The Case for MORE- How Unity has failed!

April 15, 2013 — 12 Comments

In this UFT election there is finally an ALTERNATIVE to the union leadership (UNITY) that has dominated UFT politics for decades. Finally there is an opening to begin to fight for what our students, parents, and we as teachers deserve, a union that fights for the schools our children deserve!

A Unity Chapter Leader, the caucus of current President Michael Mulgrew,  sent an email out to the UFT members at his school. Our own Fred Arcoleo answered by making a case for MORE and explaining why we are running against the current leadership as a positive alternative.

The lines in bold were sent by the Unity chapter leader, the follow-up for each is MORE’s  response to each point by Mr. Arcoleo:

In the Last Three Years  a lot of UFT Victories were achieved because of Michael Mulgrew

Fighting endlessly for a Fair Contract with no give backs and without giving up the Contract we have to get a new Contract (Taylor Law allows us work under an expired contract until we get a new Contract)

UNITY allowed our contract to expire in 2009 without ANY mobilization of the membership and have allowed us to work without a new contract for FOUR YEARS! They have refused countless times to mobilize the membership to fight for a new contract, claiming they couldn’t work with Bloomberg, but it was UNITY who 1) REFUSED to criticize Bloomberg when he CHANGED THE LAW to run for a third term and REFUSED to endorse his opponent William Thompson in the 2009 election (that Bloomberg didn’t win by much). Furthermore, UNITY REFUSES to publicly attack the Taylor Law. It is the Taylor Law that expressly forbids job actions (or even threats of job actions). If UNITY would have led a campaign against the Taylor Law, in effect since 1967, all these years—especially in light of a 2011 decision by the International Labor Organization (ILO) that says the Taylor Law violates international labor law—we then could threaten labor actions like strikes when under attack, like the Chicago teachers did. Their strike won them numerous improvements for teachers and students and served notice that the teachers were a force to be reckoned with.

Ask yourself this: Have we ever been mobilized to fight for a new contract? Have we ever even been asked what we would want in a new contract? Think of it this way: our working conditions and wages have not improved since at least 2006 when the last contract was approved. Most of us weren’t even teaching then! And in that same time, our budget has been cut almost 20%. That is the contract situation.

Preserving the Collective Bargaining Agreement by working strategically to fight DOE using Legal means and winning those battles

Again, UNITY Caucus routinely defends the Taylor Law, a law that has made virtually all job actions illegal. They claim that the Taylor Law protects our (expired) contract, but in practice, it has led time and time again to NYC public employees working FOR YEARS without a new contract.

Consider this startling fact: there are NO public employees working under a contract right now in NYC—that’s 152 bargaining units and 300,000 workers!!!

 Listen to The Wall Street Journal: “The lack of contracts presents Mr. Bloomberg’s successor with a set of thorny problems: Roughly 300,000 public workers and their labor leaders seeking raises and benefit sweeteners, as the city faces an estimated $4 billion budget deficit in 2014…. The major Democratic hopefuls have all said they would make deals only in the city’s best interest.”

Where to you think that will realistically leave us? By not mobilizing UFT members BEFORE our contract expired to FIGHT collectively—85,000 strong—for what we need, UNITY has betrayed us, built dangerous illusions, and fattened us up for slaughter with the new mayor.

Chicago CORE teachers, on the other hand, built strong, active chapters that educated and involved their members in decision-making. It was exciting! They did not rely primarily on legal means, but on the strength of the masses of teachers, mobilizing in the streets, and in the end, refusing to work until (some of) their and their students’ needs were met. They have a contract now, and defeated Mayor Emanuel on many of his most stubborn plans, by FIGHTING BACK for the good of our students we love so much and our careers.

Worked endlessly for a fair State Mandated Evaluation, and refused to settle one that would worsen our working conditions

UNITY has REFUSED to oppose the new evaluation system that will make it much easier to fire teachers and will effectively end tenure protections. The new system is the opposite of fair: it will allow administrators to rate teachers from a complex list in 4 domains, 22 categories, and 76 elements, making it far easier than before to point to alleged “deficiencies” in teachers who make too much money, or who they don’t like, or who challenge educational policies or conditions. The DOE plan to conduct 10 unannounced observations a year will make it impossible to have thoughtful pre- and post-observation conferences (as UNITY claims). Furthermore, teachers who don’t follow this litany of qualities will now be able to be fired much more easily. The founder of this rubric herself, Charlotte Danielson, has denounced the plan as UNFAIR (!) and contrary to her intentions in developing it. She recognizes that her instructional aid is being transformed into an instrument for the wielding of power.

