UFT Election Season is Upon Us, Apparently – DA Minutes 5-22-2024

Summary/Analysis: We’re back in election season, apparently, so expect a Unity show from here on out. After hearing one of the longest president’s reports all year, something often done to monopolize time and keep non-Unity business to a minimum, we heard UFT Welfare Fund Director, Geof Sorkin, go after MORE’s dental resolution from the last DA (more below), heard a cryptically asked and answered question about ‘outsiders running in union elections,’ which seemed to be directed (and, if so, erroneously) toward the RTC election (more below). Not a single oppo member was called on in the question period, and when Daniel Alicea tried to put forward an amendment to un-endorse one of Bloomberg’s old associates for NYS Assembly, he was ruled out of order. Long speeches, vaguely and not-so-vaguely worded anti-oppo diatribes, and denials of speaking time; this, I suspect, will be the new normal until the citywide union officer elections are over in spring of 2025. To get into some more specifics:

  • Welfare Fund: Sorkin’s argument seemed farfetched, and probably should be put under a microscope. He made a similar argument, naming PSC as the union he was critiquing, on Monday at executive board – adding a couple things about their dental benefits. I’ll repost what I wrote RE the executive board meeting here: “While PSC does have better dental reimbursement rates, Sorkin suggested they had less protections because of a lack of dentists who must take our schedule of benefits and associated copays. He also proclaimed that their prescription situation was abysmal, pointing to the UFT’s three most expensive covered prescriptions and comparing prices of $35 (UFT) to outlandish almost million-dollar figures for the PSC. I’d suggest the following: (A) in-network dentists don’t always take the prescription rates – I’ve seen them say that to give the service defined in the schedule of benefits, they’d have to use materials or procedures that they aren’t comfortable using – that they don’t do, whether they’re listed as UFT dentists or not. That’s why so many people end up with bills of several thousands of dollars for crowns that are supposed to be far less; (B) just today, I spoke to one UFT member who has had their prescriptions outright denied and has to pay for them entirely out of pocket, and another UFT member whose PSC-represented spouse has never paid outlandish costs for a prescription. Apparently, the PSC-represented spouse has better optical benefits too. The figures Sorkin listed are outlandish because they’re unusual. Look, I’m not saying PSC necessarily does everything better than the UFT – but UFT needs to do better on our dental, something all members deal with several times a year – and at far too high a price. We need to find a way to get more money into our welfare fund, and to actually use it. Though the organizing we’d need to do this is not simple, which is why the Unity-led UFT hasn’t organized it, the answer is right there in front of us: organize it or it won’t come.”
  • ‘Non-union members’: When the RTC delegate asked a question about non-union members running in elections, no one really knew who was being discussed. Some people shouted from the audience ‘who are you talking about.’ But, since the delegate was retired, and is going through the retiree election vote, we can infer that she’s likely discussing the election that pertains to her – the RTC chapter election. For reference, Unity recently put out a flyer (and all retired delegates at the DA are Unity) with some of the outlandish claims I’ve ever seen about the opposition group, Retiree Advocate, running against them. NAC, by the way is running several members in Retiree Advocate. It’s a solid, legitimate group, and you should vote for them – NOT for Unity. To be clear, all of the members of the slate are retired UFT members. One of the people running is even a retired UFT Vice President.However, Unity, after publishing bizarre red-baiting attack ads, mischaracterized their relationship with Marianne Pizzitola (and MORE, an even more outlandish association). Marianne is a fellow MLC retiree who helped organize retirees across all city unions to keep their Medicare (so far, successfully), and who has rightly attacked Mulgrew and Unity for their role in trying to diminish retiree healthcare for members across the City. She is not on the RA slate, but you could see why her UFT-associated members might want to vote for RA (the slate that wants to keep Medicare as is) and not Unity (which has been organizing to enroll retirees in Medicare [dis]advantage). I want to reiterate that the materials Unity put out to discredit RA were absurd, utterly inaccurate, red-baiting slanders. However, for Unity and Unity-adjacent members who had seen them, hearing them discussed in the context of the DA, held it is in UFT’s official headquarters, by our official elected leaders, lent credence to them.
  • The UFT is lodging a complaint regarding the TRS election, but I’m not sure I buy the integrity argument from our red-baiting friends. Between the endorsement of Christina without any vetting process of other candidates, lies from our own officers about their knowledge of Ben at the endorsement DA (February), and the fact that someone at one of the UFT’s ‘community schools’ lodged a challenge to Ben’s 1600+ signatures to keep him off the ballot, well, call me skeptical that this lawsuit has any motivation other than to keep Unity in power. Case in point – the lawsuit was not filed as an injunction, but after the fact, so Christina McGrath, the Unity candidate, will be seated before any resolution takes place.
  • For the rest of the minutes, and Mulgrew’s long winded, repetitive updates, which could have probably been a two or three paragraph email, see below.

