UFT Leadership: No, we won’t rally to stop budget cuts. 2-26-2024 Executive Board Minutes

Summary and Analysis:

  • First off, if you haven’t read it yet, David Ginsberg published a great piece on the Taylor Law this morning. I’m linking that here.
  • The meeting started late. LeRoy Barr and Mike Sill were stuck in an elevator, as it turns out, until the end of the meeting. Carl Cambria filled in as chair.
  • Mostly, we heard about special events: scavenger hunts, film screenings, baseball games, religious celebrations, the View screenings. Precious little attention was given to union matters themselves, with the almost unique exception of the usual curriculum update (not about our fight against it mind you, but our handling of its flawed but seemingly inevitable implementation).
  • I asked a question about the Tier 6 fight – specifically on which legislators were supporting us (and on what exact pieces of legislation if applicable), and which legislators were not supporting us (and what we were doing about that). I was met with radio silence – apparently they don’t have a breakdown about any of this, which makes me worried about whether our COPE dollars are actually going to Tier 6 reforms, despite all the recent advertising, but I digress.
  • Ronnie Almonte (MORE) and Ed Calamia (NAC) motivated what appeared to be a no-brainer of a resolution to have the UFT organize a rally against budget cuts, including future budget cuts, to be held at some point in the Spring (also cosigned by me, Alex Jallot, and Mike Schirtzer). Readers may remember that there was only one such rally so far and it was during the school day back in December. Despite some reductions of the cuts, hundreds of millions have been slashed, not only affecting students and teachers this year, but setting us up for austerity next year. Until I started to see Unity members get up to speak against, I actually expected this resolution to pass. Ed and Ronnie both spoke well in favor of the reso (I got up to speak too, but the question was called before I could get to the mic). Given that hundreds of millions were cut even after Adams walked some back, you’d think UFT leadership would agree to at least hold a rally to organize members – something. Instead, they argued such absurdities as:
    • (1) ‘we don’t need a reso to hold a rally’ – an argument that would hold more water had we actually held a rally about cuts we’ve known about since August. There are also implications about democracy here – what’s wrong with rank-and-file members deciding to hold a rally? Why, especially in the age of undemocratic use of our dues and/or COPE funds to do things like sue over congestion pricing or lobby to reduce safeguards protecting retirees from Medicare advantage, should we prefer staffers to come up with our actions instead of working members?
    • (2) ‘The cuts aren’t so bad, because of the work we’ve done’ – an argument that would be more convincing if there weren’t still hundreds of millions in cuts.
  • All in all, a disappointing night. When Carl Cambria ended the meeting, saying he couldn’t wait to call the question to do so, at just quarter of seven, and cheers erupted just as the only point of real union business had been quashed, you had to wonder what Unity Caucus thinks unionism even is.

Informal Minutes begin

Meeting starts late because LeRoy Barr and Mike Sill are both stuck in an elevator.

Carl Cambria: Approval of the minutes.

President’s Report: Mulgrew not here.

Janella Hinds: March is Women’s History Month. Majority of union is women. We are going to celebrate women’s history month with our Herstory celebration. Celebrating women in the labor union. Gloria Middleton, only woman on Municipal labor Executive Committee. Saturday, March 16th at 10:00 AM. Young people studying cosmetology at a high school in Brooklyn will be doing some beauty services like painting nails. Love to see you there.

Rich Mantell: Event of UFT, March 7th. 400 high school girls here. A lot of students coming from temporary housing. Different note, March 9th (Saturday), Alexander Hamilton scavenger hunt down here. Breakfast at 9, hunt at 10.

Karen Alford: Received email from one of the DRs about paras having to enter TSG data. Response back from DOE is paras ae not required to enter data in gold. While some may volunteer to do so, not required. Sent to all DRs.

Mary Vacarro: Had phase 2 CLs here. Going to try to get all of the books for phase 2 into schools. Want to get all orders done. Data walls conversation – shouldn’t be any. It’s when they put up a grade saying red, yellow, green, saying how each grade is doing, then shows teachers name. Didn’t even have to argue it, that will be mandated to be taken down in all schools. Sound walls, unless school is trained in how to use, (new word wall but with sounds), no school should be required to do unless training. No training yet. Illustrative Math looking to get materials instead of just digital, no agreement yet, we want, they say digital alone is fine.

Carl Cambria: Virtual learning portion of contract went into effect in September, about 20 went through PROSE. Then 20 more for spring. Last week, fall of 2024 application went live. Also a survey to collect interest. Contract said up to 25 percent could participate, now 50 percent for next fall. In terms of contract implementation update, numbers have been woeful. Looking to do a few things to bring up interest. Janella is on the committee, send interested CLs their way. Want as many schools as possible interested in the Fall.

Reports from Districts:

Sean Rockowitz: system shift to remote, same day as Staten Island blood drive, now March 13th, you’ll go home with a pint of ice cream. Register on UFT website.

Adam Shapiro: SRP award celebration happened. UFT Mets game sold out in 2 hours, 874 tickets sold. Able to get another 142 tickets that also sold out.

