Archive for the 'UFT' Category

How Not to Fight the Friedrichs Case!

By Michael Shulman, Co-chair, New Action/UFT

By now most union members have heard of the Friedrichs case before the US Supreme Court. The threat is real and in the hands of this conservative court it is almost a given that the justices will rule against all unions and eliminate dues check-off . The drive behind this has nothing to do with the 10 teachers who brought this case forward. They are only tools in the hands of corporate forces that have set their sights on destroying unions and making our country union free.

Only an informed, mobilized labor force can impact on this decision. But in a move that is nothing short of incredulous, President Michael Mulgrew and the “leadership” of the UFT have chosen this exact moment to boot 27 UFT part-time organizers all retirees, from going into schools. The UFT Organizing Committee was a bipartisan effort, by New Action/UFT and then union president Randi Weingarten, brought about in 2004 to counter the Bloomberg attack on teachers and our union.

Things dramatically changed over the course of the past few years as New Action/UFT became increasingly critical of the union leadership over the teacher evaluation system. Mulgrew and Unity supported tying student standardized tests to teacher evaluations and New Action opposed it. Simply put, New Action’s principled opposition began to rankle Mulgrew/Unity. After the election of Mayor Bill de Blasio and the appointment of Carmen Farina the union, knowing the situation had changed dramatically, decided to work with the new Mayor (this was logical since we now faced a friendly Mayor). But then, without any pressure from the de Blasio administration, the UFT decided to drop the PINI campaign (Principals in Need of Improvement) against abusive administrators. New Action /UFT was indignant. By our calculations over 300 principals in the system fit this category. With mounting criticism from New Action/UFT, Unity decided to scuttle bipartisanship!

How does this relate to Friedrichs? As of October 2015 27 part-time organizers, consisting of Unity members, New Action/UFT, and independents, serving for years on the UFT organizing committee, were given the boot by Mulgrew and Unity Caucus (even though ironically 17 of them were Unity Caucus members themselves). How is that possible? Even Unity would not dare to let go only the New Action/UFT members serving as organizers. The others, including independents were axed without so much as a thank you for your service or an acknowledgment of their considerable achievements in building stronger chapters.. The result – over 220 schools serviced by this committee would not be receiving school visits to explain to members the stake we all have in fighting against the Friedrichs case and in informing our friends and families.

Short-sighted? Yes. Surprising? Guess not if we understand how Unity operates. If anything comes across clearly, we need a stronger, involved and activated union to counter this attack. But that only comes from informed, mobilized chapters. Despite the political blunder on the part of Mulgrew/Unity every member must stand together in solidarity and support the effort to collect dues should that be a consequence of the Friedrich case.

Michael is a former UFT, Vice President for Academic High Schools, a 36 year veteran of the classroom, a long time former Chapter Leader and Delegate, and current UFT Executive Board member. He intends to share his thoughts – about the past, about the present, and about the future, in this space.

Resolution on delinking testing from evaluation

New Action urges: delink teacher evaluation from test scores. Unity responds by not letting members vote.

The following resolution was presented by Jonathan Halabi (New Action) at the Monday, January 11 UFT Executive Board meeting. A representative from Unity moved to table (could be for future consideration, but usually this parliamentary procedure is used to kill a motion, but spares members their caucus on the board from voting No), and it was in fact tabled, on a caucus-line vote.

The speaker did not present a clear case (which we would otherwise report). In fact, the difference is that we asked to take a stand against using tests to rate teachers, but Unity only wants to delay using the tests, claiming against all evidence that it will be possible, four years down the road, to fairly rate teachers based on test scores. They want a pause (they have it), but they still favor rating teachers based on tests.

New Action continues to oppose rating teachers based on tests.

Resolution on delinking testing from evaluation

Whereas the US Department of Education’s Race to the Top forced states to adopt teacher evaluation schemes that included the use of student test scores, and

Whereas New York State adopted a new teacher evaluation scheme that incorporates student test scores, and

Whereas the test score component of a teacher’s evaluation is arbitrary, and varies more school to school than teacher to teacher, and New York State has refused to reveal how the test score component of evaluations are calculated, and in a decade of using such scores (including previous schemes) such schemes have shown no evidence that they can work, and

Whereas President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act into law, replacing No Child Left Behind and dropping the requirement that test scores be used in teacher evaluation, and

Whereas the New York State Board of Regents voted for a four year moratorium on using Common Core tests as part of teacher evaluation,

Therefore be it resolved that NYSUT opposes the use of test scores to evaluate teachers, and be it further

Resolved that NYSUT and its locals will use traditional media and social media to publicize this stance, and be it further

Resolved that NYSUT will communicate this opposition to all its locals across New York State, and to the AFT, and be it further

Resolved that NYSUT will use the period of the four year moratorium to lobby for a change in New York State Education law to remove student test scores from teacher evaluation in New York State.

The Fight to Divest Pension Funds – in the 80s Apartheid, today Fossil Fuels

(from the New Action leaflet distributed at the November 2015 UFT Delegate Assembly).
For a printable version click: November 2015 Leaflet back

The Fight to Divest Pension Funds
from Corporations Doing Business with The Republic of South Africa

In 1984-85 one of the predecessors to New Action/UFT the Teachers’ Action Caucus, initiated a postcard campaign directed at the UFT to urge our three Teacher Members on the Retirement Board to press for divestment of our pension funds from corporations doing business with the apartheid regime of South Africa. Although neither the union nor the three members alone could call for divestment, both could certainly have a major impact on convincing the Retirement Board to do so.


