Thursday, July 29, 2021

CITY COUNCIL MEMBERS INTRODUCE BILL TO CHANGE SQUARE FOOTAGE REQUIREMENTS IN NYC SCHOOLS TO LOWER CLASS SIZE; CHICAGO DONE WITH MAYORAL CONTROL OF SCHOOLS

 This is from the NY Post:

The City Council announced a new bill Thursday that would lower Department of Education class sizes to protect against coronavirus transmission and bolster overall learning.

Education Committee Chair Mark Treyger and Council Speaker Corey Johnson want to raise the minimum per student space requirement from 20 square feet to 35 square feet in all grades over the next three years.

“The world has forever changed because of this pandemic and there’s no going back,” Treyger said in a statement. “We need to ensure our city’s building occupancy codes are up to date with modern science and public health data.”

Pre-K and kindergarten classes already adhere to the 35 square foot minimum, but Treyger said the standard should apply across the board.

To help make sure that public school classrooms remain safe places, we need stricter space limits for all students, not just the city’s youngest,” he said.

Officials said most city classrooms range in size from 500 to 750 square feet. The new guidelines would cap the number of kids in a 500-square-foot room at 14 and 21 for a 750 square-foot space.

City high schools had roughly 26 kids per class last year, according to DOE data.

The legislation would require all city schools to comply by September 2024.

Even if the bill passes over a mayoral veto, I find it very difficult to believe it could be enforced, particularly with a new mayor. Eric Adams or Curtis Sliwa hardly look like supporters of lower class sizes. Since the mayor controls the schools in NYC under current state law, which does sunset in 2022 and then must be renewed, I can see the mayor saying the new ordinance goes beyond the power of the City Council and this ordinance will be fought out in court for God knows how many years. 

I still don't understand why the UFT can't demand lower class sizes in the one place where there are mechanisms to enforce it: the UFT contract. Some of the extra federal and state money the city has gotten should be used for lower class sizes and not be deducted from potential teacher raises in the next contract.

If anyone is interested in changing the schools fundamentally, look at Chicago where a reform group called CORE won an election to take over the teachers union in 2010 and there have been two teacher strikes since 2012. Chicago is where mayoral control was pioneered in the 1990s but today the Governor of Illinois signed a bill into law creating an elected school board for Chicago. Why does democracy exist in well over 90% of school districts in the country but not NYC? It's time for the people to run the schools.


Chicago Teachers Union Statement:


Elected school board is an historic achievement for Chicago's students, families and school communities

After more than 150 years of appointed boards of education in Chicago, the road to the city's first fully elected representative leadership has come to an end.

CHICAGO, July 29, 2021 — The Chicago Teachers Union issued the following statement in response to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s signature of House Bill 2908, creating an elected representative school board for Chicago Public Schools:

Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s signature today of HB2908, the historic bill to create an elected representative school board for Chicago, caps a decades-long fight by parents, rank-and-file educators and community activists to provide our school district the same democratic rights afforded to every other district in the state of Illinois.

Students, families and educators will now have the voice they have long been denied for a quarter of a century by failed mayoral control of our schools. Chicago will finally have an elected board accountable to the people our schools serve, as it should be.

Our union is grateful to the grassroots movement that led with us in this fight. We owe special thanks to state representatives Kam Buckner and bill sponsor Delia Ramirez, Sen. Rob Martwick, Illinois Speaker Chris Welch and Senate President Don Harmon. All were instrumental in getting this landmark legislation to the governor’s desk.

We are also thinking tonight about our beloved President Emerita Karen GJ Lewis, NBCT. This victory is hers as much as it is a victory for our city. Here’s to you, Karen.

UFT UPDATE ON MEDICARE PRIVATIZATION (MULGREWCARE)

This is from the UFT. They never mention in their literature that moving 300,000 NYC retirees into a privatized medical plan sets the cause of getting a universal healthcare plan for everyone back considerably. Certain goods should be public goods. Healthcare should be one of them. We all have a right to quality healthcare. The US is the only wealthy nation that does not guarantee this right. Universal Medicare for All is what we should be striving for. In addition, how is the UFT going to argue against privatizing public education when they endorse privatizing retiree healthcare? 

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

INDEPENDENT COMMUNITY OF EDUCATORS UNANIMOUSLY CALLS FOR UNITED SLATE TO RUN AGAINST UNITY IN THE 2022 UFT ELECTION

ICEUFT met today via Zoom. There were over 20 UFTers, mostly strong union activists, along with a couple of newer teachers. The vast majority on the Zoom were active teachers and a paraprofessional along with a few of us retirees. 

We had current chapter leaders, former chapter leaders, unionists with UFT Executive Board experience, delegates, and past delegates on the Zoom. It felt like old times at ICEUFT as there was a robust discussion on what is occurring in the schools. We agreed we need to work hard to educate UFTers on what a real union is supposed to be doing and the rank and file's role. 

After our lengthy deliberations, a resolution was presented on running in the 2022 UFT general election. We all agreed that the best way to move the UFT ahead is to unite the groups opposed to Michael Mulgrew's Unity Caucus on areas where there is common ground and then to seek to work together for next year's campaign for UFT offices.

