Archives For March 2013

Mollie Bruhn

A Teach for America alumnus who has been an early childhood classroom teacher at PS 106 in Brooklyn for the past five years after spending two years teaching at another public school in the Bronx. She began teaching with a year at a charter school but was let go for questioning the charter school leaders about their policies.

“I am running with MORE because I am increasingly dissatisfied with the Unity leadership. I want union policy and action to reflect the will of the members. I want our union to take a strong stance against budget cuts, privatization and the overuse of high stakes testing. MORE has the power to take our union and our profession to a better place.”

MollieMOD


vote_more UFT elections are right around the corner. A MORE leadership of the UFT will mobilize the members through educational campaigns, school-level organizing and member-driven activities such as pickets, rallies and job actions to win:

  • An end to use of student test scores to evaluate teachers. We are opposed to basing any portion of our evaluation system on standardized tests. The results of these tests have been shown to be wildly inaccurate. Furthermore, these tests narrow the curriculum and the test scores serve as an excuse to close more schools.
  • A good contract. We will unite our members to pressure the city to agree to a contract with reasonable pay increases, smaller class sizes, lower caseloads for guidance counselors and social workers, and no givebacks in working conditions or job security. The Mulgrew/UNITY team has failed to organize the membership and we’ve been working without a contract since October 2009.
  • The right to regular positions for all ATRs. We will fight for an end to the ATR crisis and to force the DoE to offer positions in schools to all of our members. The UNITY team helped create this crisis when they bargained away the rights of excessed teachers in the 2005 contract.
  • An end to the wave of school closings, charterization, and co-locations. We will mobilize our members in alliance with parents and community members to force the city to properly fund and support all schools. The current UFT leadership has failed to build a city-wide movement to support schools and stop closings. In fact, the Mulgrew/UNITY team has barely tried. Although union lawsuits have temporarily blocked some closings, the Department of Education closes more and more schools each year, excessing more senior teachers and adding to the ATR crisis. Mulgrew does not have a strategy to stop this and under his leadership we are losing the war.

VOTE MORE! Join our campaign. Together we can transform the UFT into an
organization that can defend our rights and our schools!

http://www.MOREcaucusnyc.org | MORE@morecaucusnyc.org | (347) 766-7319
Facebook.com/MOREcaucusNYC | Twitter: @MOREcaucusNYC

By Julie Cavanagh

Wow. While having breakfast with my husband and almost nine month old son (who is finally on the mend after more than a week of a fever ranging 102-104 every day, during the same time my best friend’s 18 month old daughter was in the hospital, who by the way, is also a teacher and a single mother of two young children), I picked up my phone to see a mention on Twitter from Arthur Goldstein (teacher and chapter leader in Queens). I frankly couldn’t believe what I was reading. Usually a mention from Arthur has me in stitches. Not this time.

Now instead of relaxing while my baby takes a nap, I am writing this in response to comments on the ICE and MORE blogs attacking my commitment as a unionist and chapter leader and questioning my worthiness as a candidate for UFT President. All of this because I, and the caucus I represent, had the nerve to insist that Michael Mulgrew engage in a forum or debate with me so that our members can be fully informed and engaged when it comes to their voting choices in the upcoming election.

First let me say that I do not feel I need to defend my role as a chapter leader. Nearly every UFT member in our school, signed my petition for UFT President, and many of my colleagues are actually running in this election with MORE.

Second, I certainly do not need to defend my attendance at Delegate Assemblies. While I do attend, often, DAs are not a democratic forum. As I am sure the commenters on the ICE and MORE blogs know, and as all Unity folks know, the room is not even large enough for all of the CLs and delegates to be seated and when you do go and sit, you listen to Mulgrew practice his stand up routine for an hour or so, after which you *might* have the chance to ask a question or bring a resolution to the floor if Mulgrew recognizes you. Regardless, it is an effort in futility because it really doesn’t matter what you say, ask or bring to the floor; the ruling Unity caucus will disagree with it or vote it down, since they control the DA. If the UFT leadership actually held Delegate Assemblies each month that were informative and provided fair and ample time for discourse and discussion, I would be there in a New York Minute. As this is not the case, I attend as many Delegate Assemblies as I can, but sometimes other events such as a childcare issue, my son being ill or an important meeting in my community to bring a new partner into Red Hook to service children and families with disabilities will take precedence. I do not need to go to the delegate assembly to prove who I am or that I am committed to my union; I act every day in a way that highlights why I should be president of the UFT.

