Monday, August 31, 2020


 UFT Solidarity have retained famous "Teacher Lawyer" Bryan Glass to go to court to attempt to obtain an injunction to allow teachers to work remotely if they so desire.

The Solidarity case has many strong, valid arguments. They do not mention the Family First Coronavirus Response Act which I think is a part of this but I am not a lawyer. This is part of what we printed last week from the Department of Labor's Frequently Asked Questions on this law that allows many workers to telework from home. 

17. When am I able to telework under the FFCRA?

You may telework when your employer permits or allows you to perform work while you are at home or at a location other than your normal workplace. Telework is work for which normal wages must be paid and is not compensated under the paid leave provisions of the FFCRA.

That would solve the childcare dilemma for UFTers who have kids that are at home while they are working. It looks to me, that if your child is home from school several days a week, you have a federal legal right to be at home with them and get paid too as long as you telework. There is some flexibility here for employers but by the DOE already allowing people who have certain medical conditions to work from home, it would be arbitrary and capricious for the DOE to discriminate against UFTers who are parents. Again, I am no lawyer.

Everyone should also note that the Detroit Federation of Teachers did not have to go on strike after all.  90% voted to authorize an illegal strike. 

Some of what the teachers agreed to taken from the Detroit Free Press:

Under a new deal with the Detroit Public Schools Community District, the Detroit Federation of Teachers negotiated the following terms:

The right of teachers to choose to teach online or in person through Nov. 9

A $750 bonus for each marking period for teachers who teach in classrooms instead of online

The right for teachers to bring their own school-age children to their classrooms in lieu of childcare

Note that the option to work remotely was the first gain they mention.

The UFT Solidarity press release:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 1, 2020


Lydia Howrilka (917) 705-5699 

NEW YORK: Five educators in NYC public schools have filed an injunction against the City of New York and Chancellor Richard Carranza stating that the City’s system of permitting certain educators with the opportunity to file for and be granted a medical accommodation as “arbitrary.” These educators are calling for emergency injunctive  relief “to protect Petitioners from Respondents’ arbitrary and capricious policies regarding eligibility for remote work promulgated by the NYCDOE which jeopardizes their health and safety due to COVID-19.”

Alarmed at what they have concluded is a dangerous and unsustainable safety plan, public school educators affiliated with the second largest caucus of the United Federation of Teachers have begun efforts that they hope will lead the largest school district in the nation delay a return to in-person instruction “until the City of New York has determined it safe to conduct indoor activities and the State of NY has removed all bans on large group events, as per Executive Order No. 202.3 filed by Governor Cuomo from March 12, 2020.” The Solidarity Caucus helped fundraise for this litigation through small donations from other UFT members and community members using GoFundMe. At present the caucus has fundraised over $5700. They have retained Bryan Glass, a well-known and respected labor and education attorney in the New York region.

The litigation, filed September 1, 2020 following an internal review of de Blasio’s plan and the UFT’s three-point approach to reopening schools, came after a long period of reflection and discussion with it’s membership who were largely alarmed with the rejection of remote learning and a gradual phase-in of in-person classes after the UFT lost 75 educators over the Spring.

After examining the city’s safety plan and recalling the track record of city officials thus far, the union caucus has concluded that too many students, families and staff will become sick or die if they did nothing additional to protect teachers who were prevented the opportunity to work from home. Attorney Bryan Glass sent UFT President Michael Mulgrew the following email on August 31, 

As you may know, our firm has represented many teachers, including many of your members in recent years. We wanted to extend to you the courtesy of letting you know that we are shortly filing an application for injunctive relief for several educators who do not qualify for the DOE medical accommodations, and on behalf of others similarly situated.

The NYC Department of Education used the categories designated by the CDC as “high-risk” categories for contracting coronavirus. However, many of these categories are arbitrary and capricious and do not protect teachers who do not fall within the guidelines, but should also be allowed to work remotely. Five UFT members who live and work in different boroughs and schools allege the following in their petition:

In contrast, many employees, including Petitioners and others similarly situated,  would not qualify for these medical accommodations for permission to work remotely for the upcoming school year and can only take a leave of absence using their own leave time to avoid being taken off payroll by the NYCDOE if they refuse to report at the beginning of the 2020-21 school year.   These educators have a Hobson’s choice between their paycheck/livelihood and the health and safety of themselves and their loved ones.

As Petitioner Shannon Corwin states in the petition, “[Her] school campus has severe issues regarding ventilation. Many offices in the school are internal and have no windows to allow for fresh air. . . The air quality in the staircases is terrible. Many teachers have complained that they have difficulty breathing when they use the stairs.”

According to Petitioner Umang Desai, most students from Brooklyn Technical High School live in “multi-generational households with elderly relatives.” Many of their parents work as essential or health care workers as well. Since Brooklyn Technical High School has over 5,900 students, even with multiple cohorts, there is a fear that students will still contract coronavirus from public transit, another student, or a faculty member and get others sick. 

Other petitioners are guardians of children who have been signed up for remote-only instruction. Many of them are deeply concerned about the expense and logistics of child-care and keeping their families safe from being exposed to the virus. Other petitioners live with partners or take care of elderly parents who suffer from conditions that, if exposed to coronavirus, could jeopardize their lives. 

Solidarity Caucus member and former UFT presidential candidate Lydia Howrilka told caucus members, “We cannot trust Mayor De Blasio and Chancellor Carranza to protect our students, our colleagues, and all our families. Governor Cuomo warned that in-person classes at this stage would be disastrous and lead to a resurgence of coronavirus in the midst of flu season. We must not be complacent and expect the union leadership which is largely removed from the rank-and-file member’s experiences of teaching in poorly maintained buildings to protect us. While I am disappointed, the 3,600 UFT  members who support us must know now that this is another example of a pattern of leadership that simply does not make the grade . It is time for us to act.  If the union leadership fails to take a strong stand against the Mayor and the Chancellor, calling for a work based action and not allowing members to return to the schools until the ban of large gatherings is lifted, UFT Solidarity must be this model of democratic union leadership.”


 No vote tonight on strike. They are giving negotiations on safety another day.

From Arthur's blog:


EB gives leadership authority to negotiate--if no agreement, we will have strike authorization vote 9/1 at DA.

Resolution passes unanimously.

Mulgrew--We won't agree without approval of doctors. We are prepared to do a lot of work either way to keep our union safe. We will also be looking at layoffs. Right now they want to lay off 9,000 members without any additional state cuts. Without help, that number could go higher, If we have an agreement we will have a quick EB meeting before DA.

Everyone will wear a mask in a school. If you have a meeting, it will be multiple times so as to enable distancing. If a principal doesn't understand, call us immediately.

Mulgrew returns to negotiations 6:46

Arthur cites Mulgrew reporting significant progress. No surprise in a unanimous vote for what the leadership wanted.  


 I listened to Mayor Bill de Blasio's press briefing from this morning. The parts that might interest most of you:

Jillian Jorgensen from NY 1 asked specifically about the UFT Executive Board and Delegate Assembly meetings today and tomorrow on strike authorization. The Mayor responded by saying that he spoke to the UFT over the weekend and a strike vote is not planned. He said he talked to Michael Mulgrew and it is clear to him that it is not on the agenda for this meeting.  

A UFT insider told me the Mayor's remarks may not necessarily be accurate.

On layoffs of city workers, The Municipal Labor Committee (an umbrella group of all of the city's public sector labor unions including the UFT) and the Mayor are agreeing to go to Albany to try to get long term borrowing authority for the city. Layoffs of city employees are now on pause according to de Blasio. The Mayor said nice words about Michael Mulgrew in his remarks. 

More from Jillian on twitter:

And an update from Jillian:



 From the NY Daily News:

First, the pro-UFT side:

“We are preparing for any eventuality to make sure schools reopen safely for students, staff and the entire school community,” UFT spokesman Dick Riley said in a Sunday statement.

The chair of the City Council’s Education Committee said after weeks of protests about alleged lack of readiness to reopen schools, city teachers aren’t fooling around.

“Each chapter leader has been having meetings with their individual school chapters about what a strike entails,” Councilman Mark Treyger (D-Brooklyn) told the Daily News. “The UFT is very serious about this, as they should be.”

The city's response:

Earlier this month, the UFT threatened to go on strike if the city didn’t answer demands including mandatory COVID-19 testing for students and staff. The de Blasio administration has so far balked.

