Budget Cuts, Migrants, and Air Conditioners – UFT Executive Board Meeting , 9/11/2023

Summary/Analysis: There were two major topics at tonight’s executive board meeting: the demonization of migrants to justify unnecessary budget cuts and the terrible state of air conditioning made all too obvious during last week’s heat wave. Mary Vacarro pointed out that much of the demonization of migrants when it comes to schools isn’t even true—there are lies insidiously circulating about unvaccinated migrant children. I motivated a resolution (full text here), written with 5 other members of the High School Executive Board, to condemn the mayor for his recent communications on migrants, fight the budget cuts he is justifying in their name, and commit to educating our students regardless of migration status. Unity reworded the resolution with softened language on the mayor, keeping most of the more important points, and presented their rewrite as an amendment, which I accepted. The resolution as amended passed unanimously, which I think is a good thing. The UFT needs to stand behind our students and their families – and we need to stand against budget cuts. Mike Schirtzer also co-authored a resolution with 6 members of the High School Executive Board to work to fix air conditioning in our schools (see bottom of this post). Leo Gordon motioned to table the resolution so it could be amended a bit, but there were several presentations about air conditioning to show that UFT officers and staffers are now thinking about the issue. The bottom line is we need functional air conditioners in every classroom, and we need to make sure they stay functional. Right now, we are much too far from that goal, despite promises from many politicians that all would be fixed by now. We are making strides in that direction, but need to make sure the 88 degree maximum floated by NYSUT is dropped significantly.

For more information, including a grievance report, and some notes on Teachers Choice (the final announcement is expected Friday), see below.

Unofficial Minutes.

Moment of silence for 9/11.

Minutes approved.


Michael Mulgrew: Saturday (Labor Day Parade) successful – large turnout. Good feeling whole day. Today, September 11th. We want to always remember. First executive board meeting since passing of George Altomare. Moment of silence.

First focus is 4 in a row for elementary schools and bus times. Getting crazy questions about time. No one is working additional time – comes out of existing time. DOE hasn’t given a lot of guidance to principals. Logs, no don’t need logs for PE – already part of electronic system if you’re using it. Principal can just go into the system and check. Expansion of virtual – small number of high schools. Thanks Janella, Leo, Sally-Ann – outreach to high schools. Goal is that each high school has virtual program going by Feb 1. The most popular SBOs inside of our contract. But, we are very creative people. Over 1,000 SBOs this year. A lot has to do with the 100 minutes, broken up. That’s popular.

Started survey – problems with heat. Not every high school is air conditioned. Remember two different mayors having press conferences about this – declared great successes. It is not. Trying different things. Had a bill signing here. One was the 2006 Workplace Violence Prevention Act, called out schools because boards didn’t want schools covered. We’ve been fighting ever since. They said SED already has SAVE – one of most useless legislation of all time; didn’t want to be under DOL. We want to be under DOL – much better protections in place. Governor signed law here. Who thought OSHA should apply everywhere but schools? No reason for it – pushing aggressively. There are 1,000s of air conditioners not installed because electrical systems haven’t been put in. Over 200 CLs responded to survey. 2500 classrooms – already have that data. Will see at end of this week. We will use that as part of strategy to fix.

Finally able to get 1 year temporary waiver for anyone with a bilingual certificate but aren’t currently working under that certificate. Probationary year waved for this year. We’re talking with DOE about what incentive package might look like. First time we’ve won that argument – because SED has always said ‘no you have to prove you can teach this subject.’ Old legislation. Many don’t get through tenure cycle. If you can demonstrate you can teach in a NYC school and have the coursework and mastery of subject base, should be incentivizing. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could go back and forth as needed?

First executive board. Priority is contract implementation. When silliness starts, we need to know about it immediately. Chancellor responsive to many of the issue. Chancellor says he likes the contract – so I said remind your principals they need to follow it. Surprises will happen – they do every year.

Hoping to have great school year this year. Contract is more than money. It’s better for all titles in this union if those words become the reality of the workplace.

Mary Vacarro: Something bothered me when we spoke about our asylum seeking students. One of the points of misinformation is that students don’t need vaccinations – not true. Students may not have all their vaccinations, but just like all other students, the rules have not been lessened. They get a certain number of days (30) after which they can be excluded if they don’t have the vaccinations. I have stopped with DOE officials myself, they are getting vaccinations. There is no changing of rules.

Mark Collins: Grievance update. First off, while working on contract, we also got union contract at the little red school house. Happy for our faculty there as well as the maintenance staff who we also represent. Precedential decisions:

Paras: A then-substitute para was alleged to have stolen PPE from the rec center. Working with the investigative department, found people working who testified about what was really going on. Para was cleared.

