Archives For social justice unionism

peace-unity-justice

This is MORE’s statement on the march with the Eric Garner’s family sponsored by the UFT

Last week the UFT announced sponsorship and support for A March for Unity and Justice.  The march, with Eric Garner’s family at the helm, is billed as a coming together and a call for transparency and accountability in the wake of several prominent cases of alleged police brutality.  A firestorm of criticism of the UFT’s sponsorship of this march has played out on the pages of newspapers, social media, and countless emails between educators, politicians, and community leaders.

There are numerous critiques and voices expressing a range of opinions from criticism of Al Sharpton, to the UFT’s democratic decision making (or lack thereof), to branding the march as anti-police.  In addition, many are questioning the UFT’s involvement at all.

MORE caucus is comprised of UFT members and community members with differing and passionate views on many issues, including the sponsorship of this march.  We agree however as dictated by our points of unity, that we are the social justice caucus of the UFT, we stand against racism and believe educators and our union, must be on the forefront of the fight for racial, social and economic justice.

MORE believes that democratic decision making and rank-and-file involvement and voice in the issues that face our members, our schools and our students is the foundation for a strong and united union.

MORE believes that issues that affect our students and their families are our issues, and it is vital that we stand with children and families whenever and wherever there is injustice.

MORE believes that due process is a right all workers should have.

We do not have the mechanism to engage in a healthy, informed and democratic debate within our union in regards to this march. However, we stand in solidarity with the Garner family, and countless families who have lost loved ones during low-level police-related encounters. Many of our members will march with the Garner family this Saturday, many will not due to the concerns surrounding the sponsorship and organization of this march.

We believe the issues of excessive force, police brutality, restorative justice practices, and the over-policing of our schools including the use of metal detectors are issues that deeply impact and affect educators and our students and we encourage our union leadership, as well as the leadership of the PBA, to engage our memberships in healthy debate, discussion, and meaningful democratically decided upon actions that will lead to the systemic changes we want to see for our children.  Rather than allowing these issues to divide us, we encourage the leaderships of the UFT and PBA, to find ways to work together and unite us.

This statement was approved by the MORE steering committee due to the timely nature in which a response was required.  We want this statement to serve as a starting point for more debate, discussion and conversation.

Please use the comments section to express your views and thoughts on the issues surrounding the march, but more importantly let us focus on the reason this march is taking place:  in the last decade hundreds of black men have died during interactions with the police.  The United States has the highest prison population of any similar nations, and a disproportionate number of those incarcerated are black men.

As educators, most of us know of at least one student who has experienced harassment, brutality, or even death at the hands of the police.  Acknowledging this does not make any one of us anti-police.  Rather, with our brother and sister officers we should seek improved practices and policies that will result in equal and just outcomes for all of our students and their families.

For Deion

August 20, 2014 — 11 Comments

candles

This is a personal statement by a member of MORE. It may or may not represent the official view of the MORE caucus.

By Julie Cavanagh

Teacher/Chapter Leader P.S.15k

One year ago I received a phone call from a former student. After a few exchanged pleasantries he interrupted me to say, “Deion is dead”.  My heart sank, a lump formed in my throat, and I listened to what is an increasingly all too familiar story of a young black man dying during a low-level police interaction.

Deion and his girlfriend swiped into the subway on one metro card. Deion was headed back to Red Hook from his girlfriend’s neighborhood. She was keeping him company on the platform, which is why she didn’t swipe a separate metro card. The police approached Deion and his girlfriend and confronted them about swiping only once. What happened next is not exactly clear, but Deion ran, was chased, eventually was caught, ended up a quadriplegic and later died from his injuries. The police reported he had been clipped by a train, but before he died, Deion told his side of the story in detail, which included no run in with a train but rather being brutally beaten by the police. The value of Deion’s life it would seem was a mere $2.50.

I have never written or taken action publicly out of respect for Mrs. Fludd who as his mother made deeply personal decisions about how to handle Deion’s death including taking time for her and her family to heal. Mrs. Fludd has since spoken publicly and has given me permission to do so.

In the last month five unarmed black men have been killed by police officers: Eric Garner, John Crawford, Ezell Ford, Michael Brown and Dante Parker

Since the start of the Iraq war 4488 American soldiers have been killed. During the same time period,  5000 American citizens have been killed at the hands of the police.

In the last decade hundreds of black men have died at the hands of the police. Today there are more American citizens in the prison system in the United States than the citizens in any other developed nation, including China.

Stating these facts does not mean I am anti-police officer. But they send a loud and clear message that there is a problem with policing in our country, a problem that disproportionately affects people of color, especially black men, and puts the freedom and liberty of every United States citizen in jeopardy.

