Tuesday, March 28, 2023

UNITY AT EXECUTIVE BOARD VOTES AGAINST IMPROVING PARENTAL-FAMILY LEAVE BENEFITS

Unity Caucus (Michael Mulgrew's faction of the UFT) will pretty much oppose any proposal that the opposition comes up with unless it is first vetted by the Unity leadership and they can take half of the credit. Last night at the Executive Board (please read New Action Exec Bd Rep Nick Bacon's full minutes), Unity approved two bipartisan resolutions, one opposing charter school expansion and the other fighting budget cuts. The opposition High School reps voted for both of them. However, when opposition High School Rep Ibeth Mejia introduced an amendment to add teeth to a symbolic resolution to reduce maternal mortality in the United States (full text is below), Unity went ballistic.

After VP Janella Hinds spoke in favor of reducing maternal mortality, Ibeth introduced her amendment:

RESOLVED, that to improve the well being of mothers, infants, children, adults, and the elderly who are dying in higher numbers in the USA than in other wealthy nations, the UFT as a union that includes many thousands of working moms will take the lead by demanding for its members annual raises that keep up with the US inflation rate, and the UFT insists on healthcare improvements for its members and all Americans, rather than increased copayments or diminished healthcare choices — as well as, improved parental-family leave policies.

The UFT as a major union needs to do something to actually make our contract stronger to protect mothers. This is the conclusion of Ibeth's speech moving her amendment:

How are working mothers supposed to survive the out of control high cost of living and provide for their families, particularly in and around NYC?

Yet at UFT meetings, we hear about the wonders of pattern bargaining so we will be stuck with salary increases that DC 37 got in their pattern setting contract that don’t come close to keeping up with inflation so are de facto pay cuts. How is that helping mothers? 

Meanwhile, out in LA school support staff went on strike, plenty of moms on those picket lines in California last week. The teachers went on strike in support. What did the support workers get? 30% raises while at the UFT DA we are told strikes are white privilege. 

To summarize, if the UFT was really interested in enhancing motherhood, we would start by acting like the powerful union we claim to be, a real one – and demand and then fight with any means that are available for better conditions for the tens of thousands of mothers in this Union. 

In the interest of fairness (sarcasm alert), Leroy Barr, who was chairing, followed Ibeth up by allowing three UFT Officers (Mike Sill, Karen Alford and Mary Vacarro) in succession to counter Ibeth. Mary even said she took insult to the amendment because the opposition is taking symbolic resolutions and amending them to make them about substantive issues rather than dealing with what the Unity leadership puts on the table. (By the way, I don't understand why the seven opposition members just don't read from page 31 of Robert's Rules to demand both sides are equally heard in debate but that is another issue.) Finally, ICE-Solidarity-United for Change's Luli Rodriguez was able to get the floor to make an impassioned plea telling how UFT maternity benefits leave much to be desired:

Here is what Luli said:

Luli Rodriguez-High School Executive Board: I stand in support...I come from an interesting background. When I was an accountant prior to becoming a teacher, I thankfully, I was a higher tax bracket, and my insurance coverage was amazing. I had a room all to myself. I had ten people in my room. I experienced a life and death situation as well. First my son was almost at the point of dying. The second time I was about to die. The difference is my health insurance covered everything. I had nurses around the clock taking care of me and not a lot of women of color, and women in general, but women of color do not have that option. There's a social-economic disparity in our society and a racial one as well. I have friends who are African American who have had issues with childbirth who are at the point of dying because of their skin color because their issues are not taken as seriously. 

I know my body and I was able to explain what I was going through and I had people that would listen to me. But you know what I had what you guys don't have, I had six months to stay at home with my child to take care of my child to bond with my child to take him for immunizations that many of our teacher parents don't have because they only have a matter of weeks to spend with their child. Why are your sick days taken out of their CAR to take care of your maternity? This is supposed to be America. I didn't have to do that. I went on maternity leave. I had six months. I did not have to use my CAR; I came back and if my child was sick I was able to use my sick days to take care of my child. 

I see teachers on the NYC teaching (facebook) page talking about how their childcare leave fell through; they have no more CAR days, how can they take their child to get immunizations or if they become sick, how are they supposed to take care of them? Let me tell you something: childcare in 2010 when I had my (third) child, (this time under the DOE), was $1,400 a month. I'm a single mom. I covered it because I had saved enough, but can other parents do that? I'm sorry, I know we're all trying but understand that some of us don't have higher salaries, don't have the double jobs. We have our teaching jobs and if they have time maybe a little side hustle if they have time and don't have kids but our time is limited. There's nothing wrong with asking for and demanding that it be equitable. In Europe my counterparts have a year. All we're asking is for six months to give our children immunizations that they require and some time for bonding.  

Passing that amendment and working to achieve its goals would go a long way to improving the situation for moms. 

Leroy responded to Luli briefly although he wasn't asked and then two more Unity people were called on, including Janella Hinds a second time.

The seven High School Representatives then voted in favor of the UFT taking the lead in getting better maternity benefits. Unity unanimously voted against improving maternity benefits for UFTers but they did approve their symbolic resolution instead.

If opposition brings up anything of substance at the Executive Board or Delegate Assembly, it will be defeated by Unity no matter how strong it is and what our people say to support it won't matter because heaven forbid one of us gets the credit for a good idea. And, Unity has the nerve to say we play politics! Go figure. 