Another para was accused of giving a marijuana chocolate to a school-based friend. That person accused him of giving it to her. We called a great many witnesses who testified on behalf of para. Medical documentation showed burden of proof not met. Para reinstated with back pay.

Injury in the line of duty: Attacking causal factor, but in this case a teacher tripped and fell in a hallway. No dispute of that, but when she said it was a wet surface, they claimed it wasn’t wet. But we had overturned.

Arbitration win precedential at Aviation High School: Took about 11 months to get through courts, but the award was reaffirmed after DOE tried to vacate award.

Jennifer Long: Some context on air conditioning in schools. We do not have any City/State/Federal laws applying to schools. We do have upper limits, but they won’t help in this situation. These are requirements about how buildings are managed in the city – which requires 78 degrees throughout the summer. That’s the minimum. Anyone who has been in 78 knows that it’s very warm – hot. Energy usage. That said, NYSUT and the UFT has a longstanding bill we’ve been trying to push along for a long time. No traction. AC for All – narrow band of installing Acs in all buildings, has fulfilled promise of installing units in instructional spaces (not office spaces, not gyms, not cafeterias – even though instruction happens in many of these spaces). That central pot of money is now dried up (as of 2022). A lot of maintenance/installation – the price has shifted back to principals. No regulations there to put Acs in for principals and staff. HVACs running everywhere, can’t do it all. HVAC is the future!

Question Period:

Mike Schirtzer: Any update on Teachers Choice?

Mike Sill: Give you information without overpromising. DOE came to us at long last to tell us that the numbers they had were the same as last year, but that hasn’t been released yet, because we’re trying to extend teachers choice for the first time to paraprofessionals. We’re not there – trying. The cost has to be work to benefit. Expect numbers to be released by this Friday. Knock on wood.

Ronnie Almonte: New principal at school. Telling teachers to use same materials – alignment, alignment, alignment. Understand alignment to some extent, but some of us are questioning whether admin can dictate which books each teacher uses. Wondering if there’s room to push back – article 24 of the contract in particular.

Janella Hinds: Yes, professional conciliation is what I was thinking of. Looking forward to speaking with you about how we can start that process over at your school.

Luli Rodriguez: Heard from a number of substitute teachers – principal was not paying the right rate. Want to know the status and what actions will be put in place.

Mark Collins: Probably the most common grievance we have in the city – having substitute teachers being paid at the rate. Their entitlement to be paid at the higher rate is a function of several things – unique cases. Hope that if they are aware that they’ve been paid incorrectly. I can connect with you for the names affected and we can go from there.

George Geiss: Thank you for push for Acs. A few years ago did FOIL request – did not get info back. This is huge so thank you for that. Question about locked doors in buildings – update on that?

Jennifer Long: As far as we know, they’ve been installed in 35 schools throughout the summer. Intent was to do it over the summer, realistically most not. Not much to say – only 35 buildings. Issues with installation (asbestos, etc). Delays.

Ilona Nanay: Question around healthcare. Changes to premiums – something about HIP no longer being an option for new teachers. What’s going to happen?

Joe Usatch: The HIP mandate sunsetted on June 30th. So new employees don’t have to take it anymore – that’s a good thing. As of now, GHI and HIP remain premium free. No talk at this point. Negotiated acquisition is still happening. Not a party to it, so can’t speak to it, but know it’s going on. MAP is on appeal pending the appeal from Aetna. But at this point, there are new premiums being put on HIP and GHI. Two times a year, typically, the City—usually in Jan and July—rates change for city health plans. So, as in-service, have 10 to choose from. Over 90 percent teach GHI or HIP, because they’re premium free. The other plans that are there—pre-medicare retirees often use if go somewhere without coverage—a notice comes out to show increases. Yes, there have been increases in each of those plans. One of the reasons HIP and GHI remain premium free is because so many are in them. Controlling costs in the other 8 is harder, with fewer in them.

Lisa H: Posting today at my school. Called because I didn’t understand what the position was. She said the IEP teacher position no longer exists. Was told to post the Special Ed Intervention teacher.

Mary Jo Genese: Yeah, the name changed, but the duties are the same. Should have been posted – really came out really late in June.

Reports from Districts:

Janella Hinds: Hot labor summer, hot labor parade this summer. Thanks many. All sorts of unions – entertainment, healthcare, education, etc. Proud to stand with all of you on Saturday.

Mike Schirtzer: Great website sponsored by UFT called Students of NYC. Some of my students are featured. Encourage you to encourage you to encourage your students. Read one of my students – Emily – will make you cry. Queens UFT held a Union Day. Great to bring my son to a family union event.

