Archives For UFT

Who Controls the UFT?

April 30, 2015 — 2 Comments
By Michael Fiorillo, Teacher, Newcomers HS
MORE Steering Committee 
To most teachers, often overwhelmed by ever-increasing demands that have little or nothing to do with providing the best education for their students, the UFT seems remote from their daily experience. Beyond welfare fund services, when they think about the Union at all, it is often in terms of hefty dues deductions. Rarely so they think the union fighting for them, and with good reason: it rarely does other than little pantomimes of fighting back.Teachers less and less see the Union as a vehicle for improving their lives at an ever more demanding job where they are increasingly less secure and respected. Higher salaried senior teachers often feel they have a target on their backs. New teachers see achieving tenure as an ever-receding mirage – as an obstacle course as they engage in a 3, 4, or more year endurance contest with their principal and/or local Superintendent. And if they get past that will they survive long enough to get a pension? The silence and impotence of the Union is apparent. How often do we hear exasperated, demoralized teachers asking, “Where is the Union?”The Union often feels like a distant and largely irrelevant force because of the inbred, anti-Democratic practices of an ever-more indifferent leadership, which often seems complicit with the dysfunction and outrages we daily face in the schools. The UFT’s ruling faction, Unity Caucus, has been in power for over half a century, and suffers from most of the ills of too much power held over too long a time: out-of-touch, unwilling to consider new ideas, and often identifying more with management and so-called “education reformers” than with their own members.What is Unity Caucus?
Caucuses are the political parties that seek to govern the union. Unity caucus has had sole, unlimited policy-making control since the UFT was founded in the early 60’s. The UFT has had opposition caucuses vying for political power over the years, but Unity has structured the UFT in a way to assure them complete control and the creation of an entrenched political machine that has passively accepted, and sometimes actively collaborated with, policies inimical to teachers and students.

The lack of union democracy has very tangible consequences for teachers. Lately, virtually all of those consequences have been negative, and have correlated with declining participation from the rank and file. Less than 20% of active teachers voted in the last election and 52% of those who did vote were retirees. Unity has so rigged the election process, every single member of the 101 member UFT Executive Board is Unity endorsed.

Members must commit to a loyalty oath to ALWAYS support whatever dictates come down from the leadership and NEVER speak against them publicly. Hundred of chapter leaders are Unity Caucus members and if it comes down to supporting the interests of the teachers who elected them or the union leadership most Unity chapter leaders will force feed policies from the top to their members, thus putting the needs of the caucus over their colleagues.

Teachers who attempt to go above a Unity chapter leader to the borough or district reps are stonewalled since these reps have been appointed by the leadership since the UFT ended elections of District Reps in 2002, thus bringing Unity’s centralized, top-down governance to both the school, district and borough levels.

Other than a few exceptions, getting even part-time work at the Union is conditional on Unity Caucus membership, a powerful incentive for closely-policed conformity.

There are many reasons for the scapegoating, disrespect and attacks that public school teachers have been suffering for a generation. One of the reasons they’ve been so successful is that the Union leadership’s continuing anti-democratic practice has made it rigid and sclerotic, dangerously dependent on “friends in high places” – especially since their most important friend, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, was recently indicted – and unwilling to tap into the knowledge and energy of its rank and file. Unity Caucus is so wedded to decades of power, so scared of the membership and intent on managing it instead of representing it, that they risk the destruction of the Union itself along with the mission of public education as we know it.

It follows that the survival of public education and teacher unions themselves are bound up with issues of union democracy. The continued entrenchment of the Unity Caucus Machine virtually guarantees the continuing success of attacks on teachers, their benefits, working conditions and dignity. If we are serious about saving public education and the teaching profession, then we must be serious about taking back our Union from the out-of-touch Unity Caucus Machine that controls it.

Download the latest issue of The High School Teachers Voice here

ATR Petition to Print Out for Distribution

ATRs have been prime staff casualties of school closures, which are driven largely by high-stakes test scores; the Bloomberg-era Fair Funding Formula continues to be a disincentive against principals’ hiring ATRs; the position state in itself is illegitimate and unacceptable: the ATR status is created simply to break tenure and seniority; as ATRs are overwhelmingly over the age of 45, the placing of teachers in this position is age discrimination;

Absent Teacher Reserve teachers, guidance counselors, social workers, and other excessed NYC DOE employees are denied the right to representatives from within their own ranks; they can only vote for chapter representatives if they happen to be working in a school with an election during their rotation assignment; Denying ATRs their own representatives violates the principle of no dues without representation.