Rashad Brown: Last week on Wednesday, took 6 or 7 Divine 9 UFT members for a taping of the view. Not always engaged in UFT stuff, but we had a good time. This Thursday is the second to last installment of Black History Film Series, Rustin, DeShana Barker in charge of last one, phenomenal. Following week will be Ladies First a documentary about women in hip hop. March 27th, having a paint and sip in the Bronx for the Pride committee, raising money for the Daniel Drumm scholarship.

Seung Lee: Feb 14 at Harlem Nights, UFT Uptown celebrated Valentines Day.

Aqeel Williams: March 15th, Friday, first iftar celebration, during Ramadan (break fast). UFT Islamic Committee. When flyer comes out, encourage you to come. Will start at 6:00.

DeShana Barker: Hosted asylum seekers and donated many materials. Successful.

Daniel Rodriguez: Had a ribbon cutting, high school in the Bronx, Bronx Leadership Academy. First year that the school has a teacher center and first one I’ve been a part of bringing into.

Legislative Report:

Carl Cambria: I almost got on the elevator, but took a different one to get to a different floor.

Venecia Wilson: Been a minute, but Tom Suozzi flipped CD3. Shout out to retirees and Lamar Hughes. Shout out to queens office. Special effort from every borough office. Feb. 16-18, Black Puerto Rican Hispanic Asian Legislators took place. Several people from UFT here, Karen Alford on united community schools, Tina Collins on class size, LeRoy Barr on diverse workforce, Lisa Highland spoke with BIPOC, Marquise spoke regarding Turrets Syndrome.  Parents came out, thanks to Nick Cruz. Coming up have NYSUT committee of 100, 4th and 5th, then Lobby Day on March 11th. Feb. 29, having a class size hearing. Rita Joseph, education committee chair will sponsor a rally and presser. March 8th, 9th, and 10th, DC37 bringing a group. Budget cuts have been reversed for upcoming piece. Will keep up our fight.


DeShana Barker: Birthday tomorrow. Attended Howard and other schools, almost all debt gone as of moment.

Teresa Bellow: Early childhood exec board, Karen Alford wanted me to share news, spent time during break doing presentations and IEP reports, made second round for Flag report, semi-finalists, wrote 6 essays and put together a slideshow, took 6 hours over break, interview coming up, if I make it it’s a 10k cash prize, would apply that to outdoor learning.


Nick Bacon: I am glad to hear that the Tier 6 campaign is taking off. What legislation are we pursuing, which legislators are supporting us, and which legislators are not? What are we doing to change their minds?

Venecia Wilson: Do not have a breakdown on that. NYSUT has been doing the heavy lifting so far.


Ronnie Almonte:

Resolution for a Citywide Protest at City Hall Against the Budget Cuts

Whereas, Mayor Eric Adams has cut $536 million from the DOE budget this Fiscal Year, and $703 million next Fiscal Year,

Whereas, together with previous cuts by the Mayor, he will have cut billions of dollars from NYC’s education budget at a time where student need is high

Whereas, federally-funded initiatives are at risk of being cut, including the staffing of social workers in schools where, prior to the pandemic, there were none

Whereas, the budget crisis that the Mayor has alleged since he entered City Hall to justify his cuts is non-existent, for the city has a surplus and its tax revenues are higher than anticipated,

Whereas, the Mayor has invented economic crises as political maneuvers to preferentially cut certain city agencies,

Whereas, past and future budget cuts must be confronted by a mobilized UFT rank-and-file membership

Resolved, that the UFT will demand publicly that the Mayor reverse his future budget cuts to the public schools, and restore cuts he’s made since his start in office,

Resolved, that the UFT will follow up its daytime protest at City Hall on December 11, 2023 with an all-out protest at City Hall this Spring at a time where most UFT members are off from work.

Ronnie Almonte

Nick Bacon

Ed Calamia

Alex Jallot

Mike Schirtzer

Motivate: Take what we did in December but do it at a time when we can all be there and get the mayor to fund not cut.

Patty Crispino: Don’t need a reso to do a rally. Actions we have done are why it hasn’t happened.

Aqeel Williams: opposition because reflecting on efforts from Christmas past. Regurgitated version of what we’ve been doing. Rank and file members already doing this work. Important to know, not a race, marathon. As long as we know what’s going on, have CAT teams in place, think resolution is a shout out to work we are already doing. If it is, we say thank you, and we appreciate the support.

Leo Gordon: 2 against so far so let’s let another person for speak before I do.

Ed Calamia: would like to speak in favor, think it’s valuable. People have taken substantial action against Adams budget cuts, but holding a rally where the rank and file are explicitly invited to come out – that’s a step in a better direction. Not gonna get us to turn our backs. This dynamic has been going on for years, threats – then drawing it back. We need to bring in our members – escape cycle. Wave that erodes our position as organized labor as educators, when they draw it back only some is given back – not all the way.

Leo Gordon: Why we rally, when we rally. Not something we put a date or a time to, work that has to happen. If we do this – the timing – Adams just rescinded latest cuts because of all the work we’ve been doing. Timing is – don’t want to say – poor, because we’re gonna stand back. This takes time.

Question called.

Only UFC votes in favor.

Cambria: can’t wait to ask next question. Motion to adjourn.

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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