DeShana Barker: UFT Family Day amazing event, over 1,000 at complex. Hopefully next year bigger and better.

Aqeel Williams: Dealing with the hot school stuff. Happy to report that press office worked with Highbridge Green MS in District 9 with parents and students. CBS News did a report, aired many times. Happy to see UFT doing things proactively. Almost inhumane some of the temperatures in the classrooms. One school, HVAC school, even backup system not working. Hoping to do a report on that school too – inhumane.

Elizabeth Espert: Last Wednesday, town hall and community conversation. Question on the table was for newcomers – children come first.

Rashad Brown: Advocacy for LGBTQ rights. Last weekend in June is Pride Weekend – this room was full of people across the state. Gave scholarships to high school seniors. Marched.

Joe Usatch: Brand new teachers have 30 days to enroll in a City health plan. Go to NYCAPS and enroll. Current in-service members and retirees have an open enrollment period in November – changes to take place Jan 1st. Welfare fund completed that chart – up on websites. If anyone enrolled in the wrong version of GHI or HIP – send over to us and we’ll try to get you out of it and into the premium free plans.

Lamar Hughes: Date now, Jan. 27th, 2024, D. 25 as a whole, having a hockey night. You’re all invited. It’s also chapter leader training – will be there to do what I have to do. Islanders requisitioned us section, 1/3 of seats already taken. Also, shout out to D25, canvassing for an election, even in torrential storm, showed up minus one.

Ariel Arroyo: Brooklyn, in August had presentations for CLs, many meetings from UFT staffers. Left with info to do school year right.

Victoria Lee: We have 2,000+ members ready to join the retired teacher staff. So far a decline in retirement from last year. Also, number count for each tier is changing. Tier 1 has 17 members working across the City. Tier 2, 4 members. Tier 3, 88 members. Tier 4, 55,417. Tier 6: 55,717. We look forward to seeing what members do in 2024.

Karen Alford: Janella mentioned a ‘hot labor summer.’ New Teacher Week – mass of folks, turning new hires into new members. 2,000 showed up – got cards for 1,600 – then 300 or so online. We’re missing some – so when you go back to your schools, make sure you’re getting teachers enrolled in the union.

Faiza Khalid: District 5, family literacy fair at PS154 in Harlem. If you could pitch in to help. I’ll send out an email.

Vanecia Wilson: New Political director. Governor here last Wednesday to sign two pieces of legislation. One on workplace violence in schools; other one to guide schools to attract underrepresented folks to our profession–make more diverse and retain. Thanks members for canvassing. Person we’ve endorsed is Sam Berger. I won’t tell you what to do. If you’re available to leaflet before or after contractual hours, you can do so, and see Lamar. Motion will come forth – you’ll hear Susan Zhuang who won on primary day for the new district (43rd). So consider that – important we elect our allies, who we can hold accountable, because we’ll hold them accountable.

Passes unanimously.

Special Orders of Business:

Tom Murphy: Resolution to participate in the NYC Climate March. Sunday, September 17th. Relatively new teacher, first Earth Day, leading extracurricular students around Tottenville HS. Started in to talk about environment and climate control. Come a long way with positives, but have a long way. When I was a kid in 1950s, working class people used to swim in Staten Island. My father would check the wind to see if the junk was blowing our way or Brooklyn. Now NY Harbor is cleanest it’s been in many years. Big part is fossil fules. Appealing to retirees, but also inservice folks. Ask you to support.

Liz Perez – Resolution: to Endorse Susan Zhuang.Liz Perez: motivates, will advocate for labor and education – act in the best interest of members – City Council District 43.

Ronnie Almonte: Rises against. I live in this district, Sunset Park. Spoke to need to stand with asylum speakers. I live 2 blocks from the rec center hosting over 100 asylum speakers. There were two protests there – one a republican, and one Susan Zhuang, and I think she pitted against asylum speakers ‘we don’t know who they are, may be a risk to the student.’ I expect people may say no litmus test, but this is a disgusting. Rise against. (See here for an example).

Liz Perez: Susan Zhuang is herself an immigrant, services a community of immigrant. I still think we should endorse her, and I’ll definitely follow up about this comment.

Passes with some nays from the High School Executive Board.