Below is our resolution and then the rationale that was presented this afternoon. 

We urge all UFters to join what will hopefully be a movement for a real union, the kind the UFT was when it started in the early sixties. Email us at ICEUFT@gmail.com if you want to be a part of it.


RESOLUTION FOR A UNITED SLATE IN THE 2022 UFT UNION-WIDE 2022 

As passed unanimously by the Independent Community Educators at our meeting of July 27th, 2021

Whereas The UFT Leadership Unity Caucus, the ruling one-party system that has suppressed democracy and stifled member participation under a 60-year hegemonic, unilateral control of the UFT, has failed the membership on a number of issues and can only be seriously challenged by a united opposition,

Be it Resolved: The Independent Community of Educators urges all UFT opposition caucuses and non-affiliated independents within the UFT to come together and form a full and united slate to run against the Unity Caucus in the 2022 United Federation of Teachers union-wide elections. 


The Covid 19 pandemic, with its challenges and life and death consequences for our union family, has forged new relationships between opposition caucuses, groups and independent union members within the United Federation of Teachers.

A growing consensus and collective spirit towards greater cooperation has blossomed among those opposed to the Unity leadership and have found common cause in fighting for a better union and safer schools during the pandemic.

This cooperation has been evident in seeking to mutually coordinate around vital issues for rank and file members fighting against the privatization of Medicare for our senior retirees; and mobilizing to organize and cooperate within the Delegate Assembly for common agendas.

It is our fundamental belief that only a full and United Slate in the 2022 UFT union-wide election can challenge the ruling one party system that has suppressed democracy and stifled member participation under the 60 year hegemonic, unilateral rule of the Unity Caucus.

This United Slate will be formed by UFT members who believe a better, democratic union is not only necessary, but presently possible. Our union leadership must energetically and responsively involve, engage, and educate its members at all times. Together we can fight for this!

The goal of the United Slate would be to challenge the Unity Caucus in order to ensure they are responsive and transparent to our members. We will use the election as a platform to educate all union members about the dangers of an increasingly isolated leadership that makes decisions for us, not with us. If we were to win seats on the Executive Board, which historically speaking is very possible, we would work in concert to give voice to members of our union, bring member’s issues to the leaders that they have otherwise chosen to ignore, and speak truth to power. 

The members of Independent Community of Educators, which in the past has won seats on the UFT Executive Board in coalition with other groups and as founding members of MORE, will assist in providing logistical support for the union-wide elections through completing petitioning efforts, canvassing, electoral analysis, media promotion and distribution.

We also call on all caucuses and UFT members opposed to one party ruling Unity Caucus to come together now when there is common cause at UFT district/borough level Chapter Leader meetings, Delegate Assemblies, Executive Board meetings and to secure a better contract for all members during the upcoming negotiations. 

We need not and can not work together on every one of our platform/program points. There are political differences amongst the groups, but on issues where we find ourselves under the same banner, and we know there are many times when this will be and has been the case, we ought to find the means to coordinate for the betterment of our union, its members and the families we serve. 

INDEPENDENT COMMUNITY OF EDUCATORS ZOOM MEETING TODAY AT NOON

We are meeting today on Zoom at noon to discuss the state of the schools, the 2022 UFT election, and the privatization of retiree healthcare. We should have a report later.

For those who wish to be on our listserve, email your name and school to iceuft@gmail.com. I will forward the information to Norm Scott.

Monday, July 26, 2021

DE BLASIO MANDATES VACCINE OR WEEKLY COVID TESTS FOR ALL CITY EMPLOYEES INCLUDING POLICE AND TEACHERS

From Gothamist:

Beginning in mid-September, New York City will require all of its 340,000 municipal workers, including police, firefighters and teachers, to either be vaccinated against COVID-19 or tested weekly. 

Under the latest plan, all city workers must comply with the vaccination-or-test rule beginning on September 13th, which is also the first day of public school in New York City. However, for 45,000 city staffers or contractors who work in residential and congregate care settings, the deadline to comply will come earlier, on August 16th.

As part of the transition to spur more vaccination, the city will double down on its existing mask mandates for unvaccinated employees. All city workers must show proof of vaccination starting August 2nd or be forced to wear a mask at all times.

The new directives come less than a week after Mayor Bill de Blasio issued the "get vaccinated or get tested" rule for the city's 42,000 public health workers. At the time, the mayor hinted that the requirement would eventually be expanded to more of the city's workforce as part of an incremental or "climb up the ladder" approach.

About 54% of all New Yorkers have been fully inoculated to date, but the pace of vaccinations has been slowing, leading experts to worry that the more contagious delta variant will fuel a rapid surge in infections. The latest seven-day average of total cases is 824, more than double the number two weeks ago. The daily positivity rate has also climbed to 2.27%, after being well below 1% in June.

UFT reaction via NY 1's Jillian Jorgensen.

Meanwhile, the UFT is on board: 

Vaccination and testing have helped keep schools among the safest places in the city. This approach puts the emphasis on vaccination but still allows for personal choice and provides additional safeguards through regular testing.”

