Archives For democracy

"expect MORE from your union"

Join us at the MORE Chapter Building Workshop  Sat. 1/24

Is your chapter stressed out by an abusive administrator?

Is your school infected with a culture of fear emanating from the top?

Thinking about running for chapter leader or delegate?

Want help in running for re-election?

Has your school been targeted for co-location or “restructuring”?

Has your school had success in fighting back?

Come to MORE’s January workshop to learn how to build a stronger and more active chapter. Workshops on filing grievances, making allies, enforcing the contract, strategies for winning chapter elections, and fighting back against a culture of fear in your school.

MORE Chapter Building Workshop
January 24th 12:00-3:00pm
CUNY Graduate Center
365 5th Ave at 34th st NYC room 5409
Food and beverages will be served
email: more@morecaucusnyc.org for more info or to set up a meeting near you

RSVP HERE

if you do not have facebook RSVP at more@morecaucusnyc.org

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…

Congratulations for those who have accepted nominations for the new MORE Steering Committee which takes office for a 6 month term starting on August 1. 
 
The current steering committee has proposed, that rather than having an election to choose 9 out of these 11 (or 10?) qualified candidates, that we simply accept all of them as new member of the steering committee.  This decision will be ratified at the MORE Retreat this coming week on Thursday, July 17 (11am-5pm, CUNY Graduate Center, 365 5th Ave. @ 34th st., 6 to 33rd, D,F,M,N,R to Herald Square).


Megan Behrent
has taught English at Franklin D. Roosevelt High School in Brooklyn for 15 years. She has been a UFT delegate for FDR since 2007. In the Delegate Assembly, she has raised resolutions to support the rights of ATRs, to fight school closings/turnarounds, and to show solidarity with other unions. She is a founding member of MORE and active in the National Network of Social Justice Educators. As an education activist, she has appeared on the Melissa Harris Parry show on MSNBC and written for diverse publications including Socialist Worker, New Politics, Labor Notes and the Harvard Education Review.
Lauren Cohen entered teaching through the NYC Teaching Fellows in 2005 as a mid-year replacement for a K-2 self-contained special education teacher at a high-needs school in Harlem. She taught there for two more full school years. She spent the next 5 years at a Title 1 school in the East Village where she gained a reputation among her colleagues for speaking out against administrative mandates that were detrimental to student learning (such as canceling extended day enrichment programs in favor of test prep aligned to faulty and inaccurate Acuity results). She currently teaches at P.S. 321 in Park Slope, where the privileges available to her current students have only strengthened her resolve to fight for a more equitable system on behalf of the students she left behind. For the past two years, Lauren has worked with parents, teachers, and others in Change the Stakes, fighting against the use of standardized tests to punish schools, teachers, and students. She attended her first MORE meeting in the spring of 2012 and was thrilled to meet so many like-minded educators. She ran on the MORE slate for Elementary Executive Board in the UFT election, and she now serves as the chapter delegate for P.S. 321.
Francesca Gomes is an 8th Grade Humanities (ELA and Social Studies) Teacher at New Voices MS 443 in District 15.  She has been a member of the UFT for 13 years, and the only UFT Delegate for her school for the last five years.  She led the “Vote No” campaign at her school beginning on the first day after the 2014 contract proposal was announced.  Originally a member of Teachers for a Just Contract, she then became a member of the Independent Caucus of Educators, and is proud to have been a member of MORE since its early days.