In January 1986, after six months of Unity Caucus refusing to seat Michael Shulman who had just been elected in May 1985 as V.P. for Academic High Schools, he took his seat. This only happened after Shulman and New Action agreed to a second election, which New Action won overwhelmingly. At Shulman’s first Ad Com meeting, President Sandra Feldman was confused by what divestment was. She asked Michael, “What are these postcards about?” It was some time later that the UFT came on board with the anti apartheid, divestment movement.

The study to divest pension funds took another two years, after which the UFT joined the rest of the labor movement.

The Fight to Divest Pension Funds from Fossil Fuel Companies and
other entities that Contribute to Climate Change

On this month’s Delegate Assembly agenda we have a resolution that calls for the teacher members of the Teachers’ Retirement Board to request a study to review strategies to divest from fossil fuel companies without putting members pensions or investments at risk. This is a responsible approach.

However, such a study should not be extended for an undue period of time. Certainly, we do not want to repeat the experience from the 1980s, when it took two years to study whether or not we could divest from South Africa – it was the right thing to do, and we were able to divest responsibly. In 2015, a few months should suffice. Climate change needs to be addressed today.

Jia Lee Endorsed Unanimously by New Action/UFT

(from the New Action leaflet distributed at the November 2015 UFT Delegate Assembly).
For a printable version click: Leaflet 2015 November

The New Action Executive Board gave a resounding approval to the candidacy of Jia Lee, Chapter Leader of the Earth School for UFT President. Jia has been a leader of the Opt-Out movement. She opposes Race to the Top. She is a staunch opponent of the Teacher Evaluation system, which ties standardized tests to teachers’ ratings.

MORE-New Action Election logo idea 2 (5) (2)In contrast to this forthright opposition, the UFT has called for incremental improvements to the disastrous teacher evaluation system. They have not stood up to support Opt-out. And why didn’t they stand up against Obama’s Race to the Top? When a New Action/UFT member of the UFT Executive Board asked, a leading Unity Caucus member responded, “We were pressured into it.”

Jia Lee does not accept this. She has also been outspoken in her rejection of charter schools and for smaller class sizes (something the Unity leadership has failed to fight for in contract talks. She has no interest in bargaining away our rights, or bowing to “pressure.”

For these and many other reasons New Action/UFT and the MORE Caucus have formed an electoral alliance in the upcoming citywide UFT elections. It is time for a new leadership! We must fight the charter school advocates, the deformers and stand 100% with the rank and file members of the UFT!

Renewal Schools – Some Questions

(from the New Action leaflet distributed at the October 2015 UFT Delegate Assembly).
For a printable version click: Leaflet 2015 October

This school year we have a new group of schools targeted for intervention. There are 94 Renewal Schools, mainly in poorer neighborhoods, chosen because of lower test scores.

The Renewal program calls for 1) transformation into a Community School, 2) creating extended learning time, 3) ensuring effective leadership and rigorous instruction, 4) performing needs assessments, and 5) “Bringing increased oversight and accountability including strict goals and clear consequences for schools that do not meet them.”

We understand the payments for extended time are being fixed. We have more questions:

  • What curricula are being used in Renewal Schools, and how is “teacher voice” being recognized in selecting and implementing them?
  • Some renewal schools are in shared buildings (“campuses.”) Is the scheduling flexible enough to work with the inherent challenges of sharing a building that was not designed to be shared?
  • Has Fariña assigned experienced, collaborative, successful administrators to the Renewal Schools? Some names stand out for lacking experience. Is this the exception, or the rule?
  • How does the UFT communicate with members in renewal schools?

Retroactive Pay and Fairness

(from the New Action leaflet distributed at the October 2015 UFT Delegate Assembly)
In a disheartening turn, after unusually harsh commentary by a teacher who is employed by the union,
the Unity leadership, followed by its caucus, voted en bloc against letting the delegates debate the issue.
For a printable version click: Leaflet 2015 October

Many members are happy to find the first lump sum payment from the 2014 contract in our checks. There are a flurry of questions – as is expected. When money is involved, we want to get it right.

The contract left out some groups of UFTers. People who have been discontinued are not entitled to the pay. Nor are people who resigned. Nor are people who left before age 55, waiting to retire when they turned 55. And people who died in service – their survivors are not entitled to the money they should have earned from 2009 – 2011. There is, unfortunately, nothing we can do to correct this unfairness.

But we can help another group. UFTers on maternity leave are not receiving the money due them this week. The City intends to pay them next round, in October 2017. There is a proposed resolution to get our folks the money they are due now. We urge you to vote to put this resolution on the agenda.

AFT Rushes to a Presidential Endorsement

(from the New Action leaflet distributed at the October 2015 UFT Delegate Assembly).
For a printable version click: Leaflet 2015 October

On July 11, 2015, the AFT was the first national union to endorse the candidacy of Hillary Clinton.

New Action believes UFT members want a presidential candidate who can defeat right wing Republicans. We also agree with AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka who urged national unions not to rush to an endorsement. “The field is wide open. There’s a lot of time for things to happen and issues to unfold.” New Action also asks, “Why the rush?” Many UFT members support Bernie Sanders. Wouldn’t a wait and see approach put us in a better place? Allow us to bargain with the candidate?

It would be interesting to see what a poll of UFT members would produce.

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