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Notes from November DA – UFC High School Executive Board Authors first Resolution with UFT Leadership

This was a fairly straight forward DA. Opposition got in a good question on healthcare–raised by a MORE Chapter Leader–but of course weren’t called on to do our healthcare resolution. The full minutes are here. What stands out is that, while UFC and Unity would probably never collaborate on a healthcare resolution, we were able to collaborate on a resolution about something else – the terrible incident involving alleged human trafficking of teachers from the Dominican Republic by a group of DOE administrators. We need to make sure this never happens again.

See the text below, written in collaboration with the UFC ‘7’ (Ronnie Almonte (MORE), Nick Bacon (New Action), Lydia Howrilka (Solidarity), Alex Jallot (MORE), Ibeth Mejia (ICE/Solidarity), and Ilona Nanay (MORE)) and UFT leadership, including Janella Hinds (VP of Academic High Schools and therefore Unity). The resolution was motivated wonderfully by Ronnie Almonte, who was joined by Janella.

Supporting Newly Arrived Educators Exploited by DOE Administrators

Whereas, the New York City Department of Education (DOE) in partnership with other organizations to recruited twenty-five teachers from the Dominican Republic to come teach in New York City, and;

Whereas the DOE has recruited international teachers before, and has included the United Federation of Teachers in the induction process, but this time excluded the UFT from the induction process, and;

Whereas, multiple agencies are investigating whether these teachers were coerced to pay exorbitant rents to live in substandard housing, allegedly under threat of deportation from the very administrators who recruited them, and;

Whereas, at least one of these administrators was also the principal who many of these teachers reported to, giving him abusive power over every aspect of their employment and shelter in New York City, and;

Whereas, these teachers uprooted their lives to provide our students with bilingual instruction, and

Whereas the DOE did not assign the twenty-five teachers from the Dominican Republic in an equitable way, where they were most needed, and; 

Whereas, it has been reported that the DOE assigned the teachers as substitutes and is paying them as substitutes, while the teachers are teaching regular programs, and; 

Whereas the United Federation of Teachers represents all teachers working for the DOE, and is appalled by the way these 25 teachers have been treated, be it therefore

RESOLVED that the UFT will work with the AFT to support these members regarding their employment visas and other areas of support, and be it further

RESOLVED that UFT will monitor this initiative and any future program developed to recruit international teachers will do so in a way that ensures full pay and benefits, and services including but not limited to: immigration assistance, support in securing affordable housing, as well as mental and emotional health supports, and be it further

RESOLVED that the UFT will fight to ensure the DOE understands that these 25 teachers are entitled to and covered by the same rights and protections of all current UFT members.

In the end, this resolution passed overwhelmingly to go on next month’s agenda.

See below to see the literature passed out by New Action at this delegate assembly:

New Action/UFT

a caucus of the United Federation of Teachers

615 77th Street, Brooklyn, New York 11209

November 2022

Dear UFT Chapter Leader and Delegate,

Not long ago, the Municipal Labor Committee met in secret to make changes to our health care coverage for retirees in the City of New York. In exchange for salary increases in 2014 and 2018 the MLC agreed to find $600 million in savings for the City annually starting in 2021.They planned to switch Traditional Medicare to Medicare Advantage. First it was retirees and now it is also targeting in-service members (threatening to impose a $1,500 per year increase). For two years UFT President Michael Mulgrew has been trying to force us onto an inferior plan under the guise of wanting to provide us with more healthcare choices.

This plan would be administered by Anthem and Empire Health. Perhaps, the MLC could have consulted with various union members, including retirees, before planning for this program. THEY NEVER BOTHERED. The MLC did whatever they pleased. Union democracy be damned.

 Then Michael Mulgrew, and others tried to sell this “New and Improved ” Health Plan, as the greatest thing since the invention of the wheel. Retirees did not buy this new plan. Over 65,000 retirees opted out. Anyone that has read the numerous articles about a Medicare Advantage Plan realizes that this plan will bring great profit to the companies involved and inferior services to members.

As you may also know, a lawsuit was filed by the NYC Organization of Public Service Employees on behalf of the 250,000 retirees that worked for the City of New York. The first part of this lawsuit was won. But, this is only round one. The City of New York has filed an appeal to overturn this decision.

