The financial package covers four years, including retroactivity for a year missed during protracted negotiations that began nearly two years ago.

“I don’t think there is better evidence that collective action and solidarity work,” said [Union President Tim] Dwyer.

I totally agree but with our union leadership in NYC, we see none of that nor do we see many members demanding it.

Speaking of action, the Chicago Teacher strike continues. For readers interested in how a real union operates, I am posting the Bargaining Update section of the daily email I have received from the Chicago Teachers Union since the strike started.

Note they are going for more longevity increments for senior teachers. Chicago teachers reach maximum salary in 14 years. Many in NYC want to make it fewer years to reach maximum salary. Also notice that CTU does not want a five year contract. They see it as too lengthy. UFT's clueless leaders accepted a nine year contract and then extended it twice in 2018. They followed that up with an early contract where they didn't even bother to pressure the city or DOE for much of anything. That is a surefire way to disengage the membership.

Bargaining Update
The CTU’s bargaining team will return to the table first thing Wednesday morning in search of a just settlement to this strike. On Monday, there was further progress on a number of issues, including additional pay for paraprofessionals, who have for too long been forced to accept poverty wages; new increases for veteran teachers whose pay in prior contracts stagnated during the last 20 years of their career; and additional resources to alleviate oversized classes, short staffing, and inadequate funding for sports.

But significant issues are still unresolved, including the union’s demand for a three-year contract; increases in prep time, especially for elementary teachers; and the district’s push for more standardized testing.

CTU members were disappointed on Tuesday that CPS and the mayor refused to close the gap separating the two sides by providing an additional one half of one percent of CPS’ annual budget to land a tentative agreement with the CTU.

The Union held a Special House of Delegates meeting Tuesday evening. CPS shamelessly sent robocalls with misleading messages saying the meeting would vote on proposals. However, the purpose of the House meeting was to give a detailed presentation of where bargaining stands on both resolved and outstanding issues. In the MemberLink Portal, CTU leadership posted a detailed report on the history and status of the most prominent issues. The document is there for all members to read and discuss.

Our Union has been on strike for nine days, now, without resolution. It‘s important that our members measure what we have gained and what we are still determined to gain. With those things in mind, CTU members should discuss seriously the probabilities, risks and rewards to be gained by staying out. It will be up to our members to decide when we have won enough for our schools to accept an agreement and come off the picket lines. As President Sharkey noted the other night, we don’t want to be out on strike, but we are less concerned with a fast resolution than with a just resolution.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019


Gene Mann in the Organizer has a piece on our rights for letters in the file. We are printing it below in its entirety.

Letter for file: Your rights, with an important addendum
Before any letter is placed in your file, you must be given an opportunity to read it and acknowledge its receipt by signing it. If the letter is negative, you should consider writing a response, detailing why you disagree with its contents. There is no time frame by which your response must be written. You should speak with your chapter leader, who can help you write an appropriate response and advise you on any other possible course of action, including procedural matters that may be grievable. The response should be attached to the original letter in your file; your supervisor cannot respond to your response.

If a letter is written for your file outside the contractual time limits, you have a right to grieve to have that letter removed. In addition, an arbitrator has ruled that you have the right to grieve “if material is placed in a teacher or employee file under circumstances that are alleged to constitute a violation of substantive Collective Bargaining Provisions.” In other words, if the letter violates a substantive part of the contract, you can grieve the letter under that contractual article.

If the letter is not used as the basis for disciplinary charges within three years, you can and should have it removed from your file. Talk to your chapter leader about how to do this.

Important addendum!  If you are presented with a letter to file-whatever it says-sign it, date it, and return it, maintaining a copy for yourself.  Do NOT write on the document!  Not only will that impair the grievance process, if you enter into it, but we have even heard of  disciplinary charges being brought for “defacing a disciplinary letter!”

For many years as a chapter leader, I was able to get most file letters into the grievance process because the administration in writing the letter violated some other clause of the Contract. This includes Chancellor's Regulations as per Contract Article 20, Matters not Covered. 

Monday, October 28, 2019


From WCVB in Boston:
DEDHAM, Mass. —
Dedham teachers and school officials have agreed to a tentative deal to end the teacher strike that began Friday.

School officials said the new four-year collective bargaining agreement, one year of which is retroactive, ends a one-day strike and ensures that Dedham schools will be open Monday.

The deal comes at the end of a 15-hour bargaining session that spanned Saturday night and lasted into Sunday, officials said. The CBA is subject to ratification by the Dedham Education Association and an approval vote by the Dedham School Committee.

DEA President Tim Dwyer said he fully expects the teachers union to ratify the contract during a meeting at 4 p.m. Monday. Superintendent Michael Welch expects the deal will then be approved by the school committee.

The details of Sunday's agreement will be made public after the ratification and approval votes.

“This agreement is a major victory for Dedham educators and their students,” Dwyer said.

“As we have been saying, educators’ working conditions are students’ learning conditions. DEA members stood up for their profession and for their students,” said Rachel Dudley, chair of the DEA's bargaining team.

The Chicago Teachers Union strike continues for an eighth day. From WGN:
CTU and city officials are still millions of dollars apart as they seek to reach a deal to end what is now longest strike in more than 30 years.

The major sticking points are staffing and class size.

The teachers union wants counselors, nurses and librarians in every school. They are also calling for a reduction in class size.

CTU officials said students deserve better.

Mayor Lightfoot said she agrees, but says the city doesn't have enough money to meet all of the union's demands.

The mayor of Chicago did settle with SEIU Local 73 to end their strike. They are special education assistants, security guards, bus drivers and custodians.

Friday, October 25, 2019


Whenever I mention striking, I am told we can't in New York because government worker strikes are illegal in this state. Well, in Massachusetts, a neighboring Northeastern liberal state where public sector strikes are prohibited by law, teachers in the town of Dedham voted yesterday to strike. That strike began today.

This is from NBC Boston:
Schools in Dedham, Massachusetts, will be canceled on Friday as the school board anticipated a strike, which the teachers union overwhelmingly authorized in a vote Thursday afternoon.

The dispute is over the teachers' new contract, which the Dedham School Committee said has been under negotiation for nearly two years. An alert on the schools' page said all grades should not report on Friday.

