The Contract Looms: UFT Delegate Assembly, 5-17-2023

Summary/Analysis: There was a packed agenda at the May DA. I can only offer a few words of summary and analysis, as my own schedule is equally packed. Here that goes.

Outside the DA, volunteers from United for Change handed out flyers with our five big demands before we concede a yes vote for any new UFT contract. Inside the DA, Mulgrew started with his usual summary of what’s happening in the State/City. We heard about the asylum seekers, and as of now it looks like they will not be housed in schools. We heard more on budget, including potential federal default and the unfortunate potential expansion of charters via the state budget. We then heard more on the ‘contract countdown.’ Unity is clearly in full on ‘get a yes vote’ mode, but adding some caveats to lower expectations. Weirdly, Mulgrew seemed to try and taper expectations on workplace issues and offer hope on the financials. But we aren’t going to beat DC37’s 3% – not by much. That’s been stated time and time again by his own lead negotiators at Executive Board meetings.  So if the hope Mulgrew is offering isn’t false, I’m lost  – especially since we clearly have no intention of striking. On the other hand, Mulgrew’s framing of the DOE on curriculum issues was very good. My only caveat is I personally (not speaking for New Action) would much rather see UFT fighting to have teacher ‘veto power’ over curriculum. UFT accepting city-wide curriculum mandates is acquiescence to our deprofessionalization.

During the new resolutions period, resolutions about Florida and the U.S. Supreme court were put onto the agenda. During the special order of business period, we passed the second of the NYC City Council endorsements. The resolution passed after an odd and somewhat hypocritical amendment, which supplanted all other debate. Using the old Unity trick to ‘bring all questions before the house,’ no debate ended up happening on the vast majority of candidates. Yay for democracy? As for the endorsement process before DAs, if anyone is interested, I sat on the hearing for who to endorse in CD1 a few weeks ago and offer my full thoughts here. There were also resolutions on other striking unions (not us of course, we’re ‘Taylor Law Proud’), the budget, and maternal mortality. In closing, I’ll note quickly that something seems off about the agenda order. Newer resolutions written by UFT staffers are inexplicably there burying older ones drafted by rank-and-file teachers. But, I’ll save dwelling on that for another time.

Informal Minutes Follow.

President’s Report:

Mulgrew: Asylum seekers. Constant challenge this school year. One group doing the work supporting asylum seekers are those in the schools. No plan of support, regardless of what they say. Have had dozens of schools – teachers running clothing drives, food drives, to help students/families. Now we see 150 cots dropped into a school gym. If it’s a last resort and we have a plan, sure. But it is NOT the last resort, it’s the easy thing for the City to do. We’ve contacted all over. No one is doing their jobs. Not a political issue for us, part of our daily lives. Armories all over, but under state control. Etc, etc. Not the time to say schools are the last resort. Simple things you have to do. First thing people want to know is have their been background checks. Yes. Second, are these standalone sights? Apparently, that has been part of this, but fine – who is handling safety for the asylum seekers and the kids. We need answers on things like this and things like impacted programs. No one talked to parents, why they’re upset. We officially filed for impact bargaining and still had to raise a ruckus to get a conversation going. In the next few days, we’ll find that they probably won’t use the school sites. But it’s the constant politicizing – crisis = schools. No! It has to be the last resort. Education is secondary for these children at this point, and we’re caring for them. If it’s the last resort, we’re OK, but we need questions answered and better communication. Only one building that’s been occupied, and we support these families, but City needs to do a better job. We’re here to help, but we need a plan.

Federal budget: defaulting on all debt? Hoping they figure this out. State level, session not over. Pushing with NYSUT and M. Person to get charters not expanded among other things.

City budget: people who we do business with all the time. The fear right now is that this administration will use the migrant crisis to torpedo the City budget. Important that the federal government does send money to NYS/NYC for doing this work. Most money is going to southern states, who are sending migrants to us. Still a lot of money inside of the NYC reserves. It’s about working with City Council. We had our breakfast 2 weeks ago in this room. All of our advocacy is out there. Other thing is, the City is supplanting State money. We get money from the state, they take it from education at the city level. So we are looking at the state to make a maintenance of effort or nonsupplant clause in all education funding. This has to stop. We’d be in a much better place if we got the right funding.

You have to start talking to people about city council elections. We need city council to stand strong with us.

Contract update: Rallies on the 24th. We are trying, both us and the City, to get this done before the end of the school year. If there’s anything new that needs to be implemented, we need it done then. The overall piece here is that we’re sick of having our time wasted and micromanaged. The only way to keep driving at that is keep doing the public events. The rallies are about elected officials also understanding this. This isn’t just about a little extra attendance work – micromanagement is an issue all over the country, but especially in NYC.

