Healthcare and Charters: Exec Board, 1-23-2023

Summary:

Along with some meaningful speeches on contract from rank and file members, tonight’s UFT executive board meeting focused primarily on charters and healthcare.

Contract: A Chapter Leader commented on her perplexity at the rationale behind the contract ‘teach ins’ given the massive amount of work it takes to do them and the lack of a contract draft in place. A member from Brooklyn Tech advocated for vacation days.

Charters: UFT joined communities in beating Success Academy from co-locating in some specific school buildings. In a city-wide sense, we aren’t safe yet. Eva Moscowitz is back. But, then again, so are we. The fight goes on.

Healthcare: Michael Mulgrew gave a speech suggesting that UFT leadership plans to fight the city from lowering our options. A battle may be readying. On the other hand, he stated that our resolution on supporting NYHA was short sighted, because we hadn’t done a cost analysis yet. Once we did, he realized it was too expensive to have universal healthcare in NY state and such a bill would likely hurt education funding as a result. That’s why UFT leadership disregarded the resolution we passed. He also said ultimately we need a federal solution to healthcare. Unity later tabled a UFC resolution on ‘keeping GHI premium free’ (see text and motivation below) after Geof Sorkin spoke against it. Then LeRoy Barr gave a long speech, suggesting without specificity that, even if our intentions are good, the progressive opposition is harming the union in how it frames the issues. Ronnie Almonte countered with a wonderful rebuttal.

Commentary on Healthcare:

Some of this is going to take a full article to completely digest. Mulgrew and Barr both suggested a healthcare battle was brewing. They seemed to even suggest the possibility of striking without saying that outright. Some on the progressive left of the UFT were hopeful of that fact, though I lean on the pessimistic side. I think it’s just as likely (if not likelier) that Mulgrew and Barr were performing. Indeed, Barr tonight vocalized his ire at blogs that paint the UFT leadership as ineffective or worse. Knowing that I publish the minutes in full, they could very well have been responding to critiques of their inaction, such as the piece I wrote about the January DA when Mulgrew announced that members should prepare for premiums.

Mulgrew’s response about why we don’t support the New York Health Act despite a DA resolution in its support was interesting. Some have criticized unions for blocking this legislation as a power move to keep their control over members’ healthcare at the expense of other workers who also need good care. But, Mulgrew made some interesting points–if they’re true–about the expense of NYHA possibly blowing such a hole in the budget that education funding could be reduced as a result. My take is that, whether this is true or not (I don’t think it is – not when looked at circumspectly), the union should not change union policy without putting it to a vote. If Mulgrew came in with a resolution to present at the DA that asked us to rescind our support for NYHA because of new findings about cost, that would be one thing. If opposition did not have convincing enough arguments (or weren’t called on to make them), he’d probably get that resolution passed and could go on lobbying against NYHA with the consent of membership. However, union leadership should not be changing UFT policy voted in by rank-and-file delegates without that sort of vote.

Mulgrew’s response about a federal ‘single payer’ system is a good sign. However, it’s hard to believe him when he and the rest of UFT leadership are working to put retirees onto privatized Medicare Advantage plans. How are we going to have Medicare for all if we no longer even have publicly run Medicare for retirees? Moreover, how are we going to convince the rest of the U.S. to vote in Medicare for All if we undermine state-created versions like NYHA that could buttress such a movement?

Finally, on GHI. UFC put forth an unpolitical resolution, without particularly specific asks, merely committing that the union do what it can to keep GHI premium free (and without taking the money from other places like our pay or retiree healthcare). This was a very simple resolution. It was not an attack on Unity. Based on the way Mulgrew was speaking earlier, I almost expected Unity to vote it in. Geof Sorkin appeared to go rogue in his odd attack on union opposition, as no one joined him. (Later, LeRoy Barr also semi-attacked opposition, but only after the resolution’s debate was safely over). Vincent Gaglione immediately followed Sorkin by asking that we ‘table the vote’ for another time. No one else, other than me, was lined up to speak. Usually, when Unity doesn’t like a reso, they fight it. Dozens of people get in line. Not this time. Now, were they just avoiding having too many of their arguments against be published in this blog and others? Perhaps. Do they actually agree with our resolution but can’t support it publicly for reasons they can’t explain right now? Also, perhaps. Nevertheless, it’s still disappointing, that after a whole lot of talk about saving our healthcare, they couldn’t stand in support of a simple commitment to do what we can to keep GHI premium free.

