UFT Leadership to Paras: ‘you already have it pretty good – don’t usurp our bargaining authority by fighting for a living wage!’ – DA Summary/Minutes/Analysis, 3/20/24


The headline from tonight comes from the very end of the meeting – Unity’s bizarre handling of the paraprofessional resolution. Readers may remember that I motivated Migda Rodriguez, Marie Wausnok, and Daniel Alicea’s resolution at executive board on Monday, only to see it gutted of its most important resolved – the one that would have committed the UFT to fighting for a living wage. Tonight, Priscilla Castro, who ran with Unity and won the chief para gig over at 52 Broadway, made a motion to move the gutted version of the reso up to the number three slot (it was at eleven beforehand). This felt coordinated, not just because it gave the incumbent a way to be seen with a pro-para resolution right in the middle of election season, but because there was no reason for the resolution to not already be at the top of the agenda. Unity routinely puts executive board motions at the top of the agenda, burying previous resolutions motivated at the ‘lesser’ space of the DA, a practice I disagree with, but one they customarily employ. In other words, this was a contrived opportunity to give Castro a speaking role that implied ownership of said resolution and at the expense of valuable motivating time.

After I motivated, Daniel Alicea put forward an amendment that would have restored some language similar to that of the original resolution about fighting for a living wage, albeit with some concessions about the possibility of closed bargaining (one of Unity’s grievances with the former version). In the period that followed, Unity seemed to muddy the waters and confuse delegates into thinking the amendment somehow usurped bargaining authority of paraprofessionals, a mischaracterization both of the amendment (to fight for a living wage) and of the actual bargaining power given to functional groups at the negotiating table. Remember pattern bargaining, folks? Or how, when OT/PTs tried to vote down a contract to beat pattern bargaining, Unity orchestrated a revote?

I digress. I think the reason we lost the amendment was that folks were just plain confused by the end, Unity having made it appear that the amendment was something it wasn’t. But in the process of winning the battle, Unity also showed itself – giving absurd takes on the para situation, such as that their wages aren’t that bad in the context of non-NYC paras (NYC cost of living anyone?) and offering the implicit possibility that their current para representation might opt not to fight for a living wage. Might that be what paras want? Handbooks over wages? I doubt it, but, we can’t know for sure. The only full-time rank and file paras who were heard tonight were the original drafters of the resolution, which I read in their stead while they work second jobs. Unity, despite trying to discredit me, Alex, Peter, and Daniel for speaking on behalf of paras despite being teachers, didn’t put forward any full-time paras of their own. Instead, they put forward a former full-time para who is now primarily a UFT staffer. We don’t make the choices of who Mulgrew calls on; Mulgrew and the phone operators do.

Otherwise, we heard the usual vague yet drawn out updates from Mulgrew in an overly long presidential report. Take their boasting on Tier 6 with a grain of salt. The only specific update we have doesn’t even come from them, but from Robert Jackson, who has put forward a piece of legislation that would lower the final average salary calculation (still good), but not fix the retirement age or excessive rates of contribution. We haven’t gotten any information about this from UFT leadership, despite the promise of organizing us to get Tier 6 improvements. And when I asked a few weeks ago about what specific pieces of legislation we were supporting and what legislators we were working with or against, I heard crickets and an excuse that ‘NYSUT (not UFT) is doing most of the work.’

In the question period, Georgia Lignou deserves a shoutout for an awesome plea to fix the problems with Danielson. As she pointed out, Danielson isn’t just a rating system, it changes how we teach. And all her evidence points to the idea that the higher ups prefer principals who rate effective teaching as developing – a practice which seems to be spreading. For a written piece by Georgia on the subject, see here. We need to do something about this.

Finally, a reminder that NAC’s Ben Morgenroth, another UFT member, is also campaigning for TRS. Make sure to get signatures!

That’s it for now. It’s late, so please accept a rain check for further analysis. Below, you’ll find my very informal minutes.

Informal Minutes

DA starts late at 4:19

President’s Report:

Mulgrew: We like spring. I’ll go through stuff quickly. March, we have two weeks now, it ends on Easter Sunday (budget).

Nationally, early voting starts on March 23rd (primary). We have to put up with that until…Good Friday and Easter Monday this year.