Update- From de Blasio's press conference covered by the Daily News:

If city workers who opt against vaccines refuse to wear masks indoors, they won’t be allowed to come to the job and won’t be paid, de Blasio and his Labor Commissioner Renee Campion said.

“We’re just not going to tolerate unvaccinated city employees doing the wrong thing,” de Blasio said Monday at his morning press briefing. “Let’s be blunt: If you’re a city employee and you’re unvaccinated, you must wear a mask indoors at work. We will not tolerate any decision to do otherwise because this is about protecting  Unvaccinated workers not wearing masks, he added, would be “removed” from their workplace.

“It will be a job requirement. We will expect employees to comply,” Campion added. “If employees refuse to comply, they just can’t be at work and, in fact, they will not be paid.”

Sunday, July 25, 2021

SHOULD THERE BE A COVID VACCINE MANDATE IN NYC SCHOOLS?

Mayor Bill de Blasio is mandating COVID vaccines or weekly COVID tests for city health workers. The mayor is also urging private sector employers to consider mandatory vaccinations. Here is some of what he said from Channel 7 Eyewitness News:

On Friday, de Blasio encouraged businesses "to move immediately to some form of mandate" for vaccinations.

It's his latest effort to fight a surge of the more contagious Delta variant.

"We tried purely voluntary for over half a year, we tried every form of incentive, so we have reached the limit of a purely voluntary system, it's time for more mandates," de Blasio said.

When he was asked if the city would consider a mandatory COVID pass for most social activities, like France, de Blasio said it's a "direction we need to seriously consider."

"Getting vaccinated is smart in general, it's smart, if you want to attend big events, it's just smart," he said. "So, I'd say to everyone, if you want to keep going to these great things, go get vaccinated."

The mayor's remarks came just two days after he imposed a mandate on employees of the city's public hospital system and the health department's community clinics.

Those employees must either be vaccinated or face weekly coronavirus testing.

Success Academy ordered staff to get COVID vaccines in May in order to work in schools this fall. 

What about public school educators? The UFT has opposed mandatory vaccinations on HIPAA (privacy) grounds.

Gothamist covered this in May. An excerpt:

United Federation of Teachers president Michael Mulgrew has repeatedly said teachers should not have to disclose whether they’ve been vaccinated under federal health privacy rules.

That claim does not appear to be accurate. The state does retain the authority to mandate COVID-19 shots for academic staff.

“Public schools can require vaccinations of teachers as a condition of employment, with disability and religious exemptions as required by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC),” said [Professor Allison] Hoffman from Penn Law. “While the union might claim that such conditions are contrary to teacher contracts, asking a teacher to provide health data is not a violation of HIPAA, the federal privacy law.”

Mulgrew wrong? Shocking.

One of the main arguments the anti-vaxxers use is that the COVID vaccines are under emergency Use Authorization and so they cannot be mandated until they go through the FDA's regular approval process. Gothamist covered the EUA issue. While under EUA it may be legal to mandate the vaccine for work but not a slam dunk.

“The legality of mandates is less clear under an EUA because the vaccine has not undergone the full FDA approval process with sufficient efficacy and safety data,” said Professor Allison Hoffman, an expert of health care law at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School. “There is language in the EUA statute that individuals have to be informed of the right to accept or refuse the product, and the consequences of doing so. This language implies a right to refuse.”

A policy analysis published in April by the Kaiser Family Foundation adds that “Others have questioned whether the reference to “consequences” of refusing a vaccine subject to an EUA includes not only potential health consequences but also other adverse outcomes such as loss of employment.”

Let's go to that Kaiser study:

More generally, however, it is unclear whether COVID-19 vaccines can be mandated while operating under an EUA, and courts have not yet ruled on this issue.

Back to Gothamist:

But once a vaccine receives approval, states can definitely mandate it for schools, Hoffman added, as they have done across the nation with varying types of exceptions.

Pfizer submitted a regular approval application on May 7, 2021. The FDA has until January to make a decision but given the state of the pandemic, we would be surprised if it isn't done sooner.

From News 10 Albany:

“The Prescription Drug User Fee Act (PDUFA) Goal Date of January 2022 reflects the PDUFA deadline for Priority Review and does not mean approval will not happen before that time. Quite to the contrary, the review of this BLA (Biologics License Application) has been ongoing, is among the highest priorities of the agency, and the agency intends to complete the review far in advance of the PDUFA Goal Date,” according to the FDA.

We wrote about mandating vaccinations for NYC teachers in May which led to a discussion in comments. We noted that a huge majority of parents and educators in a survey done by Educators of NYC favored mandatory vaccinations for NYC school workers if there were medical exemptions.

We cited a modern discussion on Jacobson vs. Massachusetts, the 1905 Supreme Court case that upheld mandatory vaccinations by a state as constitutional.

