Monday, December 30, 2019


Economist Ezra Klein interviewed fellow economist Paul Krugman for a podcast. It is a very interesting listen. Vox transcribed much of it.

The best part for me was the discussion on the robot apocalypse.  In Krugman's view, rising inequality is caused in large part by labor losing power rather than automation. Anybody who has worked in the schools in New York City in the last quarter century has witnessed that worker power deterioration personally.

From the Vox transcript:

Is the robot apocalypse coming for us all?
Ezra Klein
You’ve been criticizing Andrew Yang’s robot apocalypse theories recently. I think it’s intuitive to people that if we had more automation emerging that that would be bad for the economy and bad for jobs. But economists say the problem in the economy is that productivity growth has slowed down in recent decades, especially compared to what it was in the post-World War II era. And so if we were actually seeing what the dire robot people say we’re seeing, it would actually be good for the economy.

So is the problem that we have too many robots coming for our jobs or that we have too few?

Paul Krugman
We keep on hearing about how radical and impressive new technology is, but output per worker hour is growing very slowly. And automation is just a kind of mechanization that allows you to do more stuff with fewer workers. So I think what is actually happening is the kinds of technological change we’re seeing now are ones that are flashy and very visible to people like you and me, but the basic way we live our lives and do business haven’t changed all that much.

Now, there’s another question: Is [automation] good or bad for ordinary workers? And the answer is: it depends. Historically, there have been periods when, at least, significant groups of workers have definitely been hurt by automation. There have been other periods when the benefits of automation have been very broadly shared. But I think currently it’s a moot point because automation is not really happening at all. The idea that robots are taking away the jobs of lots of American workers just doesn’t seem to be true.

Ezra Klein
There’s a great piece in the book where you say the way you do your work is to “listen to the Gentiles” — listen to the experiences people are having, even outside of what the economics profession can see. So what do you take from the fact that it feels so true to people that technology is reshaping the economy and the technology is hurting them? Maybe there is something that the economic data is simply missing.

Paul Krugman
That could certainly be true. But I am not hearing a lot of workers talking about how robots are taking their jobs. That actually seems to be more of an elite thing.

Remember the skills gap about five years ago? Everybody important knew that American workers just didn’t have the skills to be employed in the modern economy. And then all of a sudden we have unemployment below 4 percent. But the skills gap stuff was not coming from workers saying they didn’t have the skills to operate this stuff. It was coming from Jamie Dimon and people like that. My sense is that the robot apocalypse is not actually a grassroots perception. It’s actually a particular part of elite perception.

Ezra Klein
That’s an interesting sociological point. You had a great piece on the skills gap argument and how it played a particular political sociological role at the time, which was to say that the problem is the workers themselves, and not rich people or bad policy just siphoning off money from the economy. Is that the argument here: Robots are in certain ways an out for elites who want to suggest that the pain in the economy isn’t their fault?

Paul Krugman
From where I sit, the problem of rising inequality in America is a problem of power. It’s because we crushed our labor movement and allowed firms to gain monopoly power. It’s because we set the rules of the game in a way that have really disempowered ordinary workers. That’s not an appealing vision for a lot of people who are themselves successful. They like the story that it’s about technology — that it’s all about these fancy new machines. It’s something less confrontational than saying this is all about power.

Saturday, December 28, 2019


Just a quick reminder for eligible UFT members that the Teacher's Choice allocation that was in the November 29 pay must be spent by January 12, 2020.

Accountability forms are due on January 17, 2020. Start looking for those receipts for school supplies you have purchased since August.

Please don't miss deadlines because then you will have to pay back any unspent allocation to the Department of Education.

Friday, December 27, 2019


Bobby Halkitis and his husband Perry have contacted us on several occasions over Bobby's discontinuance. They are fighting back. It is encouraging when a teacher steps up and takes legal action to defend themselves against the New York City Department of Education that often treats employees like dirt. We wish Bobby all the best in his legal action that was covered in the NY Post:

A former social studies teacher at an Upper East Side public middle school was relentlessly hectored by students and colleagues — and eventually let go — because he is gay and stood up for a bullied student, a new lawsuit alleges.

During his two-year tenure as a full-time teacher at Robert F. Wagner Middle School, Robert Halkitis suffered a campaign of harassment that included vandals scrawling a slur on his bulletin board and a student calling him a “f—ing f—-t” in his classroom, alleges a lawsuit filed in Manhattan federal court on Monday.

The torment also included a school clerk suggesting that he was having a sexual relationship with a male colleague on school grounds, court papers say.

Halkitis’s sexual orientation wasn’t the only reason he lost his job — he often stood up for a “non-binary, gender non-conforming student” who was bullied throughout middle school for their gender expression, he alleges.

According to court papers, Halkitis informed school principal Jennifer Rehn-Losquadro — also a defendant in the suit — about the bullying and was told that she would “look into it.” But Halkitis claims that the student’s reports of harassment were not included in the school’s Online Occurrence Reporting System report to the Department of Education.

In June, Halkitis received word that his contract was being discontinued but was not given a reason. This came after Halkitis received ratings of “effective” on his annual teacher assessment. 

I find it difficult to understand when teachers are rated effective and are then discontinued.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019


I hope everyone had a great time on their well earned day off yesterday. NYC teachers and parents won the day off by pressuring the UFT to fight instead of accepting a school calendar that originally had school scheduled for December 23 for the first time ever when Christmas Eve fell on a Tuesday.

We were happy to publicize the historically awful calendar the UFT was consulted on and apparently agreed to. Our original post on the issue received over 10,400 hits. One of those hits came from NY 1 education reporter Jillian Jorgensen who featured my family in her story on school being open on December 23. This helped to push parent and teacher pressure on the State Education Department and the New York City Department of Education.  UFT got on board for sure at that point. In September, the calendar was finally revised. My family was able to travel last Saturday as opposed to having to wait until today.

I was a little conflicted about doing the story with NY 1 because of their labor record but life does involve compromises. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 3 strike against NY1's parent company Charter-Spectrum has surpassed 1,000 days. The workers held a rally at City Hall yesterday and two of them were featured in this Queens Chronicle piece which we have copied in full below.