Getting on a plane to go to DC. We’ve been pushing nationally for quite some time, time to start to move it. Test-based accountability system for quite some time now. No Child Left Behind in 2002, but worse under Race to the Top. Still live under that. Mandated state tests, grade 4-8. Only reason state has to do that is because the federal gov mandates it. Not against assessments, but against over-testing – against our and students lives. Nationally, we don’t believe we should have a test-based accountability system – better ways to assess child’s learning. Having this conversation for years in DC. Experiential learning, project-based learning, CTE, groupwork, more effective way to teach children than teaching them to the test. So this is where we are pushing. Probably hear something about this tomorrow.

All sorts of different people. Folks who say have to privatize, parents choice (moms for liberty), voucher, all of this at the national level. It’s ugly. Some states it gets ugly, where they’ve won these battles. Our public school system is phenomenal. Just want to segregate people based on their beliefs. We educate all children to get them to a better place.

Quick legal report: congestion pricing – all of the lawsuits, the judge has said all the plaintive working with MTA should come with a problem solving solution. Don’t think it’s going to work.

Budget cuts, yes we know most rescinded, but not pulling the lawsuit for technical and legal reasons. Want to use as leverage to the state for maintenance of effort.

Thank you to everyone who did lobby day. 6 hours on a bus. It’s important, really important. If you read, we’re trying to do more in this legislative session than more would ever attempt. Lobbied on Monday. Nice that some people came to see us. Shocked that gov. came to see us, with cuts to education in her budget. Appreciated size of panel, how many parents and advocates. But the House proposals rescind all the cuts – a good thing. Both supporting heavy duty changes in Tier 6, so we got that done, that’s you. Still more to do.

Really good job on class size. Not enough that law is passed. Now they all believe that the mayor and his folks are scheming to get around the law. Only way around it, economic crisis in NYC. Listen to mayor, and claiming worst economic crisis. So not impossible to fabricate a crisis. Not a good week for DOE and Albany. Odd thing yesterday, mayor said looking forward to fully implementing the class size law. He knows he’ll be ‘working with the UFT in partnership to make it happen.’

Moving to actuarial note to move folks from BERS to TRS. More serious note.

NYSUT did a thing about APPR. Things that this union looked at, mandated minimums on observations – expedited 3020-A process, want out of the law. Just a bill. Most of us talk to people who work in other school districts, they don’t have multiple measures, just standardized test scores. Don’t have ability to do our more complicated systems. Student learning, one of smartest things we ever did. We were comfortable, membership was comfortable. They liked the old S/U system. U was usually based off of what. Only solely subjective to the administrator, so throughout all these APPR fights, so we started figuring out what is objective, but actually holds more weight than the administrator’s position.

So few of our members getting a bad rating, not because we gamed the system. Hard for people to stay in the system. Want observation system that allows a true representation of a teachers work. Now when they attack, we can overturn it, without going through grievance process.

Budget process – hearing on Monday, budget process no longer works for the City of New York. In NYC, OMB just tells you what’s available, under control of Mayor., was fine for years, they’d underestimate, but never to the percentages seeing today. Cuts in education, maintenance of effort, going to be interesting. City budget can’t be done until state budget is done.

SBO process starts next month. First time, you’ll have 21/2 months to do your sbos. Never had that, because we already agreed on the calendar on the contract. Right now there are 10 pre-approved SBOs. Pre-approved SBO, all in chapter leader hub. It is now the most utilized part of our contract.

Virtual learning, reported last month that it was going well. Only had 4 high schools, but have fully engaged. Have our committee, had to break down the barriers. Models for schools to look at it. Chancellors worked with superintendents. We’re here to help, 150 high schools now set to do.

Trachtenberg awards, beautiful things. CL is representative who receives award, but for whole chapter. When I got one, used for school – school is chapter (party). Make sure you celebrate with them.

Two things I want to report – keep talking about the school system. Probably has something to do with the prek program. Can’t truly move our system when we have d75 and d79 – need support to move. Yeses us to death to do nothing. Great paraprofessional can help move a classroom.

How do we get this done? Could be a traditional union – not our job, employers job. Not us, because it’s our school system. We’ll be here way longer than whoever is down there. This Saturday is para day.

Want to thank – one of our most successful conferences since its inception, early childhood conference. We did everything we possibly can.

Healthcare, RFP is continuing to move, more about finalizing the first stage of the process. This part of the process, ability to negotiate. We don’t have to do anything once get there. Want to get to the next stage of the process. Don’t know if we are going to get there. We have a shot to finish that. But from there, we kick right in and start negotiations. City and MLC negotiate, but we never agree to anything until we’re comfortable with something as the UFT. Sometimes even negotiate after the fact.

