Archive Page 2

Defend Chapter Leaders

(from the New Action leaflet distributed at the March 2016 UFT Delegate Assembly).
For a printable version click: Leaflet 2016 March 

Chapter Leaders are on the front line in our schools. Members vote for them, know them, rely on them. When principals go after the chapter leader, they are sending a message to every member “No one is safe.” The union needs to step to the defense of any and every chapter leader under attack. If you are a chapter leader in this situation, contact your DR, your Borough Rep. And if you are not getting the help you need, contact us.

Did you get fooled into voting for higher co-pays?

(from the New Action leaflet distributed at the March 2016 UFT Delegate Assembly).
For a printable version click: Leaflet 2016 March 

Co-pays are jumping: Emergency Room visits – up from $50 to $150. Urgent Care – from $15 to $50. MRIs from $15 to $50. Specialists – from $15/$20 to $30. Blood Work and Physical Therapy from $15 to $20. Copays for visits to primary care physicians stay at $15.

How could this happen? Believe it or not, we voted for it. In the last contract, Unity put in health care “savings” provisions. But despite repeated inquiries, they never told us what those “savings” would be. Now we know what the “savings” are for this year. But brace yourselves – the contract does not agree to just one year, but FOUR YEARS of “savings.”

A better leadership would have shared this crucial information with the members WHEN WE WERE voting, not two years later.

A better leadership would be fighting to IMPROVE coverage, not making deals to make it cost extra.

We want and need parental leave, not higher co-pays. Vote MORE/New Action.

Delink testing from evaluation!

(from the New Action leaflet distributed at the March 2016 UFT Delegate Assembly).
For a printable version click: Leaflet 2016 March 

Race to the Top (RttT) pushed states to adopt teacher evaluation schemes that included student standardized test scores as part of teacher evaluation. Bad idea.

Obama’s new Education Law (ESSA), signed three months ago, drops this onerous requirement. So now is the time to fix this horrible mistake in New York State law, right?

Not so fast. The UFT’s current Unity leadership said: “We need to be cautious,” as they prevented the Executive Board from voting to lobby for change to NY State law.

AFT Connecticut and the Connecticut Education Association joined forces to change that state’s RttT law. Legislation left committee last week – the teachers’ unions got that done.

We have a joint resolution with MORE today to do that same sort of productive lobbying in New York. Please vote yes to allow this important discussion to come to the floor.

(Note – Even though many delegates voted to discuss this resolution, Unity Caucus managed to block discussion by about 70-30. Unity members are not permitted to think for themselves, but are required to raise their cards in unison.)

Paid Maternity/Paternity Leave

Last April New Action proposed that UFT members should be entitled to paid parental leave. UFT members are often shocked to learn that all they receive upon having a child is six weeks of UNPAID maternity leave. Eight months later de Blasio may be helping this to happen. But why did our union not raise this issue?

At the January 11 UFT Executive Board meeting New Action co-chair Michael Shulman asked if we could send a maternity leave resolution to the NYSUT RA. Unity’s response was that it was not up to us to make that decision for other locals.

New Action disagrees. We can take a stand for fairness and equity and decency. We need to change from the current system to one where UFT members receive paid parental leave. But we should encourage other locals to take this step as well.

Why I can no longer support Mulgrew / Unity

By Gregory Di Stefano 33 year teacher, 46 year  UFT member

The last decade has seen a serious deterioration of UFT members’ rights such as: not being able to grieve unfair observations, inaccurate letters in the file, abuse by some incompetent and corrupt principals, the unfair treatment of probationary teachers, etc. Why has this happened? Over 10 years ago a change was made by the Unity /UFT leadership to have District Reps appointed by the President instead of being elected by the Chapter Leaders in the schools, our previous practice. Mike Mulgrew has appointed only District Reps belonging to Unity. The effect of this has been to silence the voices of the teachers in the schools. District Reps are no longer accountable to the teachers and take their orders from Mike Mulgrew even if the effect is to put teachers at risk. As we go forward we need a strong Union that is more democratic, not less, and truly represents the needs of the members.

UFT elections are being held this spring. In the last election three years ago only 18% of the active membership voted. You can make a difference. Please consider joining the New Action/MORE UFT slate to return our Union to the members

Get Test Scores Out of Teacher Evaluation

New Action urges: no test scores in teacher evaluation. Unity responds by not letting members vote.

