Why Don’t UFT Staffers Have Due Process? – UFT Executive Board Meeting,10-23-2023

Summary/Analysis: The main topic of tonight’s executive board meeting was Amy Arundell. I have to give Amy credit. Despite everything, she came to the meeting tonight and sat through it all. And there was a lot.

During the open mic, several speakers spoke at their dismay about Amy’s reassignment, suspension, firing, or whatever is going on (the specifics are still murky). This included several members of the opposition, such as Mike Stivers, Daniel Alicea, and Jonathan Halabi, but it also included key members of Unity, such as Lisa Ortiz, who moderates the ‘big’ UFT Facebook group. I finally had the pleasure of meeting Lisa in person on the way in. She came all the way from Pennsylvania to speak tonight. Ibeth later gave a district report, which you should read in its entirety. Daniel Alicea, now both of New Action and EONYC, also gave a fiery speech, which included a discussion on the lack of democracy on healthcare issues.

Mulgrew responded in his president’s report with a monologue I would frankly characterize as despicable. While customarily vague, the president specified in no uncertain terms that he thought supporters of Amy Arundell’s reinstatement were actually doing the work of those who want to destroy the union – a claim so ridiculous and divisive that it led to audible gasps. The president also made the clearly untrue claim that he ‘only does the will of the DA,’ the irony and hypocrisy of which was immediately seen by a few light hecklers, who mumbled ‘what about NYHA?’ – which infamously, Mulgrew does not support, despite the DA twice voting in its favor. Meanwhile, UFT leadership has pursued highly controversial policies, such as dismantling GHI-CBP and replacing it with something 10% cheaper, without a membership vote. Moreover, DAs are, for the most part, conspicuously scripted. Rarely are resolutions allowed to be brought forth that have anything to do with union policy. At the last DA, for instance, we only got through a single resolution brought forth by Mulgrew’s own caucus. Just one resolution, presented by a UFT Vice President, and it wasn’t even about union policy – it was about Israel.

Israel was another topic tonight, with a resolution brought in by Unity. It was presented by LeRoy Barr, though he notably talked more about diversity of views and compromising with the opposition than he did about the actual situation in the middle east. MORE’s three executive board members came to add an amendment, adding some text about ‘ending the ceasefire’ and ‘supporting sanctions’ to end what they termed the ‘apartheid’ in Israel. Later wording clarified those sanctions to correspond with the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction movement, which many of us know better by its acronym – BDS. There is a lot in United for Change’s shared platform agreement, but BDS is not there. New Action itself has members with many different views on Israel and Palestine, but those of us at executive board did not support MORE’s amendment. In particular, we took issue with the BDS portion, which takes a clear stance with which many of our members (myself included) disagree. For those reasons, I voted ‘no’ to the amendment. Some others abstained.

I motivated a resolution signed by all four caucuses in UFC (Ice, Solidarity, New Action, and MORE) to restore elections for district reps (and borough reps), as well as to add due process rights for UFT staffers. Chapter Leaders, who actually work with District Representatives and Borough Representatives, should be the ones who choose who represents them. Mulgrew should not be able to fire, reassign, or suspend key CL-facing leaders, whether for political speech or anything else (the reasons for Amy’s displacement, as well as others, remain unclear, but CLs should have the say, and based on the response I’ve seen, I suspect they would keep her in office). We used to have elections like this – we got rid of them, frankly for political reasons (an opposition person kept winning high schools; getting rid of elections allowed them to put in a Unity person and make the DR position yet another Unity patronage job). But I digress. Now we see another reason the President shouldn’t control hiring/firing of key member support leaders – he’ll do it, without explaining why, and in the middle of the school year too, when they’re needed most.

I also spoke about other UFT staffers getting due process rights. Elections aren’t practical for everyone who works at 52 Broadway of course. But don’t the people who protect our due process rights deserve due process rights of their own? Incidentally, I know some people who have been fired recently from 52 Broadway, and not because of their lack of competence (they are highly competent) – but because of the will of Unity higher ups above them, probably for political reasons. This resolution was personal to me. And because so many of Unity’s elected executive board members are actually at-will UFT staffers who have to worry about being terminated if they say the wrong thing, it should worry all of us.

Unity, predictably, tabled the resolution. I thought that was a cowardly move.

Lastly, new members of the executive board were nominated to take vacant seats. UFC did not put any names forward out of respect, since Unity allowed us to nominate our own person (Luli Rodriguez) when Lydia Howrilka left the DOE to pursue another opportunity.