APPLYING MODERN CONSTITUTIONAL LAW

Given the changes in constitutional law, public health, and government regulation, what kinds of public health laws that address contagious diseases might be constitutionally permissible today? A law that authorizes mandatory vaccination during an epidemic of a lethal disease, with refusal punishable by a monetary penalty, like the one at issue in Jacobson, would undoubtedly be found constitutional under the low constitutional test of “rationality review.” However, the vaccine would have to be approved by the FDA as safe and effective, and the law would have to require exceptions for those who have contraindications to the vaccine. 

If we accept that mandatory vaccines as a condition of employment with medical exemptions are legal and the only possible legal hurdle left is the Emergency Use Authorization, the issue comes down to whether a mandate is desirable in NYC schools. I would agree with NYC Educator that the answer is yes.

He cited a Chalkbeat NY article that showed the UFT is right now on the fence concerning mandatory vaccination for members:

“Thousands of UFT members have already been vaccinated through programs sponsored by the union, the city, and the state,” Alison Gendar, a teachers union spokesperson, wrote in an email. “We will be working with the city, state, and our own independent medical experts on safety protocols for this fall.”

That to me is UFTeze for we're seeing how the wind is blowing on mandated vaccines. I don't think that is a strong enough stand.

While Chalkbeat reports that at least 58% of  DOE employees are vaccinated, that is not sufficient. The question now is if the UFT and city are willing to stand up to right-wing and other anti-vaxxers who are literally putting public health in jeopardy by refusing the jabs. 

Dr. Kavita Patel warned that the longer people wait to get vaccinated, “the more it poses a risk down the line for even those of us who are vaccinated.”

“It’s not just that vaccinations work, it’s that we have to vaccinate the whole world, and the more people that are unvaccinated or remain unvaccinated, the virus replicates. As it replicates, it mutates, and the more efficient it gets with mutations, that’s where you get variants like delta,” said Patel, a former Obama administration policy aide.

Mayor de Blasio and President Mulgrew need to act now as the time for the two-dose vaccines to take full effect is five to six weeks after the first shot and school starts on September 9 for most DOE employees.

Should we accept the de Blasio compromise and call for mandatory COVID vaccines of DOE employees or weekly proof of a negative COVID test until the FDA fully approves the COVID vaccines or should the UFT push for COVID vaccinations now as a condition of employment in a New York City public school? Or, do we stand with the anti-vaxxers? I am for the first two choices but lean toward a hard mandate with only medical exemptions granted. 

Thursday, July 22, 2021

LUMP SUM PAYMENT DUE TODAY

Today is the due day for the final payment of what was basically an interest-free loan UFTers made to the city for work we did as far back as 2009. The city and UFT agreed in October to postpone half of the final payment so the money would be paid with the second payroll in July. That I gather turned out to be too difficult so July 22 was the new pay date.  

The UFT left it to Amy Arundell to respond to members complaining about why the money promised for July 22 has not yet been deposited into member bank accounts. 

My understanding is retirees will wait until August to get their July money and the final per session lump sum will also apparently violate the agreed to July date.



Update:

Please be reminded and remind our members that:

Supp checks do not show in the portal until several days after issuance.

Direct deposit checks do not post at dawn to bank accounts.  The earliest it will show is after 1:30 PM and many will take a day or two to show.  Members should be told that if the check doesn’t post by Monday they should contact us.

Thank you – and I truly appreciate you!!!!

I’m here if you need me

Samantha Mark

Coordinator of Salary Issues

UFT Department of Personnel & Salary

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

DOES NYC NEED A REMOTE OPTION FOR FALL?

I saw this earlier today:




Does NYC need a remote option for schooling for the fall?

UFT Solidarity put this out earlier:

We are collecting stories from educators about why they are concerned about returning to full time in person teaching and learning in September. We are hoping to look for patterns and commonalities to pursue legal action.

Please consider filling out this form regardless if you'd like to join the legal action or not (we will be crowd funding the litigation so litigants will be paying a very minimal retainer.)

UFT does not have too much credibility on the issue.

Remember, UFT President Michael Mulgrew said we reached "herd immunity" back at the June Delegate Assembly. From Arthur Goldstein's notes

Herd immunity is a milestone, Thanks all on call.

From our notes of Mulgrew's report:

We have reached herd immunity. 

Just like on many other topics, Mulgrew was wrong.

I am no scientist and don't pretend to be one but if kids under 12 who cannot yet be vaccinated make up a large portion of the student population and this virus is once again raging out of control, particularly among the unvaccinated, shouldn't we at least be discussing a remote option for the fall right about now?

This is from North Jersey.com:

The delta variant has already fueled a summer surge of the virus, with new daily cases nearly tripling — from 13,747 to 39,719 on Sunday  — over the last month in the United States, reversing weeks of decline. While that is small compared to winter’s peak of new cases, the continuing spread multiplies opportunities for new, perhaps more dangerous, variants to emerge. Another surge is predicted in the fall, when kids go back to school and activities move indoors.  

This article also covers children:

COVID presents real risks for kids

While children generally develop milder cases of COVID-19 than adults and are rarely hospitalized for severe illness, the risks they face from the disease are real — exceeding those from other communicable diseases, such as flu, for which vaccines are already required. 

