Posts Tagged 'Unity Caucus'



Overmanaged, Underappreciated, Stonewalled and Harassed

New Action/UFT congratulates the schools and Chapter Leaders working with collaborative, member friendly principals. Unfortunately, Chancellor Farina’s call to principals to work collaboratively with their staff is not being followed at many schools. At the January 2016 Delegate Assembly a Chapter Leader asked UFT President Mulgrew how we should deal with non-collaborative principals who respond to concerns with the phrase “I’ll have to check with Legal.” The principal inevitably responds by saying “No.” The response? Raise the concern through the District Rep to the Superintendent.

Since September 2015, New Action has received reports that some principals have:

  • Mandated detailed lesson plans with “multiple points of entry”
  • Done “drive-by” “check list” observations
  • Mandated curriculum maps from teachers to be done on their own time
  • Refused to give the Galaxy budget to Chapter Leaders
  • Targeted older teachers
  • Refused to sign off on professional development if it exceeded 50 hours
  • Refused to give Highly Effective ratings to anyone who is “not collaborative” (doesn’t agree to everything the principal wants)
  • Refused to hire subs, claiming no money

Why do Mulgrew/Unity refuse to forcefully address these issues? Why do we hear these complaints from our members over and over again? We need a UFT leadership that doesn’t bury its head in the sand, but rather acts directly to stop these demoralizing practices.

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.

What happened to Principals in Need of Improvement?

At the November 12, 2015 Delegate Assembly a member asked how the union could help his school from an abusive administrator.

President Mulgrew answered saying it should be raised in consultation at the school level. If there was no relief (and how could there be!) the issue should go to the Superintendent (of course the DR already knows about it by this time!). If that didn’t resolve the abuse the Central UFT will bring it up at the Chancellor’s level.

Now here’s the kicker. He stated that after that the union would employ the PINI (Principals in Need of Improvement). But the fact is PINI, which was a bipartisan campaign to target the worst of the worst was dropped by Unity Caucus well over a year ago. It was dropped shortly after the election of Bill de Blasio and the appointment of Carmen Farina. President Mulgrew knows this full well.

This was a major disagreement New Action/UFT had with union leaders. It was the cause of New Action/UFT pulling out of the UFT Action Committee—a major component of the bipartisan relationship started between then President Randi Weingarten and New Action. A serious question is why is President Mulgrew invoking a program that he himself dropped?

In the same question period, Mulgrew mentioned helping members whose principal gave them 0 out of 60 on the observation portion of their evaluation. 0 out of 60?!? How is that possible?  If there were still a PINI, that principal would have been a candidate for the top of the list. But the answer only addressed helping the members – not consequences for incompetent who abuses his authority to harm teachers.

New Action/UFT has a comprehensive plan to deal with abusive administrators. Want answers? Contact New Action.

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.

New Action announces a coalition slate with MORE for the 2016 UFT elections

New Action Caucus/UFT is the oldest opposition caucus in the United Federation of Teachers. We have a decades-long history of fighting for social justice, including initiating the campaign to divest from apartheid South Africa, moving the UFT to take a position against “stop and frisk,” and winning NYSUT support for the NY DREAM Act for immigrant children.

We also have a long history of struggling for better contracts and working conditions. We have repeatedly spoken out against the new teacher evaluation system based on student test scores. Most recently we have been in the forefront of the fight to defend members from abusive administrators, by building successful demonstrations in front of schools and getting the union to initiate a Principals in Need of Improvement program (PINI). Our focus on mobilizing members goes beyond abusive administrators: in 1995 we led the drive to defeat a zero-zero contract. For the next contract, we led informational picketing in front of many schools, demanding pay parity.

On January 1, 2002, when Bloomberg assumed office, the union was faced with an unprecedented anti-teacher, anti-union administration. Due to these conditions, New Action made an electoral agreement with the leadership’s Unity Caucus to fight those attacks in a bipartisan way, while reserving the right to be critical in areas where we did not agree.

Today the political conditions are different. The new de Blasio administration is not hostile to teachers, our union, and education. It should be easier to improve the conditions in the schools from the miserable state Bloomberg left them in, but the Unity leadership has been ineffective in working to undo Bloomberg’s mess, and unresponsive to the broad needs of our members.

The Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE) was formed three years ago. It has taken a leading role in the Opt Out Movement. They have been vocal opponents of Cuomo’s tests and the punishing teacher evaluation scheme.

This agreement has been approved by the New Action Executive Board and the MORE Steering Committee. The MORE membership will vote on it this weekend.

Highlights of the Agreement:

  • This proposal is for a joint, full MORE/New Action slate in the Spring 2016 UFT election. It is not for cross endorsing a few select candidates for officer or exec board positions. It is not for merging our groups. It does not involve other caucuses.
  • Allocation of Slots
    • The allocation of slots, in general should reflect both the relative strength of the caucuses, and the history and significance of the caucuses. The division will be close to 50/50.
    • The presidential candidate will come from MORE’s ranks, and be agreed to by both groups.
  • A joint program is in development.
  • Jointly produced literature will be prepared for distribution … Each group may use joint literature, their own literature, or any combination.

September 16, 2015

Winner-Take-All is Undemocratic

The United Federation of Teachers sends hundreds of delegates to the New York State United Teachers Representative Assembly and to the American Federation of Teachers Convention. And of those hundreds of delegates, all, every one, vote exactly the same way on every issue.

The UFT has Vice Presidents for Elementary Schools, Middle Schools, Academic High Schools, Vocational High Schools, non-DoE, Ed Issues, and Special Ed. All belong to the same caucus.

The UFT has 32 District Reps. All are appointed by the president, and belong to the same caucus.

We have a diversity of voices in the UFT, but they are stifled by electoral gimmicks and chicanery.

Each division used to elect its own vice president, but after New Action’s Michael Shulman was elected UFT Vice President for Academic High Schools in 1985, Unity changed the UFT Constitution to assure that it would not happen again. Ultimately they made the vice presidents “at large” to prevent a division from choosing its own VP.

The Chapter Leaders in each district used to elect their own District Reps, but Unity eliminated this 40-year tradition, and made the DRs presidential appointees. Who represents the voices of the chapter leaders? On April 7, 2014 the New Action representatives on the UFT Executive Board submitted a resolution calling for UFT District Reps to once again be elected by chapter leaders in the districts. Unity tabled the motion, arguing that appointment is more democratic than elections.

Our union’s strength is our membership. We rely on membership involvement. But by shutting down member voices, Unity has discouraged thousands of members from participating in the life of our union. This weakens us. New Action supports proportional representation for election of NYSUT, AFT and NEA delegates, we support a return to direct election of divisional Vice Presidents, and we support a return to election of DRs by Chapter Leaders.

Eliminate Abusive Administrators

Eliminate Abusive Administrators

Experience and research show that ONLY collaborative relationships in a school foster a healthy work environment, benefitting staff and students. Unfortunately many Leadership Academy principals hired by Bloomberg and Klein are not collaborative. They were hired to get rid of veteran teachers, U-rate staff members, deny tenure, harass chapter leaders and ignore the contract. This is unacceptable!

Chancellor Farina proclaimed that collaboration is one of the first orders of her administration. The word has not filtered down to principals. The number of incompetent principals in the system, according to Fariña, is over 300. Many are the same principals who are abusive of our members, other staff, or students. In an October 2014 leaflet, New Action highlighted two such principals. In late March New Action demonstrated against principal Namita Dwarka of William Bryant HS. But there are many more cases.

Campaigns against these abusers are needed. Can you imagine conditions so bad that your colleagues are too scared to complain? These are schools where the union should be going in, where the leadership should be addressing the problem principal directly with the Chancellor.

Tell our leaders, restore the PINI  (Principals in Need of Improvement), a campaign initiated by New Action and instituted by our union. We must stand by our beleaguered members.

And if you are in a school with an abuser: Contact your District Rep. Contact New Action. Read “A Primer on School Change” (UFT website). Read “14 Ways to Get Rid of an Abusive Administrator” (New Action website).

note:
For years the UFT ran a Principals in Need of Improvement program
Unity abandoned this campaign last year

 


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.
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