Archive for February, 2023

Notes on the UFT February Delegate Assembly (2-15-2023)

Summary/Analysis The President’s report was similar to that given two days ago at the executive board. Same with the Secretary’s report. Still worth a look.

Questions: There were only three questions tonight (really two). Most of the time was eaten up by one question – really a planted statement from a chapter leader whose chapter was able to rid their school of an abusive principal. I applaud the chapter, but this is not a normal case. To that end, I question whether the far more common CL who wasn’t able to get rid of a principal despite similar organizing tactics would have been allowed to eat up 7 minutes of question time to tell their story without Mulgrew calling them out of order. Frankly, I think it’s irresponsible of UFT leadership to put forth propaganda that chapters can get rid of abusive principals and that the UFT will help them do it. The normal course of events is outlined here. There are far more casualties than victors in our union, and most victories turn out to be pyrrhic.

Resolutions: It’s amazing how many resolutions we can get through outside of an election year. When I walked into the DA, the materials table was covered with hundreds of copies of several resolutions. If this is the new normal, and resolutions written by opposition unionists are also allowed to be motivated,  I’m happy.

I motivated one of the few resolutions UFT Leadership has approved out of the UFC-elected High School Executive Board. The reso called for discontinuances and denials for probationary teachers in high schools to be limited to geographic districts. Currently, if we’re discontinued by a single principal, we can’t work under that license at another high school in the entire city, whereas elementary and middle school teachers are allowed to apply to schools in any other district. Mike Sill motivated the resolution with me and made some jokes about the irony – referencing this blog (which, apparently is now rated the 9th best teacher blog on the web, go figure). It was a good moment, though I wish it could happen with more HS resos, which are seeking for lots of progressive change and yet routinely being quashed.

The resolution about ending police violence was motivated in beautiful fashion by several speakers. No one from opposition amended it to talk more about getting police out of schools and fostering restorative justice programs. There had been talk of doing this, but the moment wasn’t right.

There were also good resolutions about solidarity with other unionists and a well-amended resolution on the fight to save libraries. Two resolutions were also motivated that will end up on next month’s agenda – one well written resolution on helping those affected by the recent earthquakes, and one good resolution on putting an end to standardized testing for elementary school students. I look forward to voting yes on those resolutions in the future.

Outside the DA: There were a number of people handing out leaflets, including supporters of the New York Health Act (NYHA), Retiree Advocate, and Unity Caucus. New Action was also handing out leaflets, which can be seen here.


President’s Report:

Contract: A lot of press on what’s going on with contracts. Teach-ins were a success. DC37 up first. Mayor is putting up 1.25% for raises – unacceptable. Pattern bargaining rules the day. We won’t set the pattern this time, so tomorrow’s action is important. All the unions work together in MLC. City is trying to do things that the MLC halted. Next step is to halt the other unions. Our subcommittees are working. The DOE is having some dysfunctional issues. They’re listening on us to some extent on things we need just to be able to do our jobs better. We want more money, we want healthcare. Then we want to be able to do our jobs. Can we at least get what we need to do our jobs? Stop wasting our time. Let’s do the work we have to do – it’s challenging enough – to help the children of this city. In the rest of the country, teachers get curriculum, trainings aligned to that curriculum. We don’t get either. We’ll start speeding up the subcommittees right after the break.

Federal: President says teachers deserve more money. Also said all career training should start in high school, not after…

State: Funding/Charters: want money in school systems but not given away to corporate charters. We’re going up to Albany. Budget fight is that we want the money in the schools. Coalition of AFL-CIO unions about stopping expansion of charters. We are for transparency with charters. Legislation needs to be overturned that says NYC and ONLY NYC must supply rent payments or school spaces (rent free) to charters. Mayor said this was an unfair unfunded mandate. He said the same thing about class size bill, which we corrected him on.

Mental Health: We support, but how do we get children-directed services done at our school. We need actual supports in our school. Already dealing with the DESA, which doesn’t serve any function despite all the work. This has to come down.