Strikers suffer another holiday season
Dec. 22 marks 1,000 days of their strike against Spectrum

“I used to love the holidays. Now I become the Grinch, I really do,” Tatianna Cabezas said from her mother’s living room couch with her therapy dog, Scooby, in her lap. “At this point I don’t go anywhere. I don’t want to celebrate anything.”

Cabezas, along with 1,800 fellow Charter Communication strikers, is entering her third holiday season without the security of a job. Rather than celebrating the holidays, the strikers note a solemn anniversary — Dec. 22, the first night of Chanukah, marks 1,000 days on strike.

“We’re fighting, and we continue to fight,” said Cabezas, who is a striking captain. “I hope I’m not fighting a pointless battle. I do hope it does boil down to our favor and we get what’s owed to us.”

The strike began on March 28, 2017. The strikers, members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers 3 union, refused to return to work after Charter Communications, also known as Spectrum, allegedly cut pension and healthcare obligations. Charter said the union wasn’t taking a great deal that included raises for most members, though IBEW Local 3 claimed most of the proposed raises reflected the state minimum wage hike.

Cabezas had worked as an installer and troubleshooter for Spectrum while living in Flushing, but has since moved back into her parents’ tiny Bronx apartment.

“I lost my apartment ... I had to give up my car ... I was at one point living out of my car because I was too proud to come back to my parents’ house and admit my failures,” Cabezas said.

Cabezas said her decision to join the strike and “stand up for what’s right” has cost her more than material items — her ex-wife used the strike as motivation to divorce Cabezas, taking their two children with her.

“I don’t get to see my kids because of my taking the decision of not going to work and being on strike and standing up for what’s right,” said Cabezas.

Despite striking against Spectrum, Cabezas and her fellow strikers are still employees of the company. The union has helped its members find work since the strike began in 2017, but cannot guarantee the same wages they had previously been earning. Many strikers are forced to accept entry-level jobs despite their expertise — Cabezas said she makes less than half of what she had been making at Spectrum.

Cabezas is in the process of claiming bankruptcy, a decision she hopes will ultimately aid her financial struggles, but is currently costing her extra expenses.

The holiday season is a painful reminder of the strike’s consequences for Cabezas, which has prompted her to ignore the season altogether.

“I just don’t go to family events,” she said. “There’s nothing more embarrassing then showing up to places when you can’t afford to give gifts to anyone.

“I actually did try to go last year with my parents and I saw everyone give out gifts, and I’m there, and everyone’s hugging their children and I didn’t get to hug my children. Everyone’s giving out the gifts and I didn’t get to buy gifts. I’m just taking up space inside a tradition of the family.”

Cabezas suffers from insomnia, anxiety and depression as a result of the strike. She spent six months in Ecuador with family in attempts to relax and forget her financial troubles, but they were waiting for her upon her return.

“I don’t get the support from [my family] anymore,” Cabezas said. “They tell me to go back and I’m just tired of people telling me to give up. I’m very prideful.”

Spectrum announced on Dec. 11 that it was donating $5,000 to the Coalition for the Homeless as part of the Spectrum Employee Community Grants program. The funds will be used to provide services to 200 women to receive a “thorough and practical understanding of the job market and workplace.”

“You put so many people outside of their homes, yet you’re trying to make yourself look good to the public,” said Cabezas on the telecom’s ironic donation. “Give the people their jobs back.”

Troy Walcott of College Point worked for Spectrum for 20 years before joining the strike, and considers himself one of the lucky ones because he doesn’t have a family and kids suffering from the repercussions of the job action.

“My life was more affected because everything I built in the past that was geared toward preparing for the future was lost,” said Walcott. “Most of the things I had plans for, my retirement account ... I had to devolve and dip into my savings just to maintain ... My future got taken away.”

Walcott was a survey technician, but now drives for Uber and is a leader of the strike. Walcott founded the New York City Communications Campaign to “Unplug Spectrum.” The cable system worker cooperative is made up of former Spectrum strikers advocating for cable to become a municipal service. It would remove Spectrum and hire the strikers in its place, “the workers who built the city for 40 years.”

When asked whether they have sympathy for their striking employees, a Spectrum spokesperson said, “Spectrum’s diverse and skilled technicians have been delivering great service to more than 1 million New York City customers. We are committed to providing our 11,000 New York employees with highly competitive wages, excellent health-care and retirement benefits and training and career growth opportunities.”

The strikers plan to hold a rally at City Hall for their Unplug Spectrum plan the day after their solemn 1,000 days on strike mark.

“I give [the strikers] all the props in the world,” said Cabezas. “Pain and suffering doesn’t come close to what all of us have been going through.”

Friday, December 20, 2019


UFT members have lost again it appears.

This is from Wednesday's Daily News:
Eight of the city’s uniformed unions have inked a three-year contract with the de Blasio administration that will guarantee their members a roughly 8% pay increase across the life of the deal, the Daily News has learned.

The uniformed unions are part of a coalition that began quietly negotiating with the city’s Office of Labor Relations several months ago. The coalition includes the Correction Officers Benevolent Association as well as two other Correction Department unions covering captains and wardens.Also part of the joint effort are the police unions covering captains and lieutenants as well as the Uniformed Fire Officers Association and two unions covering sanitation workers.

The terms largely follow the economic raises included in deals City Hall reached with civilian unions — 2.2%, 2.5% and 3% annually — but it also includes a 1% differential for the uniformed workers, said Correction Officers Benevolent Association President Elias Husamudeen, who serves as the coalition’s spokesman.

“This deal contains no zeros, and no givebacks,” the union leader said. “It’s roughly 8% in pay increases and once we negotiate for longevity, annuities and other things, it will probably be worth more.”

Please remember that the UFT deal is not for three years, it is for three years and seven months so there are seven months with no salary increase. UFT raises are not all annual; two are spread out to cover a period beyond a year. In addition, the uniform coalition is getting a 1% differential if the Daily News is right. This goes well beyond the UFT deal as raises come more frequently and there is an extra 1% thrown in for good measure.