Janice Manning is currently a fifth grade Special Education Teacher in an Integrated Co-Teaching Classroom at P.S. 503 in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.  This is her 10th year teaching in New York City Public Schools.  She started her teaching career as a fourth grade teacher in Fort Worth, Texas.  After teaching in Fort Worth for a year, she taught English as a foreign language in Znamenka, Ukraine as a Peace Corps Volunteer.  She began attending MORE meetings in January of this year and is passionate about working with other educators to organize ways to improve education for ALL students.
Megan Moskop is a current member of the steering committee. She is a Special Education teacher and UFT delegate at M.S. 324 in Washington Heights, where she began teaching in 2009 through Teach for America. Megan was raised by educators in North Carolina, and her first “real” teaching job was in Malta as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant.  In addition to her work MORE, she serves as Learning Labs Director for the Manhattan Young Democrats, and she is a member of Teachers Unite. Deeply thankful for and inspired by her own teachers and students, Megan is committed to the improvement of learning and working conditions in schools everywhere, starting here.
Francesco Portelos is an engineer turned middle school STEM teacher. Over the last two years he has become a very strong advocate for educators and students. His advocacy did not come without sacrifice. After speaking up, he became a target and was removed from his teaching position. This did not stop Francesco. He ran and won the UFT Chapter Leader position in his school even though he is forbidden from entering the building. He has been successfully mobilizing and supporting his chapter and many other educators who read about his fight and seek his guidance from around the city and around the country. His objective is use his knowledge, leadership skills and out-of-the-box thinking to bring MORE to a point where they are successfully filling the great void left by our UFT Leaders. Read more at www.educatorfightsback.org  Follow on Twitter: @MrPortelos
Kevin Prosen is chapter leader at I.S. 230 in Jackson Heights, Queens.  He campaigned as part of MORE’s slate for the executive board in last year’s elections, and has organized mass grievance campaigns at his school involving up to 35 members of his chapter.  He has been active in the MORE chapter organizing committee this year and has been organizing outreach to other chapter leaders in the city. His writings on UFT issues have appeared inJacobin andSocialist Worker.
Mindy Rosier is a native New Yorker who graduated from Marymount Manhattan College with a B.A. in Psychology and Elementary Education and Fordham University with an M.S. Ed in Early Childhood Special Education. She has been a teacher for 17 years, including 3 years at the NY Foundling Hospital and currently 8 years with the Department of Education in a District 75 school.After seeing the hardships that her school has endured and after researching the education system itself, she became active to promote an improvement in the quality of education for all children.
Mike Schirtzer is a lifelong Brooklynite, graduate of the NYC public schools and CUNY, teacher and UFT Delegate. Teaching has always been and still is his lifelong dream and his work here in MORE is just a continuation of fulfilling the goal of being the best teacher he can be! He has planned and mobilized several events, forums, and ran for UFT & NYSUT office as MORE. He was on the original planning committee, first steering committee, and organized MORE’s social media, press, contract campaign, and South Brooklyn groups.
Patrick Walsh a three-time elected UFT chapter who believes that the only force  that can  save our profession from the predators is our union and the only force that can save our union from itself is us.

 

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: https://morecaucusnyc.org/2013/07/27/uft-friend-or-foe-event/

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

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

Peter Lamphere https://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?

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more@morecaucusnyc.org
press inquiries media@morecaucusnyc.org

 

 

Today, our six MORE candidates for NYSUT Board of Directors will contend for votes at the the NYSUT Representative Assembly.  They are Julie CavanaghLauren CohenJames EternoJia LeeFrancesco Portelos, and Mike Schirtzer

We are also supporting Arthur Goldstein for Executive Vice President and Beth Dimino for At Large Director.

New, Positive & Independent Leadership for NYSUT

  • A Strong Rank & File Member Driven Union That Will Take Action in Defense of Our Educators and Students
  • Repeal The Common Core Standards
  • Teacher Autonomy Without High-Stakes Testing
  • Evaluation Based on Collaboration, Not Measured by Test Scores and Cookie-Cutter Rubrics

Continue Reading…

Teachers in St. Paul, MN are preparing for a strike authorization vote on February 24th.

The union is holding informational meetings in the lead up to the vote. If the strike is authorized, the union is required to give 10 days notice before calling a strike.

The strength and unity of the membership was evident on January 30th when “walk-ins” were organized at 55 of 62 sites with over 2500 of the city’s 3200 members participating along with parents, on one of the snowiest mornings of the year.

The St. Paul Federation of Teachers has done extensive outreach to parents and other community members for months, holding open meetings, and even open negotiation sessions, to discuss contract demands and involve teachers, parents and community members in shaping their demands. As in Chicago, the union has put forth its own blueprint for “The Schools St. Paul’s Children Deserve.” As a result, the SPFT has gained immense support. Parents recently helped to start a Facebook page called “I Stand with SPFT” that quickly grew to 900 members. On February 18th, hundreds of teachers and community members rallied at a school board meeting and many parents provided testimony in support of the teachers’ demands. 