Tier 6: Working across the state. This is every public sector union’s problem in the state. Our goal is that no one ever actually retires under the original version of Tier 6. We’re working on it – a little ahead of schedule.

Yesterday, lobby day announcement went out. It’s clear in P-Weekly that this is the day to go. Buses, not virtual. Monday, March 13. That’s also a DA week.

Professional front: graduation requirements. Real possibility that State might do something other than the 5 Regents exams. Tough conversation. Some states made it easy to graduate; we kept our standards. There’s a balance. Testing out of control (3rd graders doing online testing!?) But actually would save districts a lot of money to reduce testing. Supposed to be PD on exam delivery with clear explanations. Not happening with most. DOE has claimed they’re checking the broadband in all of our schools. (laughter). We need support doing these exams.

Safety: Last week was one of our worst weeks. If there’s an incident in your school, CL gets a copy of OORS report number. The specifics won’t be there, but there are mechanisms for UFT making sure details match. Shootings out of control. Chancellor yesterday met with principals and superintendents – relationships with police commanders. I had a challenging school safety wise. If you have a principal who hides things, it blows up. Get us that info – we’ll share that info with the police department if there are real concerns. This isn’t just high school.

Budget: DOE is locking down budgets. If you need something, make sure to talk about adjustments now. Principals wanted rollover last year and DOE said no. We had a big fight. Don’t have to worry about a rollover if you spend it.

UFT: Memberhub is going nicely.

Early childhood fight. What was reported to us is these people did nothing and were disrespectful to principals. It turns out they were wrongly told they got a curriculum…. Applauds the teachers in early childhood fight.

First teacher center in DC37 school.

Secretary’s Report:

Black history film series continues. 20 Pearls is being shown in person in Manhattan, Queens, SI UFT offices. Can also do online. March 2nd there will also be an installment, Aftershock. March is also women’s history month.

Lunar New Year Banquet is Friday, March 10 (House of Joy, 6:00 PM – register in advance). See Seung Lee for details.

School counselor’s conference and Herstory celebration same day.

March 16: anniversary of founding of the UFT. There will be a resolution on that. 63rd birthday. That’s in line with teachers.

Holocaust conference on March 19.

Paraprofessional rewards luncheon on March 25 at Hilton. E. De Jesus will be key note speaker.

Danny Drum scholarship fund – please contribute. See Rashad Brown for info on donations.

Next DA is March 15. Enjoy Feb Break – brought to you by UFT.

Question Period

Chapter Leader MS 51 (D15): was a shining star school, highly ranked. We were a family. Fall of 2020, we had a shake up of administration. That led to many negative impacts. Safety was a problem. There were actions against unionists – including sending them wrongly to the Rubber Room. Birth of a movement came about. What started with a small group became a grassroots movement to save our school. As a CL, can’t stress how important it was to document everything. That’s the only way to prove ineffective leadership. Members had support of the union, which is why they felt they could do it. Votes of no confidence on March 8, 2022. Still wasn’t enough. Led by our DR, Nancy Armando and VP of MS, Rich Mantell, UFT Rep. Brad Alter, Anthony Valentino, and Mary Vacarro, we forged forward. We had flyers, tshirts, outreach to the neighborhood, but still nothing changed. There were retaliatory responses. Consultation was a problem. We persisted. Filed the largest union animus grievance in the history of the UFT. Was able to speak to Michael at a CL meeting. Morale was gone. We continued to file and document as much as we could, but there was no improvement. Finally, we saw our principal was absent. A new principal came in and there was instantly a change. Sharing this story to tell you that you are the union. Question: can you come to the school to help us continue to forge forward? (Mulgrew: yes).

Name missed: We just received a lot of asylum students. Big problems. What do we do?

Mulgrew: So frustrated. We did not get into the profession for this – we need to be able to help these kids. Last week, we had a school that just wanted food. Teachers were bringing in clothes for kids. None of this is being taken care of, not where the kids are every day. We all need to all write a letter and send it to higher ups like the President. We need support. No one is asking us what we need. Let’s write this letter.