I could never understand why when it comes to salary increases, someone who wears a uniform is considered a more valuable employee than a teacher or other non-uniform employee but that has been the rule since the days when Ed Koch was mayor. No disrespect to uniform employees, they are hard working people. We thank them for their service.

UFT Contractual Increases:
 2% on February 14, 2019,
  0% on February 14, 2020
  2.5% on May 14, 2020,
   3% on May 14 2021,
    0% on May 14, 2022.

UFT Contract does not end until September of 2022.

Have a wonderful Holiday! Enjoy the extra day off on Monday for sure.

Thursday, December 19, 2019


We get the question regularly about when our TRS pension checks will be posted. Many UFT members, active and retired, live from paycheck to paycheck and need to know when their money will be made available. For those of you who are active, please note that retirees are paid monthly, not twice monthly as when we are active or biweekly as it says we are supposed to be paid in the UFT Contract.

The UFT put Article 3L1 in the Contract back around 1995:

L. Salary Payment
1. The parties agree that a biweekly payroll gives employees a date certain for
receipt of their pay. Therefore, the Board will convert the pedagogical payroll to a
biweekly payroll from the existing semi-monthly payroll as soon as practicable. The 
parties will make whatever contractual changes are technically necessary to accomplish
this goal.

Why do they keep this provision in the contract if they have no intention of ever implementing it? I guess 23 years is not "as soon as practicable" for the DOE. UFT is very patient.

I digress; here is the pension payment calendar for 2020 as sent out by the Teachers Retirement System.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019


Union dissidents oppose contracts they don't feel are adequate and they run against leadership in union elections. Unions are democratic institutions. Ultimately, the members control them.

TWU Local 100 is a vibrant democratic union for New York City Transit Workers.  Two dissident groups are campaigning against their latest contract.

Some information from the Chief Leader:
Two factions within Transport Workers Union Local 100 have taken to social media to urge rank-and-file members to vote against the contract reached Dec. 4 between the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the union’s leadership.

The deal, which provides raises of a shade less than 10 percent over four years, was approved by Local 100’s executive board the following day by a 42-to-4 vote with 3 abstentions. The last contract expired on May 16.

In a phone interview, executive board member and Train Operator Kimberly “Nuke” McLaurin, who voted no, complained members were not given a written copy of the contract before they were asked to vote on the pact. Instead, she said it was read aloud by a union lawyer.

“It was really a red flag for me,” she said. “It was read to us. Nobody signs their mortgage like that. Even your Apple apps contracts you can read.”

Ms. McLaurin was elected to the executive board last January under the Progressive Action banner, one of the factions that’s been critical of the incumbent TWU leadership.

She continued, “And now that the contract has been released to the public, the members are not happy and there is disgust localwide. There are no gains here. It still keeps us in the red having to work all this overtime.”

Call to Send Message

On Facebook, Joseph Campbell, who led the Transit Workers United slate that finished second in the last union election, said members should send a message by voting no.

“Even if this passes, show that at least some of us have some self-respect,” he suggested. “Don’t give another mandate on another concessionary contract. Because I can guarantee you, if you do, the next contract will look just like this one…. or worse.”

In a statement responding to Ms. McLaurin’s criticism, the union defended how the contract details were provided.

“The union’s attorney went through the contract line by line as it was projected onto a large screen in the boardroom,” according to the Local 100 statement. “He provided explanations and answered questions at every step. No one objected to having the vote or said they didn’t understand the information. It passed overwhelmingly with 91% of the votes. (42-4).”

‘Full Transparency’

The statement continued, “The contract in its entirety was posted on the website on Dec. 10. A copy of the contract will be mailed to every Local 100 member with their ballot on Dec. 18. This is full transparency.”

Under the tentative contract, union members would see a 2-percent raise retroactive to May 16, 2019, followed by a 2.25-percent hike next May, a 2.5-percent increase in the third year, and a 2.75-percent bump effective May 16, 2022.

The union leadership defends itself further as the article continues.

TWU Local 100 ballots on the contract will be tabulated on January 9, 2020. Their members have a copy of their contract before they vote. I last received a written UFT contract in 2007.

What about salary increase comparisons between TWU Local 100 and other unions?

Again back to the Chief Leader:
According to the Citizens Budget Commission, over the past 15 years, wage growth of the MTA’s union workforce has outpaced other public-sector workers. The business-funded fiscal watchdog reported in April that since June 2005, TWU wage rates have risen 40 percent. That’s a greater rate of increase than the city Sanitation workers and state workers represented by the Civil Service Employees Association, Public Employees Federation and the New York State Troopers Benevolent Association, the CBC said.

My guess is readers want the UFT salary numbers compared to TWU Local 100 for the 2005-2020 time period. The 2005 top New York City teacher salary was $90,472. The 2019-2020 top salary is $121,862. The percentage increase from 2005-2020 for teachers in NYC is 34.7%. That's five percent less than TWU's and we are still waiting until next year for a quarter of the money from our salary increases from 2009-2011. It helps for sure to have a strong, DEMOCRATIC union, not one where members drop out to save dues or refuse to do anything to stand up for themselves or their fellow union members.

The UFT, unlike TWU Local 100, is by no means a democratic union. I have explained thoroughly how UFT elections are basically rigged because no opposition group could possibly get to the thousands of retirees who vote and are spread out throughout the country and beyond. However, I still hold out hope that at some point the actual teachers will rise and say in great numbers: "That's enough!" Teachers don't have to keep taking it. An opposition group or coalition could win over the teachers or at least the high school, middle school or even elementary school divisions. We have each other. That's really all we need if we would just use our collective power.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019


The AFT wants your feedback on the presidential forum held on Saturday in Pittsburgh.

You can respond to the request for feedback by contacting us or going to It is nice to be pandered to by the candidates rather than vilified. Email us if you want to be involved.

As for the AFT's process, this is better than the 2015 rubber stamp by the AFT for the Hillary Clinton endorsement, although everyone should still be skeptical and watch Randi's actions closely.