For details on what is discussed above, as well as other updates on issues such as curriculum (missing supplies are an issue, as are missing PDs for some) as well as healthcare (nothing new, but substantiation of what we already know and what I wrote about recently), it’s all here below in my informal minutes.

-Nick Bacon, New Action Co-Chair, High School Executive Board

Informal Minutes

Open Mic:

Mike Stivers: Reports of the NY Post, CAIR, allege that Amy Arundell was removed for urging an inclusive statement on Palestinian relations. Assuming this to be true given lack of refutation. Why would a dedicated employee be reassigned for political beliefs? Due process not for those who represent us? Many articles on educators condemning them for their views on Palestine.

Jonathan Halabi: Retired 20 year CL and 11 year member of this committee. On my last day of this committee, I said two things – I won’t come back (long time, but back), but second reason – members of this committee need to be judged by how they help the people least able to help themselves. Not everyone here lives up to that. No one was the equal of Amy Arundell. Someone who serves members and members of other boroughs, replies, helps, that person is a model for what we should be like. Losing that model harms our members who need them most. I have things I might say about the politics – won’t say now. Obligation to our members. Properly and right away must return to the position.

Melanie Flam: Little standing, but I do want to ask why Amy was reassigned and when she will be restationed in her position.

Lisa Ortiz: 35 year special ed teacher in D4. I help manage the Facebook, UFT teacher chat page (applause). I know there are several of you UFT staffers who are members. The only person that I can say who has consistently stepped up to help members on that page is Amy. Didn’t matter if it was Monday, Tuesday, Sunday, 8 PM, 10 PM. Amy is the one who reached out. She has integrity and goes above and beyond. We need more Amys – not less. Heartbroken. I know the work she does on this page. Members who are in crisis? Drove all the way from PA just for this one statement.

Daniel Alicea: How is that when a duly executive board member of this union asked a question here about the status of the RFP that will change the healthcare for every city worker in this city … and a leader with direct knowledge answered “I don’t know” when we know that a report of the 2 remaining bidders Aetna and United -Emblem was given to the MLC, weeks prior on September 14th? Did our leadership already vote for Aetna already in a preliminary committee vote in the MLC? How does a union leadership keep good faith when we collectively fought against the privatization of Medicare for decades while now they seek to force retirees into a Medicare Advantage plan? Why weren’t we told that the deal that brought the retro pay in 2014 was the result of union leaders inappropriately dipping into the Health Stabilization Fund to the tune of a billion dollars for wages? How can leadership act like we have no right as a dues paying membership to ratify major changes to our healthcare when it is collectively bargained under our local’s certification? How did we enter into a labor deal in which we acknowledge owing the city 600 million dollars in healthcare cost savings every year … FOR PERPETUITY? How do we continue dare preach DUE process as union, when our new teachers go through a tenure Olympics with abusive admins, or otherwise are discontinued. Where is the due process of those fired at the changing whims of a Mayor with unilateral control? Where is the due process for at will union reps who are dismissed based on wanton political decisions? There are many more questions but questions in this hall are often heckled, rehearsed or never truly answered It’s time we end this culture of tyranny of the few in our union. This is now much more than the rank and file feeling and being unheard with our working conditions. Our living conditions within this beloved union hangs in the balance. Mr. Mulgrew, open up this union to the rank and file. No more 3 men in a room.

Approval of the minutes: all approved.

President’s Report:

Mulgrew:First parent’s conference this weekend, good. Thanks folks in SI. Parents interested in class size, spreading the word about what the mayor is trying to do to not do the class size law. Parents already signing up to go to Albany. This Saturday, Manhattan parents conference. Sunday, teacher union today, hoping many of you can go.

Today was the day of the initial sped training. 1800 people signed up. Very important piece of our contract. Training started with slide about how we’ve been out of compliance (NYC) for decades. So having a sped committee to identify trends – not individualized student data. That system doesn’t serve us well, because only one student at a time – about policies that are wrong. ICT is not run properly. Many myths – so today’s training about what has to happen. Eventually should get to point where funding for sped is rectified.

Mary Jo Genese: We will follow up with an FAQ – couldn’t answer all questions in meeting and also have to make sure DOE and UFT agree on some answers.