UNITY’s opportunistic appeal to and defense of Governor Cuomo over Bloomberg is just Republican/Democratic party politics: it was Democrat Cuomo who took away the $250 million in funds from NYC schools this past January, punishing NYC students and teachers for the DOE’s failing to make a deal. Cuomo and Bloomberg’s aims are much more similar than different. UNITY would have us choose the lesser of two evils.

By signing onto this evaluation plan, UNITY is actually playing into the DOE’s plans to drastically increase teachers’ workloads, pressure teachers to enforce a more narrow, lock-step curriculum, and force out thousands of experienced (i.e., higher-paid) teachers, as well as teachers who speak up about deplorable conditions in the schools. All without doing a single thing to IMPROVE CONDITIONS that would make learning and teaching easier. Who is criticizing them for this? Not UNITY. They’re making a deal and going along with the plan.

The new evaluation system will ABSOLUTELY worsen teacher working conditions in NYC. Tying teacher evaluation to student test scores will create much more stress for our students and as well as ourselves; divide teachers against students and pit teachers against each other; and essentially blame students and teachers for the inadequate education system both parties are forced to endure. Not to mention the fact that it’s scientifically unsound on its face. This kind of draconian pedagogy will not lead to improved learning.

Bloomberg himself has said he wants to use the new evaluation system to get rid of half the teaching force. How could that be fair? How could that not worsen conditions for the rest of us?

Won the PERB Case ensuring that Danielson is not included in Teachers files until an agreement is reached regarding the Evaluation

By making such a big deal now about the Danielson rubric not being used in formal evaluations “yet,” UNITY is distracting us from the fact that they have been instrumental in ALLOWING the framework to become the standard measurement tool in NYC by refusing to oppose it in the first place. It’s insulting to our intelligence, not to mention demoralizing, when we know that the day an agreement is reached (with UNITY’s blessing), Danielson will be the standard tool. Principals are already training us in its implementation!

In fact, instead of denouncing it, UNITY has organized its own UFT TRAININGS in the Danielson framework (!), sealing its legitimization. Again, Danielson herself has said on multiple occasions that the DOE is distorting the reasons she created the rubric in the first place and does not support it.

Passed a Resolution to end Mayoral Dictatorship

UNITY has consistently FAILED to oppose Mayoral Control, going back to when it was first proposed in 2002. (I was one of the many chapter leaders and delegates who fought UNITY to oppose it.) The UFT could have denounced it and mobilized its full 185,000 membership to expose its dictatorial nature then. UNITY could have united teachers with the thousands of parents and others who also actively opposed Mayoral Control, which wiped out whatever voice parents had in their children’s education. Instead, UNITY ALLOWED Bloomberg to impose it without any fight whatsoever. Since then, UNITY has over and over REFUSED to oppose it or lead any campaign against it.

Notice the nuance: they call it Mayoral “Dictatorship.” JUST LAST MONTH UNITY released a major governance report that explicitly SUPPORTS Mayoral Control, arguing only for a few minor adjustments that give no direct voice to over a million parents, teachers, or students. Lastly, you can’t oppose major government policies with a resolution! You need to educate the members and mobilize them to take action in their/our interest, and mobilize the public to understand the important issues at stake.

MORE, on the other hand, unequivocally opposes Mayoral Control as inherently dictatorial and anti-student and is fighting RIGHT NOW in many public forums and inside parent groups to mobilize people to condemn it (we have been active organizers at Bloomberg’s rubber stamp Panel for Educational Policy [PEP] hearings, while UNITY has been NOWHERE TO BE FOUND). We fight for a united movement of teachers, parents, and students to have a direct voice in making decisions about education.

Won Arbitration stopping the DOE from shutting down 24 schools in 2012

UNITY has consistently FAILED TO MOBILIZE its membership to oppose rampant and frankly racist school closings, most taking place in the poorest neighborhoods with the largest percentages of Black and Latino students (some of the City’s best school buildings then taken over or co-located with middle class students and charter schools). Again, UNITY is ALMOST NEVER at the PEP hearings, leaving teachers, parents, and students from closing schools to fend for themselves. MORE, on the other hand, has been active in the Occupy the DOE movement and a consistent presence at PEP hearings, denouncing these draconian anti-student, anti-community attacks. We are (see above) absolutely opposed to Mayoral Control, advocating a direct voice for parents, teachers, and students in their education.

Stopped the city from Laying off Teachers

Though it’s true that NYC currently has no layoffs, thousands of ATRs wallow in limbo without permanent positions because UNITY refuses to make a cause célèbre out of the DOE’s deliberate attempts to isolate these mostly more experienced (and higher paid) teachers. One look at them and you can see they are disproportionately older (a discrimination suit BEGGING for action, but UNITY will not touch it) with a disproportionate percentage of them black and latino.