"It's not what we want to do," said Tim Dwyer, the union's president. "We really want to focus on what we do, which is teaching kid. The idea that we now have to stand out in front and close the schools is sad."

"It has been very frustrating," said Rachel Dudley, the union's bargaining chair. "To feel like our voices aren't being heard by the other side."

The issues:
The two sides have been arguing over several issues, including salaries and health care. There is also disagreement over the sexual harassment policy, student cellphone use in class and unpaid hours for professional development.

The vote on the strike was 275-2. (No truth to the rumor that the two who voted no are the same two who comment on this blog that we should stop paying union dues. We need a real union now in NYC!)

The unlawfulness of the job action from CBS Boston:
It’s against the law for teachers to strike in Massachusetts. Before the Dedham teachers walked out, the Massachusetts Department of Labor Relations issued an order not to strike.

“We know that it’s disruptive, and they know that it’s disruptive, but they know that it’s important and that our work environment is their learning environment,” said Dedham Education Association President Tim Dwyer.

The last teacher strike in Massachusetts was back in 2007 in Quincy. Teachers were on the picket line for five days. At one point, a judge ordered them back to work because they were breaking the law. When the Quincy teachers refused, the union was fined daily.

“It is illegal, it’s not criminal, and we spend a lot of time teaching our students to stand up for ourselves and stand up for what’s right, and our members decided that it was time for us to stand up for what we feel is right,” Dedham Educators Association member Rachel Dudley told WBZ-TV.

Support from Senator Bernie Sanders (not a surprise) on Twitter:

Right now there is a movement of workers across the country who are taking back their power at a scale we have not seen in recent memory. I stand with educators in Dedham, Massachusetts. This takes courage. 

Thursday, October 24, 2019


I saw this piece at NPR entitled, "It's time to Get Something Back; Union Voices Are Getting Louder." It is a good analysis of the strike wave spreading throughout the country.

As autoworkers at General Motors plants around the country vote this week on whether to accept a new contract, workers elsewhere see an opportunity to demand their own chance in the driver's seat.

The U.S. is enjoying a record-long economic boom, but workers' slice of the pie has barely increased. After decades of relative silence, newly emboldened workers are increasingly vocal in demanding higher pay and better working conditions.

"We have given enough. It's time to get something back," declared Stacy Davis-Gates, vice president of the 25,000-member Chicago Teachers Union, which has been on strike since last Thursday.

2-Tiered Wages Under Fire: Workers Challenge Unequal Pay For Equal Work
2-Tiered Wages Under Fire: Workers Challenge Unequal Pay For Equal Work
Over the last two years, hundreds of thousands of teachers, nurses and factory workers have walked off the job. Last year, more workers went on strike than at any time since 1986.

"Working people have taken it on the chin for four decades," said Lawrence Mishel, a labor economist with the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute in Washington. "The workforce has been a tinderbox waiting to be lit. And if people see a way that they can solve their problems for themselves and their communities, they're going to take it."

Strikes are not always a panacea but every strike can move the labor center of gravity in the direction of the workers. This analysis of the UAW tentative deal that they are voting on shows the positives and negatives in that settlement.

Update Friday GM workers approved the deal 57% to 43%. For a ratification vote, that is fairly close. The 40 day strike is over.

We are also seeing Mayor Lori Lightfoot is now crying poverty with the Chicago teachers as the strike goes into a second week.

Maybe, Chilean workers and students have the right idea as there is a two day general strike occurring in that country. I've recommended this idea as a way to fight back since 2005. I love the slogan, "Chile has woken up."

I notice opting out of the union so as not to pay union dues is not on the agenda in these places.

In NY labor news, the Professional Staff Congress (CUNY teachers) has a new tentative contract.

The financial details:
The following increases shall apply on the dates listed below, except as modified in II.B. below.

10/01/2018 – 2%
10/31/2019 – 2% compounded
11/15/2020 – 2% compounded
11/15/2021  – 2% compounded
11/01/2022  – 2% compounded*

Tuesday, October 22, 2019


I read Elizabeth Warren's education plan and there are many truly positive points in there. She goes into great detail on how she would fix public schools, literally in fact, as one of her planks is to provide plenty of money to repair our crumbling schools.

Some highlights:

On funding:
My plan addresses each and every aspect of this problem. It starts by quadrupling Title I funding - an additional $450 billion over the next 10 years - to help ensure that all children get a high-quality public education.

But we need to do more than just increase funding. We also need to ensure that federal funds are reaching the students and schools that need it most. That’s why I’m committed to working with public education leaders and school finance experts to improve the way the federal government allocates this new Title I funding. And I would impose transparency requirements on this new funding so that we can understand what investments work best and adapt our approach accordingly.

On teacher pay and union organizing:
Provide funding for schools to increase pay and support for all public school educators: Pay for our public school educators is unacceptably low, and it’s putting incredible strain on them and causing many to burn out and leave the profession. My plan to quadruple Title I funding incentivizes states to shift their funding formulas to better support students in critical ways, such as by increasing teacher pay with the goal of closing the educator pay gap and also paying paraprofessionals and other education support professionals a living wage. It also means additional funds to ensure that classrooms are well-equipped with resources and supports so that teachers aren’t paying out of pocket. 

Strengthen the ability of teachers, paraprofessionals, and staff to organize and bargain for just compensation, for a voice in education policy, and for greater investment in public education: One of the best ways to raise teacher pay permanently and sustainably - and to give teachers more voice in their schools - is to make it easier for teachers to join a union, to bargain collectively, and to strike like educators did across 14 states in 2018-2019. I have led the effort to eliminate the ability of states to pass anti-union “right to work” laws, and I will make enacting that change a top priority. And as part of my plan for empowering American workers, I pledged to enact the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act, which ensures that public employees like teachers can organize and bargain collectively in each state, and authorizes voluntary deduction of fees to support a union.

On charter schools:
Ensure existing charter schools are subject to at least the same level of transparency and accountability as traditional public schools: Many existing charter schools aren’t subject to the same transparency and accountability requirements as traditional public schools. That’s wrong. That’s why I support the NAACP’s recommendations to only allow school districts to serve as charter authorizers, and to empower school districts to reject applications that do not meet transparency and accountability standards, consider the fiscal impact and strain on district resources, and establish policies for aggressive oversight of charter schools.

