Thursday, April 30, 2020



Maybe this time will be different and these strikes will grow. It's not quite a general strike but we could be moving in that direction. Hopefully, word will get out and many workers will join.

From Hill Rising:

Krystal and Saagar discuss a report from the Intercept about upcoming worker walkouts at Amazon, Google, Target, Walmart, Whole Foods, Instacart and Fed Ex over poor working conditions, COVID outbreaks, and hazard pay.

From Common Dreams:

Among the lead organizers of the action, Motherboard reported Wednesday, is Chris Smalls, the Amazon worker who was fired last month from his job at a fulfillment center in Staten Island after organizing a protest.

"We formed an alliance between a bunch of different companies because we all have one common goal which is to save the lives of workers and communities," Smalls told Motherboard.

"Right now isn't the time to open up the economy," Smalls added. "Amazon is a breeding ground [for this virus] which is spreading right now through multiple facilities."

Unless there is a vaccine for COVID-19 which we all hope happens sooner than now, our time may come again in the not too distant future when workers employed in schools will be asked to go into contaminated school buildings. Will you have the guts to walk out if it's unsafe even if the UFT doesn't endorse your action?  


PayDay Report has an updated map of strikes around the country since March 1 (see below). Many working people from coast-to-coast aren't going to voluntarily be sent into work to get sick any longer. Nor should teachers when the NYC Department of Education sends employees back to physical schools. UFT members have to be willing to walk out if necessary if there is a second wave of COVID-19.

Some of these workers risking their livelihoods throughout the USA are non-union. They are leading themselves and not waiting for someone to tell them what to do. It's workers using their power to say, "Enough already."

I am reminded of the time when I was a young teacher and the UFT sent then Safety Director Ed Muir to speak to our staff at Jamaica HS. Ed had a great line: "There are some things in life worth dying for; the NYC Board of Education is not one of them." He received thunderous applause from the staff after he delivered those words. The UFT was still a functioning union back then.

I stand by what I said in the comments yesterday that anonymous comments and unsigned letters will not save us now although they are welcome here. Workers have to protect our lives. Labor is actually showing real strength. If we aren't willing to stand up for ourselves, our colleagues and the kids to protect our collective health if necessary, will we ever be ready?

This is a large excerpt of the Payday Report article from Monday.

Defying Trump’s Order, Nebraska Meatpackers Strike – PA National Guard Replaces Striking Nurses – Richmond Threatens to Fire Striking Bus Drivers

Our strike tracker is now up to 151 strikes across the U.S. (since March 1).

Earlier today, Trump announced that he intended to use the power of the federal government and the Defense Production Act to keep meat processing plants open throughout the United States. 

The move comes as massive outbreaks with hundreds of workers have hit meatpacking plants throughout the U.S. As a result, scores of meatpacking plants have closed because of outbreaks. 

Strikes and mass sickouts at a dozen meatpacking plants throughout the U.S. have led to the closure of additional plants. 

It’s unclear how Trump intends to use the Defense Production Act to force meat packing processing workers back into the assembly line. 

Organized labor immediately denounced the move.

Another job action:

The prospect of meat shortages, which increasingly seem likely according to experts as dozens of plants have been shut down by outbreaks or strikes, would be politically embarrassing to Trump. 

Shortly after Trump announced his intention to issue his executive order, more than 50 meatpackers walked off the job after 48 co-workers tested positive for COVID-19 at Smithfield’s plant outside of Lincoln, Nebraska. 

And another:

The Nebraska action follows a wildcat strike Monday night at Pilgrim’s Pride meatpacking plant in Cold Spring, Minn. 

Workers remain frustrated that the company hasn’t done enough to inform them of co-workers testing positive for COVID-19. 

With workers going on a strikeout fearing for their lives, it’s unclear how Trump will stop these workers from shutting down more plants.

And another:

Trump and some governors may call in the National Guard to replace frontline workers. 

After 19 patients died of COVID-19 at a nursing home in Northampton County, Penn., nurses went on strike to protest unsafe conditions. 

Today, Democratic Governor Tom Wolfe sent the P.A. National Guard to man the facility, a threat that could be applied to other facilities where nurses are striking. 

And still another:

In a sign of how widespread nurse strikes might become, SEIU Illinois Healthcare announced that they overwhelmingly passed a strike authorization vote to go on strike on May 8th.