So why is this an issue teachers, and their unions, must be vocal about?  Eric Garner’s children and grandchildren have attended, attend and will attend public schools.  Deion and Michael Brown were public school students.  If their teachers cannot be counted on to stand with them, to fight for them, who can they count on?

As educators and public servants who navigate public spaces and have an implicit stewardship over our nation’s youth, we stand positioned closest to our communities and the fight for racial, social and economic justice.  If not us, than who, if not now, then when?

A firestorm has erupted in recent days that has played out on the pages of newspapers, social media, and countless emails between educators, politicians, and community leaders about the UFT’s support and sponsorship of A March for Justice.  There are plenty of critiques and voices expressing a range of opinions from criticism of Al Sharpton, to the UFT’s democratic decision making (or lack thereof), to branding it as anti-police.  Let’s be clear:  Eric Garner’s family, his wife, children and grandchildren left behind, will be leading this march. Is any one of us prepared to look them in the eye and say, “I will not stand with you.”?  I, for one, am not.

Educators have an important place, in standing for justice for all.  We must recognize that we have a broken justice system in this country that disproportionately targets and consumes people of color, especially black men.

Our police officers have the immense challenge and responsibility to protect and serve our citizens, all of them, and the majority do their best.  Like PBA president Lynch, I believe in due process and I firmly believe our brave men and women in uniform do not leave their homes and families each day to kill, harass, or wrongly imprison their fellow citizens, but the reality is these things are happening, in alarming numbers, and we have an opportunity, due to the long overdue attention these tragedies are receiving today, for systemic change and healing tomorrow.

As I understand the march this Saturday, the demand is transparency, accountability, and an effort to raise awareness for the kinds of policing changes that are needed, here in New York City, and more broadly.  I understand the tensions and political posturing that make this issue “complicated”, but we cannot be deterred or divided from a common cause:  a better world where all of our citizens are treated equally and humanely.

At the center of many of the recent tragedies, the “broken windows” policy of policing and the conscious or unconscious targeting, assumption of guilt and fear of  black men has come into focus.

We cannot stand by silent at this pivotal moment for something good to come out of the needless deaths of countless men like Eric Garner and Deion Fludd.  Rather, we must stand together and demand change.  This is where Mr. Lynch and I diverge.

I ran against Michael Mulgrew in the last UFT election.  I was prepared to serve and represent my fellow educators as the president of one of the largest union locals in the country.  In that role, difficult decisions must be made, and sometimes those decisions must be made quickly.  Rather than blaming and criticizing everyone from Mr. Garner himself, to the medical examiner who ruled Garner’s death a homicide, to Michael Mulgrew, Mr. Lynch would better serve his members, and our city, by standing with the Garner family.  Compassion, understanding, and a commitment to improve relationships and policy is the responsibility of not only a union leader, but of all of us.

There is plenty of room for debate as to the policy solutions that will serve all of our citizenry, but there is no debate that a father and grandfather should not be left to die on a Staten Island sidewalk because, in the past, he sold loosies.  There is no debate that a seventeen year old making his way home, should not become a quadrapalegic and later die, because he and his girlfriend swiped a metrocard once, not twice.

Yes both men resisted arrest, but wouldn’t you if you felt you were being wrongly arrested?  Resisting arrest should not equal a death sentence.

This week I have the honor of driving the young man who called to tell me about Deion’s death and Deion’s brother to college.  Their journey is a light in the darkness of recent and historical tragedy.  My husband and I will return with our son on Friday, will wake Saturday morning, and join the family of Eric Garner and Deion Fludd in a march for justice and change.

I will explain to my blue-eyed white-skinned son that an injustice to one, is an injustice to us all.  I will tell him that the police, like his uncles, are here to protect us and serve us, and hopefully he will never need their help, but if he does, they will be there.  I will tell him that sometimes people do bad things, whether they mean to or not, and there are consequences for every choice we make.  I will explain that not everyone has his privilege, and with privilege comes an even greater responsibility to fight for justice, equal treatment under the law, and a better world for all.

I will tell him to look over at Karen Fludd, Deion’s mother who we will be marching with, and tell her that her son was loved, that his life matters, and our lives are best spent fighting for the promise of a better world where her pain will never again exist.

Comments are welcome, please reply with your respectful thoughts below.

To be delivered to Carmen Fariña and The New York City Panel for Educational Policy

Since the 2001-2002 academic year, there has been a 57.4% decrease in the number of Black teachers hired by the New York City Department of Education, and a 22.9% increase for white teachers hired during this same period of time.

We ask Chancellor Fariña and the Panel for Education Policy to:

• Make a policy statement that acknowledges the value of teacher diversity and the lack of such diversity in New York City public schools.