At the January 11, 2016 UFT Executive Board meeting, New Action urged opposition to the use of test scores to evaluate teachers, and urged that we use 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.

A Unity leader moved to table, and it was in fact tabled, on a caucus-line vote.

The difference is that we asked to take a stand against using tests to rate teachers, but Michael Mulgrew and Unity only want 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.

New Action explains: We can no longer run with Mulgrew/Unity

Since the early 1980’s, New Action/UFT was the main opposition to Unity Caucus. In 1985, New Action leader, Michael Shulman, won the UFT High School Vice-Presidency, and served until 1987. New Action continued in opposition until early 2004. Perhaps our greatest achievement was making pay parity the number one issue.

The Bipartisan Years

In the Fall of 2002, the UFT came under siege by the Bloomberg administration. The attack by Bloomberg was part of the “education reformers” full- scale assault on teachers and their unions. In NYC, this followed years of attacks by the Giulliani administration (remember his threat to “blow up” the Board of Education). Recognizing the greater threat to our union and the “blame the teachers” atmosphere pervading the country and NYC, New Action decided to form a bipartisan relationship with then UFT President Randi Weingarten.

New Action/UFT had five basic demands before entering into this new relationship:

  1. Unity must establish an Organizing Committee composed of Unity, New Action members and independents to go into schools to build stronger chapters.
  2. Unity had to agree to establish a bipartisan Action Committee to build for actions in defense of members and to organize campaigns against the wave of anti-union policies on the local and national level.
  3. Unity agreed to establish an Economic and Social Justice Committee.
  4. New Action secured a promise by President Weingarten to investigate undemocratic internal union issues.
  5. Unity agreed to cross-endorse 8 New Action seats on the UFT Executive Board where we could bring up resolutions in defense of educators. In exchange, New Action endorsed Randi Weingarten for UFT President.

We, at all times, remained independent and willing to criticize the UFT leadership. The committees were established. However, Weingarten reneged on her promise on union democracy. But New Action continued the relationship.

There were many accomplishments during those years.

  • New Action and Unity teams of retirees (the Organizing Committee) helped Chapter Leaders and staff in over 230 schools.
  • Establishment of the PINI (Principals in Need of Improvement) program which exposed abusive administrators and listed 41 steps to get rid of them.
  • The establishment of a UFT Social and Economic Justice Committee led to support for the NYS Dream Act, defense of the Puerto Rican Teachers Union, union action addressing the “disappearing teachers of color” and most recently, a powerful move to combat climate change: the divestment of pension funds from fossil fuels.
  • Resolutions brought up by New Action at the UFT Exec Board including the Campaign to Defeat Bush for President that sent scores of UFT members into battleground states, an end to Stop and Frisk, which led to a powerful march, etc.

Bipartisanship Falls Apart

  • UFT leaders, going back to Weingarten, refused to send bipartisan Organizing Teams into schools where they were needed unless DR’s requested them. Mulgrew/Unity refused to mandate Organizing Teams be sent into schools where new chapter leaders needed assistance.
  • In 2010, Mulgrew/Unity agreed to President Obama’s Race to the Top that tied teacher ratings to standardized tests. New Action/UFT immediately opposed that decision. In fact, since we distributed a leaflet “A Train Wreck Waiting to Happen” New Action has issued 14 pieces attacking Race to the Top.
  • In 2014, Mulgrew/Unity ended the Principals in Need of Improvement program.
  • In April 2015, The UFT Executive Board tabled a New Action Resolution to restore the selection of UFT District Reps back to an election by Chapter Leaders.
  • In the spring of 2015, President Mulgrew and Unity Caucus decided to end the successful Organizing Committee.

There were an increasing number of other areas of disagreement including Mulgrew/Unity‘s failures to place ATR’s based on seniority, to repair the grievance machinery, to mobilize educators at the schools, and to protect unjustly fired probationers.

Why MORE?

In late summer, 2015, New Action decided to form an alliance with MORE because our policy positions were similar. Like New Action, MORE had taken principled positions against standardized tests and tying teacher rating decisions to those tests. Both caucuses supported the Opt –Out movement. Like New Action, MORE supports mobilizing the membership to fight for improvements on contractual rights and working conditions. And like New Action, MORE embraces social justice issues.

In the upcoming UFT citywide elections held this spring 2016, New Action urges UFT members to help take back our union and run with New Action. We urge all members, in service and retiree, to vote the New Action/MORE slate for a leadership that will fight for all members’ rights.