Randi Boxer: We are suffering every single day in our school, lack of paras. Crisis of coverage. Every single day it’s a concern.

Mulgrew: DOE claims we have 11,000 substitutes in the pool. That’s absolutely not true. Becoming a crisis.

New Motions:

(Name Missed) For tonight’s agenda. Resolution in Support of the People of Turkey and Syria. Resolution in response to earthquake on Feb. 6, in which over 20,000 are expected to be casualties, along with many other terrible consequences. In solidarity with them, the AFT, NYSUT, and UFT will find out how we can assist those in need, and that we will seek monetary donations in our own UFT.

(Name Missed): Motion for next month. Resolution to call on the panel for educational policy to end high stakes standardized testing in grades 3-5.

Resolution on Ending Disproportionate Impact of High School Probationary Teachers. Nick Bacon motivates alongside Mike Sill. This reso was written by the UFT High School Executive Board and aims to make sure high school teachers aren’t completely terminated from the DOE when they are discontinued/denied tenure. They deserve a chance to work in other districts and boroughs, a right afforded to our peers in elementary and middle schools. Sill notes that many might be surprised he’s up there with Bacon, which goes against the ‘blog narrative,’ but this is a good reso. 98% vote in favor.

Resolution Supporting the National Union of Rail, Maritime & Transport Workers. Most excited about last resolved: the UFT educate our members on the labor struggles that face working people in this country and across the globe. We can build connections – points to teacher strikes in Woburn, to nurses, and to DC37 now. Excited to build these connections.

Resolution Supporting New York Public Libraries (motivated by Randi Boxer): Mayor threatening to close public libraries via budget cuts. We need to support the libraries.

Christina Gavin: Excited about resolution. Motion to amend (crowd-sourced). A few motions have to be made as the amendment is long and apparently out of order. But all motions pass. A few supporters from different caucuses speak in support.

Gabe Barry: Resolution Supporting KCVG Amazon Workers. Already union busting in their efforts, so we need to unify with them more than ever. Already, similar resolutions have been made by other unions. Mulgrew adds that AFT is on board and that UFT is now the main meeting hub for the Amazon union. 97% vote in favor.

Resolution in Support of Just, Respectful and Safe Public Safety Practices for All

Janella Hinds: Discusses tragic Tyre Nichols death and links it to statistics on massive numbers of people who have died, particularly people of color. I have been stopped many times. Every time I hear the siren my anxiety is off the charts. Because I could end up like the many who have been killed by police. Asking you to support this resolution so that we can have a society with true justice. Amy Arundel adds that we can have conversations around our schools. Important that some areas do and don’t trust police. So we need to discuss this and push for a better society. Let’s have these difficult conversations at our schools. Another speaker also speaks in favor (name missed). Tanesha Franks speaks in favor – had first incident with Rodney King, thought it was isolated, but it turns out police brutality is a historic issue that has been going on since the origin of policing. I continue to work to decrease police brutality. Eric Garner murdered in walking distance from my home. In conversations with NYPD, we’ve gotten to a better place. But this issue isn’t about bad apples, it’s systemic, began in 1619. Might be confusing that 5 black officers murdered Nichols, though non-black officers have also since been disciplined. This is an opportunity to look at education and how we create the understanding of our future citizens. We get to impart wisdom on the next generation. Law enforcement needs ongoing education on this. Police have high domestic violence rates, suicide rates. Hurt people hurt people. If you can hurt your own spouse, what will happen when you see a Black child that you’ve conditioned to think doesn’t matter? The largest local can impart change. Tired of being afraid. We need everyone to get on board. We don’t hate the police. Motion passes.


Police Violence and Charters – 2-13-2023 – UFT Executive Board Minutes

Summary: Both Unity and United for Change speakers discussed what we can do to win the charter schools fight. Ed Calamia spoke about the train derailment in Ohio and what we could do as a union to help. A moving resolution was passed on ending police violence. During the open mic, one member spoke on compensation issues for substitute teachers who take long term positions. A Manhattan CL spoke about the need to advocate for universal healthcare.

