Blue Senate

It is urgent that we take advantage of this moment of financial improvement in New York State and the change in the political landscape in Albany. We should not wait for the next contract period in to see changes that are crying out for improvement.

Teacher Evaluation – The current teacher evaluation system was dictated by state law – a law that we should repeal and replace. Student test scores should be entirely removed from the teacher rating process.

Pension Reform – It’s an opportune time to press our elected friends that we’ve helped put in office to: CALL FOR IMPROVEMENTS IN THE PENSION TIERS. We’ve done it before. We can’t have this multi-tiered system which makes for tremendous inequity between members and costs such financial disparity.

Single Payer Health Care – The United Federation of Teachers is on record supporting a single payer system, but our leadership and Michael Mulgrew have claimed that this just means “Federal Single Payer” and they are opposing single payer in Albany. New Action supports single payer at the federal level AND at the state level.

New Action to Run Slate in Spring UFT Elections

Priority Issues

Fight administrative abuse – Defend Chapter Leaders, Probationers, and ATRs

Last year NEW ACTION and MORE brought Chapter Leader after Chapter Leader up to UFT Executive Board meetings to speak up against the 200 or so Principals and Administrators who are making life hell for UFT members. These included Chapter Leaders from, CPE 1, Tottenville High School, and numerous members from the Adult Ed chapter, and teachers from other schools.

New Action supports a union led campaign against abusive administrators. We would bring back our Campaign for Principals in Need of Improvement (which Unity dropped without explanation)

The new contract has many more arbitration days. We need to ensure that these are used to fight abusive administrators.

In order to prevent the harassment of veteran staff the DOE must return to unit costing. The current teacher funding formula is a leftover from the Bloomberg/Klein administration. It encourages principals to avoid hiring experienced educators. This hurts principals, teachers, schools, and students. It’s time to end “Fair Student Funding!” The DOE won’t bargain FSF in contract negotiations? Then we should be pushing the issue outside negotiations, and joining with schools and community groups who are also being hurt by this process.

Provide basic rights to probationary teachers. Too often, these educators have been unfairly discontinued by their principals. Where a principal has shown questionable judgment, it is in our interest to challenge that judgment. Basically, probationers can be discontinued without cause. This is just not right or just.

 

Evaluation

End tying ratings to bogus test scores. –The recently concluded contract reduced the number of observations for highly effective and effective rated teachers to two a year. For Unity Caucus this was a big improvement since only a year ago their leaders were arguing that teachers wanted more observations.

Remove student test scores from teacher ratings.

Allow teachers to challenge the judgment of administrators – we must be allowed to challenge an observation that is wrong

 

Lower Class Size

We have been dragging our feet to long on this. There have been NO REDUCTIONS IN OVER 50 YEARS. In contract negotiations the UFT has pitted salary increases against a reduction in class size. Why wait to push for the implementation of the CFE court ruling.  How will conditions ever improve until we address this? We need to address class size outside of contract negotiations, and to involve parents and community organizations in this just struggle.

 

Segregation

Schools in New York City have become the most segregated in the nation. We have an obligation to remedy this situation. The DoE has ideas. The UFT needs to offering our own solutions.

We must also address the ongoing crisis of disappearing Black and Hispanic educators.

 

High Schools

Bloomberg, with Gates money, and Unity Caucus support, broke up many of our large high schools. Gates declared this experiment a failure, and walked away from it. Many neighborhoods in New York City are no longer served by an academic comprehensive high school that is large enough to provide rich academic and extra-curricular options. Teachers are denied the opportunity for the range of professional conversations that a larger department provides. Where mini-schools have obviously not worked, we should be urging the Department of Education to merge schools.

High school teachers formerly had borough-wide PD with teachers in the same subject area, with the possibility of a wide ranging exchange of ideas. High School teachers need these opportunities restored.

Regents Exam grading must be returned to the schools.

 

Improve Our Health Benefits

The newly concluded contract introduced 2-Tier system that places new members in HIP for the first year is a disgrace. In the next contract will the City and our union agree to put new members in an HMO for the duration of their probation? Our dental benefits are woefully inadequate! Why is there no coverage for implants? Shouldn’t deductibles be brought down?

And while we are glad to have won parental leave, the six weeks is just a start. We should be looking for more, for a more comprehensive and longer lasting leave that covers taking care of a sick parent or relative as well as childbirth.

