Sunday April 14th 2013
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.
Tags: Francesco Portelos, Fred Arcoleo, MORE, Movement of Rank and File Educators, New York State Teacher Evaluations, NYC Teacher Evaluations, SESIS, social justice unionism, UFT, UFT elections, Unity
Part one: Harri Lirtzman and Francesco Portelos share their stories
Part two: Lois Weiner’s comments and the Q&A after.
Read the Report here
We want to spread this video far and wide, let’s make it go viral. Take a few seconds to share the video link on Facebook, Twitter, email, blogs, forums, education news sites, and whatever other web sites you frequent. Please encourage your friends, family and colleagues to do the same. Let’s build MORE together! Share this link, spread the news about a new Positive Alternative Leadership of OUR UFT!
Here is the link to copy and paste: http://youtu.be/XusIasWTHrg
Stop School Closings Everywhere
On Monday, March 11th the Panel for Educational Policy (PEP) will meet at Brooklyn Technical High School at 6 PM to vote on the closure of all 26 schools. They will also vote to replace and collocate many of the schools with charters schools. Join us at 5:00pm for a rally to oppose the senseless closing of our public schools and to support our students, parents, and educators. It is important that there is a very strong showing of support for the schools.
Check out MORE at Sheepshead Bay High School’s hearing
The Movement of Rank and File Educators of the UFT stands in solidarity with the impacted school communities and seeks to offer support in any way that we can. The best way to fight a school closure is to organize the community, and speak out for your school. School closings can be the fate of any public school, all of us are potential ATRs. The time to take action is now!
The Mayor is ready to unilaterally close more of our schools, now is the time to ask questions and call for the immediate halt to this failed policy. Schools are places for education of course, but for our communities they are so much more. Schools have long served as the center of communities, parents gathered for many years at PA/PTA meetings, students participate in sports programs where friends and family watch from the stands, after-school programs give students the chance to expand learning outside of the classrooms, and the school yard has the been the pace where lifetime friendships have developed. We cannot allow the mayor and his rubber-stamp Panel for Education Policy committee continue to close our schools and ruin our communities.
What baffles us is how our government from the President down to Mayor has continuously told us that our banks and Wall Street firms are “Too Big to Fail”, yet they tell those same communities that your schools are too big to succeed. Why are our financial institutions bailed out with trillions of taxpayer money, but our schools are allowed to close? The economists don’t have any problem explaining to the world that allowing these gigantic institutions to fail would cause systematic destruction of our economy because all aspects are connected. Shouldn’t our government use that same philosophy for our schools, if we allow the school to be closed, aren’t we allowing the entire system to fail? Closing schools results in displaced students, teachers without classes to teach, and communities without a center.
The city can start by keeping our schools open and then ensuring they have the same conditions as all schools have in every neighborhood. One New York City school should not have better textbooks, better labs, greater advanced technology and more after school programs than another. It’s time to equal the playing field and have all our students provided the same resources to succeed. Our government must reinvest in our public schools as they have reinvested in private banks.
We also have to deal with the socio-economic issues that our children are facing. Our students contend with academic challenges based on circumstances that they face in their daily life. MORE calls for full wrap around services for schools that have been targeted for closing. Our bilingual students need increased individual attention and we need additional services for students with a variety of special needs. There needs to be an immediate increase in the number of guidance counselors, nurses, psychologists and social workers at our schools. The city has a large pool of excessed teachers and guidance counselors, its time to place these highly qualified professionals where they are needed most, in our most needy schools. The increase in staff will result in more services and lower class sizes for our children. The city should immediately increase funding to these schools so they can offer more robust after-school programs and weekend tutoring. Full utilization of federal and state child nutrition programs that offer healthy breakfast, lunch, and dinners are necessary for our students. This will allow our students and schools to succeed.
The Mayor, chancellor, and their rubber-stamp Panel for Education Policy, show complete disregard and disdain for the students, teachers and communities affected by this policy, inflicting unconscionable harm on them and ignoring the democratic process. School reform should involve all the stakeholders; school faculty, parents, community members, and students.
Many of the school closing decisions are based on the faulty and volatile testing data in the school progress reports, which ignore some of the most important things that happen in schools; electives, clubs, connections between teachers and students that meet students’ social and emotional needs. Charter schools are replacing schools slated to phase out. Charters choose students by lottery. They serve far fewer ELLs and children with special needs, and counsel out students they believe won’t perform. Despite this, 80% of charter students perform the same or worse than students in public schools.