Nick Bacon: Resolution in Support of Migrant Students – This is a city of migrants and we UFT members are proud to teach all of our students. The recent press demonizing migrants and using them to justify absurdly draconian budget cuts is unfathomable. We should not be getting right-wing campaign messages sent to our City email accounts. We should not be seeing a Mayor tell the City that the reason we’re going to feel the ‘hurt’ is because of migrants—many of whom we teach day to day. What kind of risk does it put our students and their families in when the Mayor tells us the reason our programs are cut, or the reason our friend loses their contract or job with the city, or the reason we don’t have the resources to do our jobs, is because of migrants? Moreover, how can we let a Mayor justify draconian cuts – 3 installments of 5 percent – at a time when we need to be expanding services? We have some of the wealthiest corporations in the world in New York City making record profits. In that context, why on earth are we talking about budget cuts? Why is that the first place we go? I urge you to support this resolution. We need to fight the budget cuts, we need to condemn mayor Adams, and we need to say loudly and proudly that we are proud to teach all our students regardless of migration status.

Resolution is here:

 Resolution in Support of Migrant Families

Whereas, New York City is a city of migrants, and it is the duty of UFT members to educate all children who live here. 

Whereas, Mayor Adams sent out contemptible communications to employees and residents demonizing undocumented migrants by justifying needless budget cuts in their name.

Whereas, our educational system needs investments right now, and budget cuts in their stead would result in severe educational disruptions for our students. 

Whereas, justifying service disruptions by publicly blaming migrants puts our migrant students and their families at risk. 

Be it resolved that the UFT will publicly denounce Mayor Adams’s demonization of our students and their families. 

Be it resolved that the UFT will fight the unnecessary budget cuts that Adams is making by scapegoating migrant families. 

Be it resolved that the UFT will affirm that we are proud to serve all students in this city, regardless of migration status. 

Signed by:

Ronnie Almonte, Nick Bacon, Ed Calamia, Alex Jallot, Ibeth Mejia, Luli Rodriguez

Mike Sill: Resolution to amend. Agree with a lot of what Nick said – corporations, maybe even extra space with vacant. Amend with language that focuses less on the mayor. But we need to fight the practice more than the person.

Amended language:

Whereas, New York City is a city of migrants, and it is the duty of the DOE to educate all children who live here, and

Whereas, Mayor Adams sent out communications to employees and residents citing the growing cost of the migrant crisis to justify needless budget cuts, and

Whereas, our educational system needs investments right now, and budget cuts in their stead would result in severe educational disruptions for our students, and

Whereas, justifying service disruptions by publicly blaming the migrant crisis for budget cuts puts our migrant students and their families at risk, therefore

Be it resolved that the UFT will fight the unnecessary budget cuts and reaffirm that we are proud to serve all the students in this city regardless of migration status.

Nick Bacon: I really wanted to condemn the mayor, but this resolution keeps the parts that matter most – the parts that affect us fighting the budget cuts and supporting our kids. I support the amended version.

Janella Hinds: Speak in favor of this resolution – this keeps at the forefront. Ask for your support.

Michael Friedman: Speak in favor of this resolution. Practically all of my students are immigrants – much like my own family. Good for this city. And Nick, it does still condemn the mayor a bit!

Passes unanimously as amended.

Mike Schirtzer: Resolution Calling for ACs in all schools. Was here when Carranza promised. Reads last two resolveds. Full reso with signatures here:

Whereas New York City’s public schools and the children we serve faced an unprecedented heatwave to begin their 2023-2024 school year;

Whereas extended heatwaves and rising temperatures are now a fact all across the world and scientists expect temperatures to continue to rise;

Whereas neither students nor our faculty should be expected to learn or work in buildings that are over 72 degrees, which can be dangerous in particular for women who are pregnant, as well as for students and educators with certain medical conditions; 

Whereas, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) “recommends temperature control in the range of 68-76° F and humidity control in the range of 20%-60%.”

Whereas it is known by everyone that temperatures are rising, yet neither the Mayor of the City of New York, nor the chancellor, nor the various agencies in charge of the wellbeing of our children, had a plan in place to address these problems;

Be it resolved that the United Federation of Teachers publicly condemns the poor response by the Mayor, Chancellor, elected leaders and agencies for failing to plan for and protect our children and make a safe learning environment;

Be it further resolved that the UFT demands that our elected officials, city agencies and their leaders immediately install air conditioners in every building, seek to fully maintain existing ones, and retrofit those buildings as needed to ensure all children have the safe and comfortable schools they deserve.

Officially signed: Alex Jallot, Ronnie Almonte, Nick Bacon, Mike Schirtzer, Luli Rodriguez, Ed Calamia, Ibeth Mejia

Leo Gordon: Motion to table this resolution until next week so we can make sure some issues are corrected.

Motion to table carries.

Unofficial minutes taken / analysis written by Nick Bacon.

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