Many retirees in CROC, Retiree Advocate, and New Action, to name a few, took the lead fighting this attempt by rallying at City Hall, marching, and demonstrating at UFT headquarters.

At this point in time, our UFT President is saying that the only way to get a raise is to reduce healthcare costs, and the only way to reduce those costs is to change Administrative Code 12-126, the law that protects the guaranteed healthcare of both retirees and in-service members. Will the in-service employees be targeted along with retirees? Definitely! Will they be railroaded into a managed health care plan? If this section is changed, it will have a negative impact on our health insurance. We cannot let this happen!

Our voices must be heard loud and clear. A change in Admin. Code 12-126 will destroy the health care for thousands of present and future retirees, and in-service members.

President Mulgrew’s recent email is telling UFT members to urge their local politicians to change Admin Code 12-126, the law currently protecting our healthcare.  Don’t do that!  Clear and comprehensive information about healthcare, not just “spin” must first be shared with all UFT members, and we ALL need time to review the information and discuss how we want to move forward as a union.  In the meantime, here is what you can do to protect your family’s healthcare:  

1. Call and/or contact your City Council Member and tell them, “I am a public educator in NYC.  I need my family’s health care to be better, not worse!  Do not change Admin Code 12-126!  Here is a link to the contact info for NYC City Council Members: https://council.nyc.gov/districts/

2. Contact UFT President Michael Mulgrew at: mmulgrew@uft.org, and tell him why it is so important for us to fight for healthcare gains, not healthcare givebacks!  

3. Share this with friends in other schools.

Support the UFC Resolution to Fund Health Care with New Taxes on       

                                       Millionaires and Billionaires


New Action/UFT calls upon all Chapter Leaders and Delegates to vote for today’s resolution on healthcare, if it makes it to the floor. For all of the “Whereas”  points that go along with this resolution refer to the entire document that is handed out today or visit newaction.org. What follows is the entire “Resolved” section.

Therefore, be it Resolved, that the UFT now stands in opposition to revising Administrative Code 12-126, and urges the MLC to follow suit, and be it further 

Resolved, that the UFT in collaboration with NYSUT will look for fair funding sources to help the City meet its health care obligations to its employees and retired employees without reducing the quality or quantity of medical service, and be it further

Resolved that the UFT consider sources including, but not limited to:  a progressive income tax for those with incomes over $5 million; restoration of the Stock Transfer Tax which could gain over to $12 billion of income to the state, or tax on the wealth of billionaires, or closing the carried interest loophole, or a pied-à-terre tax on luxury second homes in New York City, or implementing an inheritance tax on the highest 1% of inheritances, or repealing the corporate profit tax breaks implemented by President Trump within New York State and restoring pre-2017 percentages, or eliminating rebates for taxes on stock buybacks, or repealing tax exemptions on luxury goods such as private planes and yachts, or eliminate city property tax breaks for real estate billionaires, and be it further

Resolved that the UFT will take the lead urging the MLC to wage a full-scale campaign to push the City and/or State to institute or restore these revenue sources, which could be used to secure the continued stability of our members’ and retiree’s healthcare.

New Action/UFT Deplores the Abusive Treatment of Teachers from the Dominican Republic

A news source reported that “bilingual teachers brought from the Dominican Republic to work in New York City public schools have been treated like indentured servants by educators acting as their slumlords” (New York Post, Nov.14, 2022).

According to the article, “Bronx principal Emmanuel Polanco and a group of fellow Department of Education administrators have put nearly a dozen teachers recruited from the DR in an apparently illegal boarding house in The Bronx — and charge the instructors $1,450 each month for the privilege, multiple sources say.”

There was also an implied threat to have the Dominican teachers deported. This outrage must not only be condemned by our UFT but the administrators responsible for this scandal must face severe consequences. Any abuse of a  member by an administrator is unacceptable. New Action/UFT declares that our union must do all it can to support and protect our colleagues.

Labor donated                                                                                                                    Labor donated

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Executive Session Inexplicably Called Tonight

Tonight, 11-7-22, we are being told that it may be an executive session for the UFT executive board meeting. We have not been told why or been given any notice. This means that no observers will be allowed. We will try to present some regular non-session business tonight including the bottom two resos. Otherwise, we will be unable to present minutes tonight.