Testing about to start – pilot year for computerized standardized testing. This year it’s ELA, grades 5 and 8, from April 11 to the 19th. On math, 5 and 8, and for Ela. May 7 to 17th. Let us know, went better than we thought. Now, moving to a different place. All know what happened on snow day. This is a piece where, started with accountability system. Don’t disagree that if we get to a computer based system …rather just change the accountability system. Science, grades 5 and 8 has no dates. Optional for remaining grades 4, 6, and 7.

As world finds ways to divide itself, but we’re also a community of educators, but also here to help eachother, understand differences of each other. We want to help children and make the world a better place. Iftar dinner for Ramadan, here Friday night, thank committee. Lunar new year, another great event, thank that committee. Saturday morning, this room was packed. School counselors not guidance counselors. Then we went to the Brooklyn office for the herstory event. Then people from SI came to watch in first inclusive St Patrick’s Day Parade.

Professional committees are a part of this union. At certain times, popular, other times not popular. Things our members are interested in now. We have 28 communities in all right now, close to 3,000. We have a long way to go. Stage 2, how do we keep going and making it happen. Need also committees supporting each other. Celebrating diversity is a good thing. Learning about different cultures and religion is a beautiful thing – what we’re going to try to do with this. Can’t invite everyone, but a group called Standing Together, Israelis and Palestinians, will be here in this place – about making the world about a better place. Can’t invite everyone due to security issues. But the executive board, the Islamic committee, and the Jewish heritage committee have been invited. Chancellor will also be here. Really is showing that we understand more about this world because this is our work.

Thank you everyone who wore green for St Patricks day. Also birthday of UFT, day before St Patricks day.

4:52 it ends

Secretary’s report

LeRoy Barr – coming up this Friday, d11 dinner dance, taking place this Friday at the Villa Varone (sp?). Para fest. 113th anniversary of the Triangle fire, meeting between 11 and 1 (for retirees) washing and green st (date missed). Early child hood conference sold oud. So congratulations. Election season for functional chapters is open. CLs give election info to election chair – have in May and June. UFT Labor Seder is April 18th at Brooklyn UFT. Christina McGrath is our DA-endorsed candidate for TRS. She gets up to wave. Have members send up the petition and let’s make sure we get Christina elected.

Mulgrew: Last group has now been settled. Agreements and implementation, now have to stay on top of it.

Question Period:


Name missed: long term subs and status of that. Email came out about a couple of names for status of that. Will the UFT on their behalf, will they get the money this year or next year or whatever.

Mulgrew: was supposed to already be fixed. Hold up was that the DOE couldn’t create a code. They have a very old computer system. It’s – they’re spending more by keeping alive than building a whole new one. Proud to report that the code has been created.  Process…galaxy is closed, when reopens, people who grieved with us will start processing, get at Q status and back pay that owed, benefits will be retroactive, doesn’t help, but can start to use them as of April 2nd. Will make sure to monitor the retro pay.

Name redacted: New principal is being uncompromising about APPR. Glad to hear we’re negotiating, because in the past we had a really good one, and now one we need to press. Go on the website, DR is helpful, but don’t want to call him every time have a question. Could we get training for violation of APPR.

Mulgrew: First thing is to send someone in and have a conversation. Knowledge outside of the building that we’re watching. If you’re open to it, we can put you on the phone with some of our folks, but sounds like we’re getting pressure from above. Usually what happens, have a situation, a superintendent is pushing at them, and only thing in there power is to do nasty observations. Why student learning in our observations is so important. Very good at making sure our people get protected.

Name missed: a lot of people who are upset, older members, on retiree negotiations.

Mulgrew: could take months or years because of the court process. That’s why when we negotiate . We took the court process out of it. We know that courts will be used by big hospitals, etc. Continue to see pollution – UFT takes care of our own. We run things differently from anyone else. Other unions tell non-teachers to go to their spouses plan if they are UFT. No matter what we agree with in MLC, that’s layer number one. We will build in things that give us more power and authority. Still disagreements and all that, but ways to take on this whole industry. Not going away, this problem. Nothing promised to anyone here when it comes to healthcare. Nothing. We will not agree to anything until we have leverage that we know, but that leverage brings work. We have department that counts every single pill that any UFT member takes. Pharmacists on staff who fight with the pharmacies. CVS problem. We have to create another department just like did the welfare fund. Will other unions do that? Probably no. We take care of ourselves.