As Diane Ravitch has stated:
“It is easy to close schools, disperse the students and claim victory. But no school is improved and no student is helped by closing schools. Choice policies enable schools to avoid the students who are likely to lower the school’s test scores. These kids tend to get bounced from one “bad” school to another until they drop out. In Chicago, where many schools have been closed, most students were reassigned to other low-performing schools and gained nothing from the change.
What’s more, no nation with high-performing schools is pursuing the same policies as our government. None has a program to privatize large numbers of schools, and none relies on tests of basic skills to close schools and judge teachers”
A recent update from the UFT sent out to school Chapter Leaders reads:
Teacher eval impasse will go to binding arbitration if no agreement reached by May
“Given the city’s failure to meet the state-imposed Jan. 17 deadline, which cost our schools $240 million, the governor added an amendment to his budget submission on Thursday that empowers state Education Commissioner John King to act as a binding arbitrator to settle any elements of the agreement that have not been finalized in negotiations by May 29. In that event, after reviewing position papers and hearing oral arguments by both sides in May, Commissioner King will establish New York City’s new teacher evaluation plan by June 1.”
In this same email to chapter leaders, Dr. King was referred to as
“a lifelong educator who is serious about education, who has approved more than 700 evaluation plans across New York State”
Of course, teaching for three years, receiving public funds to run charter schools and being an appointed bureaucrat does not meet our definition of ‘life-long educator’. But of Dr. King’s work, UFT President Mulgrew has said
“We’ve seen the kinds of plans the state has approved and we are comfortable with them because they are about helping teachers help kids”.
The fact that there is no evidence that these plans have helped teachers to help students is a point that has been made time and again. In fact, with the increased testing that will be required, this plan can have only a negative impact on our students’ education. But that this evaluation will be imposed notwithstanding our collective bargaining rights is a point that, while we’ve made in the past, we feel we must make here again.
To be clear, the assertion of the union’s leadership that the ultimate decision will be rendered by Dr. King (and that that is OK) is deplorable to the extreme. MORE has, in the past, described this move as “Surrendering Our Collective Bargaining Rights” and has been attacked by the Unity Caucus, the caucus of Michael Mulgrew and the current union leadership, for saying so. MORE knew very well that Unity’s response (that part of Collective Bargaining is the ability to turn to an arbitrator to settle disputes between labor and management) was without merit when applied to this scenario.
We knew this for two reasons: 1.The process of arbitration depends on relying on a fair and independent arbitrator (Dr. King, who is responsible for creating much of the current education policy in New York State, is anything but a fair an independent arbitrator) 2. Any responsible union, lead by people who care about the status of their members, would seek only a fair and independent arbitration process.
The bold arrogance revealed by UFT leadership of the Unity Caucus in this Chapter Leader update leaves even us a bit taken aback. It does, however, afford us the opportunity to examine exactly how Unity has sold out our collective bargaining rights by taking a closer look at exactly what a fair and independent arbitrator is and detailing how Dr. King is in a position to act as anything but a fair and independent arbitrator over this issue.
Most arbitration cases between the UFT and the Department of Education, binding or otherwise, are handled by the American Association of Arbitrators. That organization was founded in 1926 and is the nation’s leading organization for settling collective bargaining disputes between labor and management. Recent UFT cases arbitrated by the AAA include the 2012 UFT/CSA victory that stopped the mayor from closing twenty-four schools and excessing half of the staff from each of the those schools and the recent UFT SESIS victory which allowed special education teachers to be paid for the forced overtime incurred during the 2011 and 2012 academic year.
It is with good reason that the UFT has turned to this organization to settle disputes in the past, as the AAA sets a very high standard for exactly who can and cannot be an arbitrator. In order to become an arbitrator on the AAA’s Labor Panel, one must be on a list called the “Roster of Neutrals”. This roster only accepts applicants who meet a very high level of standards. Among those requirements are a list of basic qualifications. Let’s review those requirements and ask whether Dr. King meets the standard of being a fair and independent arbitrator.
1. Experience. Applicants “must have a minimum of 10 years senior-level business or professional experience” and have “hands-on knowledge about Labor Relations”. Dr. King was twenty-eight years old ten years ago and was leading Roxbury Prep Charter School in Massachusetts As this is a non-union charter school, it cannot be said that Dr. King developed a ‘hands-on knowledge’ of Labor Relations during this time and he cannot be considered to have developed ‘senior-level’ business experience. Yet the Unity Caucus premises that he does.