The original resolution:

RESOLUTION TO REDUCE UNITED STATES MATERNAL MORTALITY RATES

WHEREAS, more than 70% of the membership of the United Federation of Teachers are women; and

WHEREAS, reproductive and maternal health is a primary concern for many of our members and the families and communities we serve; and

WHEREAS, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, maternal mortality is defined as the death of a childbearing person, while pregnant or up to one year following the pregnancy, from a cause related to, aggravated by or irrespective of the pregnancy; and

WHEREAS, the maternal mortality rate in the United States is higher than most other high-income countries; and

WHEREAS, according to the Centers for Disease Control’s National Center for Health Statistics, this rate stands at 32.9 deaths per 100,000 live births, which represents a significant increase from 20.1 in 2019 and 23.8 in 2020; and 

WHEREAS, a recent National Public Radio article on the CDC study cited the U.S. rate “which is more than ten times the estimated rates of some other high income countries, including Australia, Austria, Israel, Japan and Spain which all hovered between 2 and 3 deaths per 100,000 in 2020;” and

WHEREAS, the 2021 maternal mortality rate for Black women at 69.9 deaths for 100,000 live births is more than double the average rate of other American women; and

WHEREAS, research has shown that in the United States, Black women are also twice as likely to have a preterm birth (PTB), give birth to a low birth weight (LBW) infant, or experience the death of a child before age 1, when compared to white women; and

WHEREAS, the maternal mortality rates for people who are Indigenous, low-income and more than 40 years old are also abnormally high in comparison to the national average; and

WHEREAS, the American Medical Association, the CDC, the Commonwealth Fund and other national organizations have reported that many instances of maternal mortality are preventable; and

WHEREAS, lack of access to comprehensive, coordinated and respectful health care, the prevalence of chronic conditions and inadequate postpartum support are among the reasons attributed to our nation’s high maternal mortality rates; and

WHEREAS, research indicates that these disparities are symptoms of broader underlying social and economic inequities that are rooted in racism and discrimination; and

WHEREAS, the trauma that results from these incidents, while rarely discussed, has long-lasting and profound impacts on our schools, offices, families, colleagues and communities; and

WHEREAS, In the latest data released by the DOE, 41.1% of public school students are Hispanic, 24.4% are Black and 71.9% are economically disadvantaged, and their mothers of childbearing age are at risk; therefore, be it

RESOLVED, that the UFT call upon health care organizations to offer ongoing resources, education and professional development for those providing reproductive care in an effort to decrease maternal mortality rates, especially among women who are most affected; and be it further

RESOLVED, the UFT work with educational, public health and other organizations to offer resources and direct assistance to support educators, school counselors, social workers and psychologists as well as whole schools and communities serving people affected by maternal mortality; and be it further

RESOLVED, that the UFT support legislation promoting the expansion of birthing centers, particularly in communities where maternal mortality rates are highest, so that more women may receive quality reproductive care that is caring and respectful to all families of newborns; and be it further

RESOLVED, that the UFT encourage professional learning and instruction that addresses implicit bias among staff and students, because instructional staff must be able to address implicit bias within themselves in order to teach students headed into professions where unconscious beliefs about different groups can create harmful racial disparities to treat all people equally; and be it further

RESOLVED, that the UFT call for more research on the causes of these disparities and support working with coalition partners to increase investment in efforts to decrease maternal mortality rates in the United States.

Monday, March 27, 2023

BRIEF REVIEW OF UFT CONTRACT AND CITY LAW ON HEALTHCARE

Michael Mulgrew sent an email early this morning to active UFT members on healthcare (see below). He must have seen our petition calling for a vote before any changes can take effect.

As healthcare is front and center on everyone's mind, here is part of what the UFT Contract and City law say about healthcare:

Contract Article 3G1

The Board agrees to arrange for, and make available to each day school teacher, a choice of health and hospital insurance coverage from among designated plans and the Board agrees to pay the full cost of such coverage.

As for the law, this is from Administrative Code 12-126:

(1)   The city will pay the entire cost of health insurance coverage for city employees, city retirees, and their dependents, not to exceed one hundred percent of the full cost of H.I.P.-H.M.O. on a category basis. 

We have strong legal and contractual language protecting our premium free healthcare. Changes should strengthen what we have now and we should vote on them. The UFT's job is not to save the City money but to represent its members.

Mulgrew's email:
Dear _______,

We are writing to give you an update on our in-service health care. All of our members have and will continue to have access to premium-free health care. 

As you know, the UFT is one of the few teachers' unions in the country that still offers premium-free health care coverage for members, and New York City is one of the last cities in the country where municipal employees and retirees have this benefit. We are proud of that and must protect it, even in the face of rising health care costs. 

It is our strong belief that an employer should not be negotiating our health benefits with insurance providers unless we are at the table. That is why we are always at the table. This is the power of a strong union: We use our strength in numbers and our expertise to guarantee that our members get the health care coverage they need and deserve. 

This year, when deciding whether or not to renew our current in-service GHI CBP health care plan, the Municipal Labor Committee, along with the city, put out a request for proposals (RFP). The goal is to use this process to find which insurance company will be the best partner to enable us to lock in our premium-free health care with no diminishment of benefits. The city and the MLC have identified four qualified bidders and their proposed plans are under review as part of a negotiated acquisition process. We have an agreement with the city that any savings we achieve will be put back into in-service health care benefits to keep them strong. 

We just completed negotiations with Aetna on a new health care plan for all Medicare-eligible city retirees that preserves our retirees’ premium-free health care, lowers their out-of-pocket costs and improves their benefits. It was only because we continued to advocate and refused to back down during the negotiation process that this plan became as strong as it is. 

We will continue to keep you updated as negotiations proceed, and we won’t stop working to ensure that UFT members do not bear the burden of the increasing cost of health care throughout the country. 
Sincerely,
Michael Mulgrew
Michael Mulgrew
UFT President

Saturday, March 25, 2023

LOS ANGELES SUPPORT WORKERS END STRIKE GETTING 30% RAISES; PETITION FOR A VOTE ON UFT MEMBER HEALTHCARE CHANGES GETS 1,200 SIGNATURES IN WEEK ONE

The LA school worker possibly illegal strike that the teachers joined in sympathy is over. There is a tentative agreement that still needs to be ratified. 

The LA Times:

A tentative agreement reached Friday between the Los Angeles Unified School District and the union representing support staff won raises of about 30% or more for the lowest-wage workers, one day after the end of a strike that shut down schools for three days.

If approved by union members, the agreement — achieved after mediation with Mayor Karen Bass — could prevent campuses from being closed again to 420,000 students and spare workers from job actions that would have been difficult to bear.