Thousands of these ATRs have essentially been forced out of their career or have become so cynical they have lost interest in the profession they dedicated their lives to.

Saved ATR’s from layoffs

UNITY CREATED THE ATR CRISIS by negotiating an end to seniority transfers in 2005. It used to be that more senior teachers were guaranteed positions when they were excessed from their schools. Now, when a veteran teacher is excessed, they are dumped into an ATR pool and must try to find a job on their own. Because they earn a higher salary, principals are choosing cheaper teachers and reducing the most experienced to function as day-to-day subs. Many of them languish for years before they quit or are (for now) lucky enough to be able to retire.

In addition, UNITY agreed last year in a side agreement never discussed with the membership that ATRs now rotate to a DIFFERENT SCHOOL EVERY WEEK, virtually ensuring that they can’t prove themselves with a particular school and earn a permanent position, as sometimes happened in the past. Uprooted and marginalized, ATRs are more disillusioned and bitter than ever.

Won the SESSIS Arbitration which will result is paying Special Education Teachers back for money owed due to SESSIS

UNITY has ALLOWED SESSIS to create mountains of more paperwork and stress, primarily for guidance counselors and special education teachers, with NO pay increase or added staff. Instead of sounding the alarm and FIGHTING for added staff or a contract that guarantees rights for teachers and counselors (like Chicago CORE teachers did), UNITY merely went to court to get back pay for teachers and counselors who have ALREADY sacrificed hours and hours of extra time and stress to conform to these new regulations.

Who is exposing this attack on teachers and counselors? Who is fighting for the needs of students? It’s always less money and more work, and UNITY REFUSING to fight back. As usual too, it’ll be students who suffer most.This court case is actually allowing principals to pressure counselors and teachers into working overtime to complete their work or face sanctions and letters in the file for not doing their jobs!

MORE wants to take the lead of the Chicago CORE teachers, who actually fought for and won a SIGNIFICANT INCREASE in guidance counselors and support staff (as well as a significant raise and many other concessions that are improving the lives of students and teachers).

Restored Teachers Choice

Ridiculous! For years teachers received $250 a year for teachers’ choice. Then, because UNITY FAILED to win a contract for its members that included teachers’ choice, the DOE canceled it altogether. This year we got only $45. To call this a victory is to turn reality upside down and insult the intelligence of our members. Our members spend hundreds and in some cases thousands of dollars. Many educators, especially those in Elementary schools, are routinely evaluated on their class room environment and bulletin boards, thus they feel mandated to spend this type of money. Teachers have had to make up for budget short falls due to years of budget cuts, by bringing in; markers, pens, pencils, copy paper, posters, tissues, books, calculators, staples, toilet paper, just to name a few. Let’s remember this is on top of NO Contract!

Shut Down the Rubber Room

There continue to be rubber rooms scattered throughout the city where hundreds of teachers wallow for months and years, not allowed to return to teaching and often held without charges or any way to defend their reputations. UNITY allows this to continue while opportunistically and traitorously claiming victory.

Please see the story of MORE’s Francesco Portelos which proves that rubber rooms are still open http://protectportelos.org

The new evaluation process WILL perhaps eliminate rubber rooms, but with a bitter irony: it will be much easier—for the first time in many years—to fire teachers altogether.

Para’s (sic) no longer have to clock in when they arrive to work

Working conditions for paraprofessionals have consistently deteriorated over the years due to our lack of a contract. Paras have suffered disproportionately from working without a new contract because their salaries and benefits were lower to begin with. The fact that non-UFT paras’ hours are being cut across the City this year has meant an increased workload for educational paras, without a peep from UNITY.

Passed a Resolution to support ATR’s in low needed (sic) areas to get certified in high needed areas so they can get back into the classroom

As noted above, UNITY has allowed thousands of ATRs to roam the city week by week, functioning as day-to-day substitutes. Many have thus become bitter, cynical, and isolated from their colleagues, giving up on a lifelong vocation of helping young people. Since the DOE has been targeting more experienced teachers (which, again, would make a POWERFUL CAMPAIGN AGAINST AGE DISCRIMINATION), many are counting the days until retirement. This plays beautifully into the DOE’s plans to get rid of more experienced teachers.

MORE wants to fight to reinstate all ATRs in permanent positions, expand the teaching pool citywide, and expose Bloomberg’s campaign against experienced teachers. We additionally want to force the City to hire more black and latino teachers, whose numbers have been dwindling for the last ten years for many reasons.

