Healthcare, Tucker Carlson, and Maternal Mortality – UFT Executive Board Minutes, 3-27-2023

Quick Summary/Analysis: Tonight was mostly about healthcare. Kate Connors came to the Open Mic to talk about the New York Health Act. Ed Calamia asked about Aetna’s ongoing MAP fraud case, to which leadership answered it would not affect our deal. I asked about what specific ‘cost savings’ were being discussed by the vendors in the new in-service RFP, but didn’t get many details. Then Mulgrew came in to give a long, but mostly meaningless diatribe, comparing progressive opposition unionists like me (or probably just me) to Tucker Carlson – I guess for having the audacity to question the decisions of current UFT leadership, like their brilliant move to increase our urgent care copays from $15 to $50, and now to $100. (Incidentally, I do share an alma mater with Tucker, but that’s about it.) I guess we did get one thing out of the president’s address, though – that prescriptions are now the line UFT leadership is giving for why we are cutting costs for regular medical care (according to Mulgrew, we need the money to pay for increasing pharmaceutical costs).

Alex Jallot gave a report / asked questions about safety and charter expansion. Then, Ibeth Mejia and Luli Rodriguez gave impassioned motivations for an amendment to a Unity resolution on maternal mortality rates. Ibeth and Luli argued that if we want to reduce maternal mortality, we need to make sure to fight to keep our pay/healthcare/maternity-leave in line with other wealthy countries. Unity voted the amendment down, with Mike Sill of all people leading the battle against, but Luli and Ibeth’s speeches are worth reading in their entirety (toward the bottom of these minutes). Then, in sharp contrast, two shared Unity/UFC resos (one on charters and one on budget) were immediately put forward, both motivated by the same pair: Ilona Nanay and Janella Hinds.

Informal minutes follow.

Open Mic: Kate Connors: Appeal to Mulgrew to accept Sen. Rivera’s invitation to discuss the New York Health Act (NYHA) before everything is finalized. Confident that the UFT will approve of NYHA after hearing. It won’t affect the budget – there’s separate funding. Also, eliminating overhead from insurance companies will save us billions. To make a different argument, you have to rely on conservative arguments, and the UFT links to some such arguments on the official website. I’m not sure the UFT really thinks the budget is why they shouldn’t support. That’s not why they said they had a problem with it. They did say that we’ve sacrificed wages for healthcare. That’s not an argument for why not to do NYHA now. Many people who died from COVID died because of insurance gaps. We don’t want to be carved out of the statewide bill; NYHA is better than what we have now, no copays, prior authorizations. And I don’t want to give up raises for healthcare or vice versa. Don’t be concerned about people who work in the welfare fund – they can be retrained and work as care workers. Implore you to learn about NYHA outside of this conversation. There is a virtual townhall (MORE) at 6:00 PM on March 29th. I’ll come around and give you info. You’ve heard a lot of lies. Time to dispel them.

Minutes: All passed.

Question Period:

Alex Jallot: Recently, come to our attention that there are safety inspections coming to us from the Mayor. Why are they inserting themselves in this way? Including on dress code?

LeRoy Barr: Jeff not here, but example of dress code for instance is about officers not teachers/students.

Ed Calamia: My question is about Aetna. It’s recently come to my attention that they’re under investigation from the DOJ for fraud in its dealings with MAP contracts. GHI is not under such an investigation for traditional Senior Care. Does Aetna’s fraud investigation impact our dealings with them?

Geof Sorkin: We want the federal government to investigate all insurance companies if they are accused of fraud. No, it doesn’t impact our contract.

Nick: Want to ask a question. We’re hearing about an RFP with four potential providers to potentially replace GHI at a lower cost. Not asking about the four respondents – asked last week and wasn’t answered, though you’re free to tell us. However, we know how some of the cost savings have been realized for retirees – like prior authorizations. We also know about some of the cost savings we’ve already realized for in-service – like forcing first year teachers onto HIP or adding huge copays in GHI for most Urgent Cares – 15 bucks to 100 bucks since 2016. What types of ‘cost savings’ are these four vendors suggesting to make the cost savings? What types of copays? What types of networks – diminished? New prior authorizations?