Administration officials were in talks with UFT reps over the weekend, according to de Blasio spokesman Bill Neidhardt.

“They have the right to hold these meetings,” he said Sunday. “We totally respect that.

“We came out with an agreement on curriculum,” Neidhardt said of a recent announcement on teaching protocols for the coming school year. “We’re going to continue that work.”

I have been asking around. From what I am hearing from several different districts is that UFTers understand the ramifications of what a strike means and most won't scab if called by the Union leadership to engage in a job action. My sample includes teachers who think it may be safe enough for them to go into their own school building but they comprehend that this is a citywide concern and many buildings might not be safe. 

A few in the comments section here who have an almost knee-jerk reaction against anything Michael Mulgrew says or does, which I understand based on history, may not reflect the overall opinion of the membership. Teachers who only knew about strikes in the abstract have fully educated themselves in a hurry it seems. UFTers get that if the Union is going to be sabre-rattling and loses, then we are in even worse shape than before. 

Sunday, August 30, 2020


For those looking for a preview of the week ahead, here is our not so brave predictions on how the UFT will vote on any possible job action based on how the UFT operates and the schedule that we already know.

Monday, August 31- The 102 member UFT Executive Board, made up exclusively of Michael Mulgrew's Unity Caucus backed members, will most definitely rubber stamp whatever Mulgrew wants in terms of a strike authorization (or not) with a unanimous vote in support. There are 2, maybe 3, independent thinkers on the Board but I would be shocked if there are any dissenting votes. For most of the Unity members on the Executive Board, their UFT jobs depend on them doing what Mulgrew and Staff Director Leroy Barr tell them to do. They would not go against the leadership on this one or much of anything for that matter. Getting a strike authorization unanimously through the Executive Board should be easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy guaranteed.

Tuesday, September 1-Whatever strike authorization the Unity controlled Executive Board rubber stamps will be rubber stamped again by the larger Delegate Assembly. The DA is theoretically a democratic body but Unity has control of a sufficient number of Chapter Leaders and Delegates who rely on Unity for part time union jobs and/or all expense paid trips to the AFT and NYSUT conventions. Unity members sign a membership obligation to support the caucus in public and union forums. Even if a Unity Chapter is totally against a strike authorization, most will back Mulgrew. 

I became Chapter Leader after the Jamaica Chapter voted about 50-2 against the 1995 Contract that had 0% raises for two years while the City and national economies were about to grow substantially with the .com boom. Our Unity Chapter Leader told us he would respect our vote and vote no at the DA. I was the Delegate at the time and he didn't vote no. Those caucus obligations are taken seriously. We ended up almost coming to blows literally (we later made up and he is a decent guy). 

The District Reps will be calling their Unity Chapter Leaders and Delegates to keep them in line on the strike authorization. In addition, there are hundreds of retiree Delegates who are exclusively Unity. They will not defy Mulgrew. Call it peer pressure, group-think, or caucus obligations. One time dissident Arthur Goldstein coined the term Unity Loyalty Oath. Please read his account of how the Unity Delegates at the NYSUT Representative Assembly booed our friend Lauren Cohen (now Lauren Lumm) who called out the Unity Loyalty Oath in 2014.

This comment says it from an insider's point of view:

JP Jones 

Unity may have undone itself. All rank-and-file members must be told how a band of bullies shouted down a woman who had the temerity to raise the issue of a UFT-Unity loyalty oath signed by many members in exchange for promises of union advancement, free trips and significant financial gain. Is this Unity's modus operandi?

When the Oath is questioned, they attack like dogs. I am very painfully aware that not all Unity members are part of this mob mentality, yet, I know that this same mentality intimidates those who think otherwise within Unity. Leadership espouses solidarity. Yet, the UFT Loyalty Oath has forced our delegates to sell us out in solidarity by supporting past policies that have led us towards our own doom and despair.

This lack of democracy has not changed much since then. Unity will tell you that Arthur and two others have now been taken in by the leadership and I don't believe they ever had to sign the membership obligation to support the caucus but honestly now, have you seen much criticism of the UFT on Arthur's blog lately?

I expect an 80-90% yes vote on whatever job action is proposed at the Delegate Assembly. It may reflect the membership or it may just reflect Unity and the small opposition caucuses that all agree on a possible job action but these are all activists. The entire process at the DA and Executive Board is about as legitimate as an election in Russia. What is going on in the schools behind the scenes will most likely still be a  mystery after the DA. That 80-90% yes vote won't mean that much but if I am wrong and there is anything greater than a 20-25% no vote because of independents (people who don't belong to any caucus) and/or a Unity revolt, then there is likely a significant portion of the membership who are opposed to any job action. 

Wednesday, September 2-UFT Town Hall. Mulgrew will present information and take the usual friendly questions.  The rank and file will get no vote on any proposed job action. 

Mulgrew will say that the UFT is a representative democracy so Chapter Leaders and Delegates represent their members. He will not mention how many Chapter Leaders and Delegates are bought and paid for and have signed that Unity membership obligation to support his policies no matter what. His excuse will be that there is no time to take a membership vote and we don't have the technology to do it online. This of course is ridiculous as every Chapter can have online meetings. They certainly can do online votes like they did with SBOs and PROSE in the spring. Mulgrew doesn't want a vote because there is a chance he could lose. 

Some of you might be wondering why I would mention all of this lack of democracy when I support a job action as long as the cause is just. I think the cause of possibly saving the lives of members, our students and all of our families is one of the most righteous positions the UFT has ever taken. 

If those of us who want the kids and the adults to stay away from school buildings are right that we could be starting a new wave of COVID-19 if students and educators go into buildings, the UFT taking action could be preventing that second wave. We could literally be saving lives. In addition, we do have a contractual right to a safe work environment. We should have done this in March. Bill de Blasio is the one taking a huge risk by opening buildings. 

If, on the other hand, we are wrong and the schools open and there isn't any expansion of COVID-19, then we were relying on an abundance of caution based on some of the best scientific evidence available. I would much rather error on the side of safety.

I am exposing the lack of democracy here because process matters. It would be a much stronger job action threat if the membership was truly behind it. I don't know of any strike in UFT history where the membership didn't authorize it. Can anyone tell me about a union sanctioned strike that the membership didn't vote for? Whether UFTers are with the leadership or not, we won't know until the day a sickout/remote-out is called. The rubber stamp process to approve something this week will all be for show. The press may eat it up and not dig deep into what is actually occurring. 

Mulgrew might just be betting that he can show the world overwhelming support from the Executive Board and the DA to strengthen his hand enough to get the mayor to back down. The problem with that theory is Michael Bloomberg told Randi Weingarten that he knows the UFT membership better than she does. He called Randi's bluff and the UFT gave in with the 2005 Contract. Has the membership changed enough in just the last two weeks of August to make a job action successful? We are trying to go from almost zero activism to the most militant labor action at lightning speed. A membership vote would sure give us a great deal more confidence that we are there.  

What is positive about all of this is that the UFT rank and file is actually involved in what is going on in the Union. Members are educating themselves about what it means to be in a union. It isn't just about a good dental plan. The rank and file want more information. Traffic is consistently way up at this ICEUFT blog. 1,000 people (not all UFTers) attended an emergency virtual MORE meeting yesterday. Even though the caucus inexplicably used most of their presentation to organize for itself rather than make the main focus the possible strike, it is a step in the right direction that so many were interested to give up part of a Saturday in August to listen in. Sources tell me that after a little over an hour they were down to 500 on the call and by the end it was just 60. That's neither here nor there. The point is that UFT members in increasing numbers are trying to be an active part of their Union. An activist membership is what gives a union its strength. I hope and pray that activism is there during and beyond the current crisis.

Saturday, August 29, 2020


 From CSA,

August 28, 2020

Dear Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Carranza,

From the moment the Department of Education first began discussions on blended learning, CSA has repeatedly raised serious concerns about the staffing shortages that will arise with the implementation of the DOE’s hybrid models as constructed. I've personally shared those concerns with both of you directly. Yet on Wednesday night, DOE distributed instructional guidance that alarms school leaders throughout the city. Compelling school leaders to open their buildings on September 10th while adhering to this new guidance is indefensible.

It’s been clear since July that if a class must be split into cohorts to meet social distancing requirements, some students will learn remotely while others simultaneously learn in person. All summer long, school leaders, teachers, students and parents alike have all been asking the same obvious question: who will teach students learning remotely?