New UFT Contract Passes: New Action Sees Many Gains, Yet Has Many Reservations

Members voted for a contract that has some very important gains. At the same time, it does not deal with some very important issues. While receiving an 80% vote from almost all units it was rejected by OT’s and PT’s. It is our obligation to stand in solidarity with the OT’s and PT’s. They will need our support.

We Have Serious Concerns

The most troublesome feature is health care givebacks, including the introduction of a two- tier health system. The contract promises to save the city a purported $1.1Billion over 3 years. This alone is cause for concern. We are very wary of the details, only some of which have been released. We do know that first year UFTers will no longer have the right to select their health plan – they will be automatically enrolled in an HMO, HIP. We need to stand vigilant against the real danger that the next go-around the city will demand a three-year two-tier, or a two-tier that lasts through the period of probation.

The membership should have been involved in the discussion… BEFORE DC37’s contract. Why did our membership not vote on this package BEFORE our representatives agreed to it at the MLC? Agreements at the MLC that bind us during negotiations, must be brought to the UFT membership first. We must guard against future incursions on our health care. The issue of Unity making deals with the City and the other unions, and presenting them to us done deals is very serious. We must end this anti-democratic practice.

Another concern is that the money is not great (2%, 2.5%, 3% over 3½ years). These raises do not keep up with inflationary for most titles – they do not miss by a lot, but they do not keep up.

The process was egregiously rushed. People like the idea of an early contract… but Delegates were notified to attend a meeting (Friday 10/12) the day after the agreement was reached (Thursday 10/11). Delegates were asked to vote on a document they could not have possibly read. By the way, there was a regularly scheduled DA Wednesday 10/17.  Unity clearly did not want serious discussions taking place in the schools. Why else was there such a rush?

Some Positive Aspects

The Negotiating Committee, including some rank and file members, actually did some of the negotiating this time – that’s a step ahead, although it falls far short of having meaningful engagement at the chapters.

Due process for paras. Before this contract, paraprofessionals could be suspended without pay based on a single allegation. This contract establishes elements of due process for paraprofessionals.

Easy route to resolve a range of school-level problems. The contract allows complaints to be brought to consultation, and if not resolved within five days, go to the district level. Five new classes of complaints do not require members to file an individual grievance. The categories are: Paperwork, Workspace, Workload, Basic Instructional Supplies, Professional Development, and Curriculum. Still there is no route to resolve unfair or inaccurate disciplinary letters. The right to grieve letters in the file, surrendered in 2005, must be restored.

More Arbitration Days. We get more arbitration days by agreeing to use existing days better. Class size grievances will be heard earlier, and resolved more quickly. In practical terms, arbitrators will handle 6 in a day (instead of 1). Salary, LODI, and religious observance arbitrations will be scheduled 5 per day, instead of one per day. The Grievance Department estimates that we will get an additional 140 days that we can use to arbitrate matters that are critical to us. Bloomberg’s Department of Education intentionally forced us to waste arbitration days, and de Blasio’s DoE had continued the practice. Now that should end.

Two observations. For most teachers (with an HE, or two consecutive E’s) there will be two observations per year. Unity Bigwigs wanted as many observations as possible (yes, many members of Unity Caucus argued for this – but the members wanted the numbers cut). And we did get the number of observations reduced. We still have a long way to go: Students’ test scores still factor into our observations, and our ability to challenge bad observations is blocked by current state law.

Anti-Harassment Language. We won language prohibiting retaliation, with a process that leads to arbitration. Enforcing it will not be easy – but this is the first time we will have such language:  This does not come close to solving the problem of the abusive administrator, but it is a step in the right direction. We’ve got all these new arbitration days – we have to press Unity to use them to push back on abusive administrators. New Action’s plan to deal with abusive administrators is much stronger. Contact us if you want further details.

ATRs – placed in vacancies Day 1 (instead of weeks later.) Salaries won’t count against the school.

Key New Action Contract Demands were Ignored

Fight abusive administrators. We need to keep pressing the union to respond to members in schools with abusive administrators who attack our members and go after UFT Chapter Leaders. · Reduce Class Size. Expedited procedures are one thing, but reducing class sizes should be the goal. We need to end the false dichotomy between raises and reducing class size. We should target lower grades, and we should target higher needs districts. · Restore the Right to Grieve Letters in the File · Reduce caseloads of counselors, psychologists, and other support staff · End Fair Student Funding/Return to Unit Costing · Ensure real due process for probationary teachers.

