Archive for April, 2014

LET’S WORK WITH DE BLASIO TO PUSH OUR PRIORITIES

(from the New Action leaflet distributed at the March 2014 Delegate Assembly).
For a printable version click: March 2014 Leaflet Front and back

The election of Bill de Blasio and the appointment of Carmen Fariña opens the possibility of correcting 12 years of Bloomberg’s destructive policies.  The damage done cannot all be repaired overnight. However, some important advances can begin now. High on the list is negotiating a good contract with retroactive pay. New Action/UFT proposes some additional priorities.

Abusive, Unqualified, or Both?

New Action has always acknowledged that there are many collaborative and professional administrators. But unqualified principals, often with no or little teaching experience, are running too many of our schools. A principal can avoid a conversation by saying, “I have to run this past Legal” knowing full well that these Bloomberg appointed lawyers tell principals to deny everything. Those with who never were decent teachers, or with inadequate experience can feel threatened by our members’ knowledge, and treat suggestions as insubordinate. Many become petty dictators. Their orders are sometimes arbitrary, sometimes nonsensical. They don’t discuss issues with members, because they cannot. And some target Chapter Leaders.

Work together to resolve issues of abusive admins

IT IS TIME to press this issue with de Blasio and Fariña and modify the behavior of all of these abusive administrators, and long overdue that the Unity leadership demand an end to the harassment of chapter leaders. The leadership has targeted problem principals in schools where the entire chapter is ready to fight back. But this is a drop in the bucket. In most of these schools members are scared, intimidated, not ready to stand up on their own. We must help them at the school, AND bring these cases to the new administration. And we have progress already: Carmen Fariña has announced that all new principals will need to have at least seven years experience.

We can work with Mayor De Blasio and Chancellor Fariña, and at the same time help our membership to become active at the school level to tackle these and other issues.

De Blasio Compromise on Co-locations – an Error

On charters and co-locations de Blasio sent a badly mixed message. He declared a moratorium, while he and Fariña examined the 45 proposals that Bloomberg rushed through last fall. But late last month they approved 36 of them, including some charters. This was not what we wanted; this was not what New York City needed. They thought that they could play nice with the private charter operators/ hedgefunders. But Eva Moskowitz, who lost one expansion, and two new schools, organized a demonstration in Albany, where Andrew Cuomo lent his support, and has been blasting de Blasio. His administration has been taking a beating in the media. Compromising with the charter operators was a mistake.

No New School Closings – a big step forward

But there is good on co-locations as well:  this is the first year in memory when there has not been a single school closure. Several charter collocations were denied. We should stand with de Blasio against Moskowitz, and against the NY State Senate’s current proposal to allow charter management companies unfettered, free access to New York City’s school buildings.

Contract?

There is also potential progress on a contract. The UFT’s Negotiating Committee met last Thursday, and while those discussions are confidential, the major media are reporting that there have been real conversations in the last few days. Given our desire to have a contract done by June, it seems that the process is moving at the right time. A hopeful sign: The New York Times reports that chief factfinder, Martin Scheinman, is now acting as a mediator between us and the City.

Mobilization

We need to get our membership involved – getting out there to support those good steps de Blasio and Fariña have taken – and pushing on our contract issues. There are stalwarts, UFTers who come to any rally, anywhere we ask. But to bring the full weight of our union to bear, we need to engage the majority of our members, and that means in school, and in front of school. School-based actions will show how serious we are, and they will give us a stronger, united voice.

From the Archives – June 2003 – Appointment of District Reps

(from the New Action leaflet distributed at the January 2014 Delegate Assembly).
For a printable version click: January 2014 Leaflet

FROM THE ARCHIVES – June 2003

The Department of Education is likely returning to a geographically-based organizational structure. The UFT will be making that as a recommendation. Regions, Networks, LSOs, PSOs, Clusters – all should be a thing of the past.

When Bloomberg and Klein abolished geographic districts, over ten years ago, Unity Caucus responded by taking the right of selecting District Reps away from Chapter Leaders. Here’s what New Action wrote then:

 

The Appointment of District Reps. No Time to Retreat from Democracy!