Local 99 of the Service Employees International Union — which represents about 30,000 employees and includes bus drivers, teacher aides, special-education assistants, custodians and food service workers — led the strike that began Tuesday and ended Thursday. Also on strike in solidarity were members of United Teachers Los Angeles, which represents about 35,000 teachers, counselors, therapists, nurses and librarians. UTLA remains in negotiations over its contract.

The deal with Local 99 is not an across-the-board increase but spread out over time and also affected by length of service and current salary — so that some workers will receive less than 30% and some more.

Some further details on the breakdown of the increases:

At the grassroots level the deal translates to Erika Rioverde moving from about $15 an hour to the district’s new minimum of $22.52.

The general raises include retroactive payments for workers employed at the time: 6% as of July 1, 2021; 7% more as of July 1, 2022; and 7% more as of July 1, 2023. Workers active in 2020 also will receive a $1,000 bonus. And on July 1, 2024, all workers will receive $2 an hour more, which will most benefit those at the bottom end of the scale.

As for the teachers:

Also on strike in solidarity were members of United Teachers Los Angeles, which represents about 35,000 teachers, counselors, therapists, nurses and librarians. UTLA remains in negotiations over its contract.

These teachers have a decent blueprint they can work from as they negotiate.

Before the strike, the District's offer was for 23%.  The 30% settlement almost doubles the NYC pattern setting increases DC 37 got and their members are now voting on for about 16% compounded over 5.5 years. The UFT leadership from Unity Caucus is now touting pattern bargaining and scoffing at the idea of striking.

NICE START FOR PETITION TO GET A MEMBER VOTE ON SIGNIFICANT HEALTHCARE CHANGES

This came from Educators of NYC on Twitter:

As wk 1 of our healthcare referendum petition wraps up, here are some stats: - 16k page views - ~1k electronic petition requests - ~1.1 - 1.2k wet and digitally signed petitions - School chapters send in pages w/ avg 30-50 sigs Actives + retirees 💪🏽 hcpetition.educators.nyc

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

PRESS COVERAGE OF PETITION FOR A VOTE ON CHANGING OUR HEALTHCARE; LA TEACHERS JOIN STRIKE IN SYMPATHY WITH LOWER PAID UNION WORKERS WHILE UNITY-UFT STALWART QUESTIONS IF TEACHER STRIKES ARE ANTIQUATED

We've already had press coverage of our petition to get a UFT member referendum on significant changes to our healthcare plans.

This is by Claudia Irizarry Aponte in The City.

Retired city workers fighting a planned shift to a cost-cutting Medicare Advantage health care plan have new allies: current city teachers and other public school employees who are bucking their own union president, Michael Mulgrew. 

On Sunday, opposition groups within the United Federation of Teachers, including teachers currently on the city’s payroll, came together to launch a petition to force a referendum vote on any changes to health care plans for retirees or any union members. 

It’s the first time current city workers are challenging union leadership over the controversial switch to a privately run Medicare Advantage plan, which is slated to be managed by Aetna. Mulgrew played a key role in negotiating the health plan change and is now facing a member revolt.

The petition also tees up a battle over a change in the works for current employees’ health care, which will replace the insurer GHI with a new provider yet to be named.

“We call for a membership-wide vote for any significant changes to active and/or retired members’ healthcare. These include any significant changes of our healthcare carriers, limits to our choice of healthcare carriers, or institutions of or raises to premiums, deductibles or copayments, etc.,” reads the petition by UFT activist group Educators of NYC.

The City piece was also picked up by Chalkbeat.

We need to stop complaining and take action. If we can convince 10% of the UFT membership to sign on to ask for it, then the UFT Constitution has a referendum provision. 

This is Article V, Section 10 of the UFT Constitution:

At the written request of one-third (1/3) of the entire membership of the Executive Board or of ten percent (10%) of the membership of this organization, the Executive Board shall submit to a referendum vote any matter except a proposed amendment to this Constitution and matters relating to the admission, suspension or expulsion of members.

I have heard in the comments here over and over again how there is nothing members can do to influence UFT policy. I have asked repeatedly for members to get involved in the Union. Now, you have the opportunity. Sign and spread the word to get a referendum on healthcare changes. We need all hands on deck to get to 10% of the membership to sign the petition. That would be around 19,000 UFTers. That is a tall order but we can do it. Sign and spread whether you are left, right center or apolitical, Unity or opposition. We just want a vote. Shouldn't there be a vote on any important change to our health benefits or is Michael Mulgrew just the decider like GW Bush?

While the unions in NYC continue to try to privatize our healthcare, the Los Angeles teachers are on strike in support of their fellow union workers:

From the LA Times:

The start of a massive three-day strike led by the lowest paid public school workers and supported by teachers shut down Los Angeles campuses Tuesday amid a fierce morning storm, sent parents scrambling for child care and meals and brought thousands of picketers to campuses and a boisterous afternoon rally downtown.

The strike culminated a months-long build-up of labor tensions in the nation’s second largest school district. Bus drivers, custodians, special education assistants, cafeteria workers — all members of Local 99 of the Service Employees International Union — have been negotiating with the district, demanding a 30% salary increase, plus $2 more per hour for the lowest paid employees.

So what is the district offering?

This weekend, the district offered a cumulative 23% raise, starting with 2% retroactive as of the 2020-21 school year and ending with 5% in 2024-25. The package would also include a one-time 3% bonus for those who have been on the job since 2020-21, along with expanded hours, more full-time positions and improved eligibility for healthcare benefits.

That's significantly more than DC 37's tentative deal in NYC of 16% compounded over 5.5 years. That 23% offer in LA came before the strike. We believe the district made the offer because there was a credible threat of a job action.

In NYC, one of the longtime staunch loyalists of the ruling Unity Caucus, Peter Goodman, is questioning whether teacher strikes are antiquated.

Part of his latest piece:

Public education is under attack, from Florida to Texas, unlimited vouchers, attacks on teacher unions and teachers; banning books in libraries, banning books in classrooms, from the New York State Governor, perhaps to the New York City Mayor.