Informal Minutes

Starts at 4:19

President’s Report: Moment of silence for John Delgadio, cl and Dick Preceda, district rep.

A lot of stuff going on. Thanks for allowing us to move, because last week me, 8 teachers, and Leo Gordon were in Virginia in the Micron facility, massive, but only half the size of facility to be built in Syracuse. Work we’ve been doing. Interesting provisions like must supply childcare, must be built by union workers. Group of teachers worked arduously, micron happy, looking forward to spending a lot of money.

Elections, that’s it. Primary day coming up June 25. Crazy season, all know what’s going on. A lot of attention and money poured into NYS. Both sides are saying determination of who controls congress determined here. Seven races will be very important. If do this work right, congress will be controlled by people who like public education. First lady came to spring conference on Saturday. Really went out of her way to come. Said to UFT you always do the work to support us. Just passed another threshold. Nobody understands what president has done – no recession, strongest dollar in history, all because of how he’s handling the economy. Keeps getting legislation through. When they got into office, just UFT only, close to 12,500 members have partaken in this program, surpassed 250,000,000 mark in our members pockets. Take a student loan, don’t expect to pay 5x its cost. Hope the days of members retiring still paying off their student loans is over.

3 major issues for us RE state funding. Funding for teacher center, great. We get that done.

Sued City of NY. When first started lobbying, knew we were going to get this. Said waiting til end of lawsuit, but why wait if we know what’s happened is wrong? Prevailed. Strongest maintenance of effort language that we’ve ever had, City knows supplanting days are over. They know they have to maintain. No question of outcome if we have to go to court.

Class size, gonna wait. A lot of work to do before the end of the school year. Biggest piece is that we have to recognize – NYC will fund each individual school the appropriate amount of funding to come into compliance. That’s what the law says, not that it may fund, but that it will fund. Additional money, not old money. Distinction there  is that this whole narrative we heard for the last year and a half is now blown. Budget must maintain what they’ve always had – additional money is for class size.

Now, the work really starts. Do you think they know how to lower class sizes? No. We had a great meeting with them, you never hear me say that, but did. ‘OK, we have to do this…’

Tier 6 – maintained everything we had, plus added an additional piece. Lobbying is all about what does something cost. Last year, we changed vesting, so that vesting was same for Tier 6 as 4. This is a big piece, but not biggest. Now we have final average salary as Tier 4. Not easy to do, because people were afraid, because people said too expensive. A lot of unions involved, whole AFL-CIO, start hearing about a backup position. There’s no backup position. Kept going strong, a lot of late nights. Can’t have elected officials stand up and talk about problems hiring – of course you have a problem, Tier 6! If you’re going in at 18 and have to stay til 63. Doesn’t make sense to people. Getting the big ticket items. Next biggest piece is the age, bringing down to 55. Lots of people say fix tier 6, nice – we agree, but we have to figure it out. That’s why when I talk about things like Micron, it’s important that getting federal grant, but also investing its own money. NYS weakening and city holding state in good position, but can’t keep going in that direction. Gotta get jobs – make them union jobs. Revenues are up means massive surpluses, which means you go for the big ticket items.

Did everyone who was eligible, with the retention bonus. How about we call it the thank you check. We have from the City that everyone will keep their check by May 7.

TRS election, DOE was not prepared to run an election which is in writing. They didn’t do it. They have done the election/results. Proud of the candidates. But, I want to be clear, Christina has 69% of the vote, it doesn’t matter – this is what a union is supposed to be about. Christina had come to me – folks reached out to Ben, no matter what the results are, we have to file a complaint. Lawyers did research – article 78 process. Where we are going. It’s important that things are done correctly – can’t allow a precedent to be set. They completely botched the whole thing – from initial parts, then one mistake after another. At this point, Christina will be seated, but we are going forward with the Article 78 precedent to be set. That’s what we call integrity. Always hear about games, but this is the way you’re supposed to do with it. Doesn’t matter what the result is, have to challenge it end of the story.

Congestive pricing – boo. Don’t know how many lawsuits. Everyone asked to be at court from 9-5 last Friday. Seems to me like judge wants CP to move forward, but we’ll see where that goes. We will weigh our options when this judge decides. But whole bunch of lawsuits in NJ too. Both judges have said they’d rule before June 30. At least people started realizing why we’re suing, not because we don’t want midtown to get better air quality then pollute some of the most polluted areas in the country. Multiple environmental justice communities. UFT just trying to get free tolls for members? Yeah we put in for that too, but don’t want to see neighborhoods get pollution.

