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 )

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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

NEW ACTION AND MORE SWEEP ALL SEVEN HIGH SCHOOL EXECUTIVE BOARD SEATS

MORE-New Action Election logo idea 2 (5) (2)NEW ACTION AND MORE SWEEP ALL SEVEN HIGH SCHOOL EXECUTIVE BOARD SEATS

The announcement on May 27, 2016 that Jia Lee, New Action/MORE presidential candidate won 21% of the citywide vote was a terrific victory, especially since this was her first run for the position. Michael Mulgrew won with a total of 76%. While a solid victory for Unity Caucus it is interesting to note that in the last UFT election (2013) he received 84% and in 2010 his vote totaled 91%.

Clearly, the fact that Mulgrew was not cross endorsed by New Action, as he was in 2013 and 2010 was a big factor in his decreased vote as President. The total vote for Mulgrew was 39,175 and for Jia it was 10,743

Our major goal in this election was to win the high school division. We did!

Several significant factors characterized this election:

  • New Action/MORE won all seven high school seats by 2,292 to 2,077. Our candidates: Kuljit Ahluwalia, David Garcia-Rosen, Arthur Goldstein, Ashraya Gupta, Jonathan Halabi, Marcus McArthur, Michael Schirtzer will meet as they begin to serve as executive board members. This victory continues the legacy of New Action’s role in the high schools, Beginning in the mid 1980’s, New Action dominated the high school division. After 1985 when Michael Shulman won the Academic HS Vice Presidency, New Action has either won or played the determining role in high school elections. Only after Unity Caucus rammed through UFT constitutional changes did Unity win the HS Vice Presidency. Divisions no longer elect their VP’s – instead all officers are elected by the membership at large, thus guaranteeing no division can elect their own representative.
  • This election cycle, it was New Action/MORE that won the high schools. It could not have been done if the caucuses ran separately. The combined strength of New Action and MORE not only secured the high schools but increased our vote totals in all divisions. For the two caucuses, this was the first attempt to turn the direction of the union around. Our major joint campaign literature- featuring Jia Lee and the New Action/MORE program- was distributed to 60,000 UFT members. In addition, New Action and MORE put out tens of thousands of additional pieces of election material to the schools. In future elections, an increased focus on the intermediate and middle schools may turn that division to New Action and MORE.
  • Literally, hundreds of Chapter Leaders agreed to distribute New Action/MORE literature in their schools. We were very successful in having our members and supporters in the schools get out literature not only in their own schools but to surrounding schools. New Action played a major role in having our retiree members distribute in over 300 schools.
  • The total vote went up considerably from the previous election. In 2013 only 18% of in-service members voted. The three caucuses—New Action, MORE, and Unity made a larger vote turnout a priority. This was also accomplished. In 2013 the total vote was approximately 42,000. This election the number was 52,000.

New Action and MORE have a real challenge going forward. The UFT led by Unity Caucus has ignored so many issues facing our members. We have an obligation to put forward our program on behalf of the entire membership. Our election commitment was to activate and mobilize UFT members for a better contract in 2018. Immediately, we have to protect members and Chapter Leaders from abusive administrators. We are committed to opposing the use of standardized tests to evaluate teachers. We must demand the permanent placement of ATR’s and putting a stop to the practice of arbitrary and capricious discontinuance of probationary members. We will continue to support the Opt-Out movement. We must fight for real union democracy. We do not have any confidence that Unity Caucus has these issues as their priority. Most importantly, we must foster membership involvement at the school level. UFT members must know and feel their union has “their backs.”

Where we agree, where we disagree

From New Action’s May 2016 Leaflet

Where We Agree

We agree that 200 lawyers at Tweed is about 200 too many. But we need leadership that tells this to Fariña, sits down, and gets something done.

We agree that the current funding formula for schools makes no sense, that principals are forced to discriminate against experienced teachers, that schools, kids, teachers all get hurt. But we need leadership that tells this to Fariña, sits down, and gets something done.

We agree that abusive and incompetent administrators are a problem. But we need leadership that restores and expands the Principals In Need of Improvement Program, resurrects the highly successful Organizing Committee, and targets principals who go after our members, leadership that brings the abusers to Fariña, sits down, and gets them out.

We agree that arbitrary extensions of probation are unfair. But we need a leadership that tells this to Fariña, sits down, and gets something done.

We agree that parents have a right to opt their children out of tests. But we need leadership that actively informs parents of this right.

Where We Disagree

We disagree with a leadership that insists that student test scores be part of our evaluation.

We disagree with a leadership that is in love with the Common Core. We disagree with one-size-fits all in math, and we can’t believe that teachers are being stopped from teaching whole books and are limited to chapters or excerpts.

We disagree with creating separate, unequal “rights” for members in excess.

And we disagree with jobs and promotions being given out based on obedience to a caucus instead of merit.

Vote MORE/New Action

Combat Abusive Administrators – Return to Fair Funding! – Get rid of the Lawyers! – Protect Probationers

Protect ATRs – Fight for Union Democracy – End “Drive By” and “Test Score” Teacher Evaluation

Support Jia Lee, Opt Out Leader, for UFT President