That’s all for now. More full articles to come in the coming weeks. The full minutes follow.

Full Minutes:

Open Mic:

CL of Fashion Industries: Getting emails about Contract Action Teams. I’m interested to know in the context of a closed negotiation process, what is the role of that team. It’s a lot of work to put together – valuable – but fear that I’ll burn out our best, then once the contract comes out we might not have that much time to discuss before a vote. So having a sense of what the end goal is.

LeRoy Barr: You can talk to your DR.

Janella Hinds: Purpose of the team is to engage members as to the development of contract negotiations. It’s about hearing what the concerns are, what actions they’re willing to take, and to be unified from the beginning. Appreciate your concern. Would ask you to consider this as a venue you can use to organize around the contract.

Ben Morgenroth, Brooklyn Tech: Teaching about 10 years, nearly all in the public sector. Prior I worked in a hedge fund. Come from a family of public teachers – public education is really important. Want to bring an issue to your attention – recent survey showed that number one priority for job seekers is flexibility in the workplace. That’s really challenging to teachers relative to jobs that require similar levels of education. When we received the Spring Break arbitration decision, to me it set a precedent that that’s something that we could have going forward. One way to make our job more flexible is to get a few vacation days per year that would roll over. That allows teachers to go to say a family union outside of a regular school break. Know it’s already on your radar, but want to highlight the issue. Read Simon Rodberg, teaching must be more flexible until it falls apart. This is one of many possible things. This is important for teacher retention.

Minutes adopted.

LeRoy Barr: This weekend is the CL training weekend. Feb 2., beginning of black history film series. On that Friday, we have two events: CTE awards. Secrets of grand central scavenger hunt, please see Rich Mantell if you want to help participate.

Question Period:

Ed Calamia: Noticed the next exec board meeting has been moved. Why?

LeRoy Barr: Sometimes things happen. We’d rather move the date than cancel.

Ilona Nanay: When a resolution is passed, when/where/how is action taken by UFT leadership? (Mulgrew will answer).

Luli Rodriguez: In light of the decision on Senior Care that the City pays full up to the HIP benchmark? Shouldn’t we not have copays in-service?

Ronnie Almonte (missed): fair student funding task force update?

Michael Mulgrew: Thanks everyone who was involved in co-location fight. Eva Moscowitz was quiet for a few years, but is back now. We expected that with Adams coming in. We want to rescind the law that says we’ll give them free space (charters) and pay their rent. Our answer about raising the cap is simple – no. Want to know what the fiscals are. We want explusion policies – and dates (usually last week before November, we suspect). In terms of fair student funding task force, we said we weren’t necessarily agreeing to everything said there. City said they weren’t adding money in – said money had to come from somewhere else. In the end, it’s under mayoral control. State has increases in funding, but City has flat. That’s a big fight. City is actually running a surplus this year. We will have 10.6 billion dollars at end of next fiscal year. So this ‘cliff’ Adams says we’re going over, we don’t see where it is. Could there be a recession? Maybe. Overall, a city like New York is doing quite well. I agree with changes to add funds for students dealing with transitional funding. Breakage in SPED also an issue. Money comes per kid, but then only 3 kids have that IEP (can’t be funded). So that’s now part of the appeal process that can be changed – used to not be able.

On healthcare: unions negotiating contracts. It’s gonna get ugly. We don’t have a deal with Aetna. I don’t see it happening. The court case is an issue. They say we’re not responsible for HIP. What are you supposed to do if you haven’t done your home? We passed a reso without doing a fiscal. It took us 7 months to get the fiscal done if we did the NYHA. Showed that this would blow a massive hole in the state budget. Tax the rich? Fine with me, but not happening in Albany. So do we push for something we know is going to harm us? We’re not gonna have money put into education funding if they have to pour billions into a health act. We know we want it done federally. Here is the actual price tag? Maybe there should be clauses in resolutions? Also have to check things with AFT before can have some resos are made. When we pass resos before doing the homework and don’t add things like ‘pending…,’ that’s a problem. Healthcare costs have doubled in the last six years. City used to be good about this, but with costs where they are. Sick and tired of bad medical costs, but I don’t want us not to have the quality healthcare we do have. But it’s tough stuff when we’re talking about billions and billions of dollars. City’s position RE HIP we don’t agree with. Going to be a big point in this round of negotiation and then beyond. We have to decide how to increase HIP and GHI, but tricky situation. This one is gonna require some blowups.