Saturday we co-hosted the Public Education Forum 2020, and I want to know what you thought.

We had an incredible day, with seven of the major presidential candidates discussing public education and taking questions in front of an audience of nearly 1,500 people, including American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association members, parents, students and community allies. The candidates addressed how the narrative has changed regarding the promise and purpose of public education and what we need to ensure all children have opportunity regardless of their demography or geography.

I talked to many participants who felt that, while it was a marathon, the forum was riveting and historic. They felt heard.  

One of the things that struck me during the forum is how far we've come. A decade ago, the popular trend was privatization, austerity and deprofessionalization. Even some Democrats loved the idea of competition and high-stakes tests and used them to measure everything for a variety of purposes, including to close struggling schools, leave kids back and fire teachers.

But Saturday, when the major Democratic candidates came to a forum dedicated to public education, they rejected that DeVos and Trump agenda. Even candidates we disagree with on some policies showed a true commitment to public education.

We got to hear about plans to substantially increase funding for Title I, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and community schools. The candidates talked about equity and justice. They talked about regulating for-profit charter schools and stopping voucher schemes that would drain money from public schools. They talked about fixing public service loan forgiveness and the need for affordable and debt-free college. They talked about the right to organize—for school staff, teachers, higher education professionals and even graduate workers. And they talked about school lunch and meal debt, helping students with self-confidence, and the need for wraparound services.  

Michael Bennet, Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, Tom Steyer and Elizabeth Warren took time from the campaign trail to specifically answer questions on topics we haven’t heard enough about during this campaign. In fact, the first question of the day came from a student, which reminded us that teachers really do want what students need.

All of our collective work lifting up public education and putting it at the center of our communities has gotten us this far. And I'm proud of what we've all accomplished together.

There's still a lot to do, but Saturday’s forum showed that these Democrats are ready to work with us to fund our future.

I’m so proud of our partnership with the NEA, the NAACP, the Schott Foundation’s Opportunity to Learn Action Fund, Journey for Justice, the Service Employees International Union, the Center for Popular Democracy, and the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, which made this forum happen.

While this is the end of the first phase of our AFT Votes presidential endorsement process, member input is key to our endorsement. So tell us what you think.

In unity,Randi WeingartenAFT President

P.S.: If you missed the forum, you can watch it here.

Saturday, December 14, 2019


From this week's edition The Organizer, a question from Unity's Gene Mann:

Why the Fear?
 I know I speak from the admittedly safe perch of the retiree, but I am constantly amazed at the level of fear among our members, even those who are tenured. I just want to remind-or inform-everyone of the protections new to our current contract:

The new contract language specifically states: 

“The Board shall maintain an environment that promotes an open and 
 respectful exchange of ideas  and is free from harassment, intimidation, 
 retaliation and discrimination.”

 “All employees are permitted to promptly raise any concerns about any 
situation that may violate the collective bargaining agreement, rule/law
/regulation, or Department policy or that relates to their professional 
responsibilities or the best interests of their students. The harassment, 
intimidation, retaliation and discrimination of any kind because an 
employee in good faith raises a concern or reports a violation or suspected
violation of any DOE policy, rule/law or regulation, or contractual provision 
or participates or cooperates with an investigation of such concerns is 

Gene has a point. This clause was added to what was in the last contract.

Article 21H2:
2. The disciplinary process should never be used to retaliate against whistleblowers
or for any other illegal reasons. All employees who make a knowingly false allegation
shall be subject to discipline, but decisions relating to the imposition of such discipline on non-UFT bargaining unit members shall not be subject to the grievance processes set
forth in the relevant collective bargaining agreements. 

We also have Article 2, Fair Practices. Here is a major part:
The Union agrees to maintain its eligibility to represent all teachers by continuing to
admit persons to membership without discrimination on the basis of race, creed, color,
national origin, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, handicapping condition or age and
to represent equally all employees without regard to membership or participation in, or
association with the activities of, any employee organization.

The Board agrees to continue its policy of not discriminating against any employee
on the basis of race, creed, color, national origin, sex, marital status, sexual orientation,
handicapping condition, age or membership or participation in, or association with the
activities of, any employee organization.

Everyone who is observed or written up for file a day or two after they complain vocally about something should file a grievance immediately. If you lose at Step I, publicize the hell out of it.

If people would file grievances instead of writing anonymous comments, we could be much better off. If the UFT doesn't support you, get us the information (not anonymously please) and we will review it and then post it here if it is verified.

Thursday, December 12, 2019


My per session retroactive money for work I did from 2009-2011 just came in the mail earlier this week. Contractually, this money was supposed to be paid to us on October 1.

Contract Article 3P1:
Lump Sum Payments Stemming From the 2009-2011 Round of Bargaining
1. Schedule for actives for those continuously employed as of the day of payout:

i. 10/1/15 – 12.5%
ii. 10/1/17 – 12.5%
iii. 10/1/18 – 25%
iv. 10/1/19 – 25%
v. 10/1/20 – 25%

My 2019 per session lump sum payment was over two months late. I didn't do that many coverages or have much per session so it is not a significant amount of money for me personally. For anyone who did a great deal of per session and was depending on this money to be paid on the date it was contractually obligated to be paid, the UFT was once again ineffective in getting the Department of Education/City of New York to do what they said they would do.

Why does the DOE/NYC get away with not living up to what they agreed to. The answer is simple: There is no accountability for DOE under Mayoral control and there is no accountability at the UFT where elections are decided before they begin. No group in opposition to Michael Mulgrew's Unity Caucus could possibly get to all of the retirees spread out throughout the country and beyond.

Anti-union comments here will say teachers should make a statement by leaving the union and not paying dues. I say that is a dead end that will do nothing but make the union weaker. There is no historical example where a weaker, substantially smaller union has improved working conditions for the rank and file.

For a complete explanation of why dropping out of the union is an anti-worker action, please read our May 15, 2019 piece entitled: NOT PAYING UNION DUES WILL NOT IMPROVE WORKING CONDITIONS.