Teachers and their unions need allies, Alliance for Quality Education, Class Size Matters, Diane Ravitch, elected officials at every level, school boards, parent associations, the public education universe.

The McCarthyite attacks were vicious and destroyed lives of dedicated, caring teachers and we are witnessing the revival today. Fighting for the right to strike will only isolate teacher unions from public school advocates, yes, in rare instances striking may be the only alternatives (1968, 1975); we need all of us, teachers, parents, civil rights organizations to fight back, to turn the tide.

Does Goodman honestly believe that we would lose support from Class Size Matters or Diane Ravitch if we went on strike to preserve our healthcare or to maybe lower class sizes?

The Guardian wrote an article last year on teacher strikesin the USA. 

An excerpt:

Thousands of teachers around the United States are resuming a strike wave in education that swept the country in 2018 and 2019, before the Covid-19 pandemic.

School districts across America are facing severe staffing shortages of teachers, substitute teachers and support staff amid Covid-19 disruptions and historically low pay, contributing to burnout and worsening working conditions.

Over the past few weeks, teachers have gone on strike in Sacramento, California, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Sonoma county, California, Riverdale, Illinois, and Proviso, Illinois, as teachers in other districts have authorized strikes. Earlier this year, teachers in Chicago, Illinois, were locked out by Chicago Public Schools over their demands for pausing in-person learning during a Covid surge.

This is from Education Week:

Teachers in Arizona, West Virginia, North Carolina, and elsewhere won widespread media attention and significant salary increases after walking out of classrooms en masse in 2018.

Since then, experts say, demands from educators and school service workers have increasingly focused on connections between benefits for themselves and support for students.

Meanwhile, across the pond in England teacher job actions have been occurring.

The Guardian once again:

Georgia Townsend works with children who have special needs with English. Teaching is the only job she ever saw herself doing, but now she faces a decision. If the National Education Union’s (NEU) strike to get an above-inflation pay rise is unsuccessful, she might not return to the classroom this September.

When Townsend puts the heating on to keep her two-year-old son warm, she does not eat. Last week, her parents realised what was happening and started ordering food parcels to her door.

The results are not yet clear but are encouraging.

Once again, from the Guardianonce again:

Intensive negotiations between the government and teaching unions in England are under way, holding out the possibility of a deal over teachers’ pay after a damaging series of strikes.

The talks between the teaching union leaders and Gillian Keegan, the education secretary, started on Friday and are expected to continue over the weekend, in a sign of the government’s willingness to end the dispute.

The National Education Union, which held two days of strikes in England earlier this week, said it would “create a period of calm for two weeks” and hold back from announcing further industrial action to allow talks to go ahead, ending an impasse with the Department for Education (DfE).

Someone tell Peter Goodman or Michael Mulgrew we need the right to strike for teachers and other public sector employees in NY. It is a human right.

Sunday, March 19, 2023

SIGN AND SPREAD PETITION TO GET A MEMBER VOTE ON CHANGING HEALTHCARE

The UFT is not a dictatorship although sometimes the leadership acts like it is.

Some of us came together to form UFT Members for Premium-Free Quality Healthcare. 

We are demanding a full member vote on any healthcare changes for retirees and/or active members.

A petition has been started.

If 10% of the membership ask for it in writing, the UFT Constitution would mandate a member referendum. 

All those who say there is nothing we can do about anything, here is your chance to step up and reach out to everyone you know to sign on.



Wednesday, March 15, 2023

LIVE BLOGGING FROM MARCH 2023 DA

 I was there on the call on time today. Michael Mulgrew called the meeting to order at around 4:18 pm.

President's Report

Federal

We know what is going on in the federal government. Increase in federal budget. High needs school districts, students with disabilities and early childhood education. President Biden said pre school is not day care. Increase for English language acquisition teachers. We don't know if this budget will get through. Proposals to take $5 trillion from deficit by taxing billionaires and corporations. That probably won't get through Congress. Public education being weaponized by opposition for next election. Number one state to do that is Florida.

State

Lobbying day in Albany. Thanks everyone but particularly Bruce Zihal for keeping everyone's spirits up when the bus had a hard time getting home. Assembly and Senate rejected Governor Hochul's proposal to add to charter schools. Foundation aid funded fully. Pay and pursue rejected. Money for teachers center and CTE. NYSUT got funded for meals for all kids. Three budget proposals (governors and the assembly and senate). Negotiation between now and April 1. Action if we need it. 

City

Mulgrew testified on City Council on City budget. Bringing back more money than ever and Mayor still wants to cut $1.5 billion. City acting like maybe we will do the class size and maybe we won't. It is a law. First and second years are easy. Should be planning for years 3, 4 and 5. Council members asked about SCA funding to build schools. City says it is an unfunded mandate and they don't know how to do it. It is funded.

Crazy shootings outside of schools. Thank Jeff and school safety team. This is constant. Many youth gangs across the City. School safety did everything correct. We set up the safe corridors and everyone got through. Students and staff should be able to go to and from schools safely. School based administration trying to hide stuff is not a good thing. We need the information. Mayor's people doing drop byes in City buildings, including schools. They are checking compliance. When we get reports, we are responding. Make sure you are doing monthly safety meetings. We need to know if people aren't getting there.

Curriculum

Latest update on plan that keeps changing. Every teacher is supposed to get a curriculum aligned to what they teach and should get professional development and supplies aligned to it. That has not been the case in recent years in NYC. Algebra and K-8 literacy emphasized by chancellor. 15 districts will choose between 3 curriculums. Rumors in DOE that plans are constantly changing. We've told the DOE that we will be happy to work with them. We need a plan on PD training and supplies that must be supplied. We are waiting for an answer from the DOE. We will not do dog and pony shows DOE likes to do. Mix of districts doing this: some challenging, some not so challenging. One curriculum for algebra. Don't know what it is yet. DOE is telling principals they must do something for the first time in 20 years. Many arbitrations come from principal's having choice. Some are complaining to us. Teachers College does not meet the definition of a curriculum from our contract.