Geof Sorkin: I have NDAs. I am proud that I will not reveal who the potential bidders are. Benefit design: a number of things: looking to replicate to GHI, but also looking across the country and seeing how we could leverage things. We have not met with any of the bidders. Michael has said we’ve identified 4. One of the complexities is we are looking at the info they’ve provided and it’s not always an apples to apples comparison.

President’s Report: Let’s hear it for the paras, who just had their event.

Getting near the end in Albany. When it gets quiet, it gets interesting. That means real conversations happening. Charters and funding are the two big concerns. Seem to be in decent shape at this point. Small group going up tomorrow. Education advocates, NAACP, but Eva is also going up. Should be interesting.

 But, Saturday is basically it. We don’t want late budgets, which means late payments. Then City gets to claim hardships. For years it was done that way.

In terms of the healthcare stuff. Everyone is leadership and has a right to their own opinion. But everyone in this room needs to do their job to protect the union here and in the future. Heard the silliest crap in my life in the past 6 months. This union is different than any other. It’s easy to say that’s the bad man. The easiest way to organize is fear and anger. Bloomberg had us a very organized union. Then you tell people to pick a side, and then it’s just attack. Healthcare is a serious issue. Yes, I wish we had a national plan. Not sure we’ll get there. It would definitely help if the feds were helping. But workers are getting screwed everywhere. We can sit back and do something or nothing and lose.

I get phone calls at town halls. You said UFT would only agree to MAP if it was the best that doesn’t exist. I say that because it’s what I believe. Believe UFT can do that. We stuck by that. Certain people here will continue to say this is terrible, but we do have the best MAP in the country. I read all the reports of executive board from here. Some people in here want to take Tucker Carlson’s job with how they write.

Don’t understand that an arbitrator/mediator set a deadline and we acted like it didn’t exist. When they started to realize they had to work with us, we started to get somewhere. We have talked to everyone. We know all the pitfalls. We were told that no insurance company would agree to what we wanted. But we got it – everything. Yes, Aetna had to call their lawyers when we asked to get rid of prior authorizations. They didn’t think it was illegal. They were wrong. So, we were able to get that done. Lawyer also didn’t like the expedited arbitration option with penalties. There’s nothing like that anywhere but here. Will make sure retirees are taken care of. We’ll be active members on that committee, which has legal authority. And we don’t have to go to court.

Doctor can always say no. I know you all think you’re healthcare experts. Growing field is concierge services. You have to pay to even have access to the doctor.

If you want to disagree, disagree, but check the facts. But, with in-service we’ll do the same thing. We’ll figure out how to increase our benefits, decrease out of pocket costs, and have more control over plan implementation. We don’t have a committee of union people yet like retirees, but we can. We don’t have to do anything, but if we can increase quality but reduce the cost….and I didn’t even go into drug cost yet. Hundreds of millions a month being spent on certain drugs. UFT is proud we’ve never denied it to a single member. So we need money to go into that part of the healthcare. If we can do all this, maybe we can buy some time to do something at the national level.

Love the conspiracies – love them. First one was that the MLC wanted to give a billion dollars to the UFT from their own benevolence. Nothing factual there. Sure, it’s easy to point at people and say ‘they’re the bad people.’ I know it’s political.

Had the class today from the NY Post Article. No one wants the facts. Members wanted this class because they owe continued education credits to the State. This qualifies. Also, all the toxic crap we hear, the kids bring it with them. So we need to know these things. So it’s appropriate. These counselors need to give intervention around related issues.

Hoping people will step back. It’s not how you run in a union. Sorry if I take up too much time. But I was listening and thinking enough. Last thing you want to do an RFP when it’s being foisted on you. You want to do it when you can walk away – you don’t wait when it’s a crisis. I’m always going to do it the way when we have control.

Report from Districts:

Sean Rockowitz: Had meet the president. Mulgrew answered lots of questions so it was good.

Priscilla Castro: This Saturday, March 25th we had the Para Festival. Autism workshop was amazing. Thanks several UFT staffers. Paras mobilizing for contract on Thursday.