Class Size: City says class size should not be an issue. Some disagreements. We have a law, this isn’t a negotiation. It’s the law of the state, so you must comply to have 20% of all of the classes in our school system from next year period. Not my individual school, district, it’s 20% of all classes in NYC. Should be based upon economic need. So if you have a school with high economic need, those schools need to start doing the work right now. We have a list of these schools, so does the BOE. It’s all out in public. Now the clock is ticking – because the state budget has ended, so they have 30 days. Problem is we don’t know what document they’re putting out. They write political documents about how they don’t have money, but they do, they just keep supplanting it. Overall, your principals – you should be having these conversations.

Curriculum: One union we’re closest to is CSA. (Audible groans and laughter). Their feeling is the DOE won’t give the money for class sizes and then blame them. Our feeling is they should be out their demanding more money so they can comply with the law. That’s why it’s stronger than having it in the contract – it’s the law. First announcement with this mayor and chancellor – a curriculum initiative. Let’s go back 30 years. Every school district did whatever they wanted and it wasn’t working out so well. You can go back further, but for now, 30. There was no incentive for a mayor to fund education since they had no control – not that we support mayoral control – but we were woefully underfunded, had to do many lawsuits. We had scandals all over the place. It was often about the politics of the school district rather than child’s education. Then we went to a strict system of mayoral control. Now it became every school does whatever it wants. This is a perfect strategy if you set up a system where it’s never your fault. At that point, they sold a bill of goods to the public / CSA – you do whatever you want, we hold you accountable. DOE became an accountability system and nothing else. There you go. Then for last 23 years, we’ve been under that system – and it hasn’t been working well for us or the students. Some places, it works; other places, it doesn’t for a variety of reasons. Throughout all of this, the DOE, none of this was their responsibility, since they technically weren’t in charge. So, when the chancellor came to me and said he wants to do this – a phonetic based literacy curriculum. We have all these different systems. Schools can add onto the system we choose – we’ll give some autonomy. Mulgrew says UFT will support that if there is a training regimen. But there have been some real difficulties. DOE’s knee jerk is to hire a vendor. After 23 years, a bureaucracy not having to do any work, this is what we get. So we’ve been going back and forth. Our two vice presidents, Karen and Mary, have been working with them. We’ve gotten to a point where we can support this. Not saying it won’t be rough. So this is a big endeavor. Chancellor said that principals can’t have complete autonomy – you’re doing what I’m telling you to do. CSA didn’t react well at all, which is their business. They haven’t been reacting well to anything since then. But if they use that anger to sabotage things that will be good for our kids, that’s another issue. Some principals have said it’s a fad, or don’t throw away your curriculum, etc, etc. But, the idea here is something we haven’t done for over 30 years – we have a school system taking responsibility for the entire school system. We’re having all the CLs and superintendents for the 15 school districts, in this room, on next Tuesday. There will be vendors, but there will be teacher center all over this. Some credit to DOE: they started taking apart what the vendors have sent them and analyzing it. So this is a real program that we’re trying to take this challenge on. Will there be problems? Yes. 15 school districts would be the second largest in the country – it would be the size of Chicago combined with LA. Large challenge.

Saturday, we had to close registration for spring conference. We always get people walking in and it’s sold out. It’s gonna be a nice day. If you already registered, going to have a good time.

Staff Director’s report (LeRoy Barr):

Was gonna mention the spring conference, but it’s sold out (applause). Thank you for making sure our members signed up. Tomorrow is Haitian flag day. Celebrated each year on May 18th to celebrate Haiti’s independence from the French. Rallies on May 24th at 3:00 PM. We are in all 5 boroughs. Make sure to come out and bring folks out with you. Teacher appreciation week was last year. Was also national school nurse day and administrative employees on April 26th. CLs thank you for updating your consultation notes. We’re in May, so make sure you upload the 9th one. Being told that there are t shirts outside for you, so assume you’ll be wearing them when you come to the rallies. (applause). Goal is to raise 5k for the AIDS walk on 5th/72nd st this weekend. 5k run on Saturday, June 10th on Coney Island. First Book event at PS154. We give away books to students who come out. Juneteenth second annual walk, June 19th, Monday, have off, gather here at 52 Broadway and walk across the Brooklyn bridge. Next DA is on June 7th.

Question Period:

Dave Barry: In Feb. we passed a resolution on the Amazon workers in Kentucky. Currently, a few members have been removed as trainers. So we said in the reso we’d do things to help out. Took me a little while to find the resolution on the website, and we also said we’d donate money, so what’s the progress? What’s the AFT going to do on that? Are we putting it on social media?