Here is part of the NAACP statement on their resolution calling for a moratorium on expanding charter schools: 
CINCINNATI – Members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Board of Directors ratified a resolution Saturday adopted by delegates at its 2016 107th National Convention calling for a moratorium on charter school expansion and for the strengthening of oversight in governance and practice.

On testing:
Eliminate high-stakes testing: The push toward high-stakes standardized testing has hurt both students and teachers. Schools have eliminated critical courses that are not subject to federally mandated testing, like social studies and the arts. They can exclude students who don’t perform well on tests. Teachers feel pressured to teach to the test, rather than ensuring that students have a rich learning experience. I oppose high-stakes testing, and I co-sponsored successful legislation in Congress to eliminate unnecessary and low-quality standardized tests. As president, I’ll push to prohibit the use of standardized testing as a primary or significant factor in closing a school, firing a teacher, or making any other high-stakes decisions, and encourage schools to use authentic assessments that allow students to demonstrate learning in multiple ways.

This looks like the Michael Mulgrew/Andrew Cuomo approach to testing. What does it mean that standardized tests can't be a primary or significant factor in closing a school, firing a teacher, or making any other high-stakes decisions? So if it is 40% of a decision that won't be primary or significant.

What does she mean by using authentic assessments that allow students to demonstrate learning in multiple ways? 

I see lots of wiggle room here to keep the high stakes testing going and just calling it something else.  Senator Warren does not have a great history when it comes to testing. There is Mulgrew like language to change from testing to assessments This is a little concerning.

Am I nitpicking?

This is what the Network for Public Education Action, who are applauding Senator Warren's stand on charter schools, say on the Elizabeth Warren page about testing:
During the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Hearing Fixing No Child Left Behind: Testing and Accountability, Senator Warren’s comments indicated that she views high-stakes standardized tests as the measure that must be used to hold States accountable for the federal tax dollars they receive. The video of the hearing is linked above and the full transcript is here.

Warren said, “If the states are going to get federal dollars to improve public education systems then we need to make sure that those dollars are not being wasted but that they are actually being used to improve education.”

Warren, along with three Democratic senators endorsed by DFER [Democrats for Education Reform], insisted on stronger accountability measures based on testing to gain their support for ESSA [Elementary and Secondary Schools Act].

There is a great deal to like in Senator Warren's education plan. That said, there are questions. 

Please read the plan for yourself. In the end, it is enjoyable that the candidates for President are moving in our direction. Times have certainly changed. If this is just pandering to teachers, at least we are worthy of being pandered to instead of vilified. The trick is to turn the pandering into better policy.

Monday, October 21, 2019


There are two Sue Edelman pieces in Sunday's NY Post on the schools.  They are basically updates on grade fraud and the Absent Teacher Reserves.

Here is what Sue reported on the NYC Department of Education not having a minimum student attendance policy:
Going to class is not required to receive a city diploma.

It’s not widely advertised, but under Department of Education rules, students cannot be denied credit or  graduation “based on lack of seat time alone.”

Under state law, school districts may adopt a “minimum attendance standard.” New York City does not. While city schools must take attendance, kids can still  pass or be promoted even if chronically absent, which is missing more than 10 percent of days.

Students can pass classes because there is no minimum seat time policy in New York City schools.  This isn't exactly new news. We have been writing about this since 2009. I guess it's news as Maspeth High School shows that the problem is worsening now. I used to think the high school diploma was being rendered meaningless because of pressure on administrators and teachers to pass everyone, regardless of student ability but since 2009, the students no longer have to even show up. We advocated for the enforcement of a minimum attendance requirement while serving on the UFT Executive Board when the meetings were still held at 260 Park Avenue South circa 2001.

I have said before that I was a lucky teacher.  When I got a job at Middle College High School in 2014, I discovered that the Principal enforced a seat time requirement. For the first time in my 32 year career, I had to defend passing grades for students who had more than 8-9 absences for the trimester. It was a good policy.  For the previous 28 years, Jamaica High School administrators never questioned me if I failed a student who seldom showed up. I understand there are extenuating circumstances but I can't comprehend how this grade fraud has not yet been stopped by anyone in authority. Teachers should not have to fight this alone but should do it as Chapters backed up by their Union.

Sue also has an article on the Absent Teacher Reserves.
The city still keeps 930 excess teachers on the payroll, and many other school employees without permanent jobs, The Post has learned.

As of this month, the tenured teachers alone cost the Department of Education close to $100 million a year in salary and benefits, but remain idle or serve as roving substitutes.

DOE officials refused multiple requests to reveal the number of guidance counselors, social workers, secretaries and others in the “Absent Teacher Reserve.”

Despite the surplus personnel, the DOE continues to beef up its workforce.

“We hired over 5,000 teachers over the summer,” Chancellor Richard Carranza boasted in a radio interview on Hot97 last month.

DOE spokeswoman Danielle Filson corrected Carranza, saying the department hired about 4,800 new “teachers, guidance counselors and social workers.”

As someone who was an ATR and has someone very close to me in the ATR pool, I find it quite uninformed that teachers are referred to as being "idle or serve as roving substitutes." When teachers in the ATR are given long term assignments, they are teaching a class like everyone else but with no job security in a particular school. In addition, roving substitutes can be a very difficult assignment when going into some NYC schools. I will say it is positive that Sue got the DOE to turn over ATR numbers for teachers but who knows how accurate any figures from the DOE are?

Friday, October 18, 2019


The more I read about the Chicago Teachers Union strike, the more respect I have for the teachers out there and their union leaders. They are striking over class size and staffing levels as much as raises. Salary and benefits are all that they are legally allowed to strike over but I don't hear calls for injunctions over what could be construed as an illegal strike.

The public looks like they have the backs of the teachers. I have done some more research and it is clear to me that Chicago teachers are not bad off financially but they can't be bought off with an offer of a decent raise. This is encouraging but as teacher militancy is now a national movement, we have to wonder why there is zero, absolutely zero militancy in NYC even though we have plenty of reasons to fight for a better deal. Let's do a little comparing.