Update: we were eventually taken out of session and into a regular meeting. Because session ran so long, we opted to wait until next meeting to raise our resos.

Resolution on Abusive Administrators

Whereas, hundreds of DOE administrators have been flagged by UFT members as abusive for creating toxic workplaces, taking liberties with the contract, and/or targeting teacher unionists. 

Whereas, abusive principals can destroy the careers of both tenured and probationary teachers, and in the case of probationary teachers, can do so for “any or no reason.”

Whereas, UFT Leadership does not have the power to hire, fire, or discipline administrators, but does have the power to act on our behalf by petitioning the State for increased legal protections, negotiating with the City for increased contractual protections, addressing the Chancellor during consultation on behalf of affected chapters, and, if necessary, by organizing the broader membership in solidarity.

Whereas, for several years, the UFT had a multi-caucus committee dealing with principals in need of improvement (PINI), only to needlessly disband it in 2016 without any ‘successor’ program. 

Whereas, as a result, the UFT has no dedicated formal mechanism for identifying and pressing for the removal, transfer, or remediation of abusive administrators. 

Whereas, a lack of systematic response by UFT to abusive administrators damages member morale, and signals to problematic administrators that they are immune from consequences.

Whereas, in the wake of the Janus decision, failure to address abusive administrators can lead our members to lose faith in the union, putting our local at risk.  

Resolved, that the UFT will work to amend State law to give probationary teachers more protections so that teachers and other staff are not subjected to arbitrary and capricious actions, and be it further

Resolved, that the UFT will work to increase protections and resources against workplace bullying of our members by principals, drawing on recent legislation such as Senate Bill S3395A:  the New York State Healthy Workplace Bill. And be it further

Resolved, that the UFT will work in negotiations to strengthen the UFT contract to afford more protections for both probationary and tenured UFT members, and be it further

Resolved, that the UFT will  highlight the problems of abusive administrators, through membership involvement, various forms of social media, publications, etc., and be it further

Resolved, that the UFT will employ a multifaceted campaign to end the reign of terror of abusive administrators. This campaign will include the many tools and approaches that have previously been passed at Delegate Assemblies including: taking all legal remedies, establishing “swat teams” to go into schools with a history of abuse, assigning key UFT personnel to monitor and regularly visit said schools, organizing campaigns within and outside these schools to modify the behavior of abusive administrators and if necessary to remove them from their schools. And be it further

Resolved, that the UFT will re-establish a multi-caucus Principals in Need of Improvement (PINI) committee to oversee this process. 

Interim Resolution to Address the Rising Cost of Health Care

Whereas health costs have continued to rise, and 

Whereas, the Municipal Labor Committee, including our own United Federation of Teachers (UFT), agreed to find over $600 million in savings to the City in exchange for past salary increases, and

Whereas, the Mayor and the Municipal Labor Committee(of which the United Federation of Teachers is one of the largest parts) proposed a plan to move retirees to a privatized Medicare Advantage plan, and 

Whereas the proposal to move retirees to Medicare Advantage has caused extreme consternation and anxiety for the 250,000 NYC public service retirees (including UFT retirees) potentially affected due to fears that “cost savings” would be accomplished by reducing access to providers and procedures, and overall diminishing the quality and quantity of health care they would receive, and

Whereas 65,000 retirees were so concerned they opted out of the new plan, and

Whereas, Judge Lyle Frank ruled on March 2, 2022 that the plan could not go forward as presented, as it violated the City’s Administrative Code 12-126, and

Whereas the Mayor and the Municipal Labor Committee agreed to lobby the city council to amend the City’s Administrative Code 12-126 to allow their Medicare Advantage plan to go forward, and

Whereas the proposed amendment to the Code would eliminate the current benchmark, opening the door to changes that could hurt both in-service and retired members, and 

Whereas changing the Code would empower the city to push to downgrade healthcare quality and access in future negotiations, potentially increasing the financial burden and health risk for the city’s entire workforce, which is two-thirds people of color and earn incomes on average much lower than most UFT members, and

Whereas the MLC as representative of over 100 municipal unions should advocate for better funding for health care that does not cause union members, including UFT in-service members and retirees, grave concerns, and

Whereas the UFT and New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) have a long track record of supporting budget fairness in New York City and New York State, such as NYSUT’s recent #FundOurFutureNY campaign.