Tom Brown: Sad news, lost Harold Rothman last week, a UFT pension consultant at the Brooklyn office for over 45 years. Legend. Trained many others in pension consultation. Wonderful man, we loved him. Moment of silence.

Alex Jallot: Situation in 754X, D75 school. Since 2019, share space with University Prep Charter MS. Has been OK for a while, but now the charter wants to expand. Their SLT has come out released a statement. Holding a public hearing on Thursday after the grade ins. If you can make it, speak with Christina Gavin. Not to get rid of University Prep, but to maintain the space for the students.

Nancy Armando: This week, Brooklyn is starting safety workshops.

Rashad Brown: We will have two special loan forgiveness workshops on April 4 (paras) and April 25 (school secretaries).

Michael Friedman: Requests another moment of silence for event in Nashville, senseless mass killing in school. Until we can figure out a way to get rid of these guns, it will keep on happening. We aren’t immune in NY. Moment of silence.

Special Order of Businesses:

Janella Hinds Endorses below reso: Maternal mortality is a huge issue. Our statistics are significantly higher than other industrialized nations. In the aftermath of COVID, that number has gone up significantly. For black women, it’s even higher – 69.9 deaths for 100,000, irrespective of income, prenatal care, education, etc. This reso speaks for the need for comprehensive quality healthcare that takes care of people before they give birth.


WHEREAS, more than 70% of the membership of the United Federation of Teachers are women; and

WHEREAS, reproductive and maternal health is a primary concern for many of our members and the families and communities we serve; and

WHEREAS, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, maternal mortality is defined as the death of a childbearing person, while pregnant or up to one year following the pregnancy, from a cause related to, aggravated by or irrespective of the pregnancy; and

WHEREAS, the maternal mortality rate in the United States is higher than most other high-income countries; and

WHEREAS, according to the Centers for Disease Control’s National Center for Health Statistics, this rate stands at 32.9 deaths per 100,000 live births, which represents a significant increase from 20.1 in 2019 and 23.8 in 2020; and 

WHEREAS, a recent National Public Radio article on the CDC study cited the U.S. rate “which is more than ten times the estimated rates of some other high income countries, including Australia, Austria, Israel, Japan and Spain which all hovered between 2 and 3 deaths per 100,000 in 2020;” and

WHEREAS, the 2021 maternal mortality rate for Black women at 69.9 deaths for 100,000 live births is more than double the average rate of other American women; and

WHEREAS, research has shown that in the United States, Black women are also twice as likely to have a preterm birth (PTB), give birth to a low birth weight (LBW) infant, or experience the death of a child before age 1, when compared to white women; and

WHEREAS, the maternal mortality rates for people who are Indigenous, low-income and more than 40 years old are also abnormally high in comparison to the national average; and

WHEREAS, the American Medical Association, the CDC, the Commonwealth Fund and other national organizations have reported that many instances of maternal mortality are preventable; and

WHEREAS, lack of access to comprehensive, coordinated and respectful health care, the prevalence of chronic conditions and inadequate postpartum support are among the reasons attributed to our nation’s high maternal mortality rates; and

WHEREAS, research indicates that these disparities are symptoms of broader underlying social and economic inequities that are rooted in racism and discrimination; and

WHEREAS, the trauma that results from these incidents, while rarely discussed, has long-lasting and profound impacts on our schools, offices, families, colleagues and communities; and

WHEREAS, In the latest data released by the DOE, 41.1% of public school students are Hispanic, 24.4% are Black and 71.9% are economically disadvantaged, and their mothers of childbearing age are at risk; therefore, be it

RESOLVED, that the UFT call upon health care organizations to offer ongoing resources, education and professional development for those providing reproductive care in an effort to decrease maternal mortality rates, especially among women who are most affected; and be it further

RESOLVED, the UFT work with educational, public health and other organizations to offer resources and direct assistance to support educators, school counselors, social workers and psychologists as well as whole schools and communities serving people affected by maternal mortality; and be it further

RESOLVED, that the UFT support legislation promoting the expansion of birthing centers, particularly in communities where maternal mortality rates are highest, so that more women may receive quality reproductive care that is caring and respectful to all families of newborns; and be it further

RESOLVED, that the UFT encourage professional learning and instruction that addresses implicit bias among staff and students, because instructional staff must be able to address implicit bias within themselves in order to teach students headed into professions where unconscious beliefs about different groups can create harmful racial disparities to treat all people equally; and be it further

RESOLVED, that the UFT call for more research on the causes of these disparities and support working with coalition partners to increase investment in efforts to decrease maternal mortality rates in the United States.