“My co-workers and I have told our management that we need more PPE, and we need to know who has the virus in our facilities so we can help keep everyone safe, but they seem more focused on protecting their profits than protecting people,” said Francine Rico at Villa of Windsor Park in Chicago in a news release.

And one more:

As employers are unable to stop the massive tide of strikes gripping the nation, more employers may attempt to discipline employees. 

On Monday, more than half of all Great Richmond Transit Company (GRTC) bus drivers called-out sick to protest unsafe conditions. 

In response, the head of the Greater Richmond Transit Company threatened to fire bus drivers who called in sick Tuesday. The union protested the move. 

“Our union has had 32 members across the country die after contracting the virus, and hundreds have become infected. GRTC workers who are sick or have symptoms of COVID-19 should be able to stay home without being fired,” said ATU Local 1220 President Maurice Carter. 

“GRTC’s wrongheaded decision to threaten to fire workers, who call in sick, is disgusting and endangers the communities that my co-workers and I proudly serve in these difficult times.” 

The union has listed ten demands that they expect GRTC to meet. 

As of late Tuesday afternoon, GRTC has yet to announce any firings of bus drivers. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2020


I have no idea how we ended up as one of the NEA's press contacts but we apparently are on the list. Might be all the page views we are getting these days. Our readership has almost tripled since early March. The only times our page views have ever been significantly higher was during contract battles. (Do I sound like Trump bragging that the ratings are up? Back to reality: unfortunately, we still only reach a tiny fraction of the UFT membership so please spread the word about us on Facebook, Twitter, your school site, or wherever you can.) It is kind of cool to be thought of as a press outlet that the NEA thinks is worth putting on their list. AFT President Randi Weingarten might soon call the NEA to get us off that NEA press list.

Anyway, here is the latest NEA press release reacting to President Trump telling schools to seriously consider reopening. Between Trump, Cuomo and de Blasio, we have had a triple crown of incompetence through the COVID-19 crisis. There are reasons why the USA leads the world with over a million cases and NY is the epicenter. The tremendous arrogance combined with undersize reasoning skills in the executive branch leaders at the federal, state, and city levels has led to catastrophic consequences. The lack of strong unions is on that blame list too here in NY.

April 28, 2020    
CONTACT: Staci Maiers, NEA Communications,

Trump’s call to reopen school buildings is dangerous for students, staff

NEA: We must listen to health experts and educators on how and when to reopen schools

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Monday urged the nation’s governors to “seriously consider” reopening schools as part of his push to restart the economy, though at least 43 states and the District of Columbia already have recommended against returning to school buildings during the 2019-20 academic year, and medical experts say it is far too early to return to in-person classes.

The National Education Association — which represents more than 3 million teachers, school employees and other staff who work in U.S. public schools, colleges and universities — called on all school buildings to close and transition to distance learning in March before the pandemic gripped communities. The following statement can be attributed to NEA President Lily Eskelsen García:

“The health and safety of our students, families, and educators must be the primary driver of when it is safe to re-open school buildings in each community. We listening to the health experts and educators on how and when to reopen schools — not the whims of Donald Trump who boasts about trusting his gut to guide him during this unprecedented global health crisis. There is not a single educator on the White House task force focused on reopening the American economy. This means that 51 million public school students do not have an advocate in the White House for what they need to be safe as school buildings reopen. Bringing thousands of children together in school buildings without proper testing, tracing, and social isolation is dangerous and could cost lives.

“Although school buildings have been closed, teachers and education support professionals have been working harder than ever to keep learning opportunities accessible for students. When the buildings re-open, we must prioritize the well-being of every person in the school. We will all need the time and space to re-connect, to grieve, to heal, and to re-focus. Students will need specialized staff like school nurses, school social workers, and school psychologists who will have a crucial role to play, addressing mental and behavior health issues as well as broader issues of ensuring that reopened schools remain safe and healthy. 

Federal help is paramount to end the stay-at-home orders to assure students, parents and educators have the resources and supports necessary to succeed. Testing continues to be woefully unavailable. Schools lack personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep educators and students safe. And as local and state revenues dry up, public schools are facing mounting challenges. Educator jobs are being threatened due to lack of funding at a time when students need more support not less. Class sizes are likely to balloon, making social distancing even more difficult, if not impossible. These are the reasons why the National Education Association has advocated Congress dedicate, among other things, $175 billion in the next economic recovery stimulus bill to an education stabilization fund so that the needs of students at all levels can be supported during this critical time of uncertainty.