As in adults, COVID can be more severe for kids with underlying conditions such as asthma, diabetes or obesity. Some children develop a potentially lethal inflammatory syndrome weeks after the infection, even if they didn’t initially have symptoms. They also are at risk for “long COVID,” which can affect thinking and stamina, among other consequences, for months.  

Do you trust Bill de Blasio, Meisha Porter or Michael Mulgrew to keep young kids safe in crowded school buildings?

Even Republican leaders like Sean Hannity are urging people to get vaccinated now.

Monday, July 19, 2021

GRIEVANCE FOR 2020 SPRING BREAK PAY FILED; FINAL LUMP SUM PAYMENT THIS WEEK

This is from Unity's Gene Mann's The Organizer:

UFT Files Grievance on Spring Break Pay on July 1 

The COVID-19 limitations on grievances ended on June 30, and our regular contractual grievance process is fully up and running. The mayor kept schools open during spring break that year during the height of the pandemic; in compensation, members were granted four additional CAR days in their banks. The UFT will argue before the arbitrator that its members should receive a full compensation package for all the extra days they were required to work. All school-based grievances will open when UFT members report to schools on Thursday, Sept. 9. 


Final Lump Sum Payment

Eligible DOE-employed UFT members will receive the sixth — and final — lump-sum payment connected to the 2014 DOE-UFT contract in a separate paycheck on July 22 or 23.

NORM SCOTT AND LEO CASEY DISCUSS UFT HISTORY ON THE RADIO

Daniel Alicea is a New York City middle school teacher. He has formed a UFT group called Educators of NYC. Daniel is now one of the hosts of WBAI's Talk out of School. He alternates weekly with Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters. The program is live on the radio every Saturday at 1:00 P.M. In addition, every show is archived and available as a podcast

Please take an hour out of your day and listen closely to Saturday's show as past UFT High School Vice President and now AFT leader Leo Casey discusses the history of the UFT with our own Norm Scott. They cover the 1960s and 70's. Believe it or not, there is a great deal of agreement between the two longtime activists, Casey from the inside and Norm as a dissident but there is real disagreement on the roots of the anti-democratic nature of the UFT.

Norm at ICE email:

I was a guest on the Leonie Haimson WBAI radio program, now co-hosted by Daniel Alicea, this past Saturday along with a former sparring partner, Randi assistant and now head of the Shanker Institute Leo Casey. That was part 1 of a history of the UFT. Part 2 is in two weeks and I hope we can get our (the retiree healthcare) situation discussed as an outcome of lack of democracy in the UFT. We are hoping to get a well-known voice of opposition to Unity for decades but he'd kill me if I revealed his name because he hasn't agreed yet.

I think I know who that person is (definitely not me) and if this individual does the show, it will be just as good if not better than the first one. I wonder who Unity puts up next, if anyone.

On another note, Thursday, July 22, ICEUFT will be meeting via Zoom at noon. More details will follow. 


Friday, July 16, 2021

TEACHERS FIGHT BACK AGAINST PRINCIPAL WHO TRIES TO DIVIDE AND CONQUER STAFF ON RACE

This is from Sue Edelman in the NY Post:

The faculty of a Washington Heights high school is rebelling against their principal, charging in a vote of no confidence that she has “flagrantly but unsuccessfully attempted to divide our school by race.”

Paula Lev, principal of the High School for Law and Public Service, is now under investigation by the city Department of Education for allegedly telling a faculty member she “was going to get rid of all these white teachers that aren’t doing anything for the kids of our community,” a complaint states.

Lev, a Dominican, also asked the faculty member to “conspire with her” to try to oust a white colleague, according to the complaint filed last week with the DOE’s Office of Equal Opportunity.

“She definitely has something against white people,” says the complaint, obtained by The Post.

On the last day of school, Lev gave the faculty member a notice that he was “placed in excess” — meaning no longer needed at the school — and should look for a job elsewhere in the DOE. 

“He blew the whistle on her and a week later he was excessed,” a colleague said. It’s unclear whether Lev knew about the complaint.

The complaint came amid simmering unrest at the school, which staffers blamed on what they said was Lev twisting the current concepts of equity and anti-racism, which the DOE promotes and teachers overwhelmingly support.

Dissatisfaction with Lev, 39, boiled up in February, when teacher Nick Bacon, the union chapter leader, filed a routine grievance about a scheduling issue that could have affected most of the faculty, staffers said.

In front of a half-dozen other staffers, Lev questioned Bacon’s motives.

“I wasn’t sure what your problem with me was, maybe it’s because I am a woman of color and you’re a white man?” Lev asked Bacon, according to a March 2 letter to District 6 Superintendent Manny Ramirez and signed by most of the school’s tenured members.

Staffers were outraged that Lev had seemingly accused Bacon, who was raising their labor concerns, of being racist. The school has a diverse staff — about half white, some Jewish and Greek. A mix of black, Hispanic and Asian make up the rest. 

The grievance raised by Bacon was resolved in the union’s favor. In an effort to quell the furor over Lev’s remark, Ramirez agreed in a meeting that what she said was “inappropriate,” but added that the comment expressed Lev’s feelings, and urged Bacon to work with her, staffers said.