Mulgrew: Uploading of consultation notes. We need uploaded so we can see trends. Need automatic ways to see what’s going on, often as a district (often see trends). Usually tied to a superintendent. We have less than 50% of CLs uploading consultation notes.

Nurses at Langone – DOH there because of all the staffing violations. Hospitals ignore staffing ratios – don’t put enough nurses on shifts. DOH is learning how to do a proper investigation. Professional development on how to a proper investigation. Meeting in Albany to figure out how process going to work. Day DOH showed up at NYU Brooklyn was first day in over 6 years that it was staffed properly. Once they left, guess what – they weren’t staffed properly again.

Job of the union is to move the union and protect its members. Enemies find a way to divide us. That simple. When you see the attacks coming from the outside, Freedom Foundation, how do you destabilize a union? Divide it. When we’re doing the work of our enemies, that’s an issue. Heard a lot of things said in our room and I usually don’t push back – not correct. Fairy tales. I don’t push back. We have another issue – personnel matter, has nothing to do with what happened at a DA, so everyone making this about something that this isn’t is doing the job of our enemies. Reso, when reso done, it’s official policy. Get what folks, it’s a representative democracy. (Murmors from crowd – except with the NYHA…). I know these shenanigans will continue, but when I see things like this, and I know what we deal with from outside enemies…but some people just like that. Continue to keep doing the job.

I don’t mind the debate. I like debates. But, in the end, decisions have to be made. I don’t get to everything I want by any means, because I’m just elected to do what the DA wants us to do. Not easy. Tough out there right now. Anger. Lack of empathy. Fact that self-righteous crap that people believe, and that gives them the right to do things, say things, spew lies. Lack of empathy on all the things that we face. What we do in our schools each and every day – some of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen in my life. The fact that we took asylum seekers and give them care and love. Would every local do that? So yes, continue to move forward. When I hear everything turns to a conspiracy, I laugh.

Healthcare is a big challenge for us. We have a massive challenge ahead of us – said 10 years ago. Hear all those fairy tales around that too. Have to protect our benefits, rights, profession, and continue in what we’re doing. We’re going to have war with some hospitals, because they can’t continue to do what they’re doing. I do appreciate people coming down. This is a union hall – multiple unions, this one doesn’t look like a normal hall, but that’s what it is. So if you don’t agree, fine, but it doesn’t mean you attack each other. Then, you’re just as guilty as all the people on the outside trying to kill us.

Still using CAT teams, contract implementation going well. DOE backing up on everything – know we aren’t going to move. Want contract the way it was signed – gonna be real, not just a piece of paper. Will continue to be the focus for the rest of this year. Has to remain our priority.

Don’t do what our enemies are trying to do to us.

Ibeth Mejia: Can you stay for district reports?

Mike Mulgrew: No, I have a meeting.

Mark Collins: Been through reorganization process. Of 100 scheduled meetings for arbitration, 65 resolved prior to hearing, of 35 better than 1/3 were sustained. Reorg process is one of few processes that goes directly to superintendent. Back to class sizes, we had over 200 classes brought into compliances or had remedies applied. We are moving a number of schools…(missed a few lines here).

Mary Vacarro: This afternoon at 2:00, everyone should have received a new survey for the new reading curriculums. We agree with science of reading, but don’t have stance of curriculums. So we sent you a question as to whether you had materials, etc. So far, 118 classrooms are short materials. We will follow up tonight. There could be a 48 hour turnaround, will hold them to that.

Mike Sill: Will send out a survey here shortly, a number of vacancies budgeted, we want to see how many are being filled with per diem subs or Q status. In the past, those on O status (per diem status) could be made whole by getting paid back pay. But certainly, when a person finishes a regular sub assignment, when they haven’t enjoyed health benefits for instance, can’t really get that back. We want to determine the places which are being filled. We also know there are places without vacancies that are still vacancies. If you’re planning lessons, teaching lessons, grading, doing C6s, they oughta get Q status. So if you have circumstances like that, reach out to district rep.

Carl Cambria: Virtual classrooms. Mary Jo Genese called out some of the members of the SPED committee, and it was a little tough at times at that committee; out of that work that this committee on SPED has now been lifted. We’re gonna shake the trees with that committee. Just a piece of the last collective bargaining committee. Virtual learning component engaging how virtual learning is going to happen. People on that committee, Janella Hinds fighting to make sure it gets rolled out. Tomorrow, the application for high schools for spring term for school based virtual learning classrooms will be posted. High schools with an interest. Need teachers, parents, students interested in doing it. Conversations beginning tomorrow. Will be put out principal’s digest. Reach out to us or Janella please.