“We also can’t assume all our problems will disappear upon returning in the fall. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed and exacerbated the inequities facing our most vulnerable students, and they will still be there when school buildings re-open unless we address them now. We must share in finding solutions that finally work for students of color, students with disabilities, English language learners, undocumented families, homeless families, rural schools, and under-resourced schools.”

More resources are available at
Follow on twitter at @NEAmedia and @Lily_NEA
Keep up with the conversation on social media at #ProtectAllWorkers

In addition, Politico covered the story of both the AFT and NEA reacting to Trump.

Here's AFT President Randi Weingarten's view:

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, previewing a reopening plan first with POLITICO, said funding is needed for a host of public health measures for schools, including personal protective equipment. Collective bargaining, strong enforcement of safety standards and protections from retaliation will be important for teachers and staff so they feel safe to speak up as schools try new approaches, she said.

If schools are reopened without proper safety measures, “you scream bloody murder,” Weingarten said. “And you do everything you can to ... use your public megaphones.”

Now for NEA's Lili again:

Teachers are united after more than two years of strikes for more state funding and they have “tremendous power” as advocates for children's safety, said Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Association. She didn’t rule out strikes if state leaders move prematurely on a reopening of schools, and she said she believes parents would protest too. 

“You put all things on the table when it comes to student safety,” Eskelsen García said. "And ... I don't think we'll be alone."

Locally, the UFT will use that megaphone to scream and yell and maybe even file a useless lawsuit or two or three when we should be saying we will not enter any building that we deem unsafe.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020


An unnamed principal has reported that at a telephone meeting Chancellor Richard Carranza told principals that there is a 50-50 chance that we will be back in school in September. Remote learning may be here for a while.

Knowing how the Spanish flu pandemic had a second deadlier wave than the first wave in 1918-19, Carranza's comment does make some sense.


The first wave of the 1918 pandemic occurred in the spring and was generally mild. The sick, who experienced such typical flu symptoms as chills, fever and fatigue, usually recovered after several days, and the number of reported deaths was low.

However, a second, highly contagious wave of influenza appeared with a vengeance in the fall of that same year. Victims died within hours or days of developing symptoms, their skin turning blue and their lungs filling with fluid that caused them to suffocate. In just one year, 1918, the average life expectancy in America plummeted by a dozen years.

How did it end?

By the summer of 1919, the flu pandemic came to an end, as those that were infected either died or developed immunity.

Let's hope and pray that there is no deadly second wave with COVID-19 and that we can return to school buildings.

Grading Policy Finalized
The proposed grading policy for NYC schools that everyone knew about has finally been officially announced by the Mayor and Chancellor.

From ABC 7:

Grades K-5
- Two grading standards: Students will receive "meet standards" or "needs improvement."
- Basis for evaluation: Existing course requirements such as submitted assignments, projects and writing samples.
- Students who cannot demonstrate mastery or submit work will be enrolled in summer programming to develop skills.

Middle School: Grades 6-8
- Three grading standards: Students receive "Meets Standards" "Needs Improvement" or "Course in Progress."
- Basis for Evaluation: Existing course requirements such as remote class discussion, presentation, submitted assignments and tests where appropriate.
- Students who cannot demonstrate mastery or have not completed work will be enrolled in summer programming to develop skills.

High School: Grades 9-12
- Grading standards: Use existing grading scales.
- Students who require more time to show mastery will receive "Course in Progress" and enrolled in summer-fall support programs.
- Students have option after receiving passing letter grade to convert to "Pass" rating, leaving GPA unaffected.
- Basis for Evaluation: Schools have adapted current school year curriculum and assessments for remote learning, including term papers, exams and oral presentations, allowing students to show content mastery.
- Students will have until January 2021 to complete outstanding coursework.

Update: The Press Release including Mulgrew Quote

NEW YORK—Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza today announced an adjusted K-12 citywide grading policy. The policy maintains a high bar for student achievement, gives flexibility to families and students grappling with the COVID-19 crisis, and provides targeted support to students who have fallen behind.