• Centrally monitor the racial demographic of hiring and firing in NYC public and charter schools. In public school data reports include the racial profile for the teachers and administrators in each school as is currently done for the students.

• Raise the percentage of Black and Latino teachers hired in the system overall, with a special focus on raising the percentage of male teachers in those groups.

• Raise the percentage of persons of color in the NYC Teaching Fellows program to more closely match the NYC student body demographic. Make public the number and racial demographic of NYC Teaching Fellows hired.

• Settle Gulino vs. Board of Education, in which a recent court ruling found that the NY State LAST certification exam was not validated yet was used in 2002 to dismiss thousands of NYC teachers who were disproportionately Black and Latino.

• Invest in a clear and distinct paraprofessional-to-teacher career path that offers qualified applicants provisional teaching licenses while completing graduate degree requirements and subsidizes both undergraduate and graduate tuition at CUNY and SUNY

PETITION BACKGROUND

In a school system that is 67.5% Black and Latino (as of 2012 – 13), the 34% combined percentage of Black and Latino teachers in the system is disappointing at best.

This lack of diversity reinforces already existing practices of segregation and leaves out diverse cultural perspectives that inform curriculum, pedagogy and practice. It also shortchanges our students by replicating and reinforcing false societal structures that devalue the contribution and perspectives of non-dominant racial and cultural groups.

copy-more-tshirt-logo1.jpg

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 30, 2014

Press Contacts:

Jia Lee, Elementary School teacher and Public School parent

Mike Schirtzer, Social Studies High School teacher

Media@morecaucusnyc.org

Teachers, Parents and Students Stand Strong for Tenure

Due Process Protects Teachers who Protect their Students

 

Tenure gives teachers the right to stand up for their students’ best interests, even in the face of poor leadership or poor policy. It accords those who spend the most time with students the respect and responsibility of making best decisions on their students’ behalf. Thus, recent attacks on tenure have nothing to do with improving teaching and learning. They are designed to undermine teacher’s unions and silence educators’ voices.

  Continue Reading…

Business Unionsim

By Mike Schirtzer

Teacher and UFT Delegate: Leon M. Goldstein High School

 

Like most classroom teachers, I didn’t attend last weekend’s AFT convention. In fact, few working teachers knew it was going on, or had reason to care. Our delegates represented none of what we believe in and nothing that happened there will make any difference in our classroom. There was no call for Arne Duncan’s resignation, no resolution for a repeal of the Common Core Standards, and no new strategies for increasing union mobilization or supporting our students. Actually nothing of consequence was achieved. Members will go back to their respective locals and continue the same methods: Chicago Teachers Unions (CTU) will the lead the fight against so called reform that hurts our children and profession, while the AFT/UFT leadership will go back to a style of unionism that ensures that none of my friends become any more engaged in union activities. Continue Reading…

On Wednesday July 16th 2014 we are hosting a summer series panel and open discussion on the history of groups that have competed for power and influence within the UFT. We will also examine the implications for MORE. More event Information here

Below are readings and video lectures from union/UFT historians on the background of the founding of UFT and Unity caucus, the ruling party of our union.

Suggested Readings

Democracy & Politics in the UFT, 1976 Edition

Democracy and Politics in the UFT is being reprinted in its original with no changes in order to provide a snapshot of the state of the UFT and education circa 1976 and how one opposition group approached these issues.Thanks to Vera Pavone, Ira Goldfine and Norm Scott for creating an online version of the pamphlet they produced almost 40 years ago.

http://www.scribd.com/doc/233191682/Democracy-Politics-in-the-UFT-1976-Ed

UFT/Unity Caucus Early History from “City Unions”

This chapter on the founding of the UFT and how Shanker consolidated power from the book “City Unions”. There is a lot of insight into how Unity has controlled the UFT since its inception.

 

http://www.scribd.com/doc/158371024/City-Unions-chapter-8

 

 

Here we have a series of videos about the history of our union, it’s founding, some discussions on past caucuses and dissident groups, and the relationship between non-Unity activists and the union leadership.

Historical roots of the UFT presented by Michael Fiorillo and Peter Lamphere at the State of the Union conference (Feb. 4. 2012).