We were hopeful that the DOE would find some way to solve this inherent problem without creating a larger one. We expected that concerns about sufficient staffing would be adequately addressed when the Chancellor’s team finally released the essential instructional guidance that NYC educators have been demanding for months.

Regrettably, the DOE has now created a potential staffing crisis with just two weeks to go before the first day of school. We applaud your administration for its focus on science throughout this pandemic. We ask that you also focus on the math. As school leaders process this new guidance, distributed on the very day they were required to share schedules with families, many will be forced to abandon their carefully considered plans and communicate to their superintendents that their school simply doesn’t have enough staff to begin the year. They must now communicate to families that far too many students will not be taught remotely by their in-person teachers. 

What answer and support will they receive from the DOE? What would you suggest they say to the understandably anxious families they speak with daily? It is ultimately our school leaders who must look parents in the eyes and assure them that their school building is ready to reopen. How can they pledge to deliver a quality education, worth the risks of attending school during a pandemic, when they’re not even sure they have enough teachers?

School leaders will continue to work tirelessly to reimagine the school year and keep their communities safe, and our union will continue to call for a delay to in-person learning so that they and their staff have adequate time to prepare for an unimaginable, unprecedented school year, made exponentially more challenging with this instructional guidance. The current shortage of teachers only makes our previous message more urgent: New York City schools are simply not ready to reopen for in-person instruction on September 10th.


Mark F. Cannizzaro


Friday, August 28, 2020


 The Intercept is reporting that the UFT Executive Board and Delegate Assembly will vote on a strike authorization resolution next week. Knowing how those bodies are dominated by Michael Mulgrew's Unity Caucus, I expect a huge yes vote. Unity Caucus obligations require that caucus members vote as the caucus dictates. If they vote against the leadership, they will lose their union perks and end up in the James Eterno file of useless to Unity. As for the membership at large, Mulgrew's position is, who cares what they think?

Consider now the reputation of the UFT compared to the Council of Supervisors and Administrators. This is from the same Intercept piece:

The principal’s union, generally considered to be more confrontational than the UFT, urged earlier in August for an all-remote reopening due to concerns about ventilation and preparation.

When the UFT is seen in the press as less confrontational than the CSA, it is difficult for me to comment on how the state of this once proud union has deteriorated to this rather strange place.

On the issue of the Memorandum of Agreement on blended learning, Jeff Kaufman posted it here along with the FAQ yesterday. I have questions and concerns as some of it is indecipherable. Right now, I am waiting for the UFT explanation.  It should be rather amazing spin. The agreement was released on Wednesday; we are still waiting on Friday evening for the UFT's take for the members. 

Personally, I think the blended learning agreement gives new meaning to the term phony war. The UFT is preparing for a safety strike while at the same time they are making an agreement on how to do the blended learning that they say is too unsafe to start. 

It must be all part of some grand strategy we aren't smart enough to comprehend which is why the rank and file won't be voting on any of it anyway.

Please, no comments here on withholding union dues. The opt out period ended and you need to call out the UFT leaders, not stop paying dues which you can't do until next June. We need a real union now more than ever. If only you knew how the collective body is really in charge, not Mulgrew.

UPDATE- Just to be clear:








Thanks to one of our readers who sent this information our way.

I don't know why the UFT isn't publicizing this but if your child is under 18 and their school is closed, you are eligible for 12 weeks of paid leave at 2/3 pay and at full pay if you are teleworking from home. I checked with a very knowledgeable UFT person who confirmed that UFT members are eligible for Federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act paid leave.
This is right from the Department of Labor website:

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA or Act) requires certain employers to provide employees with paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. The Department of Labor’s (Department) Wage and Hour Division (WHD) administers and enforces the new law’s paid leave requirements. These provisions will apply from the effective date through December 31, 2020.

Generally, the Act provides that employees of covered employers are eligible for:

Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at the employee’s regular rate of pay where the employee is unable to work because the employee is quarantined (pursuant to Federal, State, or local government order or advice of a health care provider), and/or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis; or

Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay because the employee is unable to work because of a bona fide need to care for an individual subject to quarantine (pursuant to Federal, State, or local government order or advice of a health care provider), or to care for a child (under 18 years of age) whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19, and/or the employee is experiencing a substantially similar condition as specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Secretaries of the Treasury and Labor; and

Up to an additional 10 weeks of paid expanded family and medical leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay where an employee, who has been employed for at least 30 calendar days, is unable to work due to a bona fide need for leave to care for a child whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19.

Further down:

Qualifying Reasons for Leave:

Under the FFCRA, an employee qualifies for paid sick time if the employee is unable to work (or unable to telework) due to a need for leave because the employee:

1. is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19;

2. has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine related to COVID-19;

3. is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and is seeking a medical diagnosis;

4. is caring for an individual subject to an order described in (1) or self-quarantine as described in (2);

5. is caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed (or child care provider is unavailable) for reasons related to COVID-19; or

6. is experiencing any other substantially-similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Secretaries of Labor and Treasury.

Under the FFCRA, an employee qualifies for expanded family leave if the employee is caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed (or child care provider is unavailable) for reasons related to COVID-19.

Pay is capped at $12,000 but I don't think it is necessary for higher paid UFTers to be dissuaded from using the FFCRA provisions. If one looks at the Questions and Answers the DOL put out, I cannot see how UFTers are not eligible to telework from home at full pay.

17. When am I able to telework under the FFCRA?
You may telework when your employer permits or allows you to perform work while you are at home or at a location other than your normal workplace. Telework is work for which normal wages must be paid and is not compensated under the paid leave provisions of the FFCRA.

That would solve the childcare dilemma for UFTers who have kids that are at home while they are working. It looks to me, although I am not a lawyer, that if your child is home from school several days a week, you have a federal legal right to be at home with them and get paid too as long as you telework. There is some flexibility here for employers but by the DOE already allowing people who have certain medical conditions to work from home, it would be arbitrary and capricious for the DOE to discriminate against UFTers who are parents. Again, I am no lawyer.

In New Jersey this tactic was used to force schools to go all remote at the last minute.
From News 12 New Jersey:

The majority of parents say they wanted their kids back in school, and teachers wanted to teach in their classrooms.

But at the last minute, more than 250 teachers in the Freehold Regional District and more than 30 in Ocean Township district took leaves of absence.
The leaves of absence are allowed under the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

Some parents and school leaders say this was a political move spurred on by the New Jersey Education Association Union. The group was among several organizations that issued a joint statement calling for schools to begin remotely. Shortly after, [Governor] Murphy gave the green light to begin schools remotely.

You can download the DOE form, Request for Emergency Family Leave - Excused Leave at Partial Pay, here.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020


In the last week, I've been hearing from UFTers who are attending the virtual meetings that the UFT District Representatives, Borough Representatives and Officers are holding. The UFT should be putting out something logical, direct and fairly straightforward explaining how a strike or other kind of job action works that includes the possible advantages and discusses the risks openly. Instead, we get meetings with people who are used to selling subpar Contracts and lousy evaluation system agreements trying to sell the need for militancy and union solidarity. This is not a criticism as some of them have never done anything like this before and it isn't easy.

I understand some of you may have a little trouble believing some of the same people who told you the 2005 and 2014 Contracts were wonderful. Think about it, the leadership from the Unity Caucus is switching from a concessionary, bureaucratic, stance to a fighting one at lightning speed. Let me try to answer some of the questions and comments that I have seen so you can hear from a union dissident who from day 1 has believed that a militant union led by an informed and engaged membership is the best way to achieve our goals.

Question: Can I be fired if I strike?

Answer: NO! Read Section 210 of the Taylor Law for yourself, please. The penalty for striking is a fine of two days pay for each day out on strike, not termination. The Union can be fined heavily too and lose automatic dues checkoff. The UFT is risking a great deal more than individual members by talking strike.  

Question: When would we be fined?