I am a mother and a teacher. I have been a teacher for thirteen years, and have been working with children with special needs and their families for even longer. I have stayed in the same community and school since moving to NYC in 2001, because I am committed to the process of leading school change and improvement from the school level. I became chapter leader at the request of my colleagues a few years ago and have worked hard with them, our parents, and our principal to make sure our children and our teachers have the best learning and working conditions possible. I fought for my school during the dictatorship that my union handed to the mayor, during a co-location of a charter school in my building that my union didn’t adequately help fight (which is difficult since the UFT leadership chose to co-locate its own charter), while our class sizes rise steadily and our budgets are slashed, while teacher’s choice was eliminated and insultingly reinstated to cover no more than a few boxes of pencils, while ATR’s rotate in and out of my building- some of whom  have approached me on the brink of tears desperate for someone to listen to their struggle, during a time of a tidal wave of assaults on our children, our schools, and our profession.

Throughout this time, I not only worked in my own school community, I worked with parents and union members across the city and the country to fight back. You can find links to some of my work here, but I will list a few highlights: I co-wrote/edited/produced/and narrated a film that stood up to corporate education reform, a film that has been seen by hundreds of thousands of people in every state and on every continent (except Antarctica); I have appeared on several TV and radio programs and written several articles where I have spoken out forcefully against corporate education reform and for the schools our children deserve — and I was invited or asked in every single case to participate, so while those in Unity caucus pretend to not know who I am or what I have done (but yet “know”, falsely, that I am not at DAs) apparently the national media does; I have also worked with other union members in the city and nationally  I helped organize a conference, and attended and facilitated, in Chicago in the summer of 2011 with other teacher union members; I helped lead the solidarity efforts with Verizon workers at the end of that same summer. I have sued, with a parent and a student, Mayor Bloomberg for the right to protest school closings and co-locations on his block and successfully organized and co-led that protest. I was the only teacher petitioner in the effort to stop and overturn the appointment of Cathy Black and also recently the only teacher on record to join with parents in sounding the alarm of student and teacher data privacy issues regarding SLC/inBloom data systems (Randi Weingarten, by the way, sits on inBloom’s advisory board). I say all of this not because I think anything that I am or that I do is so special, I share this information to highlight the outlandishness of the attacks from people whose usual line is there should be no attacks on union folks because we are under attack from outside forces and therefore need ‘unity’. I also share this because these are the things the president of a union should do.

Beyond of all of this, if Unity caucus can attack me for the number of times I went to the DA (this year I believe I have been to four DAs), the number of grievances I have filed (none), the number of UFT trainings or committees I have attended (none), then I wonder why they nominated Randi Weingarten as their presidential candidate, since she never attended a DA as a chapter leader, was never a chapter leader, and therefore never filed a grievance, attended the trainings, etc.

I personally do not think any of those things are what makes someone qualified to run our union. What matters is leadership. What matters is vision. What matters is the philosophy by which one will govern and represent the membership. I believe in a union that is member led and member driven. When I, or a candidate from MORE caucus, become president of the union, you will not have to attend a DA and sit idly and listen. The DA will be yours. When we take over leadership of our union, we will organize, support and build fighting chapters at the school level with elected district representatives who are trained organizers.  When we run the union, leadership and staffers will make salaries equivalent to the teachers we represent — there will be no extra perks, no double pensions.  When we lead our union, you will not go more than three years without a contract, at least not without organized job actions and a fight.

When Unity’s stranglehold of the leadership of our union ends, the members will have representation that believes in solidarity with other unions and in the power of our collective action. You will have a union that educates, mobilizes, and organizes our members and the public and who organically partners with parents and young people. You will have a leadership that truly understands that our working conditions are our students’ learning conditions, that a harm to one is a harm to us all, and that we must stand side by side with deep roots in the communities we serve to fight for social, racial and economic justice in our schools, in our city and across the country.

I am more than ready to share who I am with the members of the UFT and I am happy to answer their questions. In fact, that is precisely the reason I sent the email below to Michael Mulgrew. I believe a union membership with a less than 30% voter turnout needs to be engaged and exposed to open discourse and conversation between the two people who seek to represent them.

Mr. Mulgrew, I am still waiting for a response.

***

Sent: Mar 14, 2013 8:01 PM

Michael,

I hope this email finds you well.

While we have differences and disagreements concerning education policy and union democracy, we both are committed to our union and the children we serve. In that spirit, we should be able to engage in an open conversation during election season so we can ensure our fellow members are informed and engaged.

To this point you have ignored outreach regarding your participation in a debate or question and answer town hall with me. I would like to directly and formally ask you to participate in such an event.

I believe that our members deserve the opportunity to ask questions of their presidential candidates and I strongly believe this kind of open and honest discourse strengthens our union: an educated and engaged membership that is listened to and participates makes us stronger.

There is precedent for an event such as this between presidential candidates during election season.  As you know, Randi has participated in presidential debates in the past: one in 1999 and again in 2001.