“Our students, educators, and families are going through a lot right now. I know our students are capable of excellence, and we will continue to hold them to that high standard while adjusting our grading to reflect the unprecedented challenges created by this crisis. We will give every student the support they need to bounce back and continue on their path to success,” said Mayor de Blasio. 

“We recognize that parents and students alike are experiencing anxiety and trauma in the midst of the pandemic, and we have continually evolved our policies to meet this moment. Our adjustments to grading maintain clear expectations that acknowledge each individual student’s experience, while creating a consistent, equitable system across all schools,” said Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza. “Our priority is to minimize stress on families and students, while still providing next year’s teachers with the information they need about an individual student’s progress toward achieving standards.”

"We needed a grading policy that captures the work students have done this year, both in the classroom and during distance learning, while not punishing students for things outside of their control. We think this policy strikes that balance by incorporating the concerns of parents, teachers and stakeholders," said Michael Mulgrew, President of the United Federation of Teachers.

This new grading policy still requires students to meet the DOE’s high standards, but also provides flexibility, where needed, given the extraordinary circumstances families are in because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This policy reflects the input of teachers, students, and parents from across the City. The new grading policy for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year is effective immediately:

· Grades 3-K and Pre-K: There is no impact as these students do not receive report cards or grades.

· Grades K-5: Schools will award grades using a binary “Meets Standards” and “Needs Improvement” scale to ensure students are demonstrating mastery of the learning outcomes for their required courses.

· Grades 6-8: Schools will award grades using three values: Meets Standards, Needs Improvement, and Course in Progress. 

· Grades 9-12: Schools will continue with the same grading scales they had before remote learning with the addition of a “Course in Progress” rating for students who cannot submit work or demonstrate mastery. Failing grades will be considered “Course in Progress.” Students will be given the time and support they need to complete coursework and earn credit through January 2021. In alignment with CUNY’s COVID-19 flexible grading policy for their 2020 Spring Semester, high school students who have successfully completed and earned credit for a course will have the option to convert a passing grade to a “Pass” rating that preserves their existing GPA, but will still count as credit toward graduation.

All students who do not demonstrate mastery or complete required work will be given the support they need over the summer and fall to get back on track. All students receiving “Course In Progress” who have not yet completed required course work will be enrolled in summer programming. High School seniors and current 8th graders who receive “Course in Progress” will be prioritized for support to keep them on track for August graduation and promotion. When students complete the course, their grade will be changed from “Course in Progress” to the appropriate passing grade. 

Schools are expected to take into account the full year of work and current circumstances when making assessments for grading. Assignments and evaluations are intended to measure a student’s mastery of coursework and understanding of the core concepts and standards needed to succeed in the following grade. We are asking our teachers to make adjustments that acknowledge the impact of remote learning on the ways in which students complete their assigned work, such as expectations for due dates.

The DOE is supporting every high school senior on the path towards graduation through one on one counseling support and opportunities for schools and families to get students on track. In accordance with the State, students are still required to meet their credit requirements for graduation, and must earn a passing grade to receive credit for their courses. Students who receive a “Course in Progress” in a class they need to graduate will have the opportunity for an August graduation after completing coursework over the summer.

Attendance for the 2019-20 school year may not be used as a factor in screened admissions during next year’s admissions cycle, and we are in the process of developing additional guidance on admissions processes for the fall given the change to grading. Guidance will be issued after further community engagement.

Monday, April 27, 2020


I still do not understand Governor Andrew Cuomo's continued popularity considering how the evidence is irrefutable how New York is suffering more from COVID-19 than probably any place on the planet. Cuomo's dithering, delaying, and/or deferring to Mayor  Bill de Blasio on closing schools in March clearly made the pandemic worse.