Answer: No time soon in all likelihood. The Taylor Law in Section 210 2 (f) gives employees 20 days after being sent notice that they engaged in a strike a chance to appeal. Then there is a review process at the Public Employees Relations Board that can be appealed in state court. The last time I looked one was innocent until proven guilty in the USA. You don't even pay a parking ticket while you are appealing it. The appeal process could take a long time to sort out. Norm Scott,who was involved in the UFT strike in 1975, told me yesterday that it was years, not months, before he was fined. The UFT would have a very good case that there were mitigating circumstances here. One of the factors PERB and the courts have to weigh when penalizing a union is "the impact of the strike on the public health, safety, and welfare of the community..." This would not be an ordinary strike as our potential safety strike would be to benefit, not harm, the public health, safety, and welfare of the community. While it would drag out in court, we could certainly make dropping the case against us a condition for a UFT mayoral endorsement next year. Repeal of the anti-strike provisions of the Taylor Law that the United Nations International Labor Organization ruled is a human rights violation should be a major state legislative goal.  

Question: If we engage in a sickout, can we get around the fines?

Answer: It's possible since the DOE is almost encouraging us to stay out of buildings if we have something as common as a headache or a runny nose which are both symptoms of COVID-19. However, I don't want to get anyone's hopes up too high. The risks of Taylor Law penalties are real.

Question: Will we be terminated en masse if we strike?

Answer: NO! There was a risk of teachers being terminated in the 1959 Evening High School Teachers Strike and the 1960s UFT strikes when we were operating under a previous law that made termination the penalty for going on strike. Those teachers went on strike in spite of the risk. Today, the Taylor Law fines employees for going on strike. The penalty is not termination. This isn't 1981 with Ronald Reagan firing the Air Traffic Controllers for striking illegally against the federal government. If the DOE did try to use the disciplinary process to charge tens of thousands of strikers with misconduct, where would they find the lawyers and hearing officers? They could not.

Question: Can I lose my medical benefits if I strike?

Answer: Technically, yes but in reality the chances of it happening are slim to none. During the most recent GM strike, management threatened to take away healthcare benefits from the striking employees but they backed off. If we strike, we are violating our Contract (the DOE is violating it too by not giving us a safe work environment) so yes Mayor Bill de Blasio could try to take benefits away but our mayor fancies himself as a progressive champion of workers. He was a Bernie Sanders supporter. Do you honestly think de Blasio is going to go to the right of General Motors and take away health benefits during a strike for safety? Bernie would probably support us and join us. The Mayor would be siding with President Trump if he tries this. He would be to the right of GM management. In addition, I don't know if we will get 100% support for a strike but does the DOE even have the capability of taking off all of the strikers from health benefits but leaving the scabs on? I don't want to say it's impossible but it seems unrealistic.

Question: Will I lose my tenure if I strike?

Answer: NO. Once again, the Taylor Law fines public employees for striking. A previous version of the law may have taken tenure away for a year but I don't see it in the current law.

Question: Does the UFT need to take a strike authorization vote to strike?

Answer: Since a job action is not covered in the law, I don't think a membership vote can be compelled but I have never heard of a union going on strike without first getting the majority backing of the membership. The Delegate Assembly in my opinion would not be a sufficient mandate but I would still support the action if it were for a just cause. Back in 2002, the last time there was a UFT strike authorization, we voted in the schools. For those interested in precedent for a live vote of the UFT membership for an illegal strike, please read this account of the buildup to the successful 1962 Strike that was led by my UFT heroes Roger Parente and Sam Hochberg. Going on strike was opposed by Albert Shanker and then President Charles Cogen until after the majority voted to strike. The membership is ultimately in charge of a union, not the leadership. (The account of the 1962 strike I cited was inexplicably taken down from the UFT's website as was an earlier reference to the 1959 Evening High School Strike. All we have online are ICUFT blog excerpts.) 

Question: Will this be a long safety strike if we were to actually do it?

Answer: In all likelihood, though one never knows, the job action would not last more than a day or two. If the UFT was to strike or do a sickout or remote out, the City-DOE would almost certainly seek an injunction to stop it while we would be in virtual court seeking an injunction to close the school buildings because they are not safe. While we play dueling injunctions in court, the UFT's hand would be incredibly strong, I mean stronger than ever, if there were 100,000 UFTers who were not reporting to the school buildings. If 50,000 UFTers report to work in the buildings, we weaken our hand considerably, not only for right now but for the next generation. All of you who have been screaming that the UFT does nothing will be creating a self-fulfilling prophecy because when the UFT tries to do a safety action, you will have undermined that effort. Militancy will be set back another few years and we will be at the mercy of the City-DOE even more. As mentioned over and over, we have a contractual right to a safe work environment. 

The only other possible course of action is for the city to try to wait us out by refusing to negotiate. Comptroller Scott Stringer and Speaker of the City Council Corey Johnson have already showed up at the press conference announcing a possible job action and the UFT has plenty of other allies in the political and activist world who will support us. The progressive mayor will not ignore this; it would be an international story. There is no such thing as a guarantee but the odds are this would be a very short strike or that just us having a viable threat of it will force the City-DOE to settle. We will have plenty of community support. The UFT has cultivated that through the years. 

Question: If we engage in a job action, we will play right into de Blasio's hands and lose all public support. The city has no money. Won't this lead to layoffs?

Answer: Layoffs and the safety of the buildings are two different issues. 1/3 of the families have already chosen remote learning full-time for their children. That's a whole lot of people who think it won't be safe for their children in school buildings. I predict that number is only going to go higher and higher if the news keeps pouring out about how unsafe buildings are. If the UFT just waits for the City-DOE plans to fall apart without taking action, it could produce during the time we go into the unsafe buildings a spike in the virus that nobody wants. The UFT did not strongly advocate for members to leave or not enter unsafe buildings in March. It looks like they are trying not to make the same mistake twice.  If you don't believe buildings are unsafe, read this excerpt from Gothamist last week:

Speaking on WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show on Tuesday, Dr. Irwin Redlener warned that schools are "going to become hotbeds for the infections to take hold again and spread through the community."

"It's almost inevitable if we are in fact going to even hold some classes in real time in real classrooms," he added.

Earlier in the month, Redlener penned an op-ed in the Daily Beast in which he argued that schools should not reopen until point-of-care rapid testing and a vaccine are available.

"Until then, most school systems should hit the pause button rather than run that cruel experiment," he wrote.

A widely respected authority on pediatrics and public health who works at Columbia University, Redlener has informally advised the mayor throughout the pandemic. He now joins the chorus of critics led by the teachers' union that the reopening of New York City schools will put children and teachers at risk for contracting coronavirus.

On layoffs, with federal stimulus money in doubt, layoffs are on the table, safety strike or no safety strike. Those who are saying the mayor will be mad at us if we do a job action and we will require fewer teachers online so he will downsize the teaching staff have it all backwards. The Patrolmen's Benevolent Association is no friend of the mayor. They are one of his fiercest adversaries and they don't hide it. Guess who is being exempted from layoffs under the current layoff proposal: The NYPD apparently. When you fight, you may lose but you also may gain respect. 

Furthermore, the city needs borrowing authority from the State Legislature and the Governor in order to meet its needs unless the federal government bails us out. We have plenty of friends in the State Legislature. The big mistake Al Shanker made in 1975 was not getting a no-layoff agreement before we used our pension fund to buy all those city bonds. The UFT did not make the same mistake twice and got a very nice package in 1991 in exchange for loaning the city part of our raises. (Scroll down on that link to my speech that I never got to deliver.)  

Question: NYC's infection rate is very low and the City-DOE are doing all of these inspections to make sure buildings are safe. Shouldn't we rely on their expertise and go to work in schools?

Answer: I am not a scientist by any means but top scientists are urging that opening school buildings should be delayed as we stated earlier. Sending hundreds of thousands of students and close to 100,000 DOE employees back into the school buildings might spur on a second wave of COVID-19. Doctor Anthony Fauci said we would be engaging in an "experiment" if we open school buildings. No school system that I know of suffered the losses that NYC did in the spring. I am not willing to take the chance of risking lives. My own kids will be learning fully remotely in the fall. I don't trust anything the DOE says and neither should you. Watch this video if you want to see part of a DOE's toilet paper and yardstick school air inspection. In addition, this was in Chalkbeat NY concerning the inspections of schools:

With about two weeks left before school starts, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday a last-minute effort to send teams of engineers from the School Construction Authority to conduct classroom-by-classroom inspections of ventilation systems.

Meanwhile, the education department had already tasked hundreds of educators — instructional leaders, achievement coaches, and others who work in the city’s borough offices — to begin doing walk-throughs of school buildings this week. The education department only announced the engineer inspections after Chalkbeat inquired about having educators who felt unqualified for the task doing detailed inspections. These educators will still make a determination about whether school buildings are safe to reopen. Many say that they haven’t been trained what to look for and that they are being asked to wave inspections through even if they find red flags.