Ibeth Mejia:


RESOLVED, that to improve the well being of mothers, infants, children, adults, and the elderly who are dying in higher numbers in the USA than in other wealthy nations, the UFT as a union that includes many thousands of working moms will take the lead by demanding for its members annual raises that keep up with the US inflation rate, and the UFT insist on healthcare improvements for its members and all Americans, rather than increased copayments or diminished healthcare choices — as well as, improved parental-family leave policies.

If we adopt this amendment and follow through, it will play a big part in actually reducing maternal and other mortality rates in the United States.  

We are repeatedly told here at the Executive Board and at the Delegate Assembly that the United Federation of Teachers is the most powerful union on the face of the earth. 

We have tens of thousands of mothers in this union who are working under abominable conditions in many school buildings. 

There’s no lactation rooms in many schools or refrigerators to store breast milk or air ventilation or quality control for temperatures. 

In 2018, the UFT got paid parental leave passed but it is totally inadequate. How am I supposed to bond with my child in 6-12 weeks which is the best case scenario? That goes hand in hand with post partum depression.  

We need paid family leave that is like what they have in other wealthy nations like they have in Western and Northern Europe where they can bond with their infants for from six months to a year and not have to worry about losing their job. 

Going further, the United States is the only wealthy nation without universal healthcare. 

UFT members and their children cannot afford $100 copayments for urgent care and then we have to try to get child care. 

Add to this, the UFT is leading the fight to privatize our seniors’ Medicare to leave more of our healthcare in the hands of a giant insurance company whose primary responsibility is to make profits for shareholders. 

That isn’t helping mothers and many of us have to worry about taking care of our elderly parents too who are retired city workers. These mothers aren’t helped either.

Furthermore, we have  seen the cost of food go way up! Especially the cost of baby formula and prices rocketed skyhigh during the formula shortage in the United States.  

How are working mothers supposed to survive the out of control high cost of living and provide for their families, particularly in and around NYC?

Yet at UFT meetings, we hear about the wonders of pattern bargaining so we will be stuck with salary increases that DC 37 got in their pattern setting contract that don’t come close to keeping up with inflation so are de facto pay cuts. How is that helping mothers? 

Meanwhile, out in LA school support staff went on strike, plenty of moms on those picket lines in California last week. The teachers went on strike in support. What did the support workers get? 30% raises while at the UFT DA we are told strikes are white privilege. 

To summarize, if the UFT was really interested in enhancing motherhood, we would start by acting like the powerful union we claim to be a real one – and demand and then fight with any means that are available for better conditions for the tens of thousands of mothers in this Union. 

That would truly be leading, and it would set a trend that would end up truly reducing maternal mortality.

Mike Sill: In all seriousness, I appreciate the motivation for this amendment, but I rise against it. It’s not what’s included here that it’s not worth fighting for – it’s that we are fighting for those things. I don’t want to run afoul of NDAs. This is a typical tactic I’ve seen here, a false dichotomy, that we should be doing this instead of that. I won’t even go there…When it says we should be demanding raises. People know what we’re demanding. Copays? We’re living in the realm of the absurd. We’ve talked about that – it helps us fight price gauging. But the reasons we have copay issues is because of the Judge’s decision. The same folks who would support this decision fought against that. I see what’s happening here, I don’t appreciate it. We could have worked together on this.

Karen Alford: I stand here as a mom. I brought Aftershock to the UFT. Had a family member who almost lost life in childbirth. This issue is so much bigger than copays. This issue isn’t even about people who had insurance. Healthcare is an issue in regards to maternal mortality, so this is a federal government issue. This is about doctors recognizing our pain when we are giving childbirth. This amendment frustrates me. What matters is not your copays, but that the healthcare system is broken. So I stand in opposition.

