Posts Tagged 'Unity Caucus'

UFT Leadership’s Plan B? Let Our Healthcare Implode, Then Scapegoat Opposition.

Yesterday, 11/22/2022, the City and MLC Leadership lost their appeal against a brave group of retirees who sued to protect the right to premium-free traditional Medicare. This was a huge win for labor activists, but far from the end of a saga that began almost a decade ago when UFT ratified its first contract that included a promise to find millions of dollars in ‘healthcare savings.’ In 2018, UFT leadership went even further, when it lied to membership about our new contract, telling us all that there were no givebacks, only to sneak in a backroom deal to annually find hundreds of millions of dollars in healthcare savings. Even with an expired contract, we are obligated to find these savings for the City. In the plethora of propaganda that has been shoved down our members throats, nowhere has it been explained why UFT would ever agree to reduce the City’s healthcare spending in the midst of record inflation. Something just doesn’t add up.

New Action member, Ed Calamia, elected to the UFT Executive Board (high schools) as part of the UFC ‘7,’ raised an important question at the 11/21/2022 Executive Board meeting, shown below with Geof Sorkin’s answer:

Ed Calamia: What is our exit strategy if the amendment to 12-126 does not pass?

Geof Sorkin: Cannot give you answer right now. MLC is working on it. Right now our focus is on changing the administrative code.

It doesn’t bode well that Sorkin, Director of the UFT Welfare Fund, doesn’t have an answer for what is plan B. And as Ed later said when speaking in favor of UFC’s resolution to advocate for outside healthcare funding methods (like a stock transfer tax), “I asked earlier what plan B was if the code isn’t amended. This reso is a good plan B. There are actual solutions to funding our healthcare in this reso.” Sorkin and Mulgrew’s caucus voted down this resolution (see the minutes for a full copy of the reso and debate). They never did end up giving us a Plan B of their own, though they did refuse to answer Lydia Howrilka’s question on who exactly is answering our RFP to replace HIP with new (probably worse) healthcare for in-service members.

But, Sorkin is right that right now UFT’s sole focus seems to be on changing the administrative code that protects retirees from being forced onto Medicare Advantage and that protects in-service members from having premium-free HIP. District Reps have been sending chapter leaders loads of misinformation, begging them to get their members to lobby the city to get their protections taken away. Last night, I saw several Unity Caucus members sharing the same such plea to ‘amend city code 12-126’, so I made my way to the original post and added an innocuous comment–a “minority report”–if you will, stating “

I was surprised, when a few moments later, Geof Sorkin himself responded to the comment (he was not the original poster).

We’ve suspected for a while that UFT Leadership’s ‘strategy’ is to let healthcare implode and scapegoat opposition when it does, an absurd act that would put millions of members and their families at risk all for political gain. But what options do they have? After all, our union is on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars in annual healthcare savings, and grassroots retiree organizations have blocked the specific ways that the UFT/MLC tried to make those savings on the backs of our most vulnerable members. Any solution, like taxing the rich, is too radical for UFT leadership.

To be clear, I responded to Sorkin. So did many others in the opposition. Sorkin had no real response, other than name calling. Let’s hope the people in charge of our union and the MLC wise up and fix this before it’s too late. The lifeline we gave on stock transfers and corporate taxes is still on the table. Please use that, Mr. Sorkin. Don’t let healthcare fail, then falsely scapegoat opposition for political gain.

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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

The Crisis in the UFT Explained with a Bit of Help from Joe Hill

The Crisis in the UFT Explained with a Bit of Help from Joe Hill

It is often said that our union, the UFT, is the strongest union local in the country. It wields influence in Albany, Washington and beyond. Due to its large numbers it plays an outsize role within the AFT and by extension within the AFL-CIO.  The Presidents of our union go on to become big-time political players and this gives the impression of strength and massive influence. We can see our leaders breaking bread with billionaires and high-ranking legislators, having the ear of power, having a seat at the great tables where the decisions are made which affect the lives of millions of workers. Our union controls huge pension funds on Wall Street, our union bails the city out of financial hardship, our union manages health care for huge numbers of people and so on.

“Poor Block, he died one evening, I’m very glad to state;

He climbed the golden ladder up to the pearly gate.

He said, “Oh, Mr. Peter, one word I’d like to tell,

I’d like to meet the Astorbilts and John D. Rockefell.”

Old Pete said, “Is that so? You’ll meet them down below.”

  At the same time, on the job, it feels like the UFT is among the weakest unions in the city. When a worker encounters an abusive administrator or a gross violation of the contract, they are told to ‘obey and grieve’ (which has become something of a mantra for the UFT in recent years). We are supposed to follow the directives and contact the union office afterwards. We are then told that there is a “loophole” in the contract that allows said administrator to do as they like and so on. With each new contract negotiated by the UFT we see more time added to the workday, we see more givebacks and concessions, we see more rights stripped more pressure added and so on. This type of ‘pragmatism’ from the Unity Caucus may appear shrewd in the short run, but it is eroding the fabric of the union from within. Every day we can hear members saying: “Why can’t our union be more like the cops or the firemen? why are we so weak? why is the city always taking advantage of us? “

“Block hiked back to the city, but wasn’t doing well.
He said, I’ll join the union, the great A. F. of L.”
He got a job next morning, got fired in the night,
He said, “I’ll see Sam Gompers and he’ll fix that foreman right.”
Sam Gompers said, “You see,
You’ve got our sympathy.”

     The contradiction between the rumor and reputation of strength and the experience of weakness provokes strong feelings among the workers which are by turns repressed, accommodated, or ignored by the Unity Caucus leadership. It seems like their job is to manage our discontent instead of solving the problems that trouble us. The leadership presents itself as ‘insiders’ privy to secret information that invalidates our concerns, as ‘responsible parties’ aware of the complex machinations of city governance that the rest of us cannot and do not understand. Unfortunately for them reality was not written by Aaron Sorkin, and actions like this have serious consequences. This approach is insulting and alienating for the majority of the membership and empowering for the select few who are appointed to play West Wing while the rest of us suffer. For many outrage turns to cynicism, disengagement, apathy and even outright hostility as the recent campaign to withhold dues has demonstrated.  This approach where the union acts like another administrative body over the workers, despite all of Unity’s protestations to the contrary and false accusations against reform movements, plays directly into the hands of our enemies. When we have 25% of people voting in elections and we have a movement to withhold dues from the union for non-representation we have a crisis. 

When rank-and-file initiative is so stifled that it is forced to take the form of a self-destructive secession drive this should raise the alarm for all of us who value our union. This tendency will only grow if the leadership of the union buries its head in the sand. We need to democratize this union substantially if it is to survive. We need to shift from a union that filters member demands down to what is palatable to the employers and the donor class to a union that turns member demands into a necessity that the employer must learn to cope with. 

Those of us who have watched the decline of the UFT under Unity Caucus mismanagement and who are determined to save the union and empower the membership have United for Change in the upcoming election.  Our platform addresses many of the issues that are currently vexing the rank and file and opens the union up to the membership in a way that is responsive to 21st century problems.  

-Ed Calamia


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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.
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