Conclusions

This tentative contract has good new provisions, especially due process for paras, reduced observations, and some repairs to our grievance machinery. It also has disappointing salaries, and a dangerous change in our health care. There are issues (class size, abusive administrators) that we need to continue to deal with outside of the contract. And we must challenge Unity’s practice of making deals at the MLC without membership oversight. Finally, a union that fails to involve the membership at every step of contract negotiations is making a catastrophic mistake.

UFT High School Executive Board asked for endorsement of the anti-IDC Challengers

Primary Endorsements; Primary Elections

There was no meeting to decide who the UFT would support at the NYSUT endorsement conference in August. And there were hot races for the NY State Senate – in the wake of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s victory, progressive challengers, including Robert Jackson who the UFT awarded the John Dewey Award for his work for education, were organizing strong primary challenges.

So we wrote to UFT President Mulgrew, all seven of us: KJ Ahluwalia, Arthur Goldstein, Ashraya Gupta,
Jonathan Halabi, Marcus McArthur, Kate Martin-Bridge, and Mike Schirtzer. By the way, we are the only UFTers elected directly by the High School Division. We urged support for challengers in the races against the IDC (the group that ran as Democrats but caucused as Republicans, enriching themselves while blocking legislation we needed). The challengers we wanted to support were: Alessandra Biaggi, Robert Jackson, John Liu, Zellnor Myrie, Jessica Ramos, and Jasmine Robinson.

And then, since we didn’t really get an answer, we wrote to ask who the UFT leadership were supporting. The response was that there was “a neutral start” to each discussion.

NYSUT’s Endorsements were Embarrassing

At NYSUT, only one challenger, Zellnor Myrie got the endorsement. The UFT blocked the endorsement of Biaggi. Worse, two IDC members were endorsed (with UFT concurrence): Jose Peralta and Marisol Alcantara. Endorsing Alcantara meant working against Robert Jackson, a true champion for public education. What a shame.

But the Challengers Still Won

Despite the NYSUT mistakes, five of the six challengers in NYC won, including Jackson and Biaggi, who defeated IDC kingpin Jeff Klein. UFT members, despite the NYSUT mistakes, worked on the challengers’ campaigns, and were part of the successful grassroots mobilizations. These members are showing the way forward, away from backroom deals, towards progressive, participatory activism. Our union’s political action needs to follow suit.

(from the September 2018 New Action Chapter Leaders Meeting flyer )

Janus – It Takes a Fight to Win

This year the UFT and membership may face the most difficult year in our history with the adverse U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Janus case. We are convinced Chapter Leaders and activists in our schools will rise to the occasion and support our union by convincing every member to pay union dues. New Action is committed to make that happen.

But much more needs to be done to make this a reality. While the union has made considerable efforts to inform members about the benefits they derive from being members (specifically their efforts to set up committees in each school; sending activists to go door to door knocking, and using the NY Teacher to publicize the importance of the union to its members) they have missed the boat in key areas. UFT members want and need a more pro-active, militant response from our union. There is no simple solution but New Action offers a few for your consideration:

COMBAT ABUSIVE ADMINISTRATORS – Principals who harass our members and single out chapter leaders are a persistent problem in too many schools. The union needs to go after these abusers and let the membership know we will not tolerate this behavior. We have helped some members find support by appealing to the leadership at the UFT Executive Board. But members are too often rebuffed before they get there. The union, at every level, needs to take on abusive administrators.

INVOLVE MEMBERS IN A REAL CONTRACT FIGHT – The secret negotiations must end. Members should be involved any contract fight. What are the issues? We must ask school chapters to meet and hear reports on any progress! We must have them engaged in a real struggle.

UPHOLD THE CONTRACT – Principals are doing an end run around the contract. The union needs to consistently show it is there for us, has our backs. Too many administrators ignore our rights on programming, class size, professional assignments, etc. These should be challenged aggressively, individually and collectively. We must restore the right to grieve letters to the file.

ADDRESS THE PROBLEMATIC EVALUATION SYSTEM – Members have the right to challenge technical problems in APPR, but not the AP’s mistakes. And we know that administrators are often wrong – members need the right to challenge supervisory judgment. The number of observations is unnecessarily high: teachers who are year after year satisfactory need not be observed more than twice a year. But fundamentally the problem is deeper – ratings based on student test-scores are arbitrary and unfair. We need to repeal the State Law that established this.