Mary Vacarro: Take offense to this amendment. I’m a mother of two. I was in labor for 48 hours with my son. If I didn’t have my midwife next to me, I’d be one of these statistics. Always in the back of my mind. So when we wonder about inflation. I wasn’t worried about inflation when I was lying there, I was worried about my son being born. When we spoke at the DA about honoring the UFT, it turned out to be a discussion about the strike, and that was the language that came out afterwards. When we are talking about women giving birth, now we’re talking about inflation here. This might be an amendment for somewhere else, but has no place here.

Luli Rodriguez: I stand in support. I was an accountant prior to becoming a teacher. Thankfully, I had good coverage – a room all to myself that could fit ten people to help. I experienced a life and death situation myself. First my son almost died, and the second time I was about to die. I’m here because my health insurance covered everything. Not a lot of women of color have that option. There is a socio-economic disparity in our society and a racial one. I have friends who are African American who have been at the point of dying because of their skin color because their issues aren’t taken seriously. But, I had 6 months maternal leave – we don’t have that here, just weeks. Why are your sick days taken out of your CAR to take care of your maternity? I didn’t have to do that before I became UFT. I was able to use my sick days. I see teachers talking – about how they can’t take kids for immunizations because their childcare fell through. A lot of mothers can’t cover the costs with our healthcare. Not all of us here have two salaries – double jobs. We’re just teachers. There’s nothing wrong with asking that things be equitable. I’ll we’re asking for is 6 months.

LeRoy Barr: I didn’t see anything about 6 months in the text of the amendment?

Rashad Brown: I rise against. I see information dumping that waters down the essence and spirit of the original reso. So let’s separate the two and write a resolution.

Janella: Speaks in opposition to the amendment. I think that many of the arguments support this resolution. But, it’s reprehensible that women have come to this mic and said they’ve been on death’s door. That’s not about healthcare, it’s about the system. Ask you to approve the resolution as written.

Amendment: Fails, only H.S. Exec Board votes in favor.

Resolution: Passes.

Resolution Against Charter School Cap Being Raised  

Ilona Nanay:Pause in respect of reso before. We are in the spirit of collaboration. We did collaborate on the following two resolutions. Motivating with Janella Hinds. Resolution to oppose Hochul’s move to raise the charter cap. Came to DOE because I believe in public education. Without public education, democracy crumbles. Corporate charter schools are not beholden to the public and not held accountable to the public. They starve us of resources. So I ask everyone to support the resolution. It is based in research. Proposal could add additional hundreds of charter schools, which also have declining enrollment. So the argument that they need more resources/space due to demand is just false. NYC is only district obligated to provide space for charters. Charters already cost 3 billion.

Janella Hinds: We worked together on this resolution, because members of the UFT have made themselves heard, calling on legislators to stand against this ridiculous proposal.


Whereas,  Gov. Hochul has proposed to allow about 100 additional  charter schools in NYC, even though the legal charter cap has been met, by eliminating the regional limits and by adding the number of previously authorized charters known as “zombie charters” which have closed or had their charters revoked; and

Whereas, the total funding diverted from the NYC DOE public school budget is already substantial and growing each year, currently at approximately $2.69 billion – not counting the space and services that co-located NYC charter schools receive for free; and

Whereas, NYC charter schools that are sited in private space also receive subsidies from DOE to help pay for their rental costs, that this year totals an estimated $200 million; with 60% of that reimbursable by the state; and

Whereas, given the need to lower class size according to the new state law which mandates class size reduction starting next fall, charter expansion could deprive our public schools that opportunity; and

Whereas, 58% of the city’s charter schools have lost enrollment over the past three years, not including charter schools that opened or closed during that time; and

Whereas, most NYC charter schools have far lower enrollment rates of high-needs students, including English Language Learners and students with disabilities, and are known for their excessive disciplinary policies that push out students who do not comply with their strict disciplinary codes; and

Whereas a recent report from the Civil Rights Project at UCLA revealed that charter schools in NYC are even more intensely segregated than district public schools; and

Whereas the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) has engaged its members in a campaign in opposition to Governor Hochul’s charter proposal, empowering members to educate and lobby their elected representatives in their boroughs, on social media, and during legislative events in Albany; and