Right now according to Chalkbeat, Chicago teachers start out at a little over $56,000 a year and max out at $108,242 per year after only 14 years (NYC teachers do not get to maximum until after completing 22 years). Factor in the cost of living which is 42% lower in Chicago compared to NYC and Chicago public school teachers earn a decent living. Add to this that the city is offering the teachers 16% salary increases over five years. The starting salary, if they just say yes, will be $64,960 a year in Chicago by 2024. That would be higher than the $61,070 starting pay New York City teachers will earn when the current contract ends in 2022. We would need two years at 6% total in NYC to catch up with their starting salary. The last time the UFT achieved two consecutive annual 3% increases was a while ago. The Chicago teacher maximum salary would rise to $125,561 if the union accepts the city's offer. Remember, top salary only requires 14 years of service to reach. After 14 year in NYC, a teacher with a Masters +30 credits will make $104,145 in 2022. Strike or no strike, Chicago will really not need the lower cost of living to beat NYC at almost all of the levels.

Any way you slice it, Chicago teachers, where teachers insist on a militant union, are doing better in terms of salary than the passive NYC teachers and our "do little" union.

Let's now look at the class size issue, a major focus of the CTU strike. When we examine contractual class size limits, Chicago before the strike doesn't look bad compared to NYC. In NYC, the contract says 25 maximum in kindergarten, 32 in elementary schools, 33 in middle schools and 34 in high schools except required music and phys ed which are permitted to go to a maximum of 50. There are of course exceptions to these ridiculously high limits that are easy to use and if the Department of Education routinely violates the limits, the remedy is determined by arbitrators. Resolutions have included one less professional period for the teacher with an oversize class. I have no idea how that helps kids.

For Chicago, this class size information comes from Patch:
Chicago's class size cap is 28 students in kindergarten through fifth grades, and 31 students in middle and high school. If a K-2 class has 32 or more students, the district must provide an additional teacher assistant, a demand won in the last contract. A joint district-union panel reviews classes exceeding the caps and seeks ways to mitigate the crowding.

Except for kindergarten, their limits are lower than NYC and Chicago teachers are striking over these caps and other staffing issues (more librarians, social workers, nurses). They want it in writing in the contract. They are demanding lower class size maximums and strict enforcement. Wow! Watch Jennifer Johnson if you have Facebook. 

I am not stating any of this to say that the CTU should be happy with what they are being offered so they should take the money and run. No, their union is doing right by their membership and their students. The rank and file is out on the picket lines and the streets rallying. I support them 100%. They will have better salaries, teaching conditions and learning conditions when this ends. I also hope they get a provision so if the district retaliates against them for striking by closing schools, they cannot fire the displaced teachers. 

What about the teachers here in NYC? We complain anonymously on social media about how terrible conditions are and some foolish individuals are dropping their union altogether so they can save union dues. Judging by what I am seeing out of Chicago and around the rest of the nation, we would be doing much better if we demanded a better union, not an end to the union.

Chicago average teacher salaries compared to other big cities from CBS Chicago. Notice the media spin against the teachers. I think their NYC figures are a little out of date but our salary schedule moves up very slowly so averages are low.

Thursday, October 17, 2019


Yesterday there were meetings of the Chicago Teachers Union House of Delegates and the United Federation of Teachers Delegate Assembly. There are detailed accounts of both meetings on the internet. In Chicago, they voted unanimously to go on strike today even while they are being offered 16% salary increases over 5 years.

In NYC, the UFT Delegates voted to support the CTU strike and the UAW strike against General Motors where there is a tentative agreement. (Update Friday: The UAW strike will continue until ratification vote.) The UFT also welcomed three City Council members as guests: Mark Treyger, Danny Dromm and Speaker Corey Johnson. President Michael Mulgrew said this according to the minutes from Arthur Goldstein after Speaker Johnson spoke:

Mulgrew—We have a lot of enemies looking to destroy our system. They say if NYC comes down entire country will fall. DeVos wants vouchers. We’re doing better than ever on achievement and dropout rates. Never hear enough. With city admin on way out, how do we move forward? NYC is under corrective action, can be used against us. What do you think we should be doing this year to move forward? How do we motivate DOE to stop power games and stupidity?

I have an answer: Have a militant union whose members, more so than their leaders, are demanding action.

Councilman Mark Treyger, a former NYC teacher and UFT Delegate, followed Mulgrew. I thought he made this very interesting point.

From Arthur's minutes of Treyger's remarks:
Special ed. is non-negotiable. Dealing with mandates. We need someone in DOE who knows rules. Their own person came to my hearing. I ask questions. Have DOK knowledge chart. Asked how many IEPs they have translated. They didn’t even know there was federal requirement. Let’s start with people who know what they’re doing. Let’s empower people who know more than them.

Well yeah, is the UFT going to demand or even promote and stand up for teacher empowerment?

On class size the UFT is claiming victory. From Mulgrew's report via Arthur's minutes:
We asked you to engage. At this time last year 400 schools 2K classes. Day ten this year 350 schools 1500 classes. At next level, we bet superintendents wouldn’t want this going above them. Were able to make it major issue. Ten days went from 350 to 105. We used to have this going on for seven months. Today only 87 schools with oversized classes. Lowest number of oversized classes in October in history of UFT. Will get rest done by Thanksgiving.

I recall when the UFT went to direct arbitration after the first ten school days as part of the 2002 contract. It was touted as a great victory to take the Superintendent and Chancellor out of the class size grievance process. Now, putting them back into the process is another big gain. While I applaud fewer oversize classes because they are resolved before they get to arbitration, the UFT allowed the DOE to make a mockery out of the class size grievance process. Also, what happens if there is again leadership at Tweed or City Hall that doesn't care about oversize classes? Putting the Superintendents in the process won't mean anything then. The long term solution is to force the DOE to follow state law on lower class size (I don't know why the UFT did't join the parent lawsuit on this issue.) or to make it a contract demand to lower class size or at least to close the loopholes that the DOE can drive a truck through. We haven't put lower class size numbers in the contract in about fifty years.