In addition, the AAA demands that its applicants have ”training and experience [specifically] in arbitration”. Dr. King, who attended the nation’s leading universities developed a vast amount of training in education and education policy over the course of his career, but not in labor related arbitration. Therefore, it can easily be concluded, by anyone except the Unity Caucus of the UFT, that Dr. King does not possess the training or the experience to be an arbitrator.
2. Neutrality In order to be an arbitrator, applicants must meet the AAA’s high standards of neutrality. These standards include “freedom from bias” and an ability to “evaluate legal principles”. Most specifically, arbitrators ”cannot be an active advocate for labor or for management.” Doesn’t his current status as the Commissioner of Education, a leader in the education reform movement in New York State, and his past status as founder of the UncommonSchools network of charter schools (a charter network that hires non-unionized teachers) clearly demonstrate that he is not free from bias? Our union leadership does not seem to think so.
Let’s take a moment to examine whether or not Dr. King is an “advocate for management“ with regard to this matter. He was the Deputy Commissioner of Education when the system was negotiated and debated (and ultimately ratified) by the state’s legislature in 2010. He has written all of the regulations and guidelines around the creation and implementation of this system as it will exist in the state’s 694 school districts. He has had the singular power to approve or deny the teacher evaluation agreements that have been reached between school districts and their union. And let us not forget that Dr. King was the one who insisted that a teacher not be able to earn an effective rating on the new system unless his or her students perform well on standardized tests (a system that has led to the outcry of how forty (the amount that objective measures will be worth) will equal one-hundred percent of a teacher’s rating (see here)).
What kind of union would attempt to convince their membership that the very person who has been responsible for creating, revising, approving and implementing this new evaluation system can possibly be a fair and independent arbitrator in a labor dispute?
Only the leadership of our union. Only the Unity Caucus.
Leaders of the Unity Caucus, in their zeal to accuse the Movement Of Rank and File Educators of not understanding the basic principles of collective bargaining, have failed to admit that arbitration itself hinges on the training, the experience and the non-bias of the person who is acting as the arbitrator of an issue. Why have they hidden this obvious truth? Only two possibilities can explain: 1. They do not know what fair and independent arbitration is. 2. They simply do not care.
As troubling as this is, our examination has thus far centered around one type of arbitration; the grievance arbitration. There is a basic difference between a grievance arbitration (such as the ones mentioned above) and a contractual arbitration. Grievance arbitrations, which address alleged breaches of the contract, occur quite often. However what is before us, what the UFT Chapter Leader update identified as ‘binding arbitration’, is a contractual binding arbitration; a decision that will allow major parts of our contract to be altered. The UFT has stood firm in not allowing binding arbitration to determine its contract for decades.
But, of course, this is a different UFT.
The issues over which the Unity leadership is going to allow Dr. King to ‘arbitrate’ (a role he is clearly not qualified to fill) address a broad swath of present and future working conditions for teachers across the city. For instance, Under what circumstances can a teacher be fired for incompetence? Who, if no future agreement can be reached, will decide how teachers are evaluated after this agreement sunsets in one, or two years? These decisions, the Unity Caucus believes, would be better left to Dr. John King; Commissioner of NYSED, than to the collective bargaining process that has been established.
But, of course, truth is that the Unity leadership knows full well what a real arbitration process is. A much more accurate (and truthful) way of describing what is about to happen is to call it out for what it is: Imposing an agreement. This is how UFT spokesman Peter Kadushin identified it:
“The UFT would prefer a negotiated settlement with the Department of Education, but … is supportive of the state imposing one if an agreement cannot be reached.”
Perhaps Mr. Kadushin should be writing the Chapter Leader updates?
We do not want our union to surrender our rights of collective bargaining –not to SED, nor the courts nor the governor. Like teachers in Chicago and Seattle, we believe that educators have the power to organize and to fight. The Unity leadership may tergiversate over this issue until the cows come home. But we see their actions for what they are and the Movement of Rank and File Educators believe that teachers do not have to surrender. In fact, it is the last thing that we should do.
All UFT chapter leader and delegate should Vote NO so that they can bring back the agreement to their chapters for a full vote.
Why Vote MORE?
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