This comparison of New York's handling of the pandemic compared with Seattle in the New Yorker says so much. Dow Constantine held a press conference in Seattle on February 29th. The scientists said this is really serious and the politicians took a back seat. After Constantine predicted that telecommuting was likely going to be needed, the people listened and voluntarily stayed home. Mandatory restrictions were put in by the Governor on March 11 but most workers were already staying home. Meanwhile in NY:

In early March, as Dow Constantine was asking Microsoft to close its offices and putting scientists in front of news cameras, de Blasio and New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, were giving speeches that deëmphasized the risks of the pandemic, even as the city was announcing its first official cases. De Blasio initially voiced caution, saying that “no one should take the coronavirus situation lightly,” but soon told residents to keep helping the city’s economy. “Go on with your lives + get out on the town despite Coronavirus,” he tweeted on March 2nd—one day after the first covid-19 diagnosis in New York. He urged people to see a movie at Lincoln Center. On the day that Seattle schools closed, de Blasio said at a press conference that “if you are not sick, if you are not in the vulnerable category, you should be going about your life.” Cuomo, meanwhile, had told reporters that “we should relax.” He said that most infected people would recover with few problems, adding, “We don’t even think it’s going to be as bad as it was in other countries.”

The results of Cuomo and de Blasio's dithering and delaying are tragic. Back to the New Yorker piece:

Tom Frieden, the former C.D.C. director, has estimated that, if New York had started implementing stay-at-home orders ten days earlier than it did, it might have reduced covid-19 deaths by fifty to eighty per cent. 

Why isn't Cuomo blasted like President Trump or Mayor de Blasio are for screwing this up?

Look at these poll numbers from Sienna released today:

Loudonville, NY. New Yorkers give Governor Andrew Cuomo record high job performance and favorability ratings. His favorability rating is 77-21 percent, up from 71-23 percent last month, matching his highest ever in February 2011. His job performance rating is 71-28 percent, up from 63-35 percent last month, his best ever. By a 78-16 percent margin, voters say they trust Cuomo over President Donald Trump to make a determination about opening New York, according to a new Siena College Poll of registered New York State voters released today.

I can't explain Cuomo's approval numbers. Scientists are not front and center ever in NY. Cuomo could easily mess up the reopening like he did the closing.

This is from the NY Times on April 26:

A survey of New Yorkers last week found that one in five city residents carried antibodies to the new coronavirus — and in that, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo saw good news.

If so many had been infected and survived, he reasoned, the virus may be far less deadly than previously thought. But many scientists took a darker view, seeing instead a vast pool of people who are still very vulnerable to infection.

Like the leaders of many states, Mr. Cuomo has been hoping that the results of large-scale antibody testing may guide decisions about when and how to reopen the economy and reintegrate society.

Few scientists ever imagined that these tests would become an instrument of public policy — and many are uncomfortable with the idea. Antibody tests, which show who has been infected, are often inaccurate, recent research suggests, and it is not clear whether a positive result actually signals immunity to the coronavirus.

Of course, UFT President Michael Mulgrew is in the same category of arrogant leader who failed us at the start of this pandemic. Why should anyone trust him when it comes to reopening school buildings? He didn't pull members out of schools he knew were infected in March. Now, the UFT's petition on reopening is counting on the unreliable antibody testing as one of the main criteria for opening up school buildings. From the petition:

Widespread access to coronavirus testing to regularly check that people are negative or have immunity

We might not know who has immunity based on antibody testing according to the scientists, however, the virus may very well come back strong in the fall so where is social distancing in the UFT petition on reopening? It isn't there. It could very well be necessary. All the masks in the world more than likely won't help contain a virus if there are 34 students in a high school classroom doing group work. It will be impossible to social distance in that situation.

If this pandemic has taught me anything, it's that New York union leaders and elected executives have no clue about science and it has cost lives. I don't claim to be an expert either but shouldn't the scientists be holding the daily briefings in Albany and City Hall? Shouldn't a science expert speak at a Delegate Assembly or UFT Town Hall? Having scientists lead was a big success in Seattle.

At least everyone now sees de Blasio as an arrogant idiot. Maybe, Cuomo's popularity will finally take a hit. This is from Ross Barkan on Twitter:

There's a small turn in the mainstream press against Andrew Cuomo as facts are beginning to be processed. This will continue. It will probably be a while before his poll numbers are dented. But his popularity will be harder to maintain against reality.
Fact: New York's COVID-19 death toll is staggering. It far exceeds any other state in America and, at this point, anywhere on Earth. Denser places have weathered the storm far better. This can only be argued against for so long. New York massively and tragically screwed up.
Cuomo's popularity is a bit like if Rudy Giuliani got to remain mayor as successive (and somehow preventable) 9/11's kept occurring. Cuomo's popularity, inevitably, will start to make less sense as sober minds assess the carnage in New York. The press will become more adversarial