In Chicago, they are striking today over the class size issue as well as staffing of other positions such as librarians and nurses. 

Here are some of what the Delegates at their House of Delegates meeting stated yesterday as reported on by George Milkowski in Substance News:
At this point he (CTU President Jesse Sharkey) started to go through an 8 page summary of the CPS proposals and CPS responses, if any. He said delegates may ask questions with a five minute time limit on each page. No one asked questions. Everyone but one delegate who went to the mic had some strong comments, among them were:

Sue Sebesta – We cannot agree to a five year contract.

Alix Gonzalez – We need to expand sustainable community schools.

Tom Lalagos – He serves on the class size panel and will resign if class sizes are not reduced. He doesn’t want to be part of a sham. One delegate stressed that veteran teachers are at the top of the pay scale in 14 years and hence have not had a raise. She said we need more steps. The Ravenswood School delegate said that elementary prep time has to be gained. Without it, it is a deal-breaker. Frank McDonald said that if we have to still deal with REACH (evaluation system), then we need a 5% raise per year as compensation

Regarding REACH, the Fulton School delegate said teachers are required to provide documentation as part of their evaluation but the evaluators are NOT required to read any of it. Our proposals are that the evaluators be required to read it but CPS responded that the evaluators would not have time to read all that material.

Delegate Oscar Ortiz asked about how are teachers to deal with kids who are incorrigible. Jesse said that this comes down to proper staffing in the schools. CPS proposes to increase the number or nurses, social workers, or clinicians by 20%, but that a school would only get one new person of those possible positions. It would be up to the principal to decide on which type of position to fill.

At this point a motion passed to move the agenda and the House voted unanimously to start the strike tomorrow.

From this morning's CBS local news in Chicago:
Chicago teachers went on strike on Thursday after failing to reach a contract deal with the nation's third-largest school district.

Both sides have been negotiating for months over salaries, class sizes and the number of support staff in schools, such as librarians and nurses. Teachers began picketing in front of schools Thursday morning, calling for the district and city to give in to their demands.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019


This was sent to me by a reader. It is from the Chief Leader.

The City Council is weighing a package of bills that would create a city agency to help senior citizens find jobs and require the city to investigate age discrimination in the workplace.

“We’re tired of being swept under the rug,” said City Council Member Margaret Chin at an Oct. 8 City Hall rally. “Age discrimination creates a toxic workplace culture that results in job loss, financial strain and perpetuates the myth that when you hit a certain age, you are no longer valued in the economy.”

60% Report Bias

More than 60 percent of workers across the country 45 or older reported experiencing or witnessing age discrimination on the job, according to an AARP survey. A report by the Urban Institute and ProPublica using data from the University of Michigan Health and Retirement Study found that 56 percent of respondents 50 or older said that they were pushed out of a longtime job. Just 1 in 10 were able to find another job paying the same salary.

I am fairly certain that most of the Absent Teacher Reserves who are over 45 and many other workers beyond 45 working in or pushed out of the New York City school system would say they are experiencing or have experienced age discrimination.

Fair Student Funding where schools have to pay more on their budget to have a senior staff and closing or redesigning schools to get rid of senior teachers are examples of age discrimination. It would be helpful if we have more recourse to fight this type of discrimination based on age.

Sunday, October 13, 2019


The New York City Independent Budget Office on October 11, 2019 released its latest public school indicators report. Thanks to Harry Lirtzman for sending it out to me. The statistics are somewhat revealing. I focused on the sections on teachers and principals which mostly cover the decade from 2005 to 2015 so we can see the impact of the Klein-Bloomberg years. The data shows that NYC teachers are much more likely to leave the system than principals. Principals, as we all suspected, have excellent job retention rates.

Let's first examine the teacher retention numbers. The overall turnover back in 2000-2001 was 79% of new teachers survived year one and came back, while after five years only 52% stayed in the system and after ten years it was just 44%.

The 2002, 2005, and 2006 contracts with all of their givebacks, which basically destroyed the job for many veteran teachers, did help with teacher retention as major salary increases were included in all three contracts. (I know, I know that much of the increases were time for money swaps but hey it was still more money.) Here are the retention numbers for teachers hired in 2004-05. 86% were still in the system after a year while 56% made it for five years and 47% lasted a decade. The difference in teachers lasting a decade from 44% to 47% isn't that great but the needle moved.

The numbers for 2013-14 reveal that 60% stayed up to five years.  We have to concede more teachers were staying in the system in 2014 compared to 2001 when teachers maxed out at $70,000 a year.

I guess that those hired at the height of the Great Recession were more likely not to have great job prospects outside of teaching. We have yet to see current five year retention statistics to see how the inferior Tier VI pension system, the stronger economy, the extra year to achieve tenure or the new evaluation system have impacted on teacher retention.

We also learn from the IBO that 60% of teachers in 2014 who went through traditional teacher training programs stayed in their original school after four years but only 41% of Teaching Fellows and a very tiny 24% of Teach for America teachers were still in their original school after four years.  Teach for America teachers truly are mostly temps.

Now we go to the retention statistics for NYC principals. In 2008-2009, at the height of the Klein-Bloomberg principal empowerment years, 100% of principals were still in the system a year after their first assignment. That figure held pretty steady as 99% stayed  over a year by 2013-14. The five year retention rate for the 2009-2010 cohort was 82%.  That is a pretty healthy retention rate.

The IBO report also shows that the number of general ed teachers in NYC went down from 2007 (62,867) to 2015 (54,008) while special education doubled from around 11,000 to 22,000 during roughly the same time period. This is somewhat surprising as it seems special education services were denied or withdrawn much more compared to the pre-Joel Klein years. The overall number of teachers peaked at 78,862 in 2008-09. It dropped steadily but recovered a little after Bloomberg left office. The latest year covered by this report is 2014-15 where there were 75,040 teachers. My guess is the proliferation of charter schools is the cause of the decline.

On the other hand, nobody will be astonished to learn that the number of principals rose from 1,443 in 2005 to 1,726 in 2015 and that principals in 2015 had less teaching experience than in 2005. More small schools means lots more principal jobs.