Sue gives more details:

Four months after the conflict involving Bacon, another faculty member filed the discrimination complaint alleging that Lev had pressured him to help her engineer the ouster of a colleague, an unidentified white female staffer.

Lev wanted the faculty member to get a state education certification, the complaint states, so he would not have the same title as the targeted colleague, clearing the way for Lev to “excess” the more senior staffer.

“Ms. Lev has asked me to conspire with her on a couple of occasions in getting rid of my colleague,” the faculty member alleges in the OEO filing.

“She also stated to me in Spanish that she was ‘going to get rid of all these white teachers that aren’t doing anything for the kids of our community,’” the complaint states.

It concludes, “I believe Ms. Lev is not suited for the position of principal because of the comments she has made to me about white people and the malicious ways in which she thinks and speaks. She is not fit to be a leader of a school.

“As a school staff, we have lost confidence, creditability, trust, and most importantly we have lost hope in Ms. Lev as a principal at the High School for Law & Public Service.” 

 83% voted no confidence in the principal. 

We support Chapter Leader Nick Bacon and the UFTers at the High School for Law and Public Service.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

MLC APPROVES MEDICARE PRIVATIZATION

Learn more about the NYC Medicare Advantage Plus Plan, James.

Over the past few months, the UFT has worked tirelessly with fellow unionists on the Municipal Labor Committee (MLC) to address the rising cost of health care while maintaining members’ current benefits and quality of care.

Today, Wednesday July 14, the MLC voted on and approved the NYC Medicare Advantage Plus Plan, which means you and your fellow retirees will continue to benefit from premium-free coverage while maintaining access to all of the same providers and hospitals you currently use. Unlike any other Medicare Advantage program in existence, this new plan not only mirrors and improves on the GHI Senior Care Plan, but also includes aggressive oversight to protect member benefits.

Understanding the details of a health care plan can be a daunting task. That’s why the UFT is here to help you get all the information you need.


Gothamist covered the story.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

COUNCILMAN HOLDEN CALLS FOR STATE AND FEDERAL INVESTIGATIONS ON GRADE FRAUD IN NYC SCHOOLS

This is from the Queens Chronicle:

Councilman Bob Holden isn’t surprised that the city’s Department of Education is moving to fire the principal at Maspeth High School — only that is has taken this long.

And now he wants the federal investigators brought in to examine a problem he says goes way beyond Maspeth.The DOE has filed internal charges against Khurshid Abdul-Mutakabbir, who has been principal since the school opened in 2011, following investigations that allege the school awarded students improper credits as well as testing misconduct wherein staff allegedly assisted students on Regents exams.

“Following DOE’s investigation into Principal Abdul-Mutakabbir’s unacceptable behavior, DOE served him with disciplinary charges and removed him from payroll while we seek to terminate his employment pursuant to state law,” said DOE spokesperson Katie O’Hanlon in an email to the Chronicle on Thursday. “Our schools must have the highest standards of academic integrity, and we are working quickly to bring in new, qualified leadership to Maspeth High School.”

Holden, in an email from his office on Friday afternoon, was somewhat less than impressed.

“It’s good to finally see the principal removed, two years after I helped the Maspeth High School whistleblowers stand up to the corruption and intimidation and break the story,” Holden said. “They came to my office because they had nowhere else to turn. It has taken far too long, because neither the administration nor the DOE was in any hurry to investigate.”

Holden said he personally brought the matter to the attention of the administration as well as former Chancellor Richard Carranza “directly and there was no action taken.

“Grade fraud is a systemic problem throughout the city school system and we need state and federal agencies to investigate, including the U.S. Attorney, New York State and U.S. Departments of Education and the FBI. Our educators and our students deserve better.”

Mayor de Blasio’s office as of this posting had not responded to an email sent Friday afternoon requesting comment.

Why do people try to complain here anonymously and not blow the whistle on what Holden and many here call a systemic issue?

PROFESSIONAL STAFF CONGRESS MLC REPS EXPLAIN WHY THEY ARE ASKING FOR DELAY AND IF THAT FAILS WILL VOTE NO ON MEDICARE PRIVATIZATION

As a PSC member, I am attending the Zoom meeting with President James Davis and others on the proposal for city employee retiree healthcare being moved from traditional Medicare to Medicare Advantage (privately administered Medicare).

President James Davis and others including the Welfare Fund Director, the Retiree Chapter Leader, and Past President Barbara Bowen gave their views and educated us on the MLC vote tomorrow.

PSC will ask for a postponement on the Municipal Labor Committee vote scheduled only a few days after the proposal was agreed to. If that fails, PSC will vote no at the MLC meeting scheduled for tomorrow. They surprisingly stated that the unions have not even seen the proposed five-year contract so nobody knows the final details of what actually is in this proposal.

PSC expects there to be some other no-votes among city unions. MLC votes are weighted. The two biggest unions are the UFT and DC 37 so this proposal will almost certainly go through. The PSC criticized the UFT for having us pay for raises through savings on healthcare. Past President Bowen reasoned that the UFT and DC 37 want to keep premium-free healthcare and saw the Medicare Advantage way as the best way to do it. She then stated there will be an opt-out option but nobody knows the cost of opting out as of now. 

