Archives For UFT

Dan Lupkin
UFT Chapter Leader
PS 58 – Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn

What is a union for? Why do we belong to one? In these times of looming national “Right to Work” laws that are likely to impede or cripple the ability of labor unions to sustain themselves financially, it seems like a relevant question to ask ourselves. Is a union for Meet the President dinners? Patronage jobs in exchange for political loyalty? Social media campaigns? What are we getting in exchange for the hard-earned dues we pay to the UFT?

Protecting members from abuse by management is a core function, if not THE core function, of a labor union. If a chapter leader or delegate speaking out and organizing against an abusive administrator is subject to retaliation with impunity, what chance is there for a rank-and-file member to actually exercise their contractual rights? The abuse of staff, students, and parents that has been going on, unchecked, at Central Park East 1, an elementary school in East Harlem, is indicative of a union local decayed to the point of paralysis, and so out of touch with its membership and their concerns that it is approaching complete irrelevance.

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Looking through the UFT’s guide to the new NYC teacher evaluation system, I find myself wondering how it’s being read by educators coming from schools that vary widely in terms of educator autonomy, pedagogical philosophy and levels of trust between administration and staff. We are being told that our evaluation system will require our full comprehension and maintenance of: measures of teacher practice observation option selection forms, evaluator forms, consistent update of class lists/rosters, observation options A, B, C, D, the Matrix, and MOSL options (project based learning assessments, student learning inventories, performance based assessments, and progress monitoring assessments), not to mention how this plays out for what people teach (elementary/middle/high school, alternative assessment, English as a New Language, content areas, etc).

It is easily overwhelming. We are still figuring out the last evaluation system and living through the most rapidly changing succession of teacher evaluations in history. The truth is, we are being led by our tails. There are only two things to know:

1)  We should be upset, very upset. These were closed negotiations that, yet again, involved very little, if any, teacher input in the discussion of a system that is purporting to improve student achievement. It should not be considered normal for dues paying members to be handed a deal without having any democratic process for input. Any active teacher working with students could explain the complexities of the work we do, including factors that are not in our control and which cannot be measured and quantified. This lack of teacher voice leads to the continual and misguided reliance on the use of invalid metrics we know as the value added model.

2) Teacher evaluations based on metrics with any high stakes involvement is all about perpetuating a lean production model that narrows our teaching and students’ learning. The corporate education reform agenda initiated its systematic attack on public schools by casting its teachers as the source of the problem. Our union leadership, in an effort to placate this aggressive attack on our profession, used the only strategy it knows: attempting to throw its weight around the proverbial table. Pandering  to the notion of teacher evaluation based on unfounded formulas of value added models, and doing this without acknowledging the casualties of the systemic attack thus far, is unacceptable.

The 240,000 opt outs across New York State triggered a move towards the current moratorium on the use of state standardized tests, not the negotiating of the UFT leadership as they often like to credit themselves with. The reason ENL teachers are still evaluated using the Common Core aligned NYSESLAT and teachers of students who get alternative assessments are evaluated by that is because there has not been a high percentage of opt outs for those tests.

In regard to the MoTP portion of our evaluation, please read James Eterno’s ICE Blog piece on the matter. We now have two more required observations in our agreement for tenured teachers beyond the two required by state law and practiced in most districts. In a climate of high stakes where many, if not most, of New York City’s teachers experience observations as “gotcha” opportunities for administrators to intimidate and demoralize, the increase does not promote space for continual growth in teaching practice.

It does not matter what MOSL option we choose- it becomes distorted when stakes are attached. Using performance based assessments or any tools we use to drive instruction for our students a huge problem! What kind of metric for teacher value will be attached to our authentic forms of assessment? How will they- those designated to make up the arbitrary percentages- determine the scores and how much value will be added?

As we already know, this evaluation deal has nothing to do with improving outcomes for our students but everything to do with creating a system that breaks us and our union to further the privatization agenda. It is political. This is not just a criticism of our leadership’s practices; this is a proposal to engage rank and file members in the process before it is truly too late.

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Power on the job is the basic building block of strong unionism, however many of us find ourselves in situations where we face oppressive school administrations, weak union chapters, and co-workers who are either fearful or apathetic or both.  As social justice unionists, its up to us to rebuild union power at at the grassroots, but nobody is a born organizer and the UFT provides very little support to its membership when it comes to training us to do the hard work of organizing.

In partnership with Labor Notes, MORE is sponsoring a series of organizer trainings to help us develop our members’ capacity to do organizing in their schools, strengthen our chapters, and build power on the job.  The workshop will include sessions on:

Confronting Apathy
Identifying Organizing Issues
How to have an Organizing Conversation
Mapping Our Workplace
Turning Issues into Campaigns
How to “Turn Up the Heat”

The workshop is interactive and participatory, and participants will be planning campaigns for their schools.  We will make plans to support each other in doing the work of organizing when we go back to our schools, and continue to meet regionally to reach out to more organizers.

Participants are asked to bring a copy of their school organization sheet and an issue that is currently affecting their staff at their school.  Copies of the New Labor Notes book “Secrets of a Successful Organizer” will also be available for purchase, with the proceeds benefiting MORE.

Secrets of a Successful Organizer
Presented by the Movement of Rank-and-File Educators and Labor Notes
October 15th
1:00-3:30

CUNY Graduate Center Room 5414 (bring ID)

Please RSVP on Facebook and share and distribute the flyers below to anyone you think would be interested.

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The UFT passed a resolution joining an AFL-CIO boycott of Staples to protest the use of nonunion workers to operate new U.S. postal counters in its stores around the country. “It’s important for us to stand in solidarity with the American Postal Workers Union,” Vice President Janella Hinds said in support of the resolution at the June 2014 DA meeting.

Additionally, the AFT (and NEA) had also called for a boycott of Staples in response to requests from the American Postal Workers Union and even led a huge rally at the 2014 AFT Convention.

This boycott is still in effect. A reminder can be found on the UFT website in the section about Teacher Choice Allocations:

Educators are encouraged to take advantage of the many deals on school supplies being offered throughout the city and online. The UFT supports the boycott of Staples, which is taking jobs away from unionized U.S. postal workers as the U.S. Postal Service outsources its work.

So why did our union spent $171,163 with Staples in Fiscal Year 2015 as reported in the UFT’s LM-2 FORM – LABOR ORGANIZATION ANNUAL REPORT for FY 2015?

Was this an oversight? We’d like to know.

 

Every year, large U.S. labor unions must submit form LM-2 to the U.S. Department of Labor, which includes information about salaries, assets etc… This is the current version of the form for the UFT.

Annual UFT Disclosure Form

The Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE) recently conducted a survey of United Federation of Teachers (UFT) members to find out more about their working conditions and students’ learning conditions. The findings of this survey indicate that the decay of the New York City schools has reached crisis levels under the leadership of the Unity Caucus, the incumbents in the current elections for leadership of the UFT. Change is urgently needed.

http://tiny.cc/MOREsurvey

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