SBOs – make sure you’re doing everything promptly. CLs get in trouble every year on this. Thank you for handling this – most utilized part of our actual contract. Have your calendars. Not waiting for calendar – all done. Go move your days around.

Ton of elections going around right now. Need you to make sure that have election committee meeting – not who are running.

City changed budget for education – 180,000,000 in for class size reduction, had no inclination before what we did, haven’t worked out which schools, not going to do class size all at one time. Doesn’t say for principal’s discretion. Fine, not arguing on that piece. Bigger piece, a lot of different initiatives/programs that are funded through city council. All these different choices. Bigger fight for this year – trying like did in Albany.

Fought hard to get the early childhood program in New York – understood that 3k and prek would be a significant game changer for our children. Members working in programs are amazing – at that level, children are all over the place. All know that if we can get children on grade level by third grade, their chances of graduating go up considerably. Why in the world would you attack the 3k/prek program? Traditional DOE didn’t like them because it wasn’t under them – built outside of them on purpose, because didn’t want them to ruin them. Was in discussions with De Blasio when started. Stopped them, did rallies, everything else. Now, you’ve heard the chancellor, announced in April, that we have to get 3k/prek back up to speed – because as educator, assuming he knows what this is. Families depend on it, yes depend on it as childcare. Gotta get them baselined. Need to make sure future mayors never go to early childhood ever again.

Virtual learning – 155 schools doing virtual learning, looking at them all very closely. 122 approved to move forward. Certain instances where absolutely not – not moving forward. Said this to the high school people. We are watching like hawks, because we need the same integrity that we saw throughout election for the trustee. Can’t use it for credit recovery. Knock it off – not going to be used to credit recovery. This is virtual learning – a class that’s on a program. Constantly having issues with credit recovery programs. Did work, chancellor and myself. Chances of graduating on time are slim at moment, but if get them to 10, significantly higher. What we’ve done in high school – I’m high school – we’d get a kid with 20 credits, not a senior, taking care of them in 9th and 10th grade – if do there, don’t have to worry about a senior with 20 credits. Also very happy if students want to accelerate. A lot of them want to work because their parents need the money, or they’re care givers, and some are care givers AND already working. So let’s tailor to them instead of model from the 1940s. Thankful to D79 – all working on virtual learning programs.

Spring SPED training – learned in the fall, a lot of bad information about sped, each district can’t make up their own rules. Record number of SPED complaints this year – highest we’ve ever had, highest number escalated , escalated more than ever. Vetted and found out there was a real problem. Now, memorial day this weekend, how are we going to set up schools so we don’t have all these issues? This is part of a principal’s rating – chancellor put that in.

Brooklyn Queens Day – how is Brooklyn Queens/SI always off. Whatever we call it now – want you to have this information. DOE came to us – remember the snow day. Didn’t work until later in the day. Chancellors Day is a PD day. Assuming what I’m being told…they said they’ll reach out to students, noninstructional day by law. Under the constitution of NYC, there is no instruction allowed to happen in two boroughs – Need to continue, because of our calendar.

Know there’s something coming out – at the last DA.

Geof Sorkin: Asked Michael if I could have a few minutes to address this body, amazing to me, when we get to September I’ll have attended for 20 years, a lot of love. Last DA, I was at a prescription conference. False narrative presented to this body last month. Dental benefits – one of the benefits we provide at UFT – was an article on the insane cost of dental benefits. Finally on Biden’s radar to stop all of that – unregulated market. Little changes to dental come with big cost increases. Trustees rightfully prioritize prescriptions – we have low copayments. 30 day supply will only cost you 35, 25, or 15 – always been our focus. We’ve been exploring dental for years, not easy, and working on something. Focus is on prescriptions, dental number two, right behind it. Heard there was some discussion that we needed to fix dental – no we can’t do that hastily. Keep hearing us compared to other unions. Unions have welfare funds with different priorities. Have to look at the full package of benefits, keep hearing this other union listed as the gold standard. Since some people feel compelled to compare another union. They have percentage copayments – their members, when start to fill medications, have to pay 20-35 percent of cost of drug. Lists some drugs with much higher prices for other union, costs of which get higher the more that union has paid, up to 80% of cost of drug. Not accurate to say you cover a drug if member can’t afford copay. Our focus on prescription drug – superior to everyone also. Trustees of UFT welfare fund place focus on specialty medication that no one else wants to touch with 10 foot poll. Lists some that cost crazy amount, such as 35 here but 931,000…Ladies and gentleman, that’s a false narrative. Proud to serve as executive director of the UFT Welfare Fund.