I will only mention one of the countless other attacks UNITY has either acquiesced to or even orchestrated: the major cut in pensions (you could call it Tier “IV½”) for new teachers UNITY agreed to in 2009—again, without any member input whatsoever—in return for two school days off in September that UNITY had themselves negotiated away in 2006 (how’s that for turning defeat into “victory”?). That further opened the door for Tier VI in 2012 for the newest teachers, which is even worse! Observe:

“Tier (“IV½”) Teacher”…………………………….“Tier VI Teacher”

34 year service……………………………………… 34 year service

Age Retires 57………………………………………. Age Retires 57

Final 3-year FAS $100,000……………… Final 5 year FAS $100,000

Pension = $66,000………………………………. Pension = $38,430

(http://chaz11.blogspot.com/2012/03/newbie-teacher-and-tier-vi-why-teaching.html . See also http://ednotesonline.blogspot.com/2012/04/april-fool-no-joke-tier-4-pension-last.html for a comparison between Tier IV and Tier VI. It’ll open your eyes, whether you’re new or a veteran.)

That’s what I mean by steady erosion of conditions. And I’ll bet many of you didn’t even know this. That’s because UNITY doesn’t advertise these “victories.”

A QUICK SUMMARY OF MORE:

MORE represents an alternative to a passive UFT membership.

MORE represents an end to “let’s make a deal” politics that deceptively label defeats as “victories.” There is no substitute for educating and mobilizing teachers to fight for what we need. In fact, it’s exciting to take some control of our destinies for once!

MORE represents activating UFT members.

MORE represents educating UFT members about the issues that are threatening teachers and students.

MORE represents fighting for what we need as teachers, students, and parents.

A teachers’ union should not be about “let’s make a deal.” It should be about fighting for what we need, for ourselves, and mostly for our students, who are suffering the most in any of these attacks.

 

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12 responses to The Case for MORE- How Unity has failed!

  1. 

    Your comments regarding why to vote for MORE were excellent. You need to address the following; otherwise, you’re just as bad as Unity. DISCIPLINE IN THE PUBLIC SCHOOLS IS LACKING. Why are we afraid to mention this? Also, good teaching is not determined by race. I had an idiotic, bigoted principal years ago who felt like this and drove the caucasians, particularly Jewish teachers, out and regretted it. Stop with the quotas.
    Due to the Taylor Law, there is no impetus for the city to settle with its unions.

    • 

      The Chicago Tribune? Would you believe Rupert Murdoch when he does its anti-union thing? But I imagine a Unity person would support the Chicago version of Unity which sold the teachers down the tubes for so long and is now trying to get back into power.

  2. 
    Adjlevin@aol.com April 15, 2013 at 9:51 pm

    freekin awesome, is this Fred Arcoleo ?

  3. 

    Teachers choice was NEVER in the contract. It is funded through a grant from City council. And is subject to renewal each year. I understand that $45.00 is not a lot of money And for most of us the $250 would still be just a drop in the budget. But the funding of any monies at all is due to lobbying of the City council done by UNITY leadership. And the reinstatement of any of the funds, once again nothing that we are contractually entitled to, is progress in a time when the media is still touting craziness about shared responsibility. The $45 is a step in the right direction toward getting the funding we need in our classrooms. Rather than bash UNITY wouldn’t it be better to call your City Councilman and explain what you use the money for and how increasing the funds for next year would be wonderful. Or sending a thank you letter to them in order to help the lobby efforts to get the money funded.
    Imagine if you gave some one a gift (yes I do think that the members of City Council see this as a gift) and they poo pooed it publicly over and over again. Would you continue to give that person gifts, or would you be more responsive to the people who said thank you. As some one who has raised money for non profits in the past I have always found that by saying hey thanks for what you gave, this is what we used it for. Could you help us do our work by increasing your donation next year? is always much better than complaining it is not enough. We do need o remember that City Council is not mandated through any provision in the contract to keep funding teacher’s choice, as as such it is a subject we need to treat with kid gloves if we want to keep it in tact, and get the funds increased. Just my thoughts.

  4. 

    It’s one thing to criticize Mulgrew’s accomplishments, but when you can’t accompany those criticism’s with an actual plan you fail to show how you would be better leaders of the UFT.

    Anyone can hand out criticism, we see political analysts do it every day, but where are your solutions? All there is, is the constant complaining of what you don’t like and the vague promises you will make if elected yet you leave out how would would accomplish your goals. There is no proof your leadership will successfully solve any of the issues we face today, there is the constant comparison to Chicago but you fail to even include their ongoing struggles with school closings.
    We are a week away from the end of this election and in one corner we have Mulgrew who over the last three years has managed to make a lot of progress for the UFT.
    No teachers have been laid off, ATR’s still have jobs, Mulgrew has managed to stop unfair school closings, and we are still fighting for a fair contract,( We still have one).