Don’t diminish the great work of the charter fight. Yes, they’ll look at other locations, but this was big.

Reports from Districts:

Mary Vacarro: FSF, we didn’t agree with DOE. We all fought breakage and for an expected appeals process (August not after school starts). Money for SPED and other categories. Actual document that is going to be presented to CECs.

Name Missed: Trustees of Shanker scholarship took a vote. Students can now apply regardless of immigration status.

Janella Hinds: Deadline for academic high schools awards is Monday, Jan. 30. Please nominate!

Carl Cambria: Update on CAT trainings. They went awesome both in content and in turnout. We had 1200 people come and participate over three days. What’s incredible about that number. Of the people who registered, 90% of registered showed up. All of us organizers here, and we know that usually turnout for virtual events does not happen like that. We tapped into something here. K. Alford and R. Mantell had a conversation with our 500 member committee, sent out survey, and we had a lot of great ideas come in. The need to educate our membership was one of those ideas. That connection is at the heart of what these CAT teams are about – the relationship between action and negotiation. Amy Arundell, Brad Alter, Emily James (some others) were chief among people who helped make this happen. That’s not the final result – the final result is next Monday, Jan. 30, where we encourage all of those who participated. When a healthcare blowup happens, we need to make sure that membership is engaged and motivated – ready to spring into action.

Adam Shapiro Co-reporting with Ashley (last name missed): Promoting our event: going to a Met game. About 200 people went to that event. How do we make this event bigger and better? On May 30th we’re having Brooklyn Queens day with the Mets vs. the Phillies. Last event, tickets sold out in hours. Had to get more tickets. Then those sold out. Then more. Then more. In the end, 663 tickets sold.

Ilona Nanay: Teacher to Librarian (T2L) second certificate initiative: subsidizes over 80% of cost to become. Great opportunity, webinar on Jan 26 at 4:00 PM. http:/bit.ly/T2L2023webinar. Also see http:/bit.ly/2023T2L.

Amy Arundell: Proud of work done on an campaign against co-location of Success academy in DOE schools. Community reached out to UFT to help. Expanded. Mentions several key UFT staff members who helped, PEP. Schools all passed SLT resolutions against co-locations. Threat of Success Academy was mentioned not just for schools, communities, but to the borough. Hundreds of SLT resolutions attached to briefs against co-locations. This is what it’s all about. Of course we also lobbied, utilized UFT resources.

Mary Vacarro: In district 11, DR, rallied around 113. Huge amounts of people even in the pouring rain. Need to support the community around us, because it’s really powerful. We’ve pushed them back – but don’t think they aren’t coming elsewhere.

Seung Lee: District had some excellent gatherings which were great to discuss CAT conversations.

Special Order of Business (NYSUT Revolutions):

Mike Sill: rise in support of three resos.

  • One is on observance of a moment of silence for 9/11 at NYC schools. We passed a similar reso at the DA.
  • Reso for reducing turnover for our nurse siblings.
  • Reso on respect for Diwali, calling on recognition across state of that holiday (and how to make it work with their school calendars).
  • Reso on FEMLA: DOE had previously expanded FEMLA coverage to all UFT members. But there’s a technicality that makes the school year just too short for qualification. Off the clock provision, so presumption in law that teachers meet that 12,050 hours. DOE had extended that presumption to OTPT, Paras, then one day stopped. We’ve been able at the UFT. Resolution calls on all our state lobbing power to make sure that folks who work in schools, regardless of title, are covered by that law.

Motion carries.

Resolution to Keep GHI Premium Free:

Alex Jallot: Motivating resolution to keep GHI premium free and to make sure that union does the work to keep GHI premium free. GHI was formed was formed under Laguardia in 1937. It was meant to help working families to have a chance for healthcare and quality healthcare. Since that time we’ve been afforded. The spirit of this resolution is just that we will continue to fight to keep GHI premium free. It’s incumbent on us to be able to do that.

Resolution to Keep GHI Premium-Free

Whereas, GHI, which is by far the most popular health plan for in-service municipal employees, has been offered premium-free to UFT members for decades; and

Whereas, article 3G of the contract guarantees “a choice of health and hospital insurance coverage from among designated plans and the Board agrees to pay the full cost of such coverage; and

Whereas, healthcare is now negotiated between the City and the Municipal Labor Committee; and

Whereas,  the 1993 MLC and City letter of agreement mandates that any changes to healthcare be collectively bargained between the MLC and City; and

Whereas, in the short term, the addition of premiums would cause financial distress for members already dealing with record-high inflation rates, while in the long term, the addition of premiums would be remembered as one of the most damaging give-backs in UFT history; and

Whereas, in-service and retired members deserve sustained choice for access to quality premium-free healthcare on which they and their families depend; be it therefore

Resolved, that the UFT will use its power in the MLC to keep GHI premium free; and be it further

Resolved, that in the effort to preserve GHI coverage as premium-free, the UFT will not use any strategy that makes contractual concessions or reduces the healthcare quality of retirees and/or in-service members.

Geof Sorkin: I rise in opposition. I do believe that the intention behind this is misguided. I’m frustrated. For 50 years, we’ve had premium free coverage. Because of the efforts of the MLC, we’ve been fighting to continue for premium free coverage. That is our goal. This resolution pertains to both in-service members and retirees. Fails to acknowledge. Pandora’s box now open. This resolution would tie our hands from doing certain types of negotiations. Room is full of experts because of quick google searches. Vote this down.

Vincent Gaglione: Motion to table this motion.

Nick Bacon in line to speak but 2/3 vote carries to table motion, so debate ends.  

LeRoy Barr: Quandry. Know the intention was good. People think they’re doing the right thing. Then they write about it and say the UFT isn’t doing something about healthcare. This is dangerous. People don’t understand the moment we’re in. When we talk about the moment: hospitals are fleecing the working people. That’s the issue. We’re gonna go to war. Will you be there? So I appreciate the intent, but I don’t appreciate the spin. Feels like some people are spinning it for political gain at the expense of the membership. Appealing to you: I’m trying to help people, no intention to harm. Intended to help. Don’t make this political. You think we’re trying to hurt the members? Do you think we’re trying to hurt the members? We’re members too. You’re here, you’re leaders. Some people listen to us. The average member doesn’t know this stuff. Can’t burn the house down. We’re struggling to find an answer through this thing.  Respect ‘these guys’ right here (the high school executive board). But let’s think this stuff before?

Ronnie Almonte: Appreciate what you said and agree with it. But, this goes both ways. Would like to avoid ad hominem attacks – that what we do here is ‘theatre,’ that ‘we’re being political.’ Never called by name, whether it’s us or associates. If names were mentioned, maybe we could respond. But we’re here to work together and represent the high school members who voted us in. We’re organizers, some of us chapter leaders, but would like a little more benefit of the doubt. Feel some positivity, but not from all. If there’s feedback you want to give us, but nebulous critiques are ambiguous, and it feels directed to me. So I hope you do hit the streets. I hope we do have 1,000s. I think we can all agree that healthcare is a mess. We need to be united to win. Debate starts with having good intentions on both sides. We share the same spirit and thanks for allowing us to respond.

LeRoy Barr: Closes.

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5 Responses to “Healthcare and Charters: Exec Board, 1-23-2023”


  1. 1 kate connors January 23, 2023 at 10:55 pm

    We need to challenge the misinformation that Mulgrew is spewing about the New York Health Act. We would save billions if it were to be enacted. The studies are clear. Read more here:
    https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR2424.html

    • 2 baconuft January 31, 2023 at 6:33 am

      New Action hasn’t taken a position on NYHA, though some of our members are in broader labor working groups who are discussing it favorably. All caucuses in United for Change agreed to a platform that ultimately supports ‘singer payer healthcare’ in some form. However, since the UFT adopted a resolution in support of NYHA, UFT leadership has no business projecting that we do not support NYHA. They should put out a resolution in opposition to the bill if they want to change union policy voted on by the rank and file.

  2. 3 Craig February 7, 2023 at 3:40 pm

    I will be back in schools on Monday and I will be unvaccinated proving that these people that you’re a part of don’t know shit about science. Anyone who liked to ware a mask is discredited anybody who spoke that the vaccines are actually good is discredited. Your claim to be solidarity this and solidarity that yall are a bunch of jokers because their still teachers that were fired for bullshit reasons that you’re sitting on your assess not defending. Covid wasn’t even that serious they should be in the schools working with us. Stop with your bullshit politics Ronnie Almonte Janella Hines. You two wore masks you know shit about science. Dan Alicea you’re a herb. I actually wanted a vaccine Mandate for Covid you were fucking wrong apologize


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