Analysis: No fights tonight. On the bright side, there was unity (little ‘u’) around many of the issues. On the negative side, there wasn’t much debate (with some notable exceptions).

  • We got a nice resolution on ending police violence. My minutes won’t do justice to the moving way in which it was motivated by speakers. Ilona Nanay (MORE/HS. Exec Board via UFC) did suggest that the resolution could have gone further  – especially in terms of pushing to remove police from schools and increase restorative justice programs. It’s worth noting that United for Change members of the executive board (such as Ilona) are often criticized by UFT leadership for pushing ‘political’ resolutions without first sending them to Unity (i.e. UFT leadership) for their pre-authorization. However, we are not given the same courtesy in return. Indeed, this is a resolution on which many of us would have liked to add our two cents.
  • With the exception of the CL of Fashion speaking on universal healthcare, nothing else was really said (just Mulgrew’s usual vague ‘fighting for premium free’ stuff). Mulgrew did not answer Nick Bacon and Daniel Alicea’s call to ‘show us the receipts’ on why UFT reversed the will of membership on fighting for NYHA.
  • The district reports often present very interesting information on future and previous events. However, they are almost entirely given by UFT staffers and make obvious a glaring issue with the executive board: very few members at the executive board are school-based. United for Change almost entirely ran school-based members, but Unity almost entirely ran staffers with patronage positions. Unity won all seats but the high schools. This sometimes makes the executive board feel like a staff meeting, and not a meeting of school-based unionists raising issues and addressing policy. District reports also drag on for quite a while and make us wonder why it was the question period (primarily used by school-based members) and not the reports (primarily given by well-paid staffers who barely work in schools) that was cut by Unity.
  • We got some answers on how membership might get involved in the Charter fight, though it’s still somewhat vague on how widespread the organizing will be. Charters do present an existential threat to public schools and unionized teaching, so it’s an opportunity for both opposition and leadership to work together on something for the good of all members. I hope we make good on this opportunity.


Moment of Silence: for a Chapter Leader and Pat Filomena, both who recently died. Rashad Brown speaks on Pat Filomena. She was on eboard and DR for years, union activist. Worked in D. 7, poorest congressional district in the US. Worked at one of first schools in community schools model. Chair of Italian American Committee. Close friend to me. Made me the unionist I am today.

Open Mic:

Tammy: Issues of concern for long-term substitute teachers filling in for long term vacancies. Not much information on UFT website. However, per diem substitutes are supposed should be paid like regular teachers. I don’t teach on occasion – I plan and teach every day. Can you give guidance on retro pay for substitute teachers in this position? Queens Borough Rep. agrees to speak with her after meeting.

CL of Fashion: Last week interesting things were said about healthcare. Mulgrew said the union would be busted because of budget issues. I’ve taught for a long time and question how many people have done the work. If teachers are made to pay for healthcare, I’m afraid they’ll leave. I don’t want to split with retirees. Benefits are what held me together when I saw my friends go away and make much more with the same education. Smarts are here – we do what was done in Queens against Charters and maybe we’d get universal healthcare. It would improve my working conditions if all my kids had glasses. Maybe it’s time that we dream and fight for universal healthcare.

Minutes approved.

LeRoy Barr: Black history month continues. Twenty Pearls next film on the agenda. School counselor conference coming up. Herstory celebration. March 13th – Lobby Day, Charter School Campaign.

President’s Report:

Proud to announce that we have opened a teacher center in a D79 transfer school. Cookie cutter stuff doesn’t work for D79 – in talks.

Fight is on charter schools in Albany. We have a whole plan. There’s a caucus weekend now. We’re going hard on the Gov. It’s us, the state union, parent groups, saying no, no, no, and no. Some legislation needs to be undone. We appreciate a lot of Hochul’s actions, but not on charter schools. Continue that campaign. Budget ends April 1st.

Contract: Believe bargaining will move forward. One big thing with CAT teams was supporting other unions. Hope is that pattern will be set in a couple weeks by DC37 or PBA. Only benefits us if they get a good contract. Mayor can say all he wants that we’re falling off a cliff, but it’s not true. We have record reserves and surpluses.