Whereas, the ATR position has now been embedded in the UFT contract in Section 16 of the 2014 DOE-UFT contract, therefore be it Resolved, that the UFT will immediately create a Functional Chapter to represent the interests of ATRs, Leave Replacement Teachers and Provisional Teachers, with borough-level proportionality.

We UFT members ask president Mulgrew for his pledge to create these chapters.

ENDORSED BY: Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE)

Please mail petitions by June 8, 2015 to: P.O. Box 150150, Kew Gardens, NY 11415

 

To the Public School Families and Educators of New York-

I would like to thank the many of you who have gone way out of their way to stand up for our schools, for their children’s educators, and for public education in New York. Governor Cuomo’s attacks have galvanized parents , students, and educators across the state, and have united in us in solidarity to protect our schools. So many of you have volunteered your time, attended rallies, spoken with your friends in person and through social media, signed letters and petitions, contacted elected officials, opted your children out of the state tests, and otherwise demonstrated your resistance to the data-obsessed, privatization-oriented corporate “school reform” agenda typified by Cuomo’s budget proposals.

I must make clear, though, that this is no time to declare victory or let up on the pressure; the budget that passed is a brutal one for public education in NY, different from Cuomo’s original proposals in only minor and cosmetic ways, though the Times and our the deeply compromised UFT leadership suggest otherwise. The funding secured, though it represents an increase, STILL does not satisfy the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit. The teacher evaluation system, though technically kicked down the road a bit to high stakes testing advocate Meryl Tisch and other like-minded bureaucrats at the State education department, is already pretty well established at this point, and it is everything we feared as far as escalating the testing regime, disempowering and demeaning educators (including principals), and almost certainly exacerbating the looming teacher shortage. Raising the charter cap (some would say the true heart of Cuomo’s proposals because charters are the main interest of his most ardent financial backers, hedge fund managers) has also been delayed for a few months, another fight soon to come. The Assembly Democrats who we thought had our backs threw us under the bus.

That is not to say that we shouldn’t take stock and appreciate how far we have come; we have mobilized in a way that is unprecedented, with staff, parents, and students uniting to stand up for the kids and for public education in solidarity across the state in the face of a concerted divide-and-conquer strategy (now being further utilized to attempt to placate parents in wealthy districts where opt-out rates and other forms of parental resistance are high). But we cannot allow ourselves to think that we have won and sink into complacency; the enemies of public education have struck a significant blow here, and though the changes will not be visible in the halls of our schools immediately, it will not take long before we see the effects, among the most visible of which is likely to be the high teacher turnover which is so harmful to a school, whether caused by getting fired for having the wrong kind of students or simply becoming demoralized by being made scapegoats for society’s ills. If we truly believe that the children and educators of New York are more than a score, this must be only the beginning of our resistance to Cuomo’s depredations.

Sincerely,

Dan Lupkin
Technology Coordinator/UFT Chapter Leader
PS 58, The Carroll School
Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, N.Y.

 

by James Eterno

Former Chapter Leader

Jamaica High School

One of the agenda items at the UFT Executive Board meeting for Monday, March 23 is a resolution to adopt a guide and bylaws for Chapter Elections (see below).  Chapter Leader and Delegate elections are scheduled this spring for the United Federation of Teachers.

In putting out its election guide, the UFT has once again given the cold shoulder to Absent Teacher Reserves and Leave Replacement Teachers, a huge group that includes way over a thousand teachers who belong to no UFT Chapter.  As a Leave Replacement Teacher, I am one of these teachers without a permanent home. We are being disenfranchised in reality, if not on paper, as the new procedures will allow ATR’s to vote and run for office in the school they are assigned to in the first week of May (see below).  This is patently absurd.  We might not even be in that school when it holds its Chapter Election in May or June.

Last month I filed a complaint with the Federal Department of Labor that the UFT is violating federal labor law by not allowing us a reasonable opportunity to serve in the highest policy making body of the union: the Delegate Assembly.  Part of the DOL complaint says the following:

The Landrum Griffin federal regulations say this concerning eligibility to be candidates for union office:  “Every member in good standing is eligible to be a candidate and to hold office subject to reasonable qualifications in the union’s constitution and bylaws that area uniformly imposed.”  Why should being an ATR cause us to lose any chance of being elected to the UFT’s highest policy making body: The Delegate Assembly?  Teachers who are filling in as Leave Replacements or those covering vacancies provisionally also belong to no Chapter and cannot run for Chapter Leader or Delegate.  This is unconscionable.

The union’s response is to say that we can run for office in the school we are assigned to in the first week of May.  It would be as if a person took a business trip to Hawaii for a week, a month or a few months and was told she/he could vote in Hawaii’s election and could run for Governor of Hawaii.

Continue Reading…

UFT Must Fight Back Now!