    It seems this caucus has done a lot of complaining about Mulgrew and the UFT Leadership and aside from making promises of what they would do if elected has failed to prove how they would actually accomplish those goals. Would go to a doctor who promised to save your life without asking how they would actually save you?
    As much as we are aware that this Department of Education has worsened our lives and has given us a lack of support, it has constantly been Mulgrew and the UFT leadership looking to fix their wrongs. Our membership counts on a Union that supports their members, but our membership also counts on a Union that supports the membership in a responsible manner. The truth is, the UFT has successfully done that.

    Mulgrew has constantly proved to be the responsible candidate There’s an old saying; put your money where your mouth is” instead of pointing out all that Unity has done that you don’t like, have a little bit more respect for the rank and file members you want to represent and accompany your constant criticism with an actual solution, and a plan to show how you would execute that plan, or else, all you are is a critic.
    I’ll proudly stick with UNITY!

  5. 

    Stuart goes from E4E to unity- makes sense they both sell us out the same way- Stuart does it for the free trips- how terrible how do you look yourself in the mirror, Fred is the twice the MAN you are- he smaked you up with pure logic
    Woodruffff- Fred writes a thesis destroying everything unity does and your come back is whining about teachers choice, are you serious thats your defense
    your both sellouts to our children, our profession and public education

    • 

      Silo D – Stuart very publically criticized E4E and its leadership (watch the video at South Bronx School or GothamSchools), and he was thrown out of an E4E meeting for questioning Evan Stone. He quite effectively exposed their intolerance and their agenda by doing this, and in fact was praised by a number of people including Mr. A. Talk and SBS that are MORE supporters. By posting on a MORE site as a Unity Caucus member, he knows he will get flak as the majority of posters here won’t share his political views and I’m sure he understands that criticisms in that vein are fair game. It seems pretty clear to me his argument is that he feels that MORE has no plan and that he feels that Unity and Mulgrew do and he supports both. Refute that with a cogent argument and people might see your point of view. There was no attack on Fred in his post that I noticed. Anyone who looks at what you said who is not in MORE or Unity will see you making ad hominem attacks and that pretty much turns people off. Great campaign strategy.

    • 

      Silo D
      Instead of attacking people Why don’t you attack the issues, and learn your facts as well. I joined Unity is 2009, and I have attended every UFT delegate assembly, I know the contract and I effectvely inform and defend my members on the current issues, so much so that I have been a chapter leader since 2008. As a chapter leader and as a UFT member i have the right to learn about any education organization I want. So whay i attended an E4E meeting, they’re our members too. Wouldn’t you want to learn about a group that UFT members were joining to find out how to better educate those members? They are OUR members too. and even though I don’t agree with their views we all are part of the same Union, would more caucus defend them if needed? Calling me a sellout because you don’t agree with me is offensive. I will admit I do travel with the UFT as a NYSUT/AFT Delegate. I was elected to do that. I wake up at 6 am I sit in committees I vote on resolutions. I like the other NYSUT/ AFT delegates work on these trips. And if More delegates won the election I would think they would do that too. I have gone to Arbitration training, which is why I am an arbitration advocate and have won all my cases defending our UFT membership. Before you criticize a man walk a mile in his shoes don’t degrade yourself and your caucus by trying to slam me against a wall calling me a sellout because you don’t agree with me, that says very little about you, and not much for the caucus you represent.

      • 
        Washington Sanchez April 21, 2013 at 9:24 am

        I give you credit Stuart. You are one ambitious little bugger. Hope you get that district or better yet, that field rep job like I did. Good for you.
        Washington

    • 

      I am sorry you seem to have found my tone whiny. That was not my intent at all. I am simply pointing out a FACT that teachers choice is NOT nor has it EVER been a part of contractual negotiations. It is through lobbying of City Council members to get that done. A fact is a fact, and when I see a misrepresentation of facts I feel the need to point them out. That is one fact that I felt I needed to speak to since it is represented erroneously as a contract issue.

      I did not go through point for point the “Thesis” issues above. Most people are not going to read a reply that would be that long, nor do i think I can truly speak with expertise on all of those points. Knowing this I spoke where I was confident to speak. As I have learned how ever in the game of politics when you point out errors in the facts, you get attacked not with correction, but by being told things like I must be “whining”. Facts are facts, and they should be presented correctly, and clearly. I was merely clarifying the facts above. I would rather look at the issues and develop my personal expertise on things then expend that same energy calling people names in an effort to defend misrepresentation of those facts.

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