For anyone who wants to use this data to argue that the unions are not doing their jobs, maybe you should look at the Council of Supervisors and Administrators as a more successful union than the UFT. It pains me to type that.

Friday, October 11, 2019


This is from Yahoo News:

Once upon a time, Americans graduated from high school or college and entered the workforce, typically working for the same employer for a very long time. These jobs offered more than just a reliable paycheck -- they also promised retirement income for life, thanks to company-funded pensions.

In the heyday of pensions in 1980, roughly 38% of workers had one. And though pensions remain relatively common in the public sector (government jobs), pensions have largely disappeared in the private sector. Their return appears unlikely.

Only 18% of private-sector workers had access to a pension in 2017, and just 15% participated in one, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Over time, the number of private-sector workers who have access to a pension is largely expected to trend toward zero.

This is from CBS from Tuesday, October 8:
General Electric announced it will freeze the pensions of 20,000 U.S. salaried workers, a measure designed to reduce its pension deficit and trim debt. The move will shave GE's pension deficit by as much as $8 billion and its net debt by as much as $6 billion.

Further down:
Like other corporations, GE has been phasing out its pension amid a push toward self-directed retirement plans such as 401(k)s. GE said it hasn't allowed new workers into its pension plan since 2012.

Please look at the reduction in TDA interest from 8.25 percent to 7 percent for NYC teachers and the passage of Tier VI for NYS government employees in 2012 in the context of this anti-worker world we live in.

If the business leaders finish off defined benefits pensions in the private sector, do you think the powers that be will stop? They will come after our pensions in the public sector. Anonymous comments blaming the UFT leadership for everything and dropping your union dues will not help.

Please recall that unions, including ours, led the highly successful campaign in 2017 against the Constitutional Convention which could have put our pensions in jeopardy. Protecting defined benefit pensions is important.

Tier VI is terrible compared to tiers I to V but it is better than nothing. To get actual improvements for the Tier VI teachers, we have to fight collectively as a much stronger union. If we do not, we will not make gains and eventually we could lose our defined benefits pension like they have in the private sector.

Thursday, October 10, 2019


This is from Chalkbeat:
Fewer states are using student test scores to evaluate teachers, according to a report released Tuesday by the National Council on Teacher Quality. As of this year, 34 states require scores to be used in teacher evaluations, down from a high of 43 in 2015.

The decline illustrates the continued retreat of an idea that took education policy by storm during the first half of the decade, but proved divisive and difficult to implement.

Does evaluating teachers based on student test scores work?
A study of a Gates Foundation-funded project showed that tougher evaluations failed to yield any clear benefits in a number of states.

These terrible education ideas just won't go away. A big cause of this is our UFT continuing to support teacher evaluations based on student scores on assessments. We have to change this. Dropping union dues won't do that. Becoming an activist just might.

Our petition to completely overhaul the teacher evaluation system needs to take off again. Tell five or more teachers or friends. Spread the word beyond this inner circle.

Wednesday, October 09, 2019


When there is difficulty with students who don't succeed in elementary and secondary schools, often despite heroic efforts from teachers and other professionals, many schools are closed or redesigned and educators are forced out. We are the scapegoats of school reform. We are easy targets.

Students have a right to an education but in the 21st Century, that right has been expanded in certain schools so it seems now there is almost a right to a high school diploma. If too many students fail, even if they do no work or don't show up, teachers are held accountable.

Whether the kids themselves, their parents, the school system, politicians, philanthropists, poverty or institutionalized racism are the true culprits is not my central focus in this piece. I clearly don't believe the vast majority of teachers are responsible for students not ending up ready for college of adult life.  Teachers have been exposing the grade fraud in many schools with the help of NY Post reporter Sue Edelman.

What is clear is way too many students receiving a grade inflated New York City High School Diploma are unprepared for university study. Please don't tell me to look at the college or career ready statistics. Instead, look at how many pupils receive a college degree.

Let's go to the numbers from the City University of New York, where many of our high school graduates in NYC attend college, to see what the on time graduation rates are.

First, the community colleges:
As of the fall of 2018, 9% of students who entered CUNY two year colleges in 2016 had earned their Associates Degree. That's 9% who earned a two year degree in two years. Go to the link above to verify.

How about the four year CUNY colleges?
Of the cohort entering as freshmen in 2014, by 2018 26.7% had earned a four year Bachelor's Degree in four years.

I am not criticizing the colleges or CUNY as an institution for not graduating more students on time. Many of the high school graduates who are entering CUNY, mostly from New York high schools, are not ready for college. Obviously, there are still standards at the City University as students are not pushed through. College degrees still mean something.

Despite these statistics, there is no call to privatize CUNY or turn the colleges into charter schools. I don't think they are retraining all of the professors either or threatening to redesign the low performing colleges by replacing the professors and making them Absent Professor Reserves at other colleges.

I am not advocating for high school to be like college but we do need reasonable standards (for example, we used to have a 90% attendance requirement) and if students don't meet them, look beyond blaming teachers and schools to see what we can reasonably to to change things.

Tuesday, October 08, 2019


We get new readers all the time so instead of writing a new post with updated numbers on the double dipping the UFT is doing on the lump sum payments coming to most of us in October 2019 (anyone is welcome to provide 2019 numbers in the comments), I am copying below  last year's post on the double dues that the UFT takes from us. Union dues were taken from the original checks back in 2009-2011 when we did the actual work for which we are now receiving money back because we should have been paid at a higher rate back then.

The lump sum payments are essentially an interest free loan we gave to the city from 2009-2011 that we are still waiting until 2020 to be paid back in full. In 2008, DC 37 and NYC negotiated a contract with a 4% +4% pattern for raises for NYC municipal employee unions. The tradition of pattern bargaining then took effect where other unions asked for and received the same raises as the union that set the pattern. However, in an unprecedented move, then Mayor Michael Bloomberg refused to give those pattern raises to UFT members so we went almost five years without a contract.