Contract

DC 37 in ratification process. PBA serious negotiating. There is more value than the basic raises in the pattern. DC 37 has an equity fund. There is more value than the 3s and 3.25 at the end. We'll see what happens with the PBA. Uniform unions getting a little more.  I don't want to go there.

Healthcare

UFT relationship with retirees different than any other union in the country. MLC approved Aetna Medicare Advantage for retirees. We are in daily communication with Aetna. This is a first in the country program. Don't ask doctors since it isn't  officially a plan as of now. Most calling call centers asking if their doctors will be in the plan. They only need a billing agreement. Folks around the rest of the country have more access. If I am not the president, the next president will have a big say in how this is done. Aetna saying they have the best Medicare advantage program in the country. They are excited about it.

Medicare Advantage has a committee with legal authority to change things. If we think something is wrong, we go to arbitration within ten days. We've had to change on in service. City MD, we are increasing the copayments to $100. Mulgrew would have increased it to $400. City MD said their rates would be in line with the rest of the country. Average, it's $140 a visit. City MD it is $280. City MD was charging $280 for visits plus ancillary charge so it came to $680 for a visit. Our in service committee is dealing with this. City MD is ripping us off. They were going to renegotiate prices but they reneged.  Healthcare is part of our compensation package. We will not let employer, hospitals and insurance companies decide what they should charge us and then return it to us.

Contract Campaign

Kerfuffle yesterday. We have actions. People can do one or many. Some don't want to do grade-in. We'd love people to do two actions if they like. This will get worse. Mayor still saying City is broke. Mayor says banks failed so he was right.  Tax receipts are coming in well. Crime is a big issue. We will call out mayor if needed. Noise will probably have to get louder and louder. No healthcare savings in this round because we blew it up. We don't want to develop that pattern. We know we can continue to save money. We lowered copays and increased benefits for retirees for five years. We need federal help.

Bank Failures

Our pensions are fine. We have a very, very small liability. Our pensions are doing phenomenally well. We will continue to protect them.


Staff Director's Report

March 16 happy birthday to UFT. Para luncheon, early childhood conference April 1, social workers appreciation week was last week. Career week for CTE students, guidance counselor luncheon, college fair at Bronx UFT March 20. Happy St Patricks Day, have a great Easter and Passover.


Question Period

Question: Brownsville HS CL D79: Superintendent wants to merge schools. We are a strong transfer school, not in danger academically. Stopped a Success Academy in 2013. 20 years next year. Thanks DR. Still under threat if enrollment doesn't rise. Question is: Can the allocation be changed if population continues to grow and can we challenge their building plan?

Mulgrew Answer: Yes we can change if the enrollment grows. Doing that work should be recognized. School is a model that should be looked at by the State.

Question: FDR HS CL: Question on curriculum. Give curriculum with training. Admin is sending link to the teachers since COVID on Teach Hub. Is that a curriculum?

Answer: Teach Hub is not a curriculum, it is a resource guide. Curriculum can be digital or on paper. It must have  what is covered, a pacing calendar and standards. DOE created wild, wild west show in Bloomberg years and also gave principals autonomy. DOE tried a k-3 curriculum that the federal government did not approve of and it jeopardized funds. Work with DR and this should be part of District Leadership Team meetings. Sending people to teach hub is not a curriculum.

Question: Kate Connors-Delegate, D 25 John Bowne HS- question on NY Health Act. Senator Rivera was on Brian Lehrer. He said this would save money and he is interested in working with labor to see what they need to support that bill (universal healthcare in NYS). He is making some amendments now due to conversations he has had with labor. Will Mulgrew meet with Senator Rivera on this?

Answer: We will look at it when the amendments are made. Mulgrew talks to Senator Rivera on other things. We supported his reelection. He knows what our position is. We will look at amendments. We don't think it is cost neutral. It will cost billions and could hurt us. If it was cost neutral, we would support it. If we knew it wouldn't hurt us, we would support it. It's not a conspiracy. It would be a no brainer

Follow up: Link to study on UFT Website  was from a hedge fund that is a charter school supporter that said costs would be so high. So are you telling us you won't commit at this time?

Answer: We will look at it. We will not move forward until we are sure teachers and our profession won't be hurt unless DA tells us to.

Follow up: DA already did pass it twice.

Question: D 24, Can teachers be disciplined for not putting grades and rubrics on bulletin boards?

Answer: We will use that if people are disciplined.

Question: Question about Regents from Bronx HS teacher who was told a 50-64 waiver, they get credit for graduation but it hurts our MOSL. Is this valid? Told by principal.

Answer: What School?

Careers and Sports HS

Answer: We will talk to the Superintendent from Bronx High Schools. We will take care of it.


New Motion Period

Motion for this month: Mobilizing UFT members for action the week of 4/23 for green schools, have a standing environmental justice committee, work with other unions in carbon neutral schools initiative.

On phone 567 Yes to 102 No

Live in room: 158 Yes to 25 No

It carries and is placed on the agenda. Mulgrew points out colleagues in Florida can't do this.


Motion for next month: Substitute teacher  and substitute para resolution calls for schools to have flexibility in hiring  subs and asks for a hard to staff differential for schools that have difficulty hiring subs. 

Establish our own way of solving shortage.

Nobody speaks against

On phone 569 Yes to No 52

Live in room 182 Yes to 7 No

935 so it is on next month's agenda.


Special Orders of Business

Support Tom Brown for reelection to TRS Pension Board.

David Kasinsky nominates him and hopes tom is given unanimous approval. Victoria follows by saying what a great job Tom Brown has done. Fighting for COLA improvements. Peter Goodman speaks for. Nobody speaks against.

Mulgrew calls for vote on closing debate. It carries with 97% support.

Vote on resolution:

On Phone 661 Yes to 11No

Live in Room 181 Yes to 1No in room

99% yes vote. Mulgrew congratulates Tom.


Honor UFT for 63rd birthday.