Whereas, this campaign has flourished in partnership with the Alliance for Quality Education, the New York Branch of the NAACP, Make the Road NY, among other parent and community organizations, resulting in the removal of most of Hochul’s proposal from both one house bills released in March 2023  be it therefore

Resolved that the UFT strongly urges the Legislature to oppose the Governor’s proposal to increase the number of charter schools in NYC, either by eliminating the regional caps or allowing the re-issuance of “zombie” charters; and be it further 

Resolved that, instead, we urge the Legislature to repeal the law that obligates DOE to provide space to charter schools in public schools or help pay for their rent– the only district in the nation with this onerous requirement; and be it further

Resolved that, in addition, the UFT will lobby the Legislature  to make NYC eligible for state charter transition aid from now on, and be provided with the $2.62 billion in past transition aid that was unfairly denied;  and be it further 

Resolved that the UFT will work with NYSUT to lobby NY State and NYC Comptrollers to perform financial and performance audits on the charter sector,  as well as NYCPS in their financial support of the charter sector; be it further

Resolved that the UFT will fight to ensure that all charter schools are legally obligated to adhere to the same disciplinary and suspension policies that public schools are required to follow under state law; be it further

Resolved that the law shall require the boards of all  Charter Management Organizations to be subject by law to Open Meetings law; be it further

Resolved that the UFT will work with NYSUT to lobby the state legislature to pass all of the 2023 bills in both the Senate and Assembly that strengthen the accountability and transparency of charter schools so that all of the schools that serve NYC students operate on a fair and just playing field; and be it further 

Resolved, that the UFT will continue to fight for fairness and equity for all New York City schools through our “Public Schools over Corporate Charters” member campaign.

Passed Unanimously.

Resolution on Budget:

Janella: The budget is harmful to our City’s public schools and students. We are calling for more transparency. Calling for a fair and just budget.

Ilona Nanay: Last year, lots of people were excessed. We want those jobs restored. We are still in a pandemic and it would be sick to drop resources now.


Whereas, the Mayor’s preliminary budget cuts at least $500 million from the NYCPS budget, in addition to the cuts imposed on this school year;  and

Whereas, according to the New York Independent Budget Office, the cuts in the Mayor’s preliminary budget for FY 2024 are projected to lead to another headcount loss of about 900 positions; and

Whereas, it is unclear how NYCPS proposes to spend the additional $568 million in state Foundation Aid for next year, the final payment in three-year phase-in of about $1.3 billion, resulting from the CFE lawsuit meant to provide NYC students with their right to a sound, basic education including smaller classes; and

Whereas, it is also unclear if the adopted changes in the Fair Student Funding (FSF) formula, which will send an additional $90 million to schools with a high number of students in temporary housing and/or those in poverty will cause other school budgets to be cut by that same amount; and

Whereas, starting this fall, the DOE is mandated to start lowering class size by 20%, with far smaller class size caps to be required of all schools over the next five years, which will require more funding for space and staffing; be it therefore

Resolved that the UFT demands data showing the total and individual level at which schools would be funded next year (FY 2024) as compared to this year (FY 2023), via their entire Galaxy budgets as well as FSF allocations, to have a clear understanding of any potential reductions in school budgeted amounts; be it further

Resolved that the UFT will advocate that the budget, if adopted, will be used to maintain or supplement current staffing levels at schools unless there are register losses; be it further

Resolved that the UFT ask NYCPS to clarify that the additional $90 million in FSF funds provided to schools with a high concentration of students in temporary housing  and/or in poverty will not cause other schools to be cut by that same amount; be it further

Resolved that the UFT demand that funding for new capacity in the capital plan be expanded rather than cut, to ensure sufficient space for all schools to meet the class size caps in the new state law; be it further

Resolved that the UFT demands that NYCPS include details as to how the $568 million in additional State Foundation Aid will be spent; be it further

Resolved that the UFT will urge NYCPS to allocate these funds to schools to allow them to restore critical programs and positions eliminated during FY2023, and to help them reach the smaller class size caps that are mandated by the new state law. 

Motion carries.


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