Therefore, be it Resolved, that the UFT now stands in opposition to revising Administrative Code 12-126, and urges the MLC to follow suit, and be it further 

Resolved, that the UFT in collaboration with NYSUT will look for fair funding sources to help the City meet its health care obligations to its employees and retired employees without reducing the quality or quantity of medical service, and 

Be it further resolved that the UFT consider sources including, but not limited to:  a progressive income tax for those with incomes over $5 million; restoration of the Stock Transfer Tax which could gain over to $12 billion of income to the state, or tax on the wealth of billionaires, or closing the carried interest loophole, or a pied-à-terre tax on luxury second homes in New York City, or implementing an inheritance tax on the highest 1% of inheritances, or repealing the corporate profit tax breaks implemented by President Trump within New York State and restoring pre-2017 percentages, or eliminating rebates for taxes on stock buybacks, or repealing tax exemptions on luxury goods such as private planes and yachts, or eliminate city property tax breaks for real estate billionaires and 

Be it further resolved that the UFT will take the lead urging the MLC to wage a full-scale campaign to push the City and/or State to institute or restore these revenue sources, which could be used to secure the continued stability of our members’ and retiree’s healthcare.

Signed by: Ronnie Almonte, Nick Bacon, Ed Calamia, Lydia Howrilka, Alex Jallot, Ibeth Mejia, Ilona Nanay

Are one-time raises more important than healthcare?

There’s been a lot of debate about healthcare over the last several weeks, with opposition unionists writing some brilliant pieces. Fellow executive board member Ronnie Almonte (MORE) wrote probably the best summary of the UFT’s healthcare debacle, while James Eterno (ICE) has written compelling pieces that expose the holes in Michael Mulgrew’s argument that we ‘must’ change administrative code 12-126. (The reality is that code protects both in-service members and retirees and changing it opens up a pandora’s box of health care givebacks that may never end once we start). Jonathan Halabi has written several good pieces over the last few weeks which demonstrate what Mulgrew’s healthcare ‘savings’ actually look like for members. (Hint: we aren’t the ones saving money when copays go up). And former Unity-candidate Arthur Goldstein has written several good pieces on the abysmal situation we’re in, as UFT tells us essentially that we must organize to ‘surrender’ on healthcare (and what that might mean for us on contract). You can also check out notes on the debates that have happened on healthcare between Unity and UFC executive board members here and here, or see Norm Scott’s chronicling of actions by retirees here.

A lot of the UFT-policy wonks who read those blogs (and this one) are probably already familiar with most of the articles above. But, everyday members who don’t read the opposition blogs are also getting fired up on healthcare. The biggest question I’ve been getting from teachers, paraprofessionals, and related service professionals over the last few weeks is ‘why are we prioritizing raises over healthcare?’ One of the reasons people choose civil service over the private sector is because of the benefits, not the pay. Public school educators want stable access to high quality premium free healthcare and the knowledge that they’ll continue to receive such care once they retire. So why weren’t we asked if we’d prefer one-time raises or healthcare? Many of us are terrified about what it means that we are opening the pandora’s box to lose the security inscribed in administrative code 12-126 – that we might lose the right to traditional Medicare or to the HIP benchmark (and corresponding premium-free access to GHI). Mulgrew never asked us. He just went for our healthcare.

I presented a resolution that on contentious issues like healthcare, UFT should allow the 7 UFC executive board members to give a minority report, so that members could see multiple perspectives. Unity shot that resolution down of course, then shocked even the opposition by reducing the question period from unlimited to 15 minutes. Closing off the membership from knowing multiple perspectives about healthcare or from being able to ask questions on what’s going on is just bad unionism. Members are scared right now and want answers, not emails from Mulgrew or texts from ‘Rachel,’ paid for by our own union dues, that demand we go to the City Council to ask for our healthcare protections to be ‘amended.’ Before the UFT organizes members to go after their own healthcare in exchange for one-time raises, don’t you think they should ask the members first? Maybe also give them the full scope of the issue, and let them make the decision for themselves? I for one, think they should.


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.
December 2022
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