Name missed: Early working sites in school buildings (voting). Mine is one of the sites, come Friday expecting all these machines to come in, but impact is severe. Safety concerns, e.g. evacuation. Impact on student activities, e.g. taking gym. Next action plan?

Mulgrew: working with CSA – finally found something to work with them on. Use examples of things we collect over the next election cycle, starting on 23rd, and say this is why we can’t have it. City Council can play a major role here.

Georgia Lignou: Question on Danielson. Time to lose the Danielson / revisit. It affects our teaching. Should have been our priority for some time; also see how applied, because there are huge discrepancies from school to school. Why are schools where everything is a 3, and why is there a 2? What they are saying is that our school rates with fidelity -they train around ours (lower ratings). They come in with the teams that norm the principals; how it’s supposed to be. Other schools have common sense though and prioritize differently. But this culture is going to spread. Need something to pre-empt that. How come 252 professonals can’t ask a single good question? 85% developing!

Mulgrew: If you want to know how teachers feel about Danielson….Charlotte Danielson should have realized what they were going to do with her system. We do get changed, but it causes frustration and anxiety. Could have had breakdown, than everyone would have been engaged. How are people norming when not teaching on it, never taught under it. That’s the frustration we have over and over again. Does not reach goal of what it’s supposed to be. When you hear garbage just presented, garbage, like flies on the beach. Doesn’t matter, go to h***, I’ll take MOSL and go my way. Nobody has enough time to fix Danielson’s rubric, because it’s over, it’s just over. But we need a real strategy and systematic plan in place. Any system can become Danielson.


Motion Period:

Faiza Khalid: Next month’s agenda. The resolution on the overassessment of elementary school students. As educators, understand importance of assessments, but have multiple different assessments. See it in my school, hearing same thing everywhere. Iready, computer-based, etc new curriculum, etc. We are missing from table. Students being deprived of meaningful instructional time.


5:22 approved.

Priscila Castro: Resolution number 11 to number 3. We are in alignment with resolution as it stands. Other locals don’t have what we have. Other locals have minimum wage.

5:25 : passes.

Resolution Period:

LeRoy Barr: 64th anniversary of UFT. Says names of people at the top. Stand on the shoulders of giants. 51 chapters of giants. Thought about what union could be and put things in motion for this union. Union born in strife, high school teachers and guild didn’t always agree and almost didn’t form in the first place. But folks in that moment looked for ways to multiply and unify, not divide. Shun those who want to divide us. At the end of the day, have to add and multiply. Almost 3,000 members joined the committees. Warmed by fires we did not build. Responsibility to make sure that we continue to make this union strong, and for another 64 years at least….do you have a duty free lunch, prep period, weekends off. AFT delegates travel around the country – labor movement is under assault. Unions under assault. Middle class is under assault. UFT is assault. I’m comfortable, because in this room we have advocates. Recommit ourselves to the founders. Unify and multiply. Celebrate the 64th anniversary of the UFT.

S. Abrams: Amen, brother. People don’t understand what it means to have a union. Didn’t join for first round, but d. sure there for second round. Without UFT, couldn’t get great healthcare, kids not go to college. Came from Carolina in a one room schoolhouse. Came here on welfare, decided we have to do something – decided to organize. Stood together almost 1800 of us. Watched Al Shanker and said I want to go with the UFT. 1975, first contract. Was making 1.75, look where I am today. If anyone tells you that the union doesn’t matter, tell them to go _____. Folks in Carolina don’t have a union, asking me to help. I say I don’t step in a republican neighborhood. So glad I spent 50 years, just retired.

R. Brown: Calls question.

Yes: 95%.

Reso itself: 98% (just 1 no in room)

Dr Reaves: Stand at pivotal moment at an intersection. Made our unions powerhouses that cannot be denied. Inexplicable the work women have done and continue to do. Women who stood up for equality rejecting the status quo. Katherine Cogen knew what it would take (other name missed). We wanted equality to be respected equally with male counterparts. Stand on the shoulders of greats, making great strides. Bad-a** women who have already led the way. Names UFT staffers. Today we resolve that this commemoration no be denied. So vote yes on this resolution.