Last Tuesday, June 4, 2003, the UFT Executive Board over the strong objections of New Action/UFT, changed the District Representative position, an elected position for 34 years, to an appointed position. It is a sad day any time an elected job, where accountability is to the people who elect you, is changed to an appointed position.

The resolution was morally offensive to New Action; we vehemently oppose any attack on the democratic process. Two years ago when Rudy Guiliani tried to use the September 11 attack on NYC as an excuse to lengthen his term as Mayor by three or four months, President Weingarten was outraged about the Mayor’s affront to democracy. At last week’s Executive Board meeting, NAC’s James Eterno (chapter leader Jamaica HS) pointed this out to President Weingarten and the Unity Caucus majority when he spoke against the resolution. Eterno also told the Executive Board that last year Mayor Bloomberg wanted to change the line of succession so that he could appoint a successor if he were not able to finish his term as Mayor. President Weingarten was aghast that the Mayor would try to replace himself with a non-elected person. NAC’s Bob Dehler (chapter leader Seward Park HS) also spoke in opposition, citing the aspect of the resolution assigning people for next year. The resolution doesn’t say the UFT is extending the terms of elected district reps. It says the union is appointing them in place. Even an election for a limited one year term, until we figure out the new DOE structure, would be fairer than appointing people in place.

Is Appointing DR’s the Best Choice?

In her e-mail to chapter leaders and delegates President Weingarten stated, “So we have tried to ensure that the service relationship between the chapter leader, the members, and the DR is maintained. This way the continuity, the contract and other services we provide members as well as the dissemination of accurate information can be maintained despite any changes the Department may make.”

If we’re keeping the present system why can’t we continue with the election process? Whether elected or appointed in place, the DR will be dealing with new people at the region. How does an election, in any way, disrupt or interfere with “continuity, the contract and other services” that are provided? We maintain that an election ensures that those services continue as smoothly as possible because the chapter leaders, where there is a contested election, will select the best candidate.

Whatever the structure the UFT finally adopts, we can certainly maintain the present one until we see how the Board’s new regions function. We are sure the DR’s involved and the borough reps will be able to work within the regions. There may have to be changes next year, but that individual who works most closely with the chapter leader must continue to be elected.

Times are tough today with the schools changing structure. It’s in difficult times when democracy must be enhanced, not diminished. The U.S. didn’t try to limit democracy during the Civil War or World War II. All of the elections were held during those two periods of crisis in American history. The restructuring of the schools is no reason to limit democracy in any form.

MOBILIZE TO FIGHT FOR A FAIR CONTRACT!

(from the New Action leaflet distributed at the January 2014 Delegate Assembly).
For a printable version click: January 2014 Leaflet

MOBILIZE TO FIGHT FOR A FAIR CONTRACT!

The UFT is waiting for a fact-finding report that is due in two weeks. The question is what kind of contract will the fact-finders come up with? and what can we expect from Mayor Bill de Blasio?

We believe that the new contract must include fair pay, no givebacks, and serious changes to this abysmal evaluation system. New Action calls for a 4%, 4% raise from 2009-1011, as all other unions already received, without givebacks. Retroactive pay must cover all members who worked during the years covered.

The actual package will be shaped by the fact-finders’ report. But what is the union’s strategy to bring a decent contract back to UFT members?

New Action believes that a mobilized and informed membership has an important role to play in securing a decent contract. Monday, January 13, 2014 the UFT Executive Board debated the best way to involve the members.  The Unity leadership claims the UFT will win a fair contract because of the determination of its members. They state that there will be many ways for members to participate, including coming to rallies, signing up to receive the union’s text and e-mail updates about negotiations and reaching out to fellow UFT members.

New Action agrees that members should commit to strong participation in the fight for a contract. HOWEVER, New Action believes that this falls far short of what is needed. Our basic unit of organization, chapters, should be directing this effort at the school level.

On Monday, New Action called for chapter meetings in every school to discuss and plan actions. We called for actions at each school, such as informational picketing before the school day. We called for involvement of parents in the fight for a fair contract. This was rejected by the Unity Caucus-dominated Executive Board. One member derided our proposals by saying that many members are not part of chapters.


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.
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