I am open to a debate format with a third party moderator or a town hall question and answer event with the membership. My only specific asks are that the event be filmed and/or livestreamed so that we can maximize member participation, that the date, which I am open to any, be agreed to a few days in advance, so that I can secure child care and that the date be as close to April 3rd as possible, so that we provide a fair amount of time for members during the election timeframe.

I look forward to your response.

In solidarity,
Julie Cavanagh

The MORE caucus has requested several times, through several means that there be an open debate between our UFT presidential candidate Julie Cavanagh and Michael Mulgrew who represents the Unity/New Action caucuses. Repeatedly Mulgrew and his caucuses have ignored our invitations.

This constant denial to debate should be of concern to all our union brothers and sisters, as well as the communities we serve.

In order for our union to remain open and democratic all UFT members should  be encouraged to cast ballots in the union elections and provided forums that would give them meaningful insight into the very different visions for leadership of our union. It  is our firm conviction that as in any democratic election the voters must hear from candidates they are asked to choose from so they can make an informed decision.

The UFT is one of the largest local educators’ union in the country, is the controlling force of national union AFT, and the decisions of our union leadership affects the daily lives of millions of children and their parents around the city and the nation. The leadership of this union directly impacts educational policies through-out the country,  therefore this is a vital election and it is in everyone’s best interest if the two candidates engage in a debate.

Mr. Mulgrew speaks once a month to only the delegates and chapter leaders of the UFT, MORE has called for a debate that can be viewed by all our UFT members through-out the city.  In the true spirit of fairness and and solidarity we call on Michael Mulgrew to join Julie Cavanagh in a debate moderated by an independent third party moderator that can be live-streamed via the Internet, so that members can ask questions of both candidates.

We anxiously await His reply.

New Video Ad

March 19, 2013 — 4 Comments

Help us take our 2nd video viral. Share on your social media, blogs, and email to all your friends and family. Ask your UFT colleagues to check it out and share it too! The ballots will be sent out April 3rd by USPS. The time is now to expect MORE from our union. We have a choice for a new positive leadership of the UFT which will build a strong union movement along side parents, students, community groups, and other workers’ groups.

Here is the video link to watch and share http://youtu.be/mN5cSbD4TTw

MORE believes that Unity co-signed on to government policies which are leading to the deterioration of our student’s learning conditions; Mayoral control, privatization of schools, over reliance on high stakes exams, and evaluation schemes based on testing which does not take into account our children’s socio-economic conditions, are just some of the harmful polices that Unity caucus has agreed to.

MORE’s UFT Presidential candidate Julie Cavanagh states;
“For more than fifty years, one caucus and one caucus only, has led the UFT. In the last ten years, in a departure from the roots of our union’s founding, the leadership has failed to organize and mobilize the membership at the time we have needed their leadership the most. The tidal wave of unprecedented attacks on our profession, our schools and our children will not stop with a new mayor. It is time for change. It is time we demand MORE from our union.” MORE believes that a democratic, member-driven union will better address the needs of students, parents, educators, and the communities we serve.
 
In addition to running in the UFT elections, MORE organizes events ranging from educational forums and protests to social gatherings. For information about MORE visit www.morecaucus.orgwww.facebook.com/MOREcaucusNYC www.twitter.com/MOREcaucusNYC

This is must watch video! You will hear an alternative vision for how to organize and mobilize an educator’s union in defense of  our public schools. MORE shares this vision with President Lewis and the CORE caucus of Chicago Teacher’s Union.

Want to learn MORE about MORE?
Meet some of the candidates running in the UFT election?
Meet other educators in the area?
Build a stronger chapter?
Help us win the UFT election?
Need a drink before Spring Break?
Please join us:
Friday, March 15 
 

BROOKLYN/QUEENS BORDER / District 19:

3 – 5 PM:
Boulder Creek Steakhouse
355 Gateway Drive, Brooklyn,
Exit 15 off the Belt Parkway
 
Friday, March 15 
SOUTH NASSAU
5 – 7 PM:

Cannon’s Blackthorn 

2 for 1 drinks and a free buffet

49 N. Village Road, Rockville Centre

one block north of Sunrise Highway, next to the LIRR station

 
Thursday, March 21st 
Manhattan
5-7 Pm
La Nacional Tapas Bar
reservation made for back of bar
(239 West 14th Street between 7th & 8th Ave)
This Saturday 3/16 is the NYCORE Conference 
Featuring Chicago Teacher’s Union President Karen Lewis of the CORE caucus
Pres. Lewis is an authority on social justice unionism and public education.
Our own UFT Presidential Candidate Julie Cavanagh will be hosting a workshop with many MORE of our candidates.
This conference is the premiere NYC event on education and social justice with incredible guest speakers.
Check out the line-up, there’s still time to register for all the amazing workshops