In 2014, new Mayor Bill de Blasio falsely asserted that the city was broke so he claimed the city could not afford to give the UFT the back-pay they owed us. Instead, the city agreed to give us paltry raises and pay us back the money we were owed in those pattern raises from 2009-11 in small doses. UFT President Michael Mulgrew bought the mayor's ridiculous argument that the city had no money and unfortunately 75% of the teachers voted yes on the 2014 contract so we are still waiting for half of our money from 2009-2011. 25% will come to most of us in October. The UFT is getting their slice of the pie by taking extra dues. This is what we posted last October.

October 7, 2018

Go to the the DOE Payroll Portal to see what your 25% of the money the city owes us from 2009-2011 amounts to for October 15, 2018.


UFT dues, which are normally $60.36 per pay period, more than doubled to $143.67 for one teacher for this pay period.

The generic term for the extra $83.31 the UFT is taking is thievery since we paid union dues on this money when we were paid for these pay periods years ago.

As I say every year when the city repays us back part of the very large interest free loan we made to the city, the UFT before Michael Mulgrew never took union dues from retroactive money that was owed to us because we already paid union dues on the paychecks that this money is based on.

This should be a campaign issue in the upcoming 2019 union election.

Needless to say, UFT double dipping did not become an election issue in 2019. It should also not be a dumb excuse to drop out of the UFT and make us a weaker union with fewer members. For those who want to read my lengthy explanation on why dropping out is pure selfishness, it is copied below. I'll go back to having some original thoughts again soon.

May 15, 2019

On just about every topic we write about recently concerning the schools in New York City, one or two or sometimes more comments are written saying that routine extensions of probationthe broken testing systemschool on Monday, December 23, etc. are just more reasons why we should stop paying union dues and drop out of the UFT. I disagree with these commenters but not because you don't have a point that UFT advocacy leaves much to be desired. 

I agree wholeheartedly on this point and nobody has been a more robust critic of the UFT in public than me, including while serving on the UFT Executive Board and at the Delegate Assembly. However, the commenters who want to drop out provide no viable alternative to the union we have. You say the UFT doesn't support us so to protest we should stop paying union dues. Short term, you will keep more money but long term you are dooming all of us to much more and deeper misery. Quitting the UFT is not the answer unless you are organizing something better which I see no sign of anywhere in the New York City teaching force.

Understanding all of the UFT's faults, including a lack of a real democratic structure, let us still acknowledge that NYC teachers during the current contract will eventually start out earning $61,000 per year and max out after 22 years making over $128,00 per annum with good benefits and, except for Tier VI, a very good pension. Do you think our salaries, benefits and pensions are in any way, shape or form possible without a union? Be truthful, please if there are comments.

Beyond the wages and benefits, you say the UFT doesn't defend us very strongly and in many cases they merely go through the motions by pretending to advocate for members. I agree there is some truth here. UFT's advocacy is not full force like say the way PBA President Patrick Lynch defends his members or TWU's John Samuelson supports his.  Let's accept it here as a given that the UFT is not always behind teachers 100% although I am sure many who work for the Union would disagree with that assertion.

The question then becomes this: What are you going to do about the sorry state of the UFT in many schools? If the answer is you are going to drop out and keep some more of your money, well how does that help our cause?

The argument I have heard is that if we all starve the UFT beast, then the Union leadership will be forced to work harder to support us to win back our dues money. There is a giant flaw in this argument as I see it. Many in the UFT leadership are basically incapable of changing and dues money or no dues money, they aren't becoming a militant union on behalf of their members. It is not in President Michael Mulgrew's DNA. Any show of activism is purely for show. The only game he and many of his Unity Caucus followers will play is the political game to try to convince the politicians to support us. They do play this game well at times.

These are not great political times for unions but we have kept a core of  a decent  salary and benefits. The UFT will still play the political game whether they have $100 million in the Union treasury or 100 pennies. If they only have 100 pennies, they will just be even weaker advocates for the members than now. If thousands of UFT members drop out and are not organized into anything, do you think the city is going to say we better listen to the teachers? No, we will all be that much weaker.

Do you truly feel that Michael Mulgrew is going to become Eugene Debs if half of us leave in order to convince the other half to stay? It won't happen. The militancy has to come from the rank and file. It will have a much greater impact if those militants are UFT members.

Potential defectors need to face reality. There is absolutely no evidence or historical precedent that anyone can find showing that weakening unions by dropping out and leaving the union with fewer paying members and thus fewer resources leads to improved wages, benefits or better working conditions. Find me an example, just one, where this has worked and I will listen.

There is plenty of evidence, however, that working people in states that have right to work laws  (unions can't force workers to join a union or pay a fair share fee if a non-union member) do worse economically. 

From the Economic Policy Institute 2018 study comparing right to work with non-right to work states:

  • Wages in RTW states are 3.1 percent lower than those in non-RTW states, after controlling for a full complement of individual demographic and socioeconomic factors as well as state macroeconomic indicators. This translates into RTW being associated with $1,558 lower annual wages for a typical full-time, full-year worker.
  • The relationship between RTW status and wages remains economically and statistically significant under alternative specifications of our econometric model.
Now that we are right to work in the public sector nationally after the Supreme Court ruled last June that government employees cannot be forced to join a union or pay fair share fees for what the unions do, those of us who are union dissidents are left with four choices:

1-We can shut up rather than be critical and ask to join the in crowd (become Unity UFT cheerleaders).

2-We can quit our union, go home and hope for the best.

3-We can try to form a better union.

4-We can attempt to bring about change from within the union while still being critical of its flaws. 

I still believe, until someone can convince me otherwise, that choice 4 is the way forward. We are better off staying in the UFT, even if we despise much of what our Union's leadership does, or rather often doesn't do, to defend us. Change happens in schools when we persuade our colleagues that it is in our collective interest to be active and force the UFT to support us. Dropping out to save some money each check is the wrong answer; it is pure "me only" selfishness.

Monday, October 07, 2019


This is from Diane Ravitch's blog. The title: "New York City Joins Forces with Corporate Reformers."

From Ravitch:
Mayor Bill DeBlasio joined in partnership with Laurene Powell Jobs’ XQ Institute and the hedge-funders’ Robin Hood Foundation to create new schools and transform existing schools. The corporate reformers are not offering much money—only $15 million (crumbs from the billionaires’ table)—but they are getting the Mayor to admit that amateur “reformers” know more than the city’s professional educators. You might say that this deal is a vote of no-confidence in Chancellor Richard Carranza.