There are two main reasons to vote no according to the PSC. First, this is a step backward in the fight to win universal healthcare in the United States, the only industrialized country that does not have this right.

Second, PSC reps don't know what the exact details of the Medicare Advantage contract are. We are huge city unions that represent around 1 million New Yorkers when families are counted in so we could mobilize to force the city to tax the wealthy properly. Unions are essentially letting the city off the hook by allowing them to shift cost savings to members rather than going after the health insurance companies and their price gouging. We are expecting the austerity mindset.

MLC asserts it will be improved coverage with no premiums. They assert that any doctor who takes Medicare will take this Medicare Advantage plan but we haven't seen the contract where this is in writing.

This is a national extended coverage PPO so it will be available outside of NYC and internationally. PSC has been told in writing that it will be as good or better internationally than what we have now. Retirees under 65 will stay with split coverage.

HIP-GHI-Blue Cross (Alliance) says it will pay the same fees as Medicare gives for doctors. The city emphasizes that the coverage should be exactly the same as retirees are getting now. There shouldn't be mandatory referrals to see specialists. Doctors within hospitals have to be consulted on whether they will be accepting Medicare Advantage. 

Prior approval for tests shouldn't be needed as it is still Medicare. We will comb through the contract to see if it will be necessary. Barbara Bowen adds after the Welfare Director says this that there may be pre-authorizations needed. Doctors need to know what the new plan is. It is different from other Medicare Advantage plans.

Monday, July 12, 2021

PSC CALLS FOR POSTPONEMENT OF MLC VOTE ON PRIVATIZING MEDICARE

 This is from the PSC:

PSC Call for Postponement of Upcoming Municipal Labor Committee Vote on Changes to Retiree Health Insurance

Updated: July 12, 2021 

NEWS RELEASE

Contact: Fran Clark, fclark@pscmail.org

CUNY’s Professional Staff Congress Issues Statement Calling for Postponement of Upcoming Municipal Labor Committee Vote on Changes to Retiree Health Insurance

New York, NY – Only days after announcing the proposed contract, the Municipal Labor Committee (MLC) is poised to vote on a measure announced in conjunction with the NYC Office of Labor Relations (OLR) to move more than 250,000 municipal retirees from a traditional Medicare plan administered by the Federal government to a Medicare Advantage plan managed by private companies. The Professional Staff Congress - representing 30,000 faculty and staff at CUNY - urged the MLC to delay the vote scheduled for July 14 and issued the following statement from James Davis, President:

“Our members are deeply troubled by the MLC’s rush to vote on this proposal. Five days is not enough time to consult on such a consequential decision. Although the MLC agreed to work with the City on healthcare savings measures in 2015 and 2018, this vote to seek savings through the retiree medical plan comes at a time when the City can well afford to pursue alternatives. This austerity measure opens the door to further cost-cutting and diminished benefits in future contracts.

“We are concerned by the closed nature of the negotiations. Municipal retirees should have a chance to review the agreement and engage with their representatives to the MLC before a vote. MLC unions have not been provided with a copy of the contract with the proposed vendor.

“The MLC and OLR could pursue alternatives to achieve healthcare savings. While a single-payer healthcare system that recognizes the contributions of municipal employees would be ultimately better for all New Yorkers, including our members, other more immediately achievable measures could substantially reduce health care costs without placing the quality and affordability of retiree healthcare at risk. Skyrocketing hospital costs and prescription drug charges are two areas where the MLC and OLR could exercise stringent accountability and achieve savings.

Retirees need to know how this change will impact their health coverage. They should understand which doctors and hospitals they will be able to visit and what costs they are likely to incur. The details of the proposed agreement, the role of federal subsidies in incentivizing privatization, and the rationale for rejecting alternatives to a shift to Medicare Advantage should all be reviewed.

“Whatever its provisions, a plan to shift the cost-saving burden to union members and municipal employees does not bode well for the future. Higher costs may be demanded of union members down the line. The answer is not privatization. It is to continue Labor’s fight for a single-payer public healthcare system and a system for New York that serves municipal workers fairly. Until then, it is important to take a step back and look at options that can make that goal a reality.”

Saturday, July 10, 2021

PSC-CUNY PRESIDENT JAMES DAVIS EMAIL ON MLC PROPOSED SHIFT TO MEDICARE ADVANTAGE

 Dear Colleagues,

The PSC invites retirees and in-service members to a meeting on Tuesday, July 13, at 12:30 pm, to discuss the proposed shift in healthcare administration from Medicare to a Medicare Advantage group plan that the NYC Municipal Labor Committee (MLC) announced yesterday. In-service members are also welcome to attend. A zoom link to register follows below.

Through the MLC, retirees from the PSC and other municipal labor unions receive medical benefits, supplemented in some cases, like ours, by additional benefits from the union’s Welfare Fund. The MLC’s vote on the proposal’s approval has been scheduled for the morning of Wednesday, July 14. If approved, implementation would begin January 1, 2022.