UFT Staffers give a standing ovation.

Mulgrew: have to continue – this is why we have to vote. Healthcare costs, pharmaceutical industry, hospital chains, all of these different new management companies, country needs someone to fight against this industry. Working with some people in Albany to start chipping away at some things. Healthcare should not be something that workers are squabbling over because they can’t afford it. When Geoff says, don’t weigh into something unless you know all the facts. Misleading people so that they will make a mistake is not someone with real integrity. This president has shown a willingness to take on the pharmaceutical industry, oil, things we all believe in. Citizens United most problematic piece of law that’s ever been upheld in the US. Billions of dollars a year going into lobbying. Call us the special interest. Yeah, we do have a special interest – e.g. making lives better for children. When special interest is making more and more money…This is our real fight. You heard some of these prices. We have a welfare fund, manage it very carefully. Dental is unregulated. At least hospitals are regulated, not well, but regulated. Their costs have increased much more percentage wise – so have to an RFP. Already started. When try to work with dental folks, ridiculous. Have to figure out some way to get people to wake up – corporations started getting together, because they pay for healthcare. Bezos, Waltons, upset with cost of healthcare. When you hear people that … those drugs are about somebody’s ability to live. That’s why we do prioritize the drugs, but don’t like what we’re paying – pissed off about it. Really difficult situation that all of America is in. Appellate division of NY came down on MAP decision. One part, wow pretty cool, was that City must uphold promise to retirees. My first reaction is OK, so for 40 years for funding things, are you telling me that’s now the City’s problem? Could be interesting. But also said MAP fulfills that promise. Exploding healthcare costs. Why are we doing a negotiated acquisition for in-service, because using that size, people want to manage for that huge amount of people, 2 million lives. 2% management fees can make money – don’t want you to jack everything else up on top of that. Want savings to come back to us. Tough work. As far as any of us are concerned, you shouldn’t be in this predicament. Not here for other people’s political agendas, here to safeguard them.

Class size – need you to start having consultation with the principals, by the DOE itself. Told principals to eliminate music programs. No, not eliminating programs because of class size. Also no bussing into other programs. Law has all the flexibility they need inside it. Need plan, e.g. building annex. Law is about class sizes of NYC, not schools of NYC. Thanks people who went to Albany. Certain parts of our city, people organizing against the class size law, funded by the same people who are banning books. This is what we have to stop. Have to figure this out. Doesn’t end in year 5. Certain schools not in compliance because don’t have the staff. Tell us where what licenses your staff needs – DOE doesn’t know. This is hard work, but it has to get done. Fill out surveys – let’s have that tough conversation if principal is still not getting it. Remind principal they will get additional money next year for class size legislation. Contact Triscia Arnold – [email protected], help with training.

Apologize for the length but a lot to cover today. AAPI month, Jewish heritage month. Love our diversity and keep sticking that in everyone’s face. Have a lovely memorial day weekend.

LeRoy Barr: Academic high school awards. Middle school run following day. Albert Shanker scholarship taking place Tuesday June 4th. Another first book event, Saturday June 8th.UFT family day. Please out to DeShana Barker with questions. Juneteenth celebration. Pride March, Sunday June 30th. Next DA, June 12th. Only 3 more Mondays until the end of school.

Ends at 5:31

Question Period

Delegate: 3questions. 9th session continuing education classes, people not reimbursed over 6 months, how do we streamline whole process. BERS to TRS?

Mulgrew: We’ve had it with payroll department. Don’t know what to do anymore. Did meet new person in charge of payroll. So aggravating at this point. If have to take action, will move forward. Can be patient up to a degree, but when gross incompetence…Can’t process anything on time. Never heard of an org taking 3-4 months to create a payroll code. That’s what they start with – 3 months for code.

Rich Mantell: confirmation, it will be up in September. Confirmation it will b ready.

Mulgrew: so missed year of benefit, told Sep.

OT/PT delegate: was a big selling point of contract.

Mulgrew: Really bad! Think about this. Compliance numbers would have went up, no sense at all.

Had an email RE BERS, fight to get bill through committee right now. Trying to destabilize the other system—no it doesn’t do that—some political maneuvering. Have personally been on the phone. People have said very supportive. Want out members out of BERS period. Doesn’t cost a fiscal problem, just moving over one place to another. If private business, would have lost them all for how treated. Comptroller highly critical of BERS – not so much about technical pension numbers, but giving themselves all raises.