Mulgrew: Yes, donations have been made. We’re working with the AFT. For next month, can get you more information. So, there’s a national effort to support these folks. Can get directly to you. In terms of emails, we send out a lot, so twitter is probably the way to go. If we send out too many emails, nobody likes it. Starting to see a shift as people think about things as workers.

Barrows: Calendar! Haven’t seen it yet. How will that affect SBOs, PTCs?

Mulgrew: Clerical day for this year is a clerical day. It’s not a PD day. Folks who have it get it to do their clerical work. If not, we will make a grievance and get you paid. Now on the calendar: many things that happen every year that require us to come to an agreement to move on to the next year. We’re having a hard time coming to agreements, probably as a result of other conversations we’re having. That’s all I’m saying.

Alexander Stimmel: Clarity about what we can talk to our members about in terms of what’s being negotiated. We haven’t heard much about money/raises, etc.

Mulgrew: Let’s just say, we’re far off. There’s a lot of people in our union who like to write about pattern bargaining. We can find ways around it. Our focus has to be to get as much compensation in our members pockets, not give back anything, and get relief from the craziness. Because, our profession…we have openings in every borough. We’re dealing with what the rest of the country is going through, and it’s not going to get better unless we get the right pay and respect. Micromanagement is disrespect. This constant ‘control your day each and every minute,’ no autonomy as a professional who dedicated their lives to helping children. Some sick people. We know about what’s happening in Florida, about policies that are failing. That’s what has to get stopped. That came across very broadly – one of the top issues for every chapter: stop wasting our time; stop the micromanagement. More than a third of our time is wasted by stuff that has nothing to do with our job. Yes, money is the number one priority, but this other stuff is important also. I’d like to do something creative.

Seth Gillman: Budget at the federal level. Federal gov rolling back money not spent on COVID. Don’t want to see money sent back.

Mulgrew: One thing that OMB should do quickly is spend the COVID money. Now, there’s been a large reduction in COVID money. So, it shouldn’t be an issue for us here in NYC.

Allison Kelly: How do the contract negotiations affect the SBO process? If they aren’t finished in time for the contract, how does that affect us with election buddy/etc.

Mulgrew: Real thing holding us up is calendar and workday. Think I answered that as best I could (read between the lines). If we do anything that affects the SBO…we hopefully can get the SBOs done within the next few weeks. We can always have provisions to have new votes in September, reopen processes. We’ll figure it out. What we’d like to do, if we have good conversations, is get the majority of SBOs done by the end of the school year.

Julia (d75 OT/PT): Asking about continuing education issues we’ve had – not been able to take classes remotely, been told we have to show up at school, even though scheduling issues. We get 1400 dollars for continuing education which we need for a license, but it’s been hard to get approval/reimbursement, so some have waited over a year to be reimbursed for classes. Remote classes / freedom of classes would help. Sometimes we’re asked to tie it to kids on our caseload, even if we have different caseloads next year.

Mulgrew: On consultation agenda. It’s gotten ridiculous for several titles. Can change to make this a free for all. Idea was classes should be germane to work, not students on caseload. Nothing about no online classes. Maybe bureaucrats are mad they have to go to school.

Julia: We have 3000 therapists, it’s different to get the approval. So where is the money going if we can’t use it?

Mulgrew: Next Tuesday, consultation, I’ll follow up. We had some interesting discussions with the groups who approve these classes. That’s the nicest way to put it right now. Everyone is now focused on this is broken and has to be fixed. Why not allow remote classes?

New Resolutions:

Margaret Joyce and Barrows: Attacks on public education and public employees unions in Florida. This month’s agenda.  In response to legislation being passed that’s attacking public education and unions. It’s trying to weaken collective bargaining rights. It impairs existing contracts and has constitutional issues. It has book banning, CRT banning (which is only taught at the college level anyways), and school vouchers (which are racist in origin by funneling away money from public schools where students are most protected from discrimination, and test scores aren’t even better). Unions have to now recertify to have 60% membership rate. If it’s less than 60%, they become bargaining agents.

On this month’s agenda: 82% yes.

Name missed: Resolution opposing overreach of the U.S. Supreme Court and its conservative agenda.

On this month’s agenda: 77%.

Resolution Period:

Mulgrew: Endorsement time, let’s have some fun.

See resolutions here.

Liz Perez motivates endorsement reso. We take this very seriously, come with a good heart, have a union who wants to protect our members. These folks vote for our protections. True, we might not always agree. The work we do every day – these folks can help us to reach our children the best way we can. We need the right people in these positions. We’ve done our work/due diligence. These candidates have been vetted, and we need to stand behind folks who will do right by us.