The Saint Paul Federation of Teachers is fighting for reduced class size, increased staffing (more nurses, librarians, social workers and counselors), access to pre-k for ALL students, and less standardized testing to allow for more genuine teaching.

MORE calls on all UFT members to stand in solidarity with the St.Paul teachers and students by following their struggle and taking action.

For more information, visit the St. Paul Federation of Teacher’s website at: http://www.spft.org/

You can also follow the St. Paul Federation of Teachers on Facebook,  join the “I Stand with SPFT” page and post messages of solidarity to show your support.

In addition,  you can call the  Superintendent and school board members of St. Paul and urge them to come to an agreement with the St. Paul Federation of Teachers to lower class sizes, increase staffing and provide universal access to Pre-K.

Valeria Silva – Superintendent supt.silva@spps.org 651-767-8152

Mary Doran – Chair mary.doran@spps.org 651-387-2361

Keith Hardy – keith.hardy@spps.org 651-200-5032
John Brodrick – john.brodrick@spps.org 651-645-7500

Anne Carroll – anne.carroll@spps.org 651-690-9156

Jean O’Connell – jean.oconnell@spps.org 651-295-1623

Louise Seeba – louise.seeba@spps.org 651-335-4263

Chue Vue – chue.vue@spps.org 651-291-8569

Finally, you can sign a petition in support of the St. Paul teachers here: http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/st-paul-public-schools?source=s.fwd&r_by=4379504

By Kit Wainer
Chapter Leader, Leon M. Goldstein High School

In part 1 we explored the ways in which UFT contracts have riveted the attention of union members toward their union and toward their contract. In 1995, for the first time in the union’s history, the membership voted down a contract package that UFT leaders had negotiated. Although the union was able to get a new version of the contract approved in the spring with a few minor improvements, I argued that the Unity Caucus leaders recognized that they would have to be much more active in selling any future contract, especially one with concessions. In this segment we examine the lessons of the 2005 contract – a deal which devastated members’ working conditions and rights on the job like no contract before or since. I hope that activists interested in defending our contractual rights will join MORE and help us build a movement for democratic, rank and file unionism. That way, in the future, we’ll be able to learn from past union victories rather than defeats.

I probably knew the 2005 contract would pass from the beginning but the
struggle against it seemed very promising. In the spring of 2005 we had been without a contract for 1.5 years. UFT President Randi Weingarten seemed to feel some heat to launch something resembling a fight. Teachers for a Just contract and the Independent Community of Educators, the two main opposition caucuses within the union, had won the high school seats on the UFT Executive Board the previous year and both groups were calling on the union to fight the Bloomberg administration to win us a good contract. One of TJC’s members on the UFT Executive Board proposed that the UFT should set a strike deadline for November 2005 which would have coincided with election day when Mayor Michael Bloomberg was seeking a second term. Rejecting what UFT Secretary Michael Mendel called the “worst proposal ever made to the Executive Board” the UFT nevertheless began to mobilize that spring. It encouraged chapter leaders to hold rallies outside of schools, and even highlighted those chapters that held “honor pickets”
(pickets before school at which all members walk into school as a group just one minute before the beginning of the work day), even though the honor pickets were organized by opposition chapter leaders. Every district and borough held rallies and there was a city- wide rally at Madison Square Garden in June. At one DA Randi boasted that in all the UFT organized more than 6000 actions, and her number may have been correct.

When we returned to school in September 2005, however, the only action asked of us was that we sign a postcard to Bloomberg demanding that he bargain in good faith. The UFT had asked the Public Employees Relations Board for a declaration of impasse more than a year earlier. Impasse triggered the creation of a fact-finding panel whose report came out in September 2005. The Fact-finders recommended a further extension of the work day, the creation of the 37.5 minute tutoring block, the elimination of the right to grieve letters in the file, the elimination of the right to transfer between schools based on seniority, the right of principals to decide which excessed teachers they will hire (from which the ATR crisis was born) and on and on. That month, against the objections of

ICE and TJC delegates, the Delegate Assembly accepted Unity’s proposal to accept the Fact-finders’ report as the basis for contract negotiations. By October the city and the UFT had agreed to a deal along the lines of the Fact-finders’ report. Unlike the 1995 deal, the 2005 agreement included raises, pro-rata pay increases to compensate for the

longer work day, and full retroactive pay. Members were being offered substantial pay hikes and retroactive checks that, for some, would approach $10,000.