Leonie Haimson, the executive director of Class Size Matters, has been consistently critical of the DeBlasio administration for ignoring the importance of Class size reduction. She is also critical of this alliance. On the NYC Parents blog, she wrote:

Robin Hood is spending “up to $5M” to create up to “10 New Imagine schools” – and will be involved in the selection process — which means the DOE is giving up authority over the design of these schools to the assorted #corpreformers there for as little as $500K each. #XQ is funding $10M for “up to 10 HS” either new or redesigned schools.

Thus the DOE must be putting in $17M more – to create or “transform” 35 additional schools, as the application specifies that “20 of the 40 schools selected will be existing schools to redesign, and 20 will be new schools.”

In other words, she says, NYC is “a cheap date.”

Even the NY Post and right wing Manhattan Institute are smiling at this initiative. It looks like Bloomberg's new schools all over again.

The UFT is of course on board.

“We know our schools are more successful when parents, educators, students and community are at the table, deciding what their school needs to engage, support and enhance education. We need buy-in from the children and adults in the building as well as the community at large,” said Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers.

Friday, October 04, 2019


One of my biggest complaints with UFT leadership is they don't demand much from the city or the Department of Education. When I was on the UFT Executive Board serving on the Contract Negotiating Committee, I told Randi Weingarten that if Joel Klein was demanding an 8 page contract that would take away virtually all of our rights, we had to respond by demanding Great Neck conditions to counter that. Randi said that we have to appear to be reasonable and can't demand more. She told us we would look extreme. The result was the center of gravity for negotiations for the 2005 contract moved toward the city and we ended up accepting the 2005 contract with its horrible givebacks and the extension the following year.

I served again on the Contract Negotiating Committee under Michael Mulgrew starting in 2009, hoping for a change in direction from a different leader. This time it wasn't me rather it was my friend Julie Woodward who rose during negotiations to say that our contract demands were milquetoast. (I remember she used that exact word.) If you want to know why we never get anywhere, a primary cause of our stagnation at best as a union is we demand very little in negotiations.

Ask for very little and you will receive almost nothing. Ask for more and you may just actually get more. This is "Negotiations 101" and the city and DOE use our timid stances against us. The city-DOE were very successful in 2005 and have been trying to finish off the job of completely crippling the UFT ever since. Our "Let's be Reasonable and Responsible" strategy fortunately is not being copied by unions around the country.

The Detroit Free Press offers a behind the scenes look at the General Motors-United Auto Workers negotiations. That strike has gone on for 19 days. Experienced negotiators talk in this piece about what goes on prior to contract talks:

The collective bargaining process starts 12 to 18 months before the two parties square off across a big table. 

“The union negotiations process can be a very daunting task even for the most seasoned labor relations leaders. So it’s never too early to start the bargaining preparation process," said [former Fiat Chrysler director of labor economics Colin] Lightbody in the webinar Bargaining Preparation.

Both sides usually review previous negotiations, study old notes and analyze the personalities of the other sides' bargainers.  

“In negotiations, past behavior is often a good predictor of future behavior. Are there any patterns? For example, does the union initially ask for general wage increases in every year of the contract, but then later settle for a general wage increase in year one and then lump sum payments in subsequent years of the contract?” Lightbody said.

In negotiating with the UFT, the city and DOE do the studying and figure out quickly the UFT will ask for little and settle for even less. Do you think they get hysterical laughing when they know how soft the UFT will be?

The Detroit Free Press piece goes on by quoting Art Schwartz, a former GM labor negotiator, on the days leading up to the actual bargaining:
“We used to call it being in the locker room,” it means you haven’t taken the field yet. You’re trying to figure out the union’s position, get cost and come up with a list of demands. Both sides know they have to move, so the first offer on both sides tends to be extreme and that is when bargaining begins."

As stated already, the UFT does not take any extreme positions, and has not in many years. I know this having served on two Contract Negotiating Committees. We lose before the process starts.

Someone is going to comment that I can't compare the UFT to a private sector negotiation. Well how about comparing the UFT to the Chicago Teachers Union where 94% voted to authorize a strike now set for October 17? CTU teachers were offered 16% pay increases over five years. Why did management make such a substantial offer that has not been accepted? Because the CTU asked for a whole lot more than money in their contract demands.

Here is an excerpt from a January piece on the start of bargaining:
Pay and benefit increases are atop the union’s list of demands, as [CTU President Jesse] Sharkey said CPS’ pay rate has fallen below other districts. But the union is also pushing for more investments inside the classroom, calling for reduced class sizes and new hires to help fill critical staffing shortages.

“We will be told these demands are unrealistic, the price tag is too high, it’d be nice but it’s just too expensive. Bullcrap,” Sharkey told media Tuesday.

“If we can afford a billion dollars for [the] Riverwalk, a billion dollars for Lincoln Yards, then we can afford a billion dollars to invest in the children of the city of Chicago for our future," he said. 

Union leaders have long called for additional counselors, nurses and librarians in their schools and are now demanding improved staffing ratios.  They also want the district to put an end to student-based budgeting and add 100 sustainable community schools on the South and West sides the city.

We are told in NYC that we can't demand lower class sizes because the money would have to come from decreasing teacher raises. The city only has so much money and anything to lower class size or lower guidance ratios would have to come from some of the funds set aside for our salary increases. In Chicago, the Chicago Teachers Union doesn't care about how they will look. They are demanding more than a raise.

Now you will tell me that the CTU doesn't have the Taylor Law to contend with where public sector employees in NYS are fined two days pay for each day out on strike. That doesn't seem to worry Transport Workers Union Local 100. New York City Transit Workers have been without a contract since May. Have you seen their demands? Their demands last contract were seven pages long. Nobody will call their demands milquetoast. Clearly, they did better than the UFT at the bargaining table in the prior round. Now look at their hard hitting television commercials that they have just released.

You don't have to keep taking the punches in the stomach teachers and other UFT members. Demand a whole lot more and don't take no for an answer. 2022 when our contract is up is not that far off. The UFT acted like a real union at one time. It can happen again. It's up to all of us to make it happen.