Mike Sill speaks in support of honoring the UFT on its 63rd anniversary. Honors founders. Look elsewhere in the country to see collective bargaining rights don't exist in many places. Some only have consultation rights, some nothing. Teacher makes $30,000 a year and maxes out at $35,000. Premium for healthcare. That was reality before 1960 in NYC. 106 groups represented teachers. Brought groups together. Built wing on house of labor. 

Amendment to add that we went on strike to get those collective bargaining rights and we want to negotiate to get that right to strike back. Strike to get real raises. State assembly and state senate people are working to get amendment passed to legalize right to strike for public sector workers. Honor founders by passing this amendment.

Leroy Barr opposes the amendment. Grateful for what our founders have done and continue to do. There are reasons we would go on strike in spite of the Taylor law like if they cut our pay in half or we had to work Saturdays.  Another Unity person agrees with that. Hard to get people on board with striking in 2020 with COVID. Says strikes are for the privileged.

Nick Bacon says that there is a problem with the Taylor Law. We are only trying to push getting rid of this part of the Taylor Law prohibiting strikes, a fundamental human right. We have to have the right to strike. We need that one union tactic  back to be able to strike. We haven't had a strike since 1975 and this is not calling for a strike.

Vote to close debate on all matters passes. 

Vote on amendment:

On Phone 271 to 363 No

In the Room I can't hear numbers.

38% vote for amendment.

Original Resolution:

On Phone 499 Yes to 89 No

In room  164 Yes to 11 No

Resolution passes. 

Mulgrew wishes all a Happy St Patrick's Day and a restful spring break.

Sunday, March 12, 2023

THINK OUTSIDE THE DANIELSON RUBRIC

Georgia Lignou is Chapter Leader at Bryant High School. We should start a conversation on teachers getting their freedom to teach back. In 2005, the UFT agreed to contractual changes that forced many veteran teachers to be trapped in their schools or become Absent Teacher Reserves if schools closed. In 2013, we put another nail in the teacher professionalism coffin when we let charter school champion John King impose Danielson on us. After ten years of Danielson and with UFT contract talks heating up, maybe now is the time to convince the State Legislature to empower teachers in their classrooms.

Think outside the rubric. Teach outside the box. 

How the Danielson rubric changed education.      

By Georgia Lignou: Teacher of Social Studies-UFT Chapter Leader Bryant High School                                            

When training to become teachers, we learn that planning starts with the “why” and this will direct the “what” and the “how” of the lesson. However, most often when we plan, we find ourselves thinking about the Danielson rubric more than we think of the students’ needs, the topic we teach or the strategies that can be most effective. When a rubric becomes the center of teaching and every discussion on instruction turns into a discussion of the rubric, we know we have a problem.

The Danielson rubric of evaluation entered our profession about ten years ago. For the first few years the administrators who were tasked to enforce it were trying to figure out how. Many administrators coming from an older tradition in education saw it as another bureaucratic tool that interfered with the culture and vision of their schools, while principals who were the new products of the Bloomberg tradition were more eager to codify the expectations, and some saw themselves as pioneers in creating the new Danielson rubric-based classroom. Ten years later, many of the old Danielson skeptics have retired to be replaced by Danielson believers and Danielson crusaders who elevated the rubric to a dogma. Teachers are receiving write ups which are so removed from the reality of the classroom that have more in common with medieval scholastic discussions about how many angels fit on a needle. In addition, a new generation of teachers has been trained under this system and that is the only thing our students have experienced in the classroom since kindergarten. So, what are the results?

It has created a big discrepancy on how teachers are evaluated and often the difference between a Developing and an Effective or a Highly Effective rating is literally a change of address as teachers find out when they transfer, sometimes to schools within the same neighborhood and under the same superintendency. The DOE instead of using Advance to identify these abuses, is turning a blind eye to how diverse, subjective, bias, and punitive at times, the interpretation of the rubric is, when this rubric was introduced on the promise to quantify and mainstream standards of performance. The evaluators do not teach, so they do not model what they expect, and there is no independent committee a teacher can go for justice and the APPR complaint process is, to put it mildly, a joke. The leadership of our UFT is relying of the fact that many principals prioritize differently; they still use common sense, and they are flexible with the rubric. So, for the UFT, the problem is limited to a few unreasonable administrators. However, when we brought to the attention of the DOE the fact that in Bryant HS, where I work, we have a history of low ratings, to the point that last year about half the teachers were found Developing on the MOTP measure only to be saved by the MOSL, we were clearly told that our principal was using the rubric “with fidelity” implying by omission that other principals are not. But for how long? In fact, with every passing year the number of schools where teachers are feeling the pressure is increasing. The Effective ratings are turning into Developing even on lessons and strategies that were acceptable the previous year. Still the current application of the Danielson is inequitable and unfair but if its interpretation ever becomes more uniformed, Bryant will be the example and not the outlier. It is indicative that the principal who we had up until last year, the same principal who thought that when teaching remotely in the middle of the pandemic was a good time to penalize her teachers for classroom management, engagement, and discussion, was promoted to a higher position in the DOE. 

Perhaps most important is the effect Danielson has on teaching itself. The workshop model of a lesson has become the only acceptable format. Group work, student to student verbal interaction and high-level discussion has become the only signs of student engagement. High level open-ended questions have become the only acceptable teacher input. The mini lessons are so mini that if the students blink, they miss them. Anything more, and the lesson is deemed teacher centered and therefore ineffective.

Students every day, and in every subject area, go through the same motions: a Do Now, a mini lesson, a reading using a graphic organizer for analysis and inquiry, group work, assessment, some more group work, protocol-based discussion and sentence starters, a share out and an exit slip. The material must be differentiated, and the teacher is to circulate with a tennis-chart (in case you are wondering, the tennis-chart replaced the traffic lights that used to litter our classroom floors for a few years) to assess what the students understood and where they need the extra help ideally to provide it on the spot. So, these are the buttons a teacher is expected to press with proper timing and even then, that Holy Grail of an effective lesson is hard to come by. In summary, we are tolerating a system where teachers are not treated as professionals, but they are micromanaged as mere facilitators of a well-orchestrated prescribed process, and yet they are the ones who must take responsibility for its failure. 