UPDATE: Just deposited the per session retro check so now I can make another contribution to Bernie Sanders' campaign.  It looks like Labour will lose badly tonight in the UK so Bernie is the great left hope to contain right wing populism as an alternative to neoliberalism.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019


The public school protest movement has come to upstate New York where the Rochester school district sent out layoff notices to teachers on Friday and the kids responded.

Students took to social media and made videos organizing the protests. Democrat and Chronicle reported that some students organized to protest upon arrival to school while others walked out of school mid-morning. Several teachers were seen accompanying the chanting teens during their protests through downtown Rochester.

Video from News 8 and WXXI:

Here is some background from Spectrum:
More than 150 Rochester City School District teachers learned Friday that they may be out of a job in just 25 days.

It all stems from job cuts to try to fill the district’s $30 million deficit. After students left school for the day on Friday, principals hand delivered the news to their teachers.

Rochester Teachers Association (RTA) President Adam Urbanski said the letters informed teachers that they would be terminated as of January 1, if the Board of Education approves the cuts.

Urbanksi confirmed that most of the schools in the district were affected, and at least 115 of the layoffs are elementary school teachers. He says primary schools are most affected because it will be easy to combine small class sizes there.

"As a teacher, it's devastating. This profession isn't something you go into thinking I'm going to make money or, you know, you go into it to make a difference," said Deana Jackson, an early pre-kindergarten teacher with the district.

That opportunity to make a difference in students could be coming to an end for some teachers in Rochester.

"It's really heartbreaking to hear stories of the bonds that children formed with these teachers and how distressed the students are to learn that when they come back from the Christmas break, their teacher will not be there," Adam Urbanski, president of the Rochester Teachers Association added.

Rise Community School, formerly School #14, had the most layoffs. Fourteen individuals were given the pink slip.

"So if you have huge class sizes in elementary schools that then sets the children back because they don't get individualized attention that they need,” said Urbanski.

I can only imagine the disruption for kids and teachers of doing this in the middle of the school year.

Monday, December 09, 2019


Each and every day there is more news of students and workers saying enough is enough.

Some examples:
President Emmanuel Macron, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and senior cabinet ministers met late Sunday to discuss the contentious reform, which the country's powerful labour unions claim will force many to work longer for a smaller retirement payout.

As both the government and unions vowed to stand firm, businesses started counting the costs of the strike which began last Thursday when some 800,000 people took to the streets across France in a mass rejection of plans to introduce a single, points-based pension scheme, unifying 42 existing plans.

The stoppages stranded commuters, closed schools, and hit tourism and Christmas retail.

Many people opted to take days off or to work from home, but thousands had no choice but to squeeze into perilously overcrowded suburban trains and metros whose numbers were slashed to a minimum.

The biggest labour unrest in years came as France's economy is already dented by more than a year of weekly anti-government demonstrations by so-called "yellow vest" activists protesting unemployment and waning spending power.

I am betting on the workers in France. Watch the government back down eventually.

HELSINKI, Dec. 9 (Xinhua) -- Some 100,000 Finnish employees in industrial sectors began a three-day strike on Monday to back up their salary demands.

The action comprises both worker and management unions. The strike was called by the Finnish Industrial Union, the Trade Union Pro and the "white collar" Federation of Professional and Managerial Staff YTN. In addition, workers in the building and electrical sectors have announced solidarity strikes, bringing the total number of employees embarking on industrial action to nearly 100,000.

The strike includes employees in fuel production, pharmaceutical companies, mines and several technology companies.

The state mediator Vuokko Piekkala told Finnish national radio Yle over the weekend that the views on salary increases between the employee and employer unions are widely apart.

Last week the Finnish Industrial Union rejected mediation proposal by the state mediator. Riku Aalto, President of the Industrial Union said the proposal was "less than the two or three percent increases" obtained by employees in "the key competitor countries of Finland". Details of mediation proposals are not public in Finland.

Finnish unions have largely set the increase levels of key competitor countries, mainly Germany, as a benchmark for their demands. In Germany the average nominal increases agreed this year have been over three percent and the metal sector there has exceeded that, according to German economic research institutes.

Go Finnish workers.

Hong Kong-
Hong Kongers marched again on Sunday, chanting “five demands, not one less” as the city’s anti-government protests approached their six-month milestone.

Demonstrators have been locked in a stalemate with the local government since early June amid protests initially sparked by a bill that would have enabled extradition to mainland China. On June 9, a million people marched through the financial center to demonstrate their opposition. Approximately 2 million people marched in protest a week later.

While Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has since retracted the bill, fulfilling one of the five demands, critics regarded the move as too little, too late. Social unrest in the city has since taken on broader anti-government sentiment as protesters push for greater democracy in Hong Kong.

Government opposition was fueled by anger with police conduct as well as how Lam’s administration dealt with the protests, Ma Ngok, associate professor in the department of government and public administration at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, told CNBC.

“The government hasn’t actually responded, so a lot of people think they just cannot give up on the protest” Ma said.

I am a supporter of the democracy movement in Hong Kong.

Students keep driving protests demanding change in Chile

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — Nearly two months ago, Catalina Santana jumped a turnstile in the Santiago metro and helped launch a movement that changed the course of Chilean history.

Student protests over a fare hike morphed into a nationwide call for socioeconomic equality and better social services that brought millions to the streets and forced President Sebastián Piñera to increase benefits for the poor and disadvantaged and start a process of constitutional reform.

But Santana, 18, isn’t done. Although the headlines have faded, she and thousands of other young people are still taking to the streets of Santiago and other Chilean cities almost daily to demand the government follow through on its promises of chance.

Two similar student-driven movements over the last decade and a half led to significant but limited reforms in education policy, including lower costs for university students. The young protesters are hoping that this time around they will be able to force the government to make deep-rooted structural changes that address the fundamental causes of inequality, economic injustice and poor social services in Chile.

“If my grandmother retires, she shouldn’t die of hunger,” Santana said during a recent protests in central Santiago. “If I go to a hospital, I shouldn’t die waiting for treatment. The professor teaching my classes shouldn’t be paid so little money. It can’t be this way.”