But there was great anger. Roughly 200 protesters showed up outside the Delegate Assembly, even though no group had prioritized building the protest. Weingarten moved the Delegate Assembly to the Brooklyn Marriott so that it could pack the room with retirees and union staff. Nearly 2000 delegates attended. Randi spoke for an hour to provide “context” for the contract. Then Elementary School VP Michelle Bodden spoke for ten minutes to argue for ratification. Weingarten asked speakers in favor of the deal to line up on one side and those against to line up on the other side.
The first speaker “against” was actually a speaker in favor of the contract. She said she had a bad knee and couldn’t walk over to the “for” line. Randi let her speak nonetheless and then called on another speaker “for.” I was the fourth speaker and the first one to oppose the contract. I spoke for 7-8 minutes. My strategy was to ignore most of the justifications Randi and Bodden had just made and address the issues I knew members were talking about. After me, only two others were allowed to speak “against” before District Representative Marty Plotkin called the question. On the first vote the delegates overwhelmingly approved the deal. Then Randi, responding to shouts from the audience, asked for a vote of only active members (non-retirees). This time the vote was roughly 60-40 in favor, not a good showing for the leadership at a meeting it controlled.

Dozens of people approached me at the DA, took “vote no” leaflets to distribute to their schools, and filled out TJC coupons to get on our mailing list. We held an open meeting about a week later at which several ICE members, one New Action/UFT member, and a few dozen independents showed up. The meeting decided to organize a picket outside UFT headquarters before the membership ratification vote. I believed at the time, and still believe, that was a mistake. The priority should have been literature distribution in the schools, doing everything possible to reach out to new people who were angry about the proposed contract but had not been involved in union issues before. Those kinds of people were not the types who would show up at a rally. But the rally idea prevailed and we held one in November. About 175 people came out.

Meanwhile Unity stuffed mailboxes around the city with literature claiming the proposed contract didn’t actually mean what it said. They said that by giving up the right to transfer more teachers would have the right to transfer. They said giving up the right to grieve letters in the file was insignificant because we never won those grievances anyway. They said the new C6 assignments would always be professional activities controlled by members. At a high school chapter leaders’ meeting one District Representative said that no students would actually show up for 37.5 minutes, that this was something that would only hurt elementary school teachers.

My sense (and I admit that I can’t prove it) was that in schools where there were oppositionists (TJC, ICE, or unaffiliated) who distributed “vote no” leaflets we convinced the membership. But in the majority of schools only Unity’s deceptive literature was seen.

In late 2005 the membership ratified the contract by a 63-37 margin. Among teachers the vote was 60-40. However, the anger over the deal was significant, even among those who voted “yes.” Both TJC and ICE gained many new contacts around the city and the momentum pushed us a little closer together. We ran a join slate in the 2007 UFT elections.

Unfortunately, I think the lesson Unity learned from this was that the mobilizations it authorized in spring 2005 raised membership expectations and made the contract a tougher sell. After that the UFT called for far fewer rallies. The union, for example, has done nothing comparable in recent years even though we have been without a contract for more than four years.

My take-­‐away is that there are opportunities that come and go and are somewhat beyond our control. No one has yet shown a way to manufacture the kind of activism and engagement that the 1995 and 2005 contracts stirred up. Nor has anyone come up with a strategy to prevent that enthusiasm from fading after the contract is settled. I believe our task is to figure out how to be ready to seize opportunities when they arise and hold on to as many new activists as possible after the opportunities recede. There is no clear road map for doing this. The best we can do is learn from past experiences and try to apply those lessons to future opportunities, recognizing that the specifics of each case will be different. Activists who want to see a stronger union, one that will mobilize a larger struggle for a good contract, should join MORE so we can continue this struggle together.