Independently, the above practices are valuable, but in combination they have become a nightmare of planning and execution. The learning environment this creates lacks spontaneity and leaves little room for the magic a charismatic teacher can bring to the classroom, putting the students through an unnatural even ritualistic daily routine instead. In fact, lessons must be “student led” and the main input of the teacher is to keep the timing of the activities. Many times, we just supervise our students as they copy things from documents to rubrics seemingly engaged when many are not even clear what it is they are examining. We have not paid attention to the fact that their basic knowledge is not at the level that meaningful discussion is even possible. We are so eager to move the students to the group work part of the lesson that we pay little attention to the lack of context necessary to connect the snippets of history, literature, science, or math that might be the focus of the material that day. Teachers are faced with an unprecedented workload that barely leaves any personal time free, and they are penalized for things that are not under their control. That includes what the students say or whether students get destracted by their phones when we all know that disengaging them from their electronics has become impossible. On top of it we have piled other challenges by turning most of our classes to ICT and blended-ENL, thinking that differentiation will bridge the academic gaps. No wonder schools are faced with low morale, high turnover and the profession itself with a severe shortage of teachers. Finally, the whole system is fixated on numbers, but we rarely stop to think, how can we really measure knowledge. 

Is this education? Teachers say it is not. Student boredom and the gross lack of knowledge say it is not. Common sense says it is not. Then what is it, especially in a day and age that is so transitional and the calling to us all is to envision the education of the future?  As an educator, I am trying to figure it out every day, but what I do know is that a rubric does not hold the answer. Figuring out what works can start by acknowledging that which ten years later we know does not work. It must be a collective effort involving educators not outside gurus and technology companies. For that, perhaps we should go back to the original questions that drive our instruction.

“Why” we teach? The system calls it college readiness, but maybe we can agree that it is to help young people with whom we have been entrusted to become adults, able and flexible to deal with the demands and adversities of life and empathetic enough to connect with others. It is to create well rounded critical thinkers and civically engaged citizens, well versed, and trained in humanism, art, science, and mathematics to become world citizens. It is to help them develop the cognitive flexibility to apply the general to the specific and recognize the specific in the general. A well-rounded world understanding is a big task, but how can we get there if our students can be in 11th grade not knowing where the seven continents are and need convincing that the body of water between the US and Europe is not the Mississippi River? 

“What” we teach? That of course is guided by each subject area, and it cannot be addressed in this article which I am trying my best to keep short. 

“How” we teach? Engagement and relevance are a must, but how does or can that look like is a big discussion that relates to different styles of learning and the individual character of the students. The Danielson rubric has been interpreted so that engagement means verbal, student to student interaction, and true to be told, no serious educator will argue that discussion is not important, but focusing only on that is an impossible task for the teachers, and discriminatory to those students who learn differently. It is worth mentioning that in my 27 years of teaching, my best students were not talkers. They were listeners, readers, writers, and thinkers. But yes, students should be encouraged to talk, however, it is illogical to expect students in an algebra class to be engaged in the level of discussion students will be in an AP Government class or penalize the teacher for the lack of it in an ENL beginner’s class. What is the role of the teacher? What is the role of technology? What is the foundation for critical analysis? In addressing the “how” in teaching, the questions are many, but as we look for the answers, we cannot forget that teaching is not just a craft. It is mainly and foremost an art and how we teach bears more resemblance to the flowers in a spring field than to the buttons of a computer keyboard. 

And the last and probably most contentious question is how we measure learning. Again, no serious educator will argue that there is an exam which can accurately do that. However, as the legislation to get rid of the Regents exams is already being discussed, we must think carefully what effect that will have on our evaluations and our profession. The last two years when graduates did not need to take the Regents, graduation skyrocketed. Why? What do we prefer to be judged by, the results of our students, even if the exam is not perfect, or our compliance to a rubric? Right now, the answer still depends on what school we work at, but if  Danielson stays in place, we do need to think preemptively and see it for what it does. The Danielson rubric is boxing us in, and it is suffocating our profession. It is one of those things that future generations will look back at and say, “what were they thinking?” So, what are we thinking? 

NY TIMES COVERS MEDICARE ADVANTAGE SWITCH; MARIANNE'S CURRENT MUST SEE VIDEOS

The NY Times has a long piece on Medicare Advantage. It is behind a paywall but you can view it here thanks to a gift article from someone. Norm also posted it at Norm's Notes. The Times article is well worth the read as it discusses privatization of Medicare (Medicare Advantage) both among public sector employees and those in the private sector. Michael Mulgrew and Marianne Pizzitola are quoted. 

Some highlights:

What’s more, when employers make this transition (to privatized Medicare Advantage), retirees often face a choice: Join an Advantage plan or lose the benefit.

“It really takes away choice,” said Marilyn Moon, an economist and a former trustee of both Social Security and Medicare. “The whole idea of Medicare Advantage was supposed to be to give people more choice, not less.”

In New York City, labor unions representing retirees have been working with the city on its planned shift to Advantage. They promoted the projected savings and their ability to use their bargaining clout to negotiate for far more generous features than those in plans available for individual purchase.

“When we looked at this, we saw that we could design our own plan that would get the same benefits and even more for our retirees,” said Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, the city teachers’ union. “One of our greatest assets is the ability to use our buying power to get that done and, more importantly, to set up an accountability system and a contract where we’re holding the provider to every single word in our contract.”

As the plan was originally envisioned in 2018, retirees who wanted to stay on traditional Medicare could do so if they paid an estimated $191 per month to cover its higher cost to the city. But a grass-roots group founded in 2021, the NYC Organization of Public Service Retirees, sued over the plan, taking its battle to the City Council and organizing through Facebook, YouTube and email.

The retiree group says it is considering its next steps, possibly including new litigation‌. “Labor should never support privatizing public health care or stripping retirees of vested earned benefits,” the group’s founder, Marianne Pizzitola, a retired city Fire Department Emergency Medical Services employee‌, said in a statement.

“This is a daily anxiety the city and the Municipal Labor Committee are putting us through,” she added in an interview.