“Under no circumstances should you complete a survey and indicate that the building is not ready to open without consulting the Director of Operations,” stated a memo obtained by Chalkbeat that had been sent from the director of operational support to education department staffers tasked with conducting walk-throughs.

Anyone who trusts the DOE inspections or much of anything the DOE says needs help that I can't provide. 

Question: UFT President Michael Mulgrew seems to go back and forth with his emails, Town Halls and press conferences between militancy and concessionary unionism so why should we trust what he says?

Answer: Michael Mulgrew is not the UFT. Yesterday, he seemed to be falling back on his natural anti-militant tendencies when he wrote: "We have a responsibility to try to reopen school buildings because the infection rate in New York City is so low. But if the mayor attempts to open a school building that is unsafe, we are prepared to go to court or take a job action." That was no call to action and didn't even acknowledge that the goal should be to get all of the schools to delay opening. However, at last week's presser he was singing a more militant tune. He can only go where the membership takes him. Mulgrew is feeling the heat from below. He needs to know the membership is close to 100% with him if he takes us in a more activist direction. Otherwise, as said earlier, we will set our cause back another decade or more. If the UFT doesn't get militant when member lives are possibly at stake, when will we?

In 2002, the UFT threatened a strike. The main issue was how to use the extended time being negotiated. It was not easy convincing the Jamaica staff to go on strike but in the end we pretty much got there. Randi Weingarten promised us voice and choice in the use of extended time. She put one of her biggest critics, me, on the UFT Strike Committee. I learned a great deal that spring from Staff Director Tom Pappas as he talked logistics and the trick of the strike he told us was not actually striking but being able to convince the City we were serious. One day that spring, I was travelling home from a relative's house in New Jersey. I remember it like it was yesterday. I turned on Newsradio 880 to hear the traffic and Chancellor Harold O Levy was being interviewed. The reporter asked him about a teacher strike that we were voting on. He answered in the most condescending way: "There's not going to be a strike." Everyone but me knew we didn't have the guts to do it. The result was management controlled extended time; the provision was so bad it was renegotiated four times and then the UFT finally surrendered on so much more with the 2005 Contract. We refused to battle like a union so we lost. That could repeat itself now.

I want to add here that I understand Mulgrew's reluctance to be strong and I get a little down myself when looking at some of the anti-job action comments here and on Facebook. My whole UFT life was spent fighting the activist fight in whichever way was possible. I was only ever successful because a huge majority, not everyone, in my chapter was with me. Peaceful struggle when it is called for is in my DNA. 

Mulgrew's career has been to play the political game. UFTers could have voted for me when I ran against him in 2010 but over 90% of you who voted, chose him. I was vindicated slightly in 2016 when a majority of the high school members who actually bothered to vote, chose me to be their Vice President but Vice Presidents are elected at large and the High School Division is but one of four in the UFT. That election did propel some independent thinkers to be on the UFT Executive Board. Mike Schirtzer is still there now. Show them support.  

In the end, Mulgrew will get as far as a united membership will take him. It's up to all of you more than him.  Understand your power and use it wisely. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2020



I’m writing to update you on two major issues that are coming to a head: potential city layoffs and our fight for a safe reopening of school buildings.

The coronavirus-triggered shutdown has hammered the New York City economy and left the city budget in tatters. Making matters worse, the U.S. Congress has failed to pass the stimulus funding that states and cities were counting on. Mayor Bill de Blasio has threatened to lay off 22,000 city workers, including 9,000 Department of Education employees, to close the city budget gap.

The UFT is doing everything in its power to protect your job. We told the mayor that he should not be laying off city workers — and slashing city services — during a moment of crisis. We are working with other unions in the Municipal Labor Committee on a plan to make sure the city has the funds needed to avert layoffs. We are urging Albany to give New York City permission to borrow up to $7 billion for operating expenses. We are also lobbying the state to allow New York City to offer a retirement incentive for senior workers.

With Sept. 10 fast approaching, the mayor continues to push for the reopening of school buildings without putting in the necessary work to ensure the health and safety of our school communities.

We will not put our members, our students and our families in harm's way. The UFT’s three-point safety plan includes the necessary safeguards:

Supplies: Each school must pass the union’s comprehensive safety review.

Procedures: Each school must have a COVID building response team responsible for implementing the procedures needed to keep the virus at bay and to isolate and deal with it quickly if there is a case.

Testing: Every child and adult should be tested for the virus before entering a school building. Once schools resume in-person learning, the city should follow a rigorous protocol of random, intermittent testing and tracing.

We have a responsibility to try to reopen school buildings because the infection rate in New York City is so low. But if the mayor attempts to open a school building that is unsafe, we are prepared to go to court or take a job action. Your chapter leader or district representative will be in contact with you to discuss next steps.

The UFT will continue to fight every day for your safety and your livelihood. Unions are made for these critical moments, but we need to stick together. When we have each other’s back, we can keep each other safe.


Michael Mulgrew

UFT President

Monday, August 24, 2020


 This picture was on a friend's Facebook.

The picture is from a Channel 7 story on the mayor's new outside learning plan.

Some details:

The outdoor learning plan will apply to all public, charter, and even private schools in the city.

--Principals can set up classrooms in their schoolyards and request additional space

--Any school that applies by Friday 8/28 will have a response next week.

--The plan prioritizes the 27 hardest-hit neighborhoods and schools with no usable outdoor space.

Schools must provide barriers and staffing to close any street. When submitting a street location, schools are strongly encouraged to select streets with the following criteria:

--Is a quiet, non-commercial street

--Is a one-way street; if two-way, not more than one lane of traffic in each direction

--Is not an MTA bus route or truck route

What really worries me is Bill de Blasio may actually believe his own BS.

Sunday, August 23, 2020


 I read and we posted the letter for the Queens Chapter Leaders Friday and found it persuasive as a call to arms for a UFT job action. Arthur Goldstein and Mike Schirtzer have subsequently posted strong strike endorsements this weekend. Mike's headline: "Strike or Die- It's Your Choice," is not overly dramatic; it's accurate. 75 DOE school-based employees and 12 School Safety Agents lost their lives in the spring from COVID-19 complications. Michael Mulgrew stated that it is logical to conclude some were infected at work and no other school system that I know of suffered such terrible losses from COVID-19. It could happen again if we return to the buildings, no matter how the DOE tries to appease us that it is safe. 

We are in a labor union and the Union leadership has asked us to stand together in a militant call to action to protect UFT member health as well as the health and safety of the students and their families. I 100% support them in that call for militancy. I've been asking for Michael Mulgrew and before him Randi Weingarten to do this for 20 years. That said, except for the fact that this is a labor-management dispute, there is almost nothing about this potential job action to ensure safety that is like a traditional strike and we have to think about it in a non-traditional way.

We would be rather hypocritical to argue that we have to go on strike because it's not safe to go into the subways and buses where our crowding them could spread coronavirus to go to work but we could use the same subways and buses to set up our socially distant picket lines outside of schools. I don't believe calling for a traditional picket line is the best way forward. I would advocate for only the UFTer who lives closest to the school to go near the actual school building to take a photo of any scab who enters the building and post it everywhere if we were to engage in some kind of strike. Since CSA seems to be with us in the current dispute, maybe the principals can help call out the scabs too. However, I am not really advocating here for a strike, just for following DOE rules.

A job action in September would be like none other in our history. Before there was a UFT, the Evening High School Teachers went on a wildcat strike in 1959 that doubled their wages. The UFT went on strikes in 1960, 1962, 1967, 1968, and 1975.  All of the strikes were illegal and they mostly were successful. The closest to our current situation is 1960 when the UFT action was so daring that most people found it hard to believe they did it. Today, many active UFTers have no conception of union activism and many fear the risks that are truly being exaggerated beyond belief in the comments here and in other places. 

Most UFTers who have expressed reservations about a job action are worried about the Taylor Law fining them two days pay for every day they are out on strike. I have said since March and I will say it again for the hundredth time, it is not a strike in the meaning of the term when you refuse to go into the subways or school buildings in a global pandemic where you entering either one could spread a very dangerous virus. This is a safety strike as sanctioned by the AFT. Please read Section 210 of the Taylor Law closely to understand why this would not be a prohibited strike. 