Lamar Hughes: Would like to propose an amendment. Wish to include Christopher Bay as an endorsed candidate for District 19 in Queens. Bay was also a candidate for the D19 seat. There was a lot of dialogue about conversations on who we should endorse. Members on the screening committee were informed, but we believe it’s in our members’ best interests to include both. Going forward from here, it’s time to gear up – we have to unseat the person in D19. They are not our ally. That individual has been disparaging to us. So, with pride and pleasure, I say that Christopher Bay should be included with Tony A. Members should have the opportunity to include both.

Mulgrew: Clarifies – same party, the goal is to do the general. Then there will be another endorsement for the general.

Point of Information: Ranked choice voting? Yes.

Barbara S.: It doesn’t make any sense. Can’t make a choice between two people and decide you want both. If we have an incumbent who is positive for us, then we look at the incumbent and choose them. If we say they’re wrong, then we select one person or another. We cannot say we like two. What happens if there are three? If there are three you like – don’t even make an endorsement. To select both, this makes no sense. Think it’s bad policy – decide who you like the best. Either say no to the incumbent and go to the challenger, but you cannot select two.

Point of information (Mary V.): The two candidates are not the incumbents. Vicky Paladino is?

Amy Arundel: Vicky Paladino is an enemy of public education. We had a rigorous process where we interviewed. We’re saying leave it to members of those 2, then we’ll get behind one of them.

Ilona Nanay: I thought last DA we tried to add a name to the process and were told no, it’s not the process, so I don’t understand what’s happening.

Mulgrew: That’s not what happened…Oh, we did explain…

Barr: At the last DA, the maker of that particular amendment asked us to endorse someone who was still in conversation at the local level. This is different. We’re trying to honor that process. That was a lot of conversation about moving behind both of these democratic candidates, so they can take on the incumbent. The other person was trying to short circuit it and not follow the recommendations of the process.

Question called on all matters of the house.

Mulgrew: That will be for the amendment and the resolution as it stands at that moment.

85%: debate ends.

Amendment vote: 72%, passes.

Resolution as amended: 79%, passes as amended.

Resolution in Support of the Writers Guild of America:

Janella Hinds: 2 weeks ago on May Day, 11,000 members authorized a strike. Wasn’t taken lightly. Shut down production. They’ve taken the decision to strike. Total cost of their demands is hundreds of millions of dollars, but the corporations make billions of dollars. In the time of the strikes, many of these companies have lost billions of dollars. Just one of them could have met the demands, but this is not about austerity, it’s about breaking the union. We as educators have to stand strong. I ask for your support.

Dave Kazanzky: Only thing I love more than looking after your pensions is watching TV and movies. No reason that the writers should provide millions of dollars of revenue and create views and talk about their work and not be able to make a living doing it. Doesn’t make sense doing it. Stand in support.

Martina Meijer: While I am very pro-union, I don’t support this reso, because our union is free to tweet whatever we want. Not sure why we are pro-strike for other unions, but not for ourselves. This is not the right forum. The use of parliamentary motions like in the last motion (City Council) is wrong.

Name missed: No time have I heard we wouldn’t stand up to strike. Tell me your strategy – so don’t come to the floor/table unless you have one. Where is yours so we can stand together?

James ?: Calls question.

86%: passes.

Mulgrew notes that it was the last endorsement. Thanks members who have done the work.

Budget Resolution:

Ilona Nanay: asking folks to support. Show of hands for people who lost staff due to excessing. Nervous about next school year? Many hands up. This resolution is important. A budget is a moral document that demonstrates priorities. We have revenues that have gone up. We finally received foundation aid. Still in the midst of a pandemic and slowly coming out. Schools are vital to the community. Calling the UFT to ask the DOE not to cut budgets next year. We’re also asking for funding to be restored.

Janella Hinds: We worked together and collaborated. This is a statement from the entire high school division of the executive board.

Passes: 98% yes

Resolution to Reduce US Maternal Mortality Rates

Karen Alford: What do Beyonce and Serena Williams have in common? They’ve experienced complications during/after child delivery. What should be a joyous time is not for many. Women are bleeding out and getting infections, dying. There are complications during delivery/childbirth. This is a problem exacerbated for black women. We had the opportunity in March as part of the Black History Film Series to watch Aftershock. It’s there that a spotlight was put on. On April 13th, Biden proclaimed black maternal health week. This was necessary and defined during this week, from the white house, black women are 3-4x more likely to die during pregnancy during pregnancy. Bringing this here today because our moms are worth it. Think of children who are still here but whose lives are lost. We have to stand up. Must be attention shown in reference to maternal health disparities. So stand with us as a body to make sure that women leave hospitals and are alive to care for children.

Passes: 94% yes

Mulgrew: On the 24th, everyone will be out there, doing what they need to do.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *