Archives For Unity Caucus

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. During the 4/19/17 UFT Delegate Assembly, a second attempt to introduce a resolution on behalf of the staff, parents, and students of the CPE1 was quashed by the UNITY caucus leadership of the UFT, who instructed their loyalty oath bound delegates to vote against even putting the pleas that the school’s elected delegate (himself the victim of multiple and scurrilous investigations in retaliation for his activism) were making on behalf of the embattled stakeholders on the agenda for the next meeting. Having briefly consulted with UFT President Michael Mulgrew, Bronx District Rep Howie Schorr listed a number of steps that the UFT had taken to address the issue, and said it was up to the Department of Education to fix the problem.
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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.

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

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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press inquiries media@morecaucusnyc.org

 

 

MORE’s 3rd Annual Summer Series: Discuss, Debate, Educate!

Join the Movement of Rank-and-File Educators (MORE) for 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

$5 Drafts & Well Drinks

July 16th

Who Runs the UFT?  Why Are There Alternatives? A Historical Perspective 1960-2014

RSVP Here and Share our Facebook event
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?

July 30th

Life Under the New Contract
RSVP Here and Share our Facebook event

This fall we will be returning to a radically changed work environment, which educators are approaching with a mix of hope and anxiety.  How can school workers use the new contract to advocate for themselves and their students?  How can we activate new people, strengthen our union chapters, and empower ourselves at work?  Which members are more vulnerable under the new contract, and how can we support them?  MORE wants to campaign this year around tenure, paperwork reduction, ATR rights and chapter leader elections, and we need your ideas and energy!

 

August 13th

Lessons from the Chicago Teachers’ Union Featuring Guest Speakers from Chicago

RSVP Here and Share our Facebook event
In 2010, activists in the Caucus of Rank and File Educators (CORE) took over their union – successful displacing a conservative leadership with a team of organizers headed by dynamo Karen Lewis. This group would lead the CTU on its strike against Rahm Emmanuel that mobilized teachers and school communities. The strike electrified the labor movement, however Chicago is very different than New York City.  What lessons can we learn from Chicago?  Can we adapt the model of CORE to the conditions of New York City?

 

August 20th
UFT 101: Why Does Our Teachers’ Union Matter?

RSVP Here and Share our Facebook event

Are you entering the teaching profession or new to NYC schools?  Are you wondering what the teacher union is all about and what it means to you and your students? Is it something you should be active in?  Do educators, parents and students share common interests? Can unions be vehicles for social justice?  Meet with new and veteran teachers to discuss these questions and more in this introduction to teacher unionism

Here is the flyer for distribution MORE summer 14 Announce-1

 

Disappointment

June 3, 2014 — 25 Comments

For the first time in almost five years, UFT members finally have a contract. But almost one quarter of the membership (23%) voted against the deal. Most of the members with whom we spoke who approved this contract only did so because they felt it was the best our union could do. We disagree, this contract does not provide the same pay raises that other municipal labor unions received in 2009 and some of those unions are already stating they will reject these terms if offered. We believe our union can and should do much better than this.

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When MORE members reached out to the union leadership about observing the count of the contract ratification ballots, Leroy Barr the UFT assistant secretary and chair of Unity Caucus (the caucus of Michael Mulgrew), offered one observer per caucus of the UFT contract vote.

You should not have to be in a caucus to observe the count. We demanded the vote be open to all UFT members. Members of MORE are not special, we are all UFT. Although the Unity and New Action caucuses both support Michael Mulgrew we see no reason why they should receive special treatment either. MORE refused to send a special representative. Anyone who attends from MORE does so a a UFT member, not a caucus member, Every UFT member must be allowed to observe this critical vote.

In response to our efforts, the UFT leadership has offered to allow as many members who wish to observe the count. See the details below.  We hope that they will advertise this information at UFT.org and in their weekly email to chapter leaders, as we requested. Continue Reading…