Let us take the definition of a strike from Merriam Websterto stop work in order to force an employer to comply with demands. UFTers would not be stopping work by demanding to work remotely. UFTers would be ready, willing, and able to work remotely at home as thousands of colleagues have already been approved to do.  

Now, please scroll down to (b) of Section 210 of the Taylor Law which states:

(b) Presumption. For purposes of this subdivision an employee who is absent from work without permission, or who abstains wholly or in part from the full performance of his duties in his normal manner without permission, on the date or dates when a strike occurs, shall be presumed to have engaged in such strike on such date or dates.

By logging onto your computer after following the DOE guidance on when you are not supposed to report to work during the pandemic, you have the permission of your employer to stay home.

Read the DOE's own School Reopening Plan to understand your responsibilities as an employee. This is on page 26:



Daily health screenings for students and school-based staff, including temperature checks, must be completed at home by families and by school-based staff. NYCDOE will launch a robust education campaign that makes clear to parents and school-based staff how important these daily health checks are to keeping school communities healthy and safe. NYCDOE is committed to the purchasing of thermometers for at home use for families who may need them. 

School-based staff and students cannot report to school if they have:

• Experienced any symptoms of COVID-19 (chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, or diarrhea), including a temperature of greater than 100.0°F, in the past 14 days;

• Been knowingly in close or proximate contact in the past 14 days with anyone who has tested positive through a diagnostic test for COVID-19 or who has or had symptoms of COVID-19 (fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, or diarrhea);

• Tested positive through a diagnostic test for COVID-19 in the past 10 days; AND/OR

• Traveled internationally or from a state with widespread community transmission of COVID-19 per the New York State Travel Advisory in the past 14 days.

Spare me the Taylor Law hysteria. Those of you too squeamish to strike are almost being encouraged to stay home by your employer. 

The DOE-City will try to say this amounts to a sickout but if you turn on your computer and say you are prepared to work even though you have a headache or stomach ache, they will have a very difficult time making the case that tens of thousands of teachers and other UFTers who are ready to work remotely are not in compliance with the law. UFT Solidarity calls it a Remote Out. Just imagine the absurdity of the City-DOE going to court to get an injunction to stop us from abiding by their own rules on when to stay home!

We can fight it all out in court but the school buildings will be shut down without adequate staffing. If you are still worried, there is an appeal procedure in the Taylor Law if you are accused of engaging in a strike. Any decision against you can then be appealed in court. It will take years for it to wind its way through the courts. This could be an election issue for next year's mayoral campaign. Candidates could be asked to promise to drop any case against UFTers for insisting to work from home in exchange for union support. At the state level, we could fight to finally get rid of the part of the Taylor Law prohibiting strikes by NYS government employees which the International Labor Organization of the United Nations has already ruled is a human rights violation

In short, nobody is going to be fined, lose their tenure for a year, if ever, or be disciplined any time soon for working to DOE rules. This would not be a strike in the traditional sense of the word. You never know what will happen in court and I am not saying we can't lose but we have a very strong case. 

As stated above and now 101 times, UFTers are entitled by Contract to a safe work environment and the DOE-City are violating the UFT Contract by sending UFTers into unsafe buildings during a pandemic. The grievance process does not offer appropriate remedies as your health and the health of the students are at risk if UFTers work in school buildings. A source informed me that at the Bronx meeting for Chapter Leaders last Friday the safe environment argument was actually made by a UFT official. Stop the fear-mongering in the comments section. We have a right to be safe. 

I will deal with some of the other conspiracy theories that have been laid out in the comments and in other places in a future post. 

Saturday, August 22, 2020


 This is from ABC news:

After her mother's death in April from COVID-19, Odalis Santana changed her voicemail message.

"Thank you all for the outpouring of love that you have given my family during this difficult time. I know that my mother would appreciate it," Santana's voice says on the tape. It's now August, but her fresh grief from the spring, captured on the recording, cuts through. "Thank you all for your texts, your messages, your emails. We really appreciate it. Our family really appreciates it."

Santana, 46, works as a universal literacy coach at an elementary school in the Bronx, where she supports teachers with young students who are struggling with reading.

She recalled her last days in the classroom in mid-March. Santana had asked her mother, Ana, to stay with her because of the pandemic. It wasn't an unusual request. Her mother often helped Santana, a single mother, with childcare, and Santana didn't want to leave her mother, who lived in public housing for seniors, alone. Besides, in addition to being mother and daughter, the pair were close friends -- "twins," Santana said.

On April 1, they got tested together for COVID-19. The tests came back positive. Santana's two children and her brother tested positive, as well. Santana was asymptomatic, but within days, Ana, who was struggling to breathe, was hospitalized. In the early hours of the morning of April 10, Santana received a phone call. Her mother's heart had stopped.

"The last time I saw her was when I sent her to the hospital by herself," said Santana, who used to talk to her mother on the phone multiple times each day. "I never got to say goodbye."

While Santana will never know whether she picked up the virus at school, she thinks back on the days when New York City restaurants and bars were shuttered, but teachers were still going into the classroom, regretfully.

"I’m just angry that we were told to go back to work without knowing what was happening," she said.

She doesn't blame the principal at her school, who she says, was "clueless, just like we were," about the pandemic back in March. But she's frustrated that Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York City Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza are pushing to reopen schools in person in September.

As the fall approaches, the issue of whether to reopen New York City schools, which were closed on March 16, to in-person learning has been hotly contested.

Futher down:

New York's case positivity rate (the rate of positive cases to total tests) has been consistently below 1% in recent weeks, an indication that the virus is currently under control.

But those statistics belie the horror witnessed by educators and students last spring, particularly in black and Latino neighborhoods, when more than 20,000 residents died of the virus. New York City schools weren't spared the devastation. As of June, 79 department of education employees, 31 of them teachers, had died of COVID-19, according to the department.

Sorry for your loss, Odalis. My wife lost her grandmother from COVID-19 in April. This is a tragic time in our history.

If you can't understand why so many UFTers are reluctant to go back to school buildings, you have to try to remember what UFTers have been through already. Nobody trusts the DOE or the city to keep staff and students safe. 

Friday, August 21, 2020


I hope everyone is doing well,

I am writing to let you know of the latest developments that will affect all of us. As you know, we have been trying to discuss with NYC and the DOE a safe reopening of our schools. We began in April, but the city didn’t show up until July. Our union president had made it clear to the city and the DOE that our schools needed to be safe before reopening, before anyone walked into a building. Michael Mulgrew has held several town hall meetings with our members and consistently heard from them their anxiety about a possible reopening in less than safe conditions. We will continue to discuss with NYC and the DOE the safe reopening of our buildings but as announced at Wednesday’s press conference, before a school building reopens it must have the following: 

1. A school must have all the items described in the checklist you may access at 

Each school will be visited by a trained UFT member to gather this data. 

2. Each school has to have a reopening committee, creating protocols for the movement of students into our school, while in our school, and on their way out of our school, and how to respond to possible problems. 

3. The city must require every person that enters our school (including students and staff) to be tested before they come into our building.

The science backs up what the UFT is demanding, what we are demanding. There cannot be a safe reopening of our schools without getting these things in place, but the city has dragged their feet, and with just a few weeks before the reopening of our buildings we find ourselves possibly going to an unsafe workplace. Our school would be unsafe for us, unsafe for our loved ones, unsafe for our students, and unsafe for the community we serve.

Mayor DeBlasio is stubborn, and he doesn’t think we remember he kept the schools open too long. He doesn’t remember that dozens of our colleagues throughout the city passed away from COVID 19. He doesn’t remember how many of our parents we lost, but we remember. It is true that we want a return to normalcy, but we can’t pretend it is normal if we are forced to risk our lives and the lives of those around us. We will continue to talk to the mayor, we will continue to find allies in parents and politicians, and while we do this, we must also prepare to take action if he doesn’t change his mind. We need to be willing to do a job action, possibly a strike. This is NOT theoretical. This may happen in just a few days. Your commitment to support a job action MUST be real if we are to succeed. Again, we will do everything possible to avert the sacrifice we might have to make if we decide to go on a strike, BUT we will WIN if we stick together. We will WIN if none of us enter our building, we will WIN if none of us with accommodations work remotely. This is the power of OUR UNION. If we don’t stick together now, over an issue of life and death for ourselves, our loved ones, our students, our community, when will we stand together? We cannot be part of an experiment. 