Delegate: Class sizes, how might impact shared spaces. If need class sizes smaller, wouldn’t it be better to reclaim building instead of annex.

Mulgrew: yes, because law says will lower class sizes. Why do we have to house or pay rent for charter schools? Ridiculous. To get a school building built or annex, takes a lot of time/energy/political clout. Some areas can get annexes easier than others. Not fair to children. Taking the politics out…

Delegate: Went on a trip today with kindergarteners, pertaining to bussing. Really hard to obtain buses even with advance notices.

Mulgrew: Some missed…. Will start process.  

Delegate: is chancellor’s day a remote day?

Mulgrew: yes, remote professional development day. LeRoy, inform DOE.

Delegate from RTC: Michael what are we doing with people who are running for elections who are running in our elections, not getting documentation that they want to be whatever in our union, but not union members. If you aren’t paying the dues, you don’t belong, shouldn’t have position in our union. What can we do about that?

Mulgrew: Rules that govern certain elections and positions. We make sure that everything is being followed. Certain things slip by and we have to take a look at it. Hard time with anyone who says they don’t want to pay dues but then want to run. If there’s a rule or something, someone wants to bring it to me.

Delegate: who are we talking about?

Mulgrew: If you read my emails…the allegations that are made. I ask it to stop, but it seems we can’t. Learned bad things. Basic strength of the union is to push forward together. If members don’t understand but want to push forward because they have an agenda…Democracy is messy. What we’ve seen in our country, how’s the democratic process working out, political process, now it’s about who is trying to push forward an agenda that will help some, but not others, sometimes it will hurt some. So I hear – I get all this stuff, but gotta keep the union moving. That’s why I was so strong on point about TRS election – integrity. Can keep saying things. Union is a sacred gift, only going to be here for a period of time, have to pass it on to others, can’t be about any group’s individual opinion, has to be about politics. We know the politics of trying to inflame things with one issue. I expect union to look through this, say BS is BS, but can’t silence people because you don’t agree with them.

New Motions

Brian D. Item on this repeal of the Comstock act.

Mulgrew: Oh, I saw this one! Listen, a lot of laws out there way out there. Parliamentarian I was out of order.

Brian D. Comstock act about suppressing obscene materials and dissemination of info about birth control and abortion, restricting info , broad ability to enforce, about curbing vices and encouraging moral behavior.

Yeses 484; nos 130; yes 145, no 19 – 81%. – this month’s agenda.

Randi Gold (next month agenda): commemorating anniversary of the stonewall riots. For many, stonewall just a bar, but actually it’s a union. Many friends in LGBTQ community, many times witnessed discrimination, vilification. If you know one person, it should be personal for you. Currently, 515 bills in US alone that are on the table to undermine and cause the community to have fewer rights. Stonewall is the birthplace of the community. 1969 is when riots occurred. Teach children, fairness and equality. Way it should be in our communities as well. Will always support any community that seems to marginalized in any way.

84% – placed on next month’s agenda.


Lamar Hughes: speaking proud support of Justice Cassandra Johnson for this endorsement. Johnson has been an attorney – done some research on what a surrogate judge does. Focuses on wrongful death, etc. Our membership, we will all go through this moment, deal with our loved ones. When they look up judge, going to see we endorsed. Ask you all to endorse Cassandra Johnson.

Mulgrew leaves – Barr take chair for debate.  

Daniel Alicea:

Whereas the UFT endorsed Micah Lasher, Bloomberg’s chief lobbyist and architect of Tier 6 and various procharter, anti-union, and anti-public school policies, without a vote at the DA.

Be it resolved, we will remove the endorsement of Micah Lasher in the 69th assembly district.

Sill: point of order, immaterial. I am going to rule amendment, if ruled out of order.

Challenge of the chair.

Daniel Alicea: Micah Lasher has been destructive influence on the DOE.

LeRoy Barr: I can rule you out of order..

Alicea: Asking for ruling from parliamentarian.

Parliamentarian: issue is whether amendment is in the amendment, but may speak to it. Chair has ruled that ruled that it was out of order, I agree. Limit discussion to that.

Alicea: I believe it is germane has had the opportunity to nominate state officials in the past. We are the highest body. This person was destructive to be our union.

Barr: Endorsements for state seats does not happen here – because state seats. Those endorsements happen at the NYSUT level. Motion before you is a UFT recommendation.

Alicea: Says UFT endorsed on the literature – holds up.

Barr: Vote about why out of order.

Yeses 83% agree with chair.

Resolution passes.

Question called before any debate.

353-99 / 131/9 – 82%

Nick Bacon is a co-chairperson at New Action Caucus. He is also an elected member of the UFT executive board


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