DOE – a lot of people coming and going. Presented demands from negotiating committee last Wednesday. Our demands are good. We want to be paid, secure our healthcare premium-free. But, we also just want to do our job – can you just do us a little help.  

Question Period:

Nick Bacon: Raises concerns about Charters coming into NYC. Thanks UFT leadership for successes with huge negotiating committee and CATs. Asks what can be done by members at the chapter/individual level – beyond the stuff happening at Albany.  Can we draw on our successes in contract organizing?

Janella Hinds: Asking UFT members to come and talk to politicians in districts where we will be directly affected.

Amy Arundel: Out of Charter school fight in Queens, building a coalition that will work beyond this moment. The war is a public relations war with people like Eva and maybe even in the DOE. So we need to be talking to communities.

Ed Calamia: What can we do in times of grave human suffering? Terrible train derailment in Ohio – highly toxic chemical leak. Would like to propose and ask – what can we do to raise awareness for this event?  This happens with ‘speed-ups.’ It’s a union issue. And how can we bring awareness?

LeRoy: will check with AFT.

Reports from Districts.

Seung Lee speaks on various successful events.

Rashad Brown speaks on the success of the Black History Film Series. This week is 20 Pearls. Pride Committee scholarship to be publicized soon.

Nancy Armando speaks on MS51, mentions that principal has finally been removed. Thanks members for working together. First teacher center opened in District 15.

Pat Christino speaks on new teacher center. Only one to operate after 3:00 PM.

Tom Murphy speaks on Chicago Mayoral primary. Janella Hinds mentions that charters represent an existential threat to our profession, as does technology. We had a conversation on this. This Thursday, Alzheimer’s event, virtually. Herstory is March 11 (in Queens), same day as school counselors conference. Keep your eyes pealed for news on our charter campaign. Will be kicked off at the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus event. We’re going to need all hands on deck.

(Name Missed): Brooklyn SRP event. Honored related professionals in Brooklyn. Another teacher center opened.

Joe Usatch: Al Shanker scholarship deadline increased to March 10. Financials better; immigration status no longer a factor.

Servia Silva: In East Harlem, CEC has already endorsed anti-charter resos. We need to talk to our legislators. We’ve already spoken to many of our reps.

Adam Shapiro: Mets game officially sold out. Button making event. There were over 60 members from the district there to donate labor. Labor seder is coming back. March 30.

George Geist: D. 30 teach-ins were amazing. A lot of people who weren’t traditionally union organizers came out.

Amy Arundel: Thursday, CAT teams should wear green and black in solidarity with DC37 who is organizing. Significant to have two largest labor unions in NY joining together in one action.

Resolution in Support of Just, Respectful and safe public safety practices for all.

Janella Hinds motivates. Aftermath of so much police violence, we need investigations, policy change, ongoing education and dialogue.

Tanesha Franks: Rise in support. What we are seeing in the most recent killing of another Black man. If we look at the systemic nature of this problem, you can have black police officers who get into a culture who believe that not all lives matter. This is not a matter of bad apples. This conversation is about systemic problems. If we don’t deal with it, there won’t be change. Numbers show something is going on. We prevent the next George Floyd by preventing the next Derek Chauvin. This only stops with education.

Ilona Nanay: Rises in support and would even ask that we go a step further. As we come to the end of the BLM week of action comes to a close, we think about police in schools as something that we want to fight for. We need to remove police officers from the schools and bring in restorative justice.

Amy Arundel: Stand in favor of resolution. Appreciate the way it’s written in a way that addresses that UFT members have police in families. But we need to talk about trust. There’s none where I am in East Harlem. This helps us think about things in terms of a systems instead of persons. Bring this back to your chapters.

Rashad Brown: Rodney King, we didn’t learn then. Floyd, we didn’t learn enough. Continuous attacks. Always nervous when police are behind me. Country was founded on racial issues and not over. Look what is happening in Florida. Erasing a whole history, are you serious? Urge you to vote for this.

Motion carries unanimously.

UFT vs. Charters: Could new NYC charter schools mean layoffs down the road?

Governor Hochul is reportedly preparing to alter the charter cap so that as many as 106+ new charter schools can be ‘built’ (really co-located) across New York City. Charter schools are an assault on public education even in ‘good’ times. But today, enrollment is down, hiring freezes are up, and the specter of layoffs looms. Allowing more charter schools to open today could ultimately threaten the very nature of teaching as a unionized profession in New York. 

Frozen and Broken Dreams 

Even with new class size legislation that should technically force the City to hire more educators, the loss of thousands of students from our rosters has led to an anxiety that layoffs might finally hit New York public schools for the first time in decades. While layoffs have so far been averted, at a minimum, the DOE has recently frozen hiring for many licenses. When hiring is frozen, that means newer teachers must look elsewhere to start their teaching careers. When that happens, younger teachers find that in order to teach in NYC, they must work at charters.

Source: Graph by Nick Bacon using data from NYSED.

Charters have notoriously low rates of unionization and no concept of tenure or due process. As a result, teachers who work in charters must put up with horrendous working conditions. It is therefore no surprise that charters have twice the teacher turnover of public schools. Indeed, at charters, great teachers–and developing but potentially great teachers–are churned out at a dangerous rate. Even if you don’t care at all about teachers being happy in their jobs, this should matter to you. Teacher experience is known to be one of the most important factors in teacher effectiveness. If Hochul greenlights the creation of more charters in NYC, she will effectively ensure that good teachers who would have worked until the age of 63 at DOE schools are instead churned out at 23 in charters. Does Hochul really want a part in replacing the current system with that of a revolving door of ‘teacher temps’ who never make it to the years where they would be most effective at educating NYC’s students?

The Specter of Layoffs

We haven’t had layoffs since the 70s. That isn’t to say that there haven’t been threats. As recently as 2020, Bill de Blasio formally threatened he might lay off City workers, including teachers, due to budgetary woes caused by the pandemic. Our budgetary situation is at least temporarily much better, and no formal threats are on the table. But, there have been hints. Mayor Adams’ willingness to cut budgets for schools despite new class-size legislation does not bode well. And, ambiguous comments made by people at the top have implied layoffs could very well be a thing someday if trends continue. 

In the context of declining enrollment, new charters could spark a specific form of layoff in which DOE teachers are terminated and forced to become teachers at non-unionized charters. Imagine getting hired at a public school, forming pedagogical relationships with your students, getting tenure, becoming involved in your UFT chapter, only to be laid off because too many of your potential students enrolled in a charter school that was heavily marketing themselves next door. Not only would you now be jobless; you’d also likely be forced to apply for a job at one of the very charters that cost you your job. You’d still be an NYC teacher, but now you’d have no union, no tenure, and no due process. Your life, in effect, would be turned upside down, just so a few people at the top of charter schools could make a buck. Make no mistake, this is an actual risk if we allow charters to expand in the context of declining enrollment.

The Fight Ahead: Utilizing Contract Action Teams to Fight Charter Expansion

Charters are inherently bad for New York City educators. However, the fight against them presents an opportunity for unified action. All UFT caucuses agree that charters are something we need to fight. Now, with Hochul looking to expand their role in our city, charters are presenting an existential threat to public education and unionized teaching in NYC. As discussed above, teachers in earlier stages of their careers, especially teachers with ‘less hard to staff’ licenses, are particularly at risk, because a charter expansion could mean they’re laid off from the DOE and forced to find jobs with Eva Moskowitz. That’s unacceptable. And it would inflict untold damage on our union.

Here’s an idea: Let’s build off the successes of our new-found ‘contract action teams’ and start brainstorming ways we can fight charters. Unlike with the contract, for which actions are currently seen to be limited because we are still in the ‘pleasant’ stage of negotiations, the fight against charters is imminent. The battle lines are already being drawn. What can our chapters do to start readying for the fight? How can UFT leadership help motivate and support our chapters to do that organizing? Whatever the answer is, it can’t be nothing. Too much is at stake. 

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February 2023