In the next few days, I will be reaching out to you for commitment, help in planning the strike in our school, and encouragement. I am hopeful that there will be a resolution without us taking part of a job action, but that resolution will never happen if the mayor thinks we are not serious, of if he thinks we are not united. We have to show him. We have no choice.


Thursday, August 20, 2020


 From Vice:

Detroit teachers voted overwhelmingly to authorize a "safety" strike if the state's largest school district doesn't allow all teachers to teach classes online during the pandemic. It's the latest in mounting tensions between teachers and school districts across the country over school reopening plans. 

On Thursday evening, 91 percent of Detroit teachers voted in favor of authorizing the 'safety' strike, which means teachers would refuse to teach in-person classes if the school district does not agree to implement a set of safety protocols before schools reopen on September 8.

"We've already lost members of our [Detroit Public Schools Community District] family to COVID-19," a teacher said in a video posted online by union members about their reopening concerns. "It's just simply not safe for us to return into our buildings and classrooms right now."

Further on:

The strike vote is the latest in a series of actions taken by teachers across the country in districts with plans to reopen schools for in-person learning. This week in New Jersey, dozens of teachers held a sit-in to protest a public school district's plans for resuming in-person teaching. On August 14, 100 teachers and staff members in Arizona called in sick to protest reopening schools, forcing one school district to cancel its plans. Those Arizona teachers have called for a nation-wide sickout, referencing the 2018 #RedforEd teachers strikes, which spread from West Virginia to Oklahoma, Arizona, Colorado, North Carolina, and eventually Los Angeles.  

For those who are wondering, strikes by public employees are illegal under Michigan law. There are fines for striking just like NY. Their infection rate is below 3%, same as NYC.

Is NYC going to be the only place in the country where teachers don't stand up for themselves? That would be quite unfortunate after we suffered the greatest losses with 75 in service NYC DOE deaths from COVID-19 in the spring and an additional 12 School Safety Agents. No school system that I know of came even close to that many COVID-19 deaths. 

The Mayor is sending UFTers back into classrooms that we know won't be safe and not taking our threat of job actions seriously.

This isn't about Michael Mulgrew or Richard Carranza or Bill de Blasio. It is about protecting the safety of union members, the students and all of the families. Detroit teachers understand this. Now, it's up to you.


 NBC 4 did a story on school reopening. They first cover Yonkers going all remote and then they move to NYC and the controversy here over reopening buildings. Lydia Howrilka, UFT Solidarity's candidate for UFT President who finished second in the most recent UFT election, is quoted by NBC:

A caucus within UFT is also petitioning for the removal of Carranza as chancellor of New York City public schools amid the heated debate.

"The one million school children, their families, and the hundreds of thousands of faculty and staff of NYC Public Schools deserve competent and trustworthy leadership," Lydia Howrilka of UFT Solidarity wrote in the petition.

Howrilka went on to accuse the mayor and chancellor of "consistently" failing to provide that leadership, charging them instead with sowing confusion and chaos over an alleged politically m motivated effort to reopen schools Sept. 10.

Lydia also gave her views to the Chief Leader. She shared some of what she said with to them with us and gave us permission to print it:

We support Mulgrew's ideas but we wish that Mulgrew has said outright that schools need to be fully remote at least for September and October.

It looks like there is no possible way the city can meet Mulgrew's demands before September 10 so now it is up to Mayor Bill de Blasio to decide on the next move. Our guess is that a delay in the start of the school year is forthcoming and then at some point later in September the city and UFT will be declaring certain schools free and clear so they will open. 

The doctors with Mulgrew stated that we can only minimize the COVID-19 threat in opening school buildings. Opening buildings may just increase the spread even with the UFT conditions. In all probability, there will be new infections caused by schools being opened. 

UFT SOLIDARITY will always support the union but we also feel that Mulgrew should have cleared the job action with his members first rather than announce it to the press.

We understand that a strike should always be a last resort but this is bigger than a contract. This is a matter of safety for students, their families, and all school based employees.

UFT Solidarity has retained a lawyer and has fundraised for a suit. We started this process several weeks ago. We welcome the UFT leadership's support but are comfortable with carrying the suit on without Unity's endorsement.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020



We all would like to return to our classrooms in September, but New York City school buildings should not reopen unless they are safe. Medical experts and community and civic leaders joined me today at a press conference at UFT headquarters to announce a clear and transparent program of safety reviews and testing protocols designed by medical experts to safeguard the health of our students and staff.

Each New York City public school must show that it has these procedures and supplies in place — and that every adult and child in that school has been tested — before the school reopens. We are prepared to go to court or take a job action if the city tries to open a school that is unsafe.

Working with medical experts, the UFT has created a comprehensive school safety checklist, including the presence of a school nurse, a six-foot separation between student desks, sufficient masks and other protective equipment, working ventilation systems, and an isolation room for students who develop symptoms of infection at school. More than 100 union investigators have already started the process of reviewing the more than 1,400 school buildings to see if they pass the checklist. Any school that fails this review should remain off-limits to children, parents and staff until the problems are fixed.

We are also calling for antibody or COVID-19 testing for every adult and child who plans to enter a school building in the fall. We are urging both teachers and students, when possible, to immediately get a blood test to check for COVID-19 antibodies. Those who cannot demonstrate the presence of coronavirus antibodies will need to show that they have tested negative for the coronavirus itself in the 10 days before their school building reopens.

The UFT is also demanding that the city implement a robust program of intermittent, random testing of school communities, once in-person learning resumes, to detect asymptomatic spread.

You have my solemn promise that this union will do everything in its power to keep you and our school communities safe. As educators, we know that nothing substitutes for in-person learning, but we need to follow the science. If the city adopts our safety plan, no school system in the nation will have stronger health and safety protocols in place.

Stay safe and healthy.


Michael Mulgrew

UFT President 


I  turned this on to hear the First Deputy Chancellor talk in edubabble for a while. I can't post every part because it's indecipherable and says absolutely nothing. He thanked administrators from principals to superintendents. Condolences for Principal Munoz who passed away. He then introduces Chancellor Carranza.

Carranza says the last five months have been the most challenging in our lives. Challenges now. NYC has gone from the pandemic epicenter to only large district considering opening. 0.24% positivity rate today. We've lost 79 DOE employees. We won't forget them. Moment of silence to remember our colleagues. 

Grateful to us. We know students will be learning five days a week and safety is our number one goal. We know people have questions and concerns. Exploring flexibility with the state. Walkthroughs are ongoing. Economic effects have been devastating. $8 billion city cuts. $1 billion DOE. We need federal or state help. Federal government has been absent. We aren't sure state or federal assistance will come through. Planning for labor savings including potential layoffs. Mayor and Chancellor doing everything we can to avoid layoffs. How can we have a partial reopening and be preparing for layoffs? Chancellor states he will continue to fight to protect you in every way possible. Staying focused on getting what we need from DC and Albany. We are on the cusp of something amazing. Classroom discussion from desks six feet apart, parent conferences online, and much more. New normal feels strange. Working toward something so important. What will this mean for our students? Close to 8,000 questions were submitted. Answer the most repeated 20. There's a doctor there and the First Deputy Chancellor will read the questions.

Question: Will teachers be responsible for purchasing their own safety equipment?

Answer from Carranza: No, the DOE will provide all of the safety supplies that are needed. Schools won't have to pay for them locally. We will maintain a 30 day supply of PPE. We have a support hotline if principals need to be resupplied. If staff have their own special face shield, they can wear it.

Question: What is the plan for returning to the offices? 

Answer from Chief Operating Officer: There have been walkthroughs of all central and district offices

Question: What are they doing to deal with trauma-informed pedagogy?

Answer from a different Deputy Chancellor: Schools supported the mental well being of adults and children. Principals have completed trauma 101. Thousands trained. Facilitated trauma training. Will support staff members. Seek out help if you are an employee. City has the Employee Assistance Program. Reach out to them at or call 212 306-7660. Safety and health are top concerns this year.

Question: How can the in-person teachers collaborate with remote teachers?

Answer from Chief Academic Officer: In partnership with unions, we have a 30 minute collaboration period whether in person in remote to plan together. Teachers who are remote can join in. Other resources will be available to make sure that other important questions are worked out with leaders at the UFT and CSA. We will update and finalize as soon as possible.

Question: What will childcare for DOE employees look like? Parent has to be in school five days a week.