Michael: Teacher unions up to 1968 (22 minutes): https://vimeo.com/45094559

Peter: Post 1968 (15 minutes):  https://vimeo.com/45094560

Both videos plus the Q&A (1 hour):  https://vimeo.com/45094713

UFT Friend or Foe- from 2013 Summer Series- How non-Unity Chapter leaders and activists relate to UFT leadership

Norm Scott: http://morecaucusnyc.org/2013/07/27/uft-friend-or-foe-event/

Vera Pavone http://morecaucusnyc.org/2013/08/14/uftaft-leadership-friend-or-foe-series-vera-pavone/

Ira Goldfine http://morecaucusnyc.org/2013/08/14/uftaft-leadership-friend-or-foe-series-ira-goldfine/

Peter Lamphere http://morecaucusnyc.org/2013/08/14/uftaft-leadership-friend-or-foe-series-peter-lamphere/

MORE Summer Series 2012- UFT Caucus History Since 1968 

Norm Scott http://vimeo.com/45705700

Michael Fiorillo http://vimeo.com/45698849

 

Join the Movement of Rank-and-File Educators (MORE) for Summer Series 2014. Discussions exploring the past, present and future of teacher unionism. All are welcome!

Wednesdays 4:00pm-7:00pm
The Dark Horse
17 Murray St. NYC
Near City Hall, Chambers St, WTC

July 16th
Who Runs the UFT? Why Are There Alternatives? A Historical Perspective 1960-2014

The UFT formed in 1960 as a merger of several organizations. By 1964 the Unity caucus emerged as the ruling party of the UFT, which they remain to this day. Throughout the union’s history various dissident groups and caucuses have contested this dominance. At different times these groups merged, ran joint slates, or disbanded. We will discuss why these groups formed and their differing visions and strategies. How is MORE related to this history? What can we learn from it?

Other Summer Series Events

July 30th
Life Under the New UFT Contract

August 13th
Lessons from the Chicago Teachers’ Union- Featuring Guest Speakers from Chicago

August 20th
UFT 101: Why Does Our Teachers’ Union Matter?

twitter.com/morecaucusnyc
morecaucusnyc.org
more@morecaucusnyc.org
press inquiries media@morecaucusnyc.org

 

 

By Norm Scott and Mike Schirtzer

The calls have been coming in from parents and childcare-takers all over the city who are beginning to realize how the new contract will change their lives as the school day gets readjusted in many schools.

They tell us there is growing outrage as word spreads. And since parents are being told that teachers are supposed to vote on School Based Options (SBO’s) in the schools, some parents are placing the blame squarely on the teachers and the UFT – even more so than on the DOE and the principals, who often just plain lie to the parents, saying that teachers voted that way. The truth is Chancellor Farina has mandated 80 minutes of Professional Development (PD) a week or 100 minutes should a school choose to deviate from the default schedule. Teachers and administration have no choice of offering any extended time (what was called tutoring, student mentoring, 37.5, or Academic Intervention Services depending on your school). The new built in Parent Engagement time can not be used for tutoring either.
In one case, the UFT district represnattive  told parents the entire district was using the default model of 8AM start time and 2:20 end time so the teachers can get their PD in by 4PM. Parents do not care about PD, neither do most teachers. There wasn’t a teacher anywhere begging for more PD in a new contract. Most PDs will be focused on Common Core, Danielson, MOSL, or other failed initiatives.  PD’s throughout the city very rarely focus on good pedagogical practices nor are they led by experienced teachers. Thanks to the Bloomberg/Klein era most new administrators who are leading these PDs have less than 5 years class-room experience, how can we expect them to lead effective PD’s? Instead teachers will be forced to write curriculum and units based on the untested, unproven, developmentally inappropriate standards. Other PDs will be focused on aligning lessons with the check box rubrics created by Charleotte Danielson and her 6 months of teaching. None of this will have a positive impact on the students we teach

Let me say this as I have been and will continue to do: When the UFT goes along with the Farina (and most ed deformers) mantra that the key to improving education is Professional Development, they accept the “teacher blame” argument. Of course everyone can improve — and the best PD is watching others teach — but blanket PD is like expecting a gourmet meal at McDonalds.

Then there are stories where the chapter leader didn’t even offer teachers the option of an SBO and just did what the principal wanted. So the teachers feel betrayed too — but it is really their fault — maybe a lesson for those who have their heads in the sand.

At the June 11, 2014 Delegate Assembly, Mulgrew spoke about the Vergara decision. How important it was to work with parents and how proud he was of the work the UFT was doing with parents. If the Unity/UFT leadership didn’t have a tin ear they would have figured out a way to get some parent leaders, at the very least, involved in proposed negotiations. But they didn’t even get regular teachers involved, so this is the spillover of closed door contract negotiations.  Parents accustomed to extended days will now being paying for childcare out of their pockets. Students and their parents who can not afford to pay for extra help or small group instruction are now being left out in the cold. This is clearly not a way of winning over parents to be on the side of the UFT.

Parents feel they have been totally shut out of the process. I wonder where they’ll stand when we see Vergara, coming soon, to New York?