Starting with high-school students in 2006, then university students five years later, Chile has been hit by regular, large-scale protests led by young people that have won concessions from the government.

Those are some amazing high school students in Chile.

And yes there are even actions in the United States
All Fairfax Connector buses are expected to run their regular routes Monday now that the bus strike in Virginia’s largest county is ending.

Transdev, the private company that operates buses for Fairfax County, said the strike is ending without a finalized contract.

“Transdev and the union have come to a mutual agreement to end the current strike. The parties are continuing to bargain in good faith and hope to come to a contract soon,” Transdev said in a statement.

The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1764 bargaining team said the remaining issues are wages, vacation, sick time and retirement issues but “a deal is within reach.”

One reason the strike is ending now is that parties expect to meet Monday with Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman-Elect Jeff McKay, the union said.

As part of agreeing to go back to work, workers will not be disciplined for participating in the strike.

The agreement to return to work is a single page promising that union workers return to their jobs Monday. Negotiations will continue all week and into the following week. In addition, the union will provide 72 hours notice if a second strike occurs.

The separate strike against Transdev’s Metrobus operations out of the privatized Cinder Bed Road garage continues. That strike has been going on for about seven weeks.

More on the second strike:
A Metrobus strike disrupting thousands in Northern Virginia will likely drag on, and could begin to impact bus routes that have been providing limited alternatives for travelers.

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 sees the ongoing strike against a Metro contractor at the Cinder Bed Road garage in Lorton as part of a broader fight against private contracting, and other pay and staffing cuts in the transit industry.

“The only way to say it, and I don’t know a better way to say it, is that they are treating American workers like slaves,” Local 689 President Raymond Jackson said.

Working people and students fighting back all over the globe. Meanwhile in NYC classrooms, it's business as usual for teachers who sometimes tell us here about being abused but anonymous comments are their chief method of protest it seems. Better to organize your friends, grieve something, file a safety complaint, or just do anything instead of complaining here.

It's not easy to exert your rights but in the end much more can be accomplished than by anonymously protesting here.

Friday, December 06, 2019


I respect Transport Workers Union Local 100 as they are a real union that is ready to do whatever it takes, including a work slowdown, to achieve a fair contract.  Terms were released of TWU Local 100's tentative contract that was agreed to on Wednesday and once again they beat the UFT raises for the current round of bargaining for government employees.

Here are the annual raises according to ABC 7 news:
NEW YORK (WABC) -- Details are emerging of the tentative deal after leaders of the MTA and Transport Workers Union Local 100 reached an agreement to avoid a strike.

The unionized workforce will get a four year contract that is retroactive to May of this year, with annual wage increases of 2%, 2.25%, 2.5%, and 2.75%.

I gather everyone who comes by here wants the comparisons between the UFT and TWU contracts.

UFT increases:
2% on February 14, 2019,
 0% on February 14, 2020
2.5% on May 14, 2020,
 3% on May 14 2021,
 0% on May 14, 2022. (Contract ends September 13, 2022)
7.5% Total for 3.58 years*

TWU increases:
2% May 2019
2.25% May 2020
2.5% May 2021
2.75% May 2022 
9.5% Total for 4 years

TWU's 9.5% > UFT's 7.5%. That's clear. However, it is a little more complicated to do a direct comparison because the UFT Contract is for 43 months (3.58 years), not 48 months (4 years) like TWU. We did the annual breakdown:

7.5% divided by 3.58 years comes to UFT annual raises of 2.09%.

9.5% divided by 4 years comes to TWU annual raises of 2.375%.

That's .285% annually more for the TWU raises. UFT loses again. It might not seem like much but over the lifetime of a career, it does adds up.

I think the numbers make it clear the TWU is a more effective union and if we add the last contract in, then this becomes a long term trend where they obtain bigger raises. Their percentage increases are larger than ours in spite of the fact that the MTA in 2019 had to use cash reserves to balance its yearly budget while our employer NYC has multi-billion dollar surpluses year after year.

It is rather obvious the main reason that TWU is getting more money for salary increases is that they are prepared as workers in a union to do whatever it takes collectively to get a better contract. NYC teachers and our union for the most part are not prepared to do anything collectively. Well, action here is to complain anonymously mainly. We need a stronger union, not a weaker one with mass defections.

All of that said, I do not believe the TWU numbers are overly impressive. Today's very strong jobs report shows that 266,000 jobs were created nationally in November and there is now a 3.5% unemployment rate. As for wage gains, this is from the Department of Labor via Yahoo Finance: "Average hourly earnings year over year: +3.1% vs. +3.0% expected and +3.2% in October."

Unions should be citing these numbers for sure when we negotiate. The Federal Reserve is pumping more money into the the markets and interest rates have been lowered to keep the economy moving. I am no economist but I do not expect a recession unless there is some kind of crisis where everything comes tumbling down again. Unless that happens, unions should be screaming for more of a share of the prosperity because we know when the house of cards/bubble or whatever you want to call it falls at some point in the future, we (not the bigshots) will be asked to absorb all of the pain.

*We did not account in the main story for the extra 3.5 months the UFT's last contract was extended to pay for retroactive raises for employees who retired between 2010 and June 2014 and Paid Parental Leave.  There were 0% raises for that 3.5 month time period. If we were to add that in, the UFT annual raises would fall to 1.94% for the 3 years,10.5 months this current contract and the extension of the last one cover. We are also not including in comparisons with the TWU in the main story the fact that we are still waiting until October 2020 for 25% of the money in back pay for work we did from 2009-2011.

Thursday, December 05, 2019


The Professional Staff Congress is the union for CUNY faculty and professionals. PSC recently reached a contract agreement with the CUNY Board of Trustees that was ratified with an 86% yes vote by PSC members. This is the same percentage as the UFT ratification in 2018. What is in the PSC contract?

From the Chief Leader:
The 63-month contract, which runs from Dec. 1, 2017 to Feb. 28, 2023, provides a 10-percent salary increase for 30,000 employees, including a 2-percent raise retroactive to Oct. 1, 2018, with the final of five 2-percent increases set for Nov. 1, 2022.