END PATRONAGE – Hundreds are given part time union jobs based on membership in Unity Caucus. All they have in common is the agreement, when there is a vote, not to make up their own mind but to vote as Unity tells them. This system undermines members’ confidence in our union.

EMPOWER LOCAL LEADERS – Chapter Leaders (CLs) are volunteers. They are directly elected by their members. They should be the backbone of our union. But their representatives, the District Reps (DRs), are appointed by the President. They are responsive to 52 Broadway first, and issue directives to CLs. We should return to a system where DRs are accountable to CLs; we should return to the long-established practice of direct election of DRs by Chapter Leaders.

(from the September 2018 New Action Chapter Leaders Meeting flyer )

Paul Feingold, teacher, leader, activist, 1945 – 2017

Dear Friends,

We lost a true trade union giant. Our dear friend and colleague, Paul Feingold, passed away this past weekend. Paul was a great rank and file chapter leader at John Jay HS, a long-time New Action supporter, and a fighter for social and economic justice. In 1986, when I was Academic High School Vice President of the UFT, Paul was finally recognized with a Trachtenberg award. Along with Jack Sexton, Paul was given a token of union appreciation for their years of dedication to the UFT membership. I could go on but those who knew Paul know what a great human being and visionary he was.
The struggle continues and Paul will be there with us.
In solidarity,
Michael Shulman

New Action/UFT and MORE: Support Chapter Leader and School under attack

New Action Caucus / UFT and MORE Caucus, and our representatives on the UFT Executive Board wrote to the Unity Caucus controlled leadership of the UFT, asking for real demonstrations of support for an embattled Chapter Leader (Marilyn Martinez, Central Park East 1, facing trumped up 3020a charges) and an embattled school (JHS 145, District 7, threatened with closure at the PEP, in service to Moskowitz).

 Shamefully, the leadership chose not to come to the Chapter Leader’s 3020a hearing. We hope they do better with the PEP in support of JHS 145, but if they do not, you can still attend: Wednesday March 22, 6PM, HS for Fashion Industries, W24th Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues.

March 9, 2017

Dear President Mulgrew, Vice Presidents Alford, Hinds, and Mantell and Assistant Secretary Barr:

As you know, our union, and the labor movement as a whole, is under major threat by the anti-labor initiatives promised by the Trump administration, as well as by the inevitable return of a case like last year’s Friedrichs to the Supreme Court.

In such an environment, it is crucial that the rank and file members of our union see that the UFT is at the front lines fighting to defend members publicly at every available opportunity.

There are two important opportunities to do so in the coming days that our union leadership must act on.

First, the Chapter Leader of Central Park East I, Marilyn Martinez, is facing 3020A charges which are clearly retaliatory from the abusive principal Monika Garg.  Fifty parents and UFT members attended the first two days of hearings last week.  We ask that you or Elementary Vice President Karen Alford attend the final day of the hearing this Friday, March 10 in order to send a clear message to the DOE, the arbitrator, and UFT rank and filers that the UFT supports this chapter leader. We further ask you to offer the assistance of the UFT press office in publicizing this defense.  We further ask that you intervene personally with the chancellor around this case. If we do not defend our chapter leaders publicly and strongly, we may soon not have a union to defend at all.

Second, JHS 145 in the Bronx is facing a closure vote at the Panel for Educational Policy meeting on Wednesday March 22nd. The largely immigrant school community has mobilized to oppose the closing. As unionists committed to defending public education, we must join our voices with those of parents, students and teachers in opposition to this proposed closure. The Delegate Assembly scheduled for that day should adjourn early to allow Delegates, Chapter Leaders and the union leadership to attend the nearby PEP Meeting en masse.

In Solidarity,

UFT Executive Board members high school division

KJ Ahluwalia, Arthur Goldstein, Ashraya Gupta, Jonathan Halabi, Marcus McArthur, David Rosen, Mike Schirtzer

Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE caucus UFT)

New Action Caucus / UFT


Content Policy

Content of signed articles and comments represents the opinions of their authors. The views expressed in signed articles are not necessarily the views of New Action/UFT.
December 2019
M T W T F S S
« Dec    
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
3031