The stated purpose of shifting NYC’s 250,000 municipal retirees to Medicare Advantage is to achieve cost-savings for the City while preserving no-premium health care for retirees. However, negotiations between the MLC and the City’s Office of Labor Relations have proceeded without sufficient input from or accountability to those directly affected. Spurred by the activism of our retiree chapter, the PSC called in April 2021 for a moratorium on negotiations until unions and retirees had an opportunity to review and assess any proposed Medicare Advantage plan.

The MLC’s vote on approval is being held just six days after the proposal was made available to leaders of the MLC unions, an inadequate review period. The PSC would like to hear in advance of Wednesday’s vote from interested members of our bargaining unit – current or future retirees – about the proposed Medicare Advantage Plan, a group plan developed by Emblem/GHI/Anthem. We have been asking many questions of the MLC, and we’re sure you will have your own. Information provided by the MLC is available here: Intro, Strategic plan, Comparison. If the MLC approves the proposal, the PSC will schedule a follow-up meeting at which Emblem/GHI/Anthem representatives will be available to respond to questions and concerns.

The PSC has a strong, longstanding record on health benefits. Our Welfare Fund provides the same supplemental benefits for retirees (dental, vision, hearing, and prescription drugs) as for active members. Joining me at Tuesday’s meeting will be former PSC President, Barbara Bowen, former PSC Executive Director, Debbie Bell, and Retiree Chapter Chair, Bill Friedheim. They bring decades of experience on these issues; I hope you can join us.

This meeting is for active or retired members of the PSC bargaining unit only.

In solidarity,


James Davis

PSC President

Friday, July 09, 2021

PRINCIPAL OF MASPETH HIGH SCHOOL REMOVED AND FACING TERMINATION CHARGES

The Department of Education is handling the principal at Maspeth High School differently than their usual use of their large broom to sweep incidents involving administrators under the carpet. Instead of just reassigning the principal to a district or central office after the Office of Special Investigations substantiated numerous academic misconduct allegations, the DOE is actually trying to fire Khurshid Abdul-Mutakabbir. He has been principal since 2011 so he is no rookie. 

From Selim Algar in the NY Post:

The DOE said it will seek to terminate deposed Maspeth High School principal Khurshid Abdul-Mutakabbir after investigators substantiated a raft of academic misconduct charges against him.

A group of teachers told The Post in August 2019 that administrators pressured them to pass failing students and that staffers gave out Regents exam answers during the test.

The whistleblowers also reported that kids who did little to no work were graduated via phantom classes and credits. 

The DOE's statement to the Queens Chronicle:

“Following DOE’s investigation into Principal Abdul-Mutakabbir’s unacceptable behavior, DOE served him with disciplinary charges and removed him from payroll while we seek to terminate his employment pursuant to state law,” said DOE spokesperson Katie O’Hanlon in an email to the Chronicle on Thursday. “Our schools must have the highest standards of academic integrity, and we are working quickly to bring in new, qualified leadership to Maspeth High School.”

Some specifics from the Chronicle article:

The substantiated allegations claimed by the OSI include:

• that “incomplete” grades were improperly changed to passing grades;

• that students were improperly awarded one English/Language Arts credit, and one economics credit for a humanities course that did not meet requirements for the credits;

• that students were improperly awarded one credit per semester for a Spanish course that did not exist, and that the students were improperly discharged with advanced Regents Diplomas, without earning six Language Other Than English credits in a single language;

• the awarding of student credit for writing courses that did not meet requirements; and

• testing misconduct where staff members assisted students on Regents exams.

It took two years but the system is actually working here. All of you who contstantly say you are experiencing similar situations have to step forward if you want to restore integrity to the school system.  Anonymous comments and allegations won't cut it. 

You have to identify the school and be specific. If anything happens where you are disciplined after blowing the whistle on fraud, scream retaliation. 

Thursday, July 08, 2021

UFT UPDATE ON RETIREE HEALTHCARE PRIVATIZATION

Here’s the latest on health care negotiations, James.

In ten years, we have seen the City’s cost for health care rise from some $5 billion to $11 billion. Despite our successes in sheltering our members and their families from these rising costs, increases of this magnitude are not sustainable if we want to continue to have access to quality, premium-free health care.

Over the past few months, the UFT has worked tirelessly with fellow unionists on the Municipal Labor Committee (MLC) to deal with the rising cost of health care, while ensuring no loss of benefits or diminishment in the quality of care.

The MLC has developed a custom Medicare Advantage Group Plan — a plan unlike any other Medicare Advantage program in existence. This new plan not only mirrors and improves on the GHI Senior Care Plan, it also includes aggressive oversight to protect member benefits.

Most importantly, under this plan, retirees will still have premium-free access to the same providers and hospitals they now use.

Next Steps in the Process
Negotiations have been conducted with several health care providers.
An independent mediator has made his recommendation for the health care provider with the strongest benefits for retired municipal employees.
MLC votes on the agreement.
The MLC will schedule information sessions for retired municipal employees.
An Open Enrollment period will be available for retired municipal employees.
The UFT is here to help you during this time and will continue to send you updates as they develop.