January 27, 2015 — 2 Comments

teachers24n-1-web

Governor Cuomo has launched an attack on our rights. We believe the UFT needs a more aggressive response. Our union should work to activate members at the school, district, and borough level to demand equitable and adequate funding for our schools and to stop the testing madness. We believe that we have a golden opportunity to form alliances with parent organizations who are already working on these issues.

Specifically we propose that the UFT:

  • Organize multi-school meetings of UFT members and parents to build solidarity and plan a response

  • Plan local phone banks, school-based and district-wide pickets and rallies

  • Build toward borough and city-wide rallies

  • Pass and support the “I Refuse” opt-out resolution

This approach has the potential to transform the debate about teacher quality and evaluation to one about school funding and test-driven curricula. More importantly, it can rebuild membership confidence in their union by getting members together, letting them see that they are not alone, and generating a spirit of active unionism. We will need that for this battle and for battles to come.
If you agree with this approach we invite you to join us to help spread the word and to work with us to strengthen our union.

StopAttacksOnTeachers

Now, more than ever we need a revitalized union that involves and mobilized all its members. You can do this by getting active in the upcoming UFT chapter leader and delegate elections. All schools (chapters) will have an election this spring.

Our tenure rights, pensions, our very jobs are coming under attack from politicians on both sides of the aisle and the corporate billionaires who fund them. Schools have become places of fear; teachers are scared of losing their jobs, students are afraid of tests, administrators who lack classroom experience violating our contractual rights. Teachers were once highly respected members of society who dedicated their lives to making the world a better place. Now we face attack after attack from those who have an economic interest in destroying the public education system. The plan is simple; close down our public schools, destroy unions, drive down wages, and increase their profits.

How do we fight back, how do we defend public education while advocating for the children we serve? Unions are the answer! You need to start in your school. Revitalizing your own chapter is where you start.

This is where MORE can help. We have to start from the bottom up. We have to organize ourselves, get people in our schools involved in the fight and educate parents and community members. The best way to do this is during the upcoming chapter elections.

Start with your chapter, if your chapter leader is not responsive or not interested in calling chapter meetings or seeking input from members then it is time for a change. Luckily it’s the right time, get in touch with MORE, we can set up a local meeting near you, help you run, offer support, and workshops. MORE can put you in touch with nearby UFT members who are facing the same challenges you are.

Our long time chapter leaders can advise you on best practices for winning elections and how to defeat the incumbent. MORE members can help in getting your staff involved in taking back our schools from the culture of fear. Our vision of unionism is one where UFT members in the schools work together, empower each other, get mobilized, have each others back, and then build alliances with nearby schools and communities.

No UFT member should ever be left alone! We ARE our union. Our working conditions are our students’ learning conditions.

Come to MORE’s January workshop to learn how to build a stronger and more active chapter.

January 24th 12:00-2:30pm
CUNY Graduate Center
365 5th Ave at 34th st NYC room 5409
Free childcare is available – please email more@morecaucusnyc.org to reserve.

We will be serving free pizza and soft drinks during our post workshop meet and mingle from 2:30-3:00pm.

If you can not make this workshop email: more@morecaucusnyc.org  to set up a meeting near you

 

Get Out The Vote!

November 2, 2014 — Leave a comment

hawkins

MORE’s Election Guide

MORE has endorsed Howie Hawkins for Governor  and Brian Jones for Lieutenant Governor (Green Party-Row F on the NYS ballot). We urge all UFT members get out the vote! Let’s send Albany a message that attacking teachers and privatizing our education is not acceptable.

While UFT/NYSUT leadership under Unity caucus has responded to Cuomo’s anti-teacher comments  in an unconcerned manner and has even expressed gratitude to Rob Astorino for writing an open letter to teachers, they have ignored the candidacy of Howie Hawkins. Hawkins is a fellow union brother and is running with UFT member Brian Jones for Lieutenant Governor on a pro-public education and pro-union platform. We know full well that Hawkins/Jones are not being acknowledged by union leadership because of Jones’ role as a founder of MORE, our dissident caucus that has challenged Unity caucus for leadership of UFT and NYSUT. This is a great disservice to educators, parents, and students across our state. UFT/NYSUT ought to use their vast resources to educate union members and parents of all their choices in this critical election. UFT/NYSUT has allowed Cuomo to run on the Working Families line, instead of a pro-labor Hawkins.

NYSUT Locals throughout the state have endorsed Howie Hawkins/Brian Jones and their pro-education, anti-high stakes testing stance including, Buffalo Teachers Association and Port Jefferson Station Teachers Association.

 Please see Hawkins/Jones letter to teachers here.

 Here is NYSUT’s voter guide.

There are three referendum proposals on this year’s ballot.