Answer from someone from a Department I couldn't recognize: Families will need childcare. Working with other city agencies to provide free childcare options for days parent is teaching but pre-k-grade 8 kids can have a place to go because they are remote. Using Community-Based Organizations. Learning Bridges Program. bridges.

Question: 7-10 days for Covid turnaround. Will that be useless? Do remote only staff need testing?

Answer from Carranza: DOE employees will be prioritized for testing. Deputy Chancellor Robinson adds that school-based staff are strongly recommended to get tested. Encourage all New Yorkers to get tested. Department of Health is providing free priority testing for DOE employees. The city is aiming for 24 hour turnaround time. Medical doctor adds that there is social distancing so be reassured that there are great precautions at testing centers. Encouraging all to get tested to show commitment to health of fellow New Yorkers.

Question: Safety measures for District 75 for teachers and students?

Answer from Deputy Chancellor Robinson: Emphasis on health and safety. Staff and scholars are our number one priority. Nurse in every school building along with Building Response Team. Chief Education Officer adds that there are special considerations for D75. She thanks the staff. For example, social stories to encourage students to follow safety guidelines including the masks. We can use pictures and toys to convey the messages. In REC Centers, we have used social distancing and washing hands. An array of needs that staff needs to fulfill. Face shields need to be used and they cannot be shared. Guidance on toileting and diapering using CDC and state guidance.

 Question: How do we report a COVID19 case from outside of the school system?

Answer from Deputy Chancellor Robinson: We're all in this together. Worked with partners from testing and tracing. Working with DOH and Health and Hospitals with confirming cases. Communication, communication, communication is essential. Emphasize school protocol if there is a confirmed case in a school, the DOH will notify the principal of a confirmed case. If a teacher or a parent presents info about a confirmed case, we will work with DOH to confirm it. Building Response Team will be notified. Working to make sure everyone is trained on the protocol. Superintendent will be notified. Borough Safety Director will be notified. Students, teachers, and classes will be instructed to quarantine for 14 days. Protocol for two or more confirmed cases within 7 days, NYC test and trace corp will start an investigation and school will close within 24 hours for a minimum of 24 hours while DOH investigates. School-based staff will be sent protocols so we all understand it.

Question: Ventilation and air quality in schools, What are we doing?

Answer: Chancellor says we are upgrading ventilation and fixing windows. If we feel there is not appropriate ventilation, we will take the classroom or school offline. COO adds that it is incredibly important that staff feel safe walking into buildings. Buildings are different. Some have windows, some have HVAC systems. Making sure the system is upgraded. We are trying to be transparent about the work we are doing.  Reiterate that any room and building that is not safe, we will not ask you to go into them. Medical doctor adds that the best way to prevent infection is to combine many interventions. Most important is social distancing so keeping the room less crowded. Second, face coverings are important and third is good hand hygiene and the fourth component is ventilation. Outdoors is safest so having windows open brings in natural, fresh air. HVAC is the second best way.  

Question: What if a school has too many in-person teachers or too many remote teachers?

Answer from Deputy Chancellor: Exploring all options. Redeploy central staff. Possibility in-person teachers can do remote. Chancellor adds this is new. It will fluctuate who is remote and who is blended. We want every student to have a teacher from their school for in-person and remote learning. That is our goal but we can't guarantee that. Students requesting in-person teachers. Identifying people who have credentials who can assist. Flexibility is key. Circumstance leads to uncertainty. 

Question: How can we be safe with masks off during lunch?

Answer from Deputy Chancellor Robinson is that it is a big concern. People who are ill should stay home. Following safety reduces risk. Teachers will wear PPE during lunch. Scholars must maintain 6 feet social distance. I'm a parent first. The doctor adds that he understands the concern. No 100% safety until virus is gone. We are balancing risk. Best way is for kids to stay in a place where they are socially distanced. Other places around the world have proven this to be a safe and appropriate way to eat.

Question: When do teachers report to work? Calendar?

Answer: Chancellor says we are in discussions with the State Education Department about getting flexibility. Chief Academic Officer says there is a 6 hour and 50 minute day negotiated with UFT. 30 minute prep can be done remotely at the end of the day. 30 minutes of planning at the start and 20 minutes to contact families. Another Deputy Chancellor says they are in conversations with the state about flexibility. She apologizes for the late calendar. It will be solidified in the coming weeks.

Chancellor says they will get some written answers to questions that could not be answered live. He thanks us.

James here: That was as mind-numbing as a faculty conference at its most tedious. I need a drink now and I'm not a drinker. I can't imagine these people could run this operation safely in this pandemic.


 We heard from the UFT this morning in the first round of our August 19 doubleheader. The second match is coming up with Chancellor Richard Carranza's Town Hall with employees. 

For those wondering what could be asked, here is a petition started by High School Executive Board member Mike Schirtzer that has questions a team of 257 educators want answers to. Let's see if he runs away from tough questions like Mulgrew usually does at Town Halls but he did not this morning.

My wife asked for Carranza'sreaction to Mulgrew's strike threat. 

Here are Mike's group's questions that were on a petition:

How will school staff be notified of a positive COVID case?

How can eating in classrooms be considered safe when there is no indoor dining in NYC?

How do you address the janitorial union’s statement that they did not have enough time for their duties before the pandemic and certainly will not have enough time for additional duties?

If someone tests positive and we need to quarantine for 14 days, are we then responsible for teaching remotely, or are we just “out” for that time? If we switch to remote, how will that transition be handled?

Last Spring, we launched into a new teaching model, called “Remote Learning” with only three days of training. This year, we may be launching into another brand-new system, now called “Blended Learning” and, as of yet, we have had no training. School is scheduled to begin in 22 days. When will the DOE offer professional development on remote and hybrid/blended models? To this date, to our knowledge, DOE has not communicated at all with teachers pertaining to training for the upcoming school year.

What are the expectations for how in-person classroom activities and materials will be handled? Many teachers are concerned about handling or exchanging work on paper, using class sets of textbooks, sharing computers and other devices, etc.

Will we be supplied with masks and face shields as we will need to face students as we give instruction? What kind of masks? Will we receive n95 or just a medical mask?

Teacher planning is an important cornerstone of a strong, stable educational experience. As teachers, we plan ahead. This is what we do. When will the school calendar be released so that we can begin planning our semester?

What safety measures for social distancing is the city making for kids who have to take public transportation? How will that affect contact tracing? 

What are the outcomes for students who do not wear a mask and/or violate social distancing? 

How long will it take to appropriately address the situation and how will we do that?

Will cleaning wipes and spray be distributed to all staff? If so, what will we be supplied?

A number of neighborhoods, including East New York and Sunset Park, have infection rates higher than 5%, at least as of August 14. Is any consideration being given to keeping schools in high positivity rate neighborhoods remote? There are also concerns about people who live in higher rate areas commuting to lower rate ones.

Will there be a public database listing positive cases and locations?

September is typically a very hot month. We do not have air conditioning in all city schools and have been recommended to not use fans. How can children safely wear masks in extreme heat?

Why is regular COVID testing for students and faculty not mandatory?

Who is cleaning up after unmasked children?

How can we continue to teach in classrooms after lunchtime when the airspace is now potentially contaminated?

How will ICT classrooms look in a remote setting? How will they will in a blended setting considering that students must be learning for all five days?

When will staff receive training for our trauma-informed start?

Ventilation is a big problem in so many of our older buildings. How will bathrooms without windows be made safe? What about classrooms that are windowless or nearly windowless? And what specific protocols are being followed to measure and maintain levels of ventilation?

The turnaround date from getting tested to getting results is around 7 days.  In order to open schools, like all the major professional sports leagues, can we mandate testing with a 24-hour turnaround on results?

If a student in my class tests positive, the class, including myself, have to quarantine for 2 weeks, does my family also have to quarantine? What about the children in my child’s class? If my child/children were exposed to me, and their class was exposed to them, don’t we all then have to quarantine? And what about the siblings in their classes?

What will happen if a student comes to school on the wrong assigned day? We have heard that there is supposed to be a room for these students to stay but how will we have the staff for that?

We have been told by the union and others that there will be two teachers for every in-person class:  one for the in-person part and one to teach those kids on the days that are remote.  Even with ATRs, administrators, and others teaching, there may not be enough teachers.  What happens then?

If there are more remote students in a school, will some teachers who do not have medical accommodations be asked to teach remote classes?  If so, where will they teach from?