Archive for February, 2011

The Long Road to Madison, Wisconsin

by Arjun Janah, Brooklyn, February 26th, 2011

In 1959, Wisconsin became the first U.S. state to grant municipal employees and teachers the right to bargain collectively for wages and benefits. In 1967, this was extended to all state employees.  It is perhaps worth noting that the first law was passed under a Democratic governor, at a time when the state Assembly was controlled by Democrats and the state Senate by Republicans. The second law was passed under a Republican governor, with both houses controlled by Republicans.

…we have in place…a global race to the bottom for labor, where the worker must work harder and longer (both in hours per week and years per life) for less, under increasing stress, anxiety and insecurity, and a global “race to the top” … for the wealthiest and their courtiers.

So we see that, by the 60’s, a bipartisan consensus had been reached, at least in Wisconsin (as well as in many other states) about the rights of public workers to have unions and to bargain collectively.

Unions are now at about 12% nationwide, but at around 36% in public sector jobs. So now we see an assault underway against the public sector unions. …we have seen an acceleration of the trend towards increasing income inequality, with the majority of the wealth and income in this country being concentrated…in the hands of a very small fraction of the population.

Now, a full half century later, we see Scott Walker, Republican governor of Wisconsin, attempting to take away public workers’ right to collectively bargain for pensions and other benefits.  He is not content that they have agreed to cuts in these, and to pay more for them, even though the alleged budget deficit can be directly traced to hundred-million-dollar tax cuts given recently by governor Walker to the wealthy in his state. His goal is to accelerate the process of dismantling what is left of the union movement in this country.  In this, he is in active partnership with other Republican governors and their billionaire backers. Continue reading ‘The Long Road to Madison, Wisconsin’

Statement to workers of Wisconsin from Egyptian Trade Union Leader

February 20th, 2011 3:45 PM

‘We Stand With You as You Stood With Us’: Statement to Workers of Wisconsin by Kamal Abbas of Egypt’s Centre for Trade Unions and Workers Services

About Kamal Abbas and the Centre for Trade Unions and Workers Services:

Kamal Abbas is General Coordinator of the CTUWS, an umbrella advocacy organization for independent unions in Egypt. The CTUWS, which was awarded the 1999 French Republic’s Human Rights Prize, suffered repeated harassment and attack by the Mubarak regime, and played a leading role in its overthrow. Abbas, who witnessed friends killed by the regime during the 1989 Helwan steel strike and was himself arrested and threatened numerous times, has received extensive international recognition for his union and civil society leadership.

This is the transcript of a statement Abbas made (video and translation here on Michael Moore’s website). It was reprinted here on the AFL-CIO Now Blog.

KAMAL ABBAS: I am speaking to you from a place very close to Tahrir Square in Cairo, “Liberation Square”, which was the heart of the Revolution in Egypt. This is the place were many of our youth paid with their lives and blood in the struggle for our just rights.

From this place, I want you to know that we stand with you as you stood with us.

I want you to know that no power can challenge the will of the people when they believe in their rights. When they raise their voices loud and clear and struggle against exploitation.

No one believed that our revolution could succeed against the strongest dictatorship in the region. But in 18 days the revolution achieved the victory of the people. When the working class of Egypt joined the revolution on 9 and 10 February, the dictatorship was doomed and the victory of the people became inevitable.

We want you to know that we stand on your side. Stand firm and don’t waiver. Don’t give up on your rights. Victory always belongs to the people who stand firm and demand their just rights.

We and all the people of the world stand on your side and give you our full support.

As our just struggle for freedom, democracy and justice succeeded, your struggle will succeed. Victory belongs to you when you stand firm and remain steadfast in demanding your just rights.

We support you. we support the struggle of the peoples of Libya, Bahrain and Algeria, who are fighting for their just rights and falling martyrs in the face of the autocratic regimes. The peoples are determined to succeed no matter the sacrifices and they will be victorious.

Today is the day of the American workers. We salute you American workers! You will be victorious. Victory belongs to all the people of the world, who are fighting against exploitation, and for their just rights.

on Wisconsin

New Action initiated a bipartisan resolution in support of our colleagues and all public workers in Wisconsin, and linking their struggle to our own. As soon as it is approved, we will publish it.

Without waiting for the resolution, we have proposed several specific steps for the UFT to consider taking:

  • Publicize what’s happening
  • Hold a press conference, and bring out lots of members to it
  • Request a voluntary $5 a member donation for a solidarity fund
  • Make a UFT $$$ contribution to our struggling colleagues
  • Set a “wear red for Wisconsin” day
  • Work with other NYC unions to build a demonstration in support for workers in Wisconsin

We are Wisconsin

Stand with Wisconsin. Governor Walker is putting forward legislation to end collective bargaining and the right to belong to a union. He must be stopped.

Sign the petition. They will send you updates.

The website is called “We are Wisconsin.”

Teachers’ right to organize and bargain threatened in Wisconsin

Abusive Administrator – a Case Study in the Bronx

February 2011


School Closings

Abusive Administrator


Tenure and Teacher Evaluation

Iris Blige, principal of Fordham HS for the Arts in the Bronx, will pay a fine of $7,500 for ruining the careers of good teachers, of developing new teachers (and of APs. She tried to ruin even more careers.

Two years ago, hundreds of high school teachers from across the Bronx protested yet another instance of baseless discipline against a teacher. In that instance, Blige took advantage of the teacher’s immigration status to try to get her deported.

Finally OSI found this August what we already knew was true: that Blige ordered APs to U teachers without any attempt to evaluate them. She chose to go after them and found reasons afterwards.

The penalty? Iris Blige signed a stipulation just after Thanksgiving, agreeing to a $7500 fine spread out over a year and a half.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew stated, “[Blige] is extremely unscrupulous in the way she does her job,” and “I think it’s outrageous. If the price for ruining someone’s career is $7,500, where’s the accountability?”


Is there any word about the teachers whose careers were ruined?


New Action co-chair Jonathan Halabi raised this issue at the January 24 UFT Executive Board. He was assured the UFT would contact the members who were adversely rated. Meanwhile former Bronx HS District Rep Lynne Winderbaum was quoted in the press saying, “Principals like Blige who ruin lives, ruin careers, rule by fear and intimidation. Signaling the robotic foolishness of Cathie Blacks talking points, Blige is an example of how the dedicated, vibrant, caring new teachers that Black wants to save from layoffs are the ones whose careers were cut short by the vindictiveness of this principal. Bishop, Hidalgo, Street, Troy, all popular and well-liked young teachers, were cut down early in their promising career”.


On one occasion a student at the school asked me “why does Ms. Blige get rid if all our favorite teachers?”

So harsh were the conditions under her tyranny that from 2007-2008 she had a turnover rate of 70.5%. Dozens of teachers have left every year since 2004 because of this principal. Of the more than a dozen APs in her school –at least ten have left many testifying against her in this investigation and others. Evaluations, which are designed to improve instruction in the classroom, were being instead subverted into a tool to intimidate teachers and stifle dissent.

The fact that the DOE doesn’t terminate Blige should serve as a dire warning that a fair and equitable teacher evaluation system is not possible. Principals like Iris Blige are not instructional leaders but people who maintain their power by using their authority to rate staff to impose their will.


New Action calls on the UFT leadership to step up

the campaign against abusive administrators!


PEP Rally against School Closures Moved to Thursday

Due to the icy weather, the rally before the PEP on Tuesday has been moved to before the PEP on Thursday.

Time: 4PM (unchanged)

Place: Brooklyn Tech (unchanged)