For years, the PSC pushed for adjunct pay to be doubled to $7,000 per course. And while this agreement does not achieve that goal, the minimum pay for three-credit classes will increase by 71 percent to $5,500, and for four-credit courses to $6,875, in 2022.

A 71% increase for the adjuncts? That is rather amazing.

From PSC President Barbara Bowen:
What makes this contract different from past contracts is that it comes with a commitment of tens of millions of dollars annually in State and City funding, over and above the annual salary increases and equity increases. The additional funding is committed to pay for the new adjunct office hours. The PSC won the support of the CUNY Board, Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio for a major new investment in CUNY’s workforce and its students.

Any increase in K-12 funding usually gets lost in a DOE bureaucratic black hole.

As I was preparing for this piece, I was skimming through some parts of the PSC Contract. I noticed that CUNY teachers cannot be subjected to drive-by, surprise observations.

 Specifically, in Article 18.2 (b) 1, it says:

"The employee shall be given no less than 24 hours of prior notice of observation."

Something for us to strive for with K-12 teachers.

There is a comment on the Chief piece on the PSC Contract comparing the PSC to the Transit Workers Union Local 100.

walter.dufresne Dec 2, 2019 9:55 pm
This terrific new contract reverses some of the give-aways from the late 1980s and early 1990s. In those years the weakened PSC negotiated contracts that *added* new, *lower paying* steps. Those steps gave new hires the chance to work at CUNY for lower pay than their predecessors. When the City offered TWU the same deal in 2005, Roger Toussaint led a strike rather than 'sell out the unborn'.

Back in the 1990s, the PSC was controlled by guess who? Unity Caucus. Unity was defeated at CUNY by Bowen who led the New Caucus. Yes, I know the UFT is bigger than the PSC and it is impossible to get to UFT retirees spread out around the country to campaign but an organized, united opposition could beat Unity in the schools. It happened at CUNY. I am also aware that Bowen is now in AFT President Randi Weingarten's orbit.

Speaking of TWU Local 100, they have agreed to a new tentative contract. We don't yet have the details yet but we do have a statement from TWU Local 100 President Tony Utano:
"I am happy to report that we have reached a negotiated settlement with the MTA that I believe the Local 100 membership will ratify in overwhelming fashion. We achieved the framework for settlement over the weekend, and after several days of intense bargaining, arrived at the tentative agreement today, Wednesday, Dec. 4.

"I am calling a meeting of the Local 100 Executive Board for tomorrow to present the MOU for discussion and approval. I wish to thank TWU members for the incredible support you provided to me and the Local 100 leadership throughout this campaign. We were truly united. We will be reporting details of the agreement as soon as the Executive Board has had an opportunity to vote on it."

TWU Local 100 did not strike this time but there was a work to rule slowdown.

From the NY Post:
A workers’ “rulebook” slowdown disrupted service for thousands of riders on more than a dozen Brooklyn bus lines Friday morning as contract talks between the MTA and its biggest union wear on.

The slowdown comes just days after The Post revealed that angry transit workers are organizing slowdowns to up pressure on MTA management — including possibly next week on Black Friday, the year’s busiest holiday shopping day.

Government employees in New York State have to be creative in what they can do to show job dissatisfaction because of the anti-worker Taylor Law that prohibits public sector strikes in New York. The consequences of striking are losing two days pay for every day out on strike. The International Labor Organization (an agency of the United Nations) has ruled that the Taylor Law strike ban violates international law but our bureaucratic union leaders in NYS won't fight for the strike ban's repeal.

There's no Taylor Law in France where today there is a general strike.

From the BBC:
Workers are angry about planned pension reforms that would see them retiring later or facing reduced payouts.

School and transport workers have been joined by police, lawyers and hospital and airport staff for a general walkout that could include millions of people.

President Emmanuel Macron wants to introduce a universal points-based pension system.

That would replace France's current system, which has 42 different pension schemes for its private and public sectors, with variations in retirement age and benefits.

"What we've got to do is shut the economy down," said union official Christian Grolier of the Force Ouvrière (Workers' Force). "People are spoiling for a fight."

I've said it before and I will say it again: Workers have the power if we would just unite and use it. Notice how the teachers and transport workers are together in France along with many others.

I proposed a teacher transit workers joint labor action alliance in 2005 at the UFT Executive Board. UFT leader Randi Weingarten responded that she had spoken to TWU Local 100 President Roger Toussaint but shortly thereafter she was agreeing to the 2005 "Givebacks R Us" UFT Contract. I still have that united labor dream today where in France it is reality. I understand the yellow vest  people are involved in the French general strike.

The perception here is that in the United States the people are afraid of the government. We see that fear often in the comments on this blog where teachers are totally scared to challenge their almighty principal. In France, it is the government that is afraid of the people.  That's how it should be. I think that's called being accountable to the people.

Wednesday, December 04, 2019


Last week we gave the positive view of the Chicago strike from Jackson Potter, a union activist. Today we present a far different analysis showing how senior teachers sacrificed greatly because of the strike. This is from Marguerite Roza and it is worth considering.

The Chicago Teachers Union leaders were adamant that they weren’t on strike over salaries, but rather were fighting for educational justice in the form of more staffing. Now that the dust has settled, the numbers support that claim. Teachers didn’t gain anything in terms of salary that wasn’t already offered before the strike started. Instead, they lost six days of pay for the missed school days. (They struck for 11 days, but will make up five of them.)

For the average teacher, the unpaid strike time amounts to $2,100 in lost wages. There goes most of this year’s raise. 

But it’s the senior teachers nearing retirement that got hit with a double whammy. First, their salaries are higher (some as high as $111,000) so the lost wages can total as much as $3,200 per teacher. Then, for teachers retiring in the next four years, those lost salary dollars will result in lower pension payments. Because pension amounts are based on the last four years of salary, teacher pensions are highly sensitive to even modest changes in salary during any one of those final years. For the six lost days of work, retiring teachers should expect a dip of a little over $600 per year, but that loss affects every single year of retirement. Using standard assumptions of lifespan and discounting, it is clear that the effect on pension amounts to a loss for a retiring teacher of more than $9,500 in today’s dollars.