Nick Bacon: Speaking on resolution in support of paraprofessionals. This was a resolution we previously voted to approve just last Monday at the executive board, although it’s an amended version and is missing a resolved I’d still like to see there regarding fighting for a living wage. As it stands, it speaks to some pieces of legislation that would benefit paras, and of educating our members. This would benefit us nationally, as well as here in the UFT. I didn’t write this resolution; the original was written by two paraprofessionals, including 2nd vice chair of the paraprofessional committee, Migda Rodriguez, and a special education teacher, Daniel Alicea. As a special education teacher, I work closely with paraprofessionals and students who need them. So many vacancies, we know, go unfilled because of how hard it is to staff para positions. Students with mandated IEP services go without having a para they are supposed to get. And the paras who work in our schools must put up with poor working conditions and low pay. Our kids deserve to have those vacancies filled and our paras deserve better working conditions and a living wage. This resolution would signal that we are seeking those improvements.

Daniel Alicea: motions to amend to fight for a living wage for paras. “The UFT must develop a robust, comprehensive bargaining strategy that outlines specific, achievable goals for securing a living wage for paraprofessionals. This includes strategies for equitable longevity raises, parity in injury paid leave, and ensuring chapter 683 and ESY pay parity, all aimed at recognizing and fairly compensating paraprofessionals for their vital role in education. This commitment should be pursued with discretion to avoid public bargaining, ensuring the union can negotiate effectively and with the best interests of paraprofessionals in mind.”

Motivates: “It’s time that we fix para pay. Our paras are not being paid a living wage. A single person needs to make 33 dollars an hours to live in NYC according to MIT’s living wage calculator. They are now making no more than 18.50 an hour while many have to now work multiple jobs. When it comes to longevity raises, after working 22 years, their raises come out to 3,000 dollars in longevity, while teachers get 32,000 dollars over their careers. Lobbying for legislation is good since there is grant money in the bill but we must also use our collective bargaining power. Unfortunately in last contract, we did not make sure that our paras got a living wage. DC37 made sure that there was an equity fund that paid their workers in hard to staff positions. We failed to do this. No reason that these educators should not be treated as they deserve, asking for a living wage. I’m willing to put aside open bargaining, which I believe in, if it means fighting for a living wage. At the contract negotiations para committee, paras were told they could just talk about para issues but not wages. Wages handled elsewhere. About 1200 people just signed a petition around the original resolution. 60% of these are paras. Time we fight for a living wage. Injury to one is an injury to all.”

Mike Sill: Merits of the resolution are undeniable. Everything Daniel, Nick, and Priscilla said. Appreciate the language here that it strikes out the original version in exec board. Still stand against the amendment, because the DA shouldn’t be usurping the para chapter. Para negotiating sessions were great fun. They created the plan and it is very difficult. They are the ones who should be making this. So yes, support all the intentions in resolution, but ask that you support the amendment.

Alex: Speak in favor of the amendment; we do need to have a somewhat forceful plan. Appreciate what speaker before me was saying. Most paraprofessionals are women and women of color and if the union is going to speak for equity and advancing the rights of all.

Margaret Joyce: Cede my time to talking to a paraprofessional – S. Abrams.

Mulgrew:  Out of order.

Margaret Joyce: Do paraprofessionals want this amendment? Or are we taking away their rights to vote.

*Cries of yes to ‘do you want this amendment’*

Peter Lamphere: Can you explain the input that paraprofessionals had in the last round of bargaining when it comes to a living wage?

Mulgrew: have to listen to paras

Daniel: This was written by paras.

Mulgrew: There are a lot of paras.

Priscilla Castro: Negotiation is through the para chapter, not teachers, not ots/pts. Sure you didn’t want a para contract. We surveyed our membership. 70 paraprofessionals negotiated and each one spoke their truth and in terms of what they’re dealing with. As a chapter we surveyed the entire membership so we could hear. Paraprofessional handwork. Created a guide. Doing the best that we can to support our paras. In terms of bill, passed by Ma, they don’t have better benefits or increased access to training. Paras are aligned with other locals. They don’t have training in other states, minimum wage. Not in favor of the amendment, but the resolution as it stands.

Mulgrew: was about paraprofessionals, now about our negotiating strategy. Always have to do…All of us negotiated, para chapter, made presentation on a particular financial matter. Also, the need to go away, because pattern bargaining will handcuff our lower salaries, have to keep. Teachers and higher paid chapters would get a higher percentage than lower ones (3k for all, higher percentage for paras). Went back to our committees, agreed all would be 3k. We’re not going to allow things to divide us. Not an attack on another, negotiating strategies are still left to that.

Call the question before house:

Georgia: not speakers on both sides.

Mulgrew: Don’t have to.

Close all matters before the house:

526-55; 156-10 (91%)

Amendment: 267-307; 23-134

40-60. does not pass.

Resolution: 529-58; 157-7 (97%)

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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