For more insight on what the NYC Organization of Public Sector Retirees is doing to continue this battle, Marianne has put out plenty of videos:

I suggest these two as immediate views:

The first one is about Mulgrew planning to sell out retirees who are in other unions.

Mulgrew is negotiating for UFT retirees to have an exclusive option to purchase their own Medigap plan and stay in traditional Medicare because of the moratorium law (State law that says school districts can't diminish retiree health benefits unless they do the same for active employees).


The next video attacks Mulgrew and DC 37's Henry Garrido for privatizing Medicare. It also criticizes other municipal unions for not standing up to Mulgrew and Garrido but just caving in. 

Marianne says her organization will be filing litigation again to stop the privatization of Medicare for NYC retirees. Based on her organization's track record in court, I would say the battle to stop Mulgrewcare is not over by any means. For full disclosure, I have contributed money to the New York City Organization of Public Sector Retirees. I think you know where I stand on the issue.


Go here for the entire video page.

Thursday, March 09, 2023

MLC APPROVES MEDICARE PRIVATIZATION IN WEIGHTED VOTE BUT WITH 25 DISSENTING UNIONS AND MANY OTHERS ABSTAINING OR NOT SHOWING

The Municipal Labor Committee roll call vote of the City unions shows that there were many dissenting unions who voted against Aetna's privatized Medicare Advantage (Mulgrewcare) for City retirees who are Medicare eligible. 25 NO votes plus 10 abstentions, and 14 no shows. Michael Mulgrew needed the UFT's weighted vote to push this through. Our sources tell us the unions voted without seeing the Aetna contract.

Updated list with Yes-No columns

No shock to see the UFT voting in favor nor the Professional Staff Congress (PSC) opposed but I was rather surprised to see the Council of Supervisors and Administrators voting no. 

Go to AM New York for more coverage.

Wednesday, March 08, 2023

MARIANNE PIZZITOLA ANSWERS VINCE GAGLIONE MISINFORMATION; COPAYS DOUBLED TO $100 FOR CITYMD

 It's a busy news day today. 

Last evening, someone on the Retire Healthcare Committee forwarded us an email from Chair and Unity stalwart Vince Gaglione that accused Marianne Pizzitola of doing a 180° turn on changing Administrative Code 12-126. Vinny was basing his email on a Politico story that quoted Marianne incompletely and Gaglione assumed Marianne was now supporting what the Municipal Labor Committee was trying to do to change the Administrative Code to allow the City to charge seniors to keep Senior Care and traditional public Medicare. Here are Vinny's words:

So, if I may point out the biggest reversal of position that I have seen in the last ten years  other than Trump's almost daily doublespeak, this article tells us that Ms. Pizzatola of the lawsuit organization now urges the City Council to AMEND THE ADMINISTRATIVE CODE!!!

Not exactly right, Vinny. Marianne Pizzitola (at least spell her name correctly please) leads the New York City Organization of Public Sector Retirees, not the lawsuit organization. Marianne does want the law changed but not in the way you, Michael Mulgrew, and the MLC were looking to do. She doesn't want GHI Senior Care to be offered as a pay-up plan costing retirees almost $200 each per month for a Medigap plan that pays less than 20% of retiree healthcare. 

Marianne does want the Administrative Code changed. She wants a law passed that would make healthcare like our pensions, a guaranteed contractual arrangement that the government can't mess with the way the MLC and the City are messing with us by forcing retirees into Aetna Mulgrewcare.

Vinny, you should have checked with somebody before you ran to print out, "President Mulgrew was right!" No, he was and is totally wrong on healthcare.

Marianne does not favor changing 12-126 as the MLC wanted. This video should clear up any confusion on her position.


I do appreciate that Vinny did allow a partial response to his misinformation in a subsequent email. That said, could someone please send out this post to the Committee to fully set the record straight.

Update

Educators of NYC sent out this picture of Vince Gaglione from 2015 when he and Retired Teachers Chapter Leader Tom Murphy were fighting to save Medicare from the privatizers. What changed?



Blind loyalty to Unity Caucus.


COPAYS GOING UP



In other healthcare news tonight, copays are doubling in GHI- CBP from $50 to $100 for those using the popular CityMD. If the City doesn't reach agreements on pricing for hospitals or urgent care facilities, we get the higher bill, not anybody else. Nick Bacon analyzes it here at the New Action blog and says our only response is to organize and say, Enough!

This was buried in a UFT Newsletter:





RETIREES MARCH AND RALLY AGAINST MEDICARE DISADVANTAGE THURSDAY

 


NYC PUBLIC SECTOR RETIREE DAILY NEWS AD


Media Advisory For March 9th 2023

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


EMERGENCY MOBILIZATION

NO Medicare Dis-Advantage for New York City Municipal Retirees

New York City Municipal retirees have been fighting for almost three years to prevent the City from switching our excellent traditional public Medicare with a supplement to an inferior, privatized Medicare Advantage Plan. After a successful lawsuit challenge, the City tried doing an "end run" by lobbying the City Council to change a law that has protected our healthcare for decades-- Administrative Code 12-126. This change would not only have affected retirees but could have also diminished current city workers' health benefits.


Retirees fought back and the City Council did not make this change.


Now the Municipal Labor Committee (MLC) and the Mayor are on the verge of forcing us into a life threatening for-profit Aetna/CVS Medicare Advantage plan with the vote by the MLC taking place on March 9th.


If this " nuclear option" is approved, retirees will no longer have the choices they have always had. They will be forced into the new Aetna Medicare Advantage plan and if they opt out they will lose all other NYC health benefits they and their dependents have always received: no Medigap coverage, no drug plan and no health coverage for family dependents.



When: Thursday, March 9th, 2023 at 11:30am


Where: Gather at 11:30am by the steps of the Smithsonian Museum across from Battery Park (next to the Bowling Green subway stop)


What: After brief remarks, we will march past the offices of the UFT, PSC, OLR and DC37 and end up in front of City Hall. There will be short statements at each location from various union members. Arrive at City Hall by 1pm