These are suggestions from former Deputy Comptroller for New York State and special education teacher Harris Lirtzman:

 

Proposition 1:  Revising State’s Redistricting Process

 

It is a sham piece of “reform” brought to us by Governor Cuomo and the Legislature in the form of a “special commission” that would handle the decennial reapportionment of election districts. When you read the text you think, “Well, can’t be worse than what we’ve now got with ‘Three Men in a Room.'”

 

But it’s much worse and will only make the electoral process and district apportionment more complex and less democratic.

 

http://www.noprop1ny.com/endorsements#.VErweIndNvc.

 

Proposition 2:  Permitting Electronic Distribution of State Legislative Bills

 

I’ve seen the results of paper distribution.  The Legislature has its own printing shop and during the end of session it runs 24/7 because the State Constitution requires a bill to be presented three days before it can be voted upon.  The Governor generally issues a “statement of necessity” that eliminates the three day wait so that all the paper bills can be piled up on a legislator’s desk at the end of session and voted on without the least chance of review.

 

Whether any legislator will actually read an electronically distributed bill v. a paper bill is highly doubtful but vast acres of trees in the Adirondacks will be preserved so we might as well vote to “help a tree.” Seriously, won’t improve the states’ broken legislative process but will make it more green.  Can’t hurt.  And the next tree you see in Central Park, since they all talk to each other, will hug you if you stop long enough to tell it you voted for Prop 2.

 

Proposition 3: The “Smart Schools Bond Act of 2014″

 

Gov. Cuomo, without any consultation with academic leaders or school districts, proposed this $2 billion bond act early this year.  It would allow the following, which might seem hard for educators to oppose:

 

The proposal would allow the State to borrow up to two billion dollars ($2,000,000,000). This money would be expended on capital projects related to the design, planning, site acquisition, demolition, construction, reconstruction, rehabilitation, or acquisition or installation of equipment for the following types of projects:

  1. To acquire learning technology equipment or facilities including, but not limited to,
  2. Interactive whiteboards,
  3. Computer servers, and

c.Desktop, laptop, and tablet computers;

  • To install high-speed broadband or wireless internet connectivity for schools and communities;
  • To construct, enhance, and modernize educational facilities to accommodate pre-kindergarten programs and provide instructional space to replace transportable classroom units (otherwise known as “Arthur Goldstein’s trailers”) and
  • To install high-tech security features in school buildings and on school campuses

This one comes down to whether you believe this is a good way for the state to bond $2 billion…..

 

Andrew Cuomo to himself in bed at 3 a.m. some winter night, early 2014:

 

“Andrew, what do you think would be a good way to spend $2 billion in state bonding this year?”

“Gee, I dunno.  I haven’t talked to anyone about this but then I don’t usually talk to anyone about anything.”

“What do most voters really like, come on, Andrew, this is not rocket science.”

“Well, most voters like ‘education” and that damned Astorino actually set up an anti Common Core party.”

“That’s true, but voters usually want to spend more money on schools without having to have their taxes raised.”

“Aha, Andrew, you are so smart, why don’t you put a really big, eye-catching proposal to spend $2 billion on technology in schools and then also put in a whole lot of other things that people might not be so concerned about such as building pre-K schools and stuff like that–nobody understands that the state is near its bonding limit and that all this stuff will be paid for over 30 years.”

 

Seriously, it might be hard for teachers to vote against something like this but $2 billion is a lot of money for something that no one other than Andrew Cuomo seriously seemed to think was necessary.  The interest cost estimates on the $2 billion range from $40-$50 million a year for a total 30 year cost of about $450-$500 million.  Usually, long-term bonds are used to finance long-term infrastructure, such as the building of roads, tunnels, bridges and buildings, not items with short term expected lives like school technology or even school wireless systems.  Think LAUSD where they handed out $1 billion in iPads and the entire thing was a disaster.  There don’t seem to be any particular controls over how the money will be spent but, in true election year fashion, the proceeds of the bonds, have already been apportioned among counties (see the charts in the links, below),

 

Some older school districts without a property tax base to support this sort of expenditure might benefit from the funds provided by Proposition 3.  But much of the stuff funded by the bond act will be obsolete long before the bonds are retired.

 

Albany has an addiction to bonding as away to get around tax increases but we all pay for this one way or another.  I’d say this one is doubtful but a case might be made for it if the right controls were in place to make sure the money was spent wisely.  There is a “Commission” that will review proposals but its findings are not binding.

http://www.nysut.org/~/media/Files/NYSUT/Resources/2014/April/FactSheet_1413_SmartSchoolsBondActof2014.pdf

http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5389-how-bright-smart-schools-bond-act-prop-3