That means, for a teacher at the top of the pay scale retiring in the next four years, the strike meant walking away from salary and pension payments totaling nearly $13,000. Ouch. 

The union did get an extra $5 million at the last minute for senior teachers to mitigate a little of the damage.

Ms. Roza makes a very good case that senior teachers near retirement didn't gain from the Chicago strike. However, Ms. Roza does not mention that without a legitimate threat of a strike, I think we can safely say there is no way management would have offered Chicago teachers 16% raises over five years. Absent any possibility of militancy, they more likely would have been offered the same meager raises that New York City teachers are presented with and accept without even the hint of a fight, except of course from us dissidents.

Tuesday, December 03, 2019


I was reading an article in the National Review, yes that National Review, arguing that public school teachers are not underpaid. They compare salaries in Los Angeles between private and public schools:
But one thing private schools don’t throw money at is teacher salaries. The school that [Full House actress Lori] Loughlin’s daughters attended pays its teachers around $53,500 per year, 33 percent less than the $80,000 median annual salary of Los Angeles public-school teachers.

Here is the National Review explanation as to why public school teachers earn more than our private school counterparts:
For public-school teachers, large districts employing hundreds or thousands of teachers negotiate with a single teachers’ union, which itself may have secured a favorable position via political contributions and activism. This isn’t what you’d call a free and vibrant labor market.

We have a union and we use our activism and our political pull to better our conditions. Isn't that what a union is supposed to do? If lobbyists convince Congress to appropriate billions of dollars for unnecessary weapons or for tax incentives for huge corporations, you won't see much complaining in the National Review but if unions do it for public schools, we are messing with a free and vibrant labor market. Sorry guys but we have freedom of association rights.

The National Review writers aren't finished:
Private schools, by contrast, operate in a much freer market. Parents paying an average of $28,000 out of pocket have every incentive to find schools with the best teachers. Private schools, which compete against one another to recruit both teachers and students, have every incentive to hire the best teachers possible without breaking the bank. Teachers, for their part, have every incentive to demand as high a salary as they can get. This is the kind of competitive market that we rely on for almost every good or service we purchase. And in that market, total compensation for teachers at even elite private schools is far lower than it is at public schools. Those facts should at least inform the teacher-pay debate.

Public school teachers are better off because of our once strong unions, and now in many locals around the country, revitalized unions. Conservatives get it. You see why conservatives want to bust the unions and are doing what they can to get defections from the UFT.

It is sad that some of the people who benefit from what our unions have done don't get it. Instead, they comment here about not paying union dues instead of trying to improve our union which obviously needs fixing to represent all of its members equitably.

Rather than writing comments about how you hate the behavior of your students, the teachers who comment here can leave the NYC public schools and go teach in a private, parochial or charter school where the school can cherry pick the students and throw out those that don't fit in. I don't think many will leave, however, because you don't want to take the pay or benefits cut that working without a union, or with a really weak one, would entail.

As for those who are truly at their wits end but want to fight back, use the contract. Read Article 9. Read the Chancellor's Regulations on safety and discipline. You have nothing to lose if the alternative is quitting. We will gladly help if we can.

Sunday, December 01, 2019


I expect a full panic within the Democratic Party leadership if Senator Bernie Sanders comes anywhere close to winning the Democratic nomination for president. I didn't think two of my favorite education blogs covering NYC schools would both be discussing the socialist/Bernie issue today but both EdNotes and Chaz have socialism/Bernie posts. Now that Elizabeth Warren has backtracked on Medicare for All, expect Bernie support to grow so the socialism fear mongering is sure to follow.

My politically middle of the road buddy Chaz (centrist does not seem to really fit) has a piece on education falling apart in Venezuela, the socialist country conservatives love to point to when they want to scare Americans about Bernie Sanders being elected President of the United States. Why is Chaz doing a "Venezuela education is collapsing" piece? It's not normally his domain.  It could be because socialism is doing better in the polls here than in the past. It was great to see Norm Scott (Ed Notes) leave a comment on the Chaz Venezuela piece.

I then went over to EdNotes where my left leaning friend Norm Scott has a piece citing a conservative New York Times columnist, Ross Douthat, making a case for Bernie.

From Ross Douthat via Norm:
The state of the Democratic field reflects the weaknesses of the individual candidates, but it also reflects the heterogenous nature of the Democratic coalition, whose electorate has many more demographic divisions than the mostly white and middle-class and aging G.O.P., and therefore occasionally resembles the 19th-century Hapsburg empire in the challenge it poses to aspiring leaders.

I like the Hapsburg analogy. That can be a bit of a warning about our future also as that Austrian Empire didn't end too well but that is a story for another day.

Back to Douthat:
If you are a wavering Democrat concerned about both party unity and ultimate electability, about exciting all the diverse factions of your base while also competing for the disaffected, both the relative breadth of Bernie’s primary coalition and his decent polling among non-voters and Obama-Trump voters are reasons to give him another look. 

The conclusion:
He’s still a social liberal, of course, and he isn’t in the culturally conservative/economic populist quadrant where so many unrepresented voters reside. But for the kind of American who is mostly with the Democrats on economics but wary of progressivism’s zest for culture war, Sanders’s socialism might be strangely reassuring — as a signal of what he actually cares about, and what battles he might eschew for the sake of his anti-plutocratic goals. (At the very least he’s no more radical on an issue like abortion than a studied moderate like Mayor Pete.)

This is why, despite technically preferring a moderate like Biden or Amy Klobuchar, I keep coming back to the conservative’s case for Bernie — which rests on the perhaps-wrong but still attractive supposition that he’s the liberal most likely to spend all his time trying to tax the rich and leave cultural conservatives alone.

I would like to say to my conservative, middle of the road and apolitical friends and family that what Bernie is offering is really a return to the working and middle class friendly Franklin D Roosevelt tradition of the Democratic Party.

As for the we are going to become Venezuela crowd, how about comparing us to democratic socialist Norway as an alternative?