Question Period:

Mike Schirtzer: Healthcare question. There was a leak on a blog that the UFT was engaging in conversations about an RFP – request for health insurance. What is the status on this RFP? Members are really concerned about losing healthcare providers, or where going with copays, which could negate our raises?

Geoff Sorkin: It’s a negotiated acquisition. Michael and I have reported on it for a year. I don’t have further updates than Michael’s DA, who revealed the two finalists – one Aetna one Emblem-United. But we are incredibly far away. Once finalist chosen, still have to negotiate with them?

Mike Schirtzer: But agreement is 10% savings.

Geoff Sorkin: Yes, 10% savings with improved benefits. I certainly believe that. (Laughter from crowd).

Ronnie Almonte: All this talk of enemies reminded me of the NYHA. Last year I came and asked what are the numbers that are often cited for the union. Only numbers I’ve seen, which I’ve seen online, are the healthcare FAQ. Actual way we help our enemies is by citing them (like the Manhattan Institute) to undermine a piece of legislation that would help us and the members we serve. Those are the only numbers I’ve seen. Manhattan Institute is our enemy. I’m surprised – so what are the actual numbers that say the NYHA would be bad?

LeRoy Barr: Meeting for Oct 31st so you can hear all of it, you can come, so we can put to bed the question that NYHA might not be everything we think it is. Current budget is 90 billion dollars, and rolling it out would cost an additional 110 billion dollars, where will that money? Question about taxes. We can go back and forth here – but come to the meeting if you can.

Alex Jallot: Agree wholeheartedly with Michael that we do beautiful work, but as CL I’ve been getting questions from my members about how the process works that a borough rep can be removed and why we don’t elect them.

LeRoy Barr: Motion on that tonight – conversation to be had on that. Reso years ago. In terms of district reps, CLs are involved in the selection of those reps. They make a selection. Many DRs here, but if they get the chapter leaders that’s how they get this. Wholly incorrect that CLs have no say. It is a process.

Alex Jallot: Why was that motion made to change it? DRs used to be directly elected.

LeRoy Barr: Asking to go back 20 years…Can’t give you all the facts. There was a vote though and it passed.

Ilona Nanay: Curious – wanna uplift what a member had said, what will UFT members to protect free speech and from harassment. Members are being harassed for lesson plans, social media, for what they’ve said about Palestine.

LeRoy Barr: Members have rights. They should reach out to their DR. We want to protect members through a very difficult time that they’re in.

Ed Calamia: PS46, what were the charges, what was the superintendent’s role?

Sean Rockowitz: Previously reported, when principal initially removed. Superintendent removed her, so in all of the work that has been done, superintendent never put principal up to it. There are SCI, OSI, investigations, lawsuits. Accusing staff of being racist, list goes on and on. Failure to properly supervise and observe the staff. Chapter leader has stood steadfast. As principal was bringing up charges, resulted in charges, now earning a salary in a school. Doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Comes from working with the superintendent, which resulted in this particular member being returned.

Nancy Armando: Question about curriculum. We’re a phase 2 district, but several schools took on Wits and Wisdom and H and H, don’t have all materials in H and H, and hasn’t been addressed because stage 2, but for training, because not part of first phase, where can I direct them.

Mary Vacarro: Any phase 2 schools are not falling under the same rules as phase 1. Can get the materials under CORE but aren’t getting them expedited. Menu coming out next week with all the training regardless of phase. Hairy part of all this is schools in phase districts, some trying out different curriculums, so we don’t know where their district is going – because may choose a different curriculum of the three. Rollout could have been better. This is true for Illustrative math, some in 9th grade are on phase 1 getting tons of training/support, and some just choosing to and not getting support.

District Reports.

Ibeth Mejia:  I rise as chapter leader at Aviation High School and as an elected representative of the high school teachers in New York City on the UFT Executive Committee. As you know, this union has often been at the center of this country’s political controversies. We can take pride in the fact that all the great issues of the day come right into our classrooms and our job is to deal with them with our humanism and compassion. We should also not forget a dark period in our union’s history of blacklists and loyalty oaths. Therefore, let us not govern ourselves by the passions of today but with our wisdom and integrity. We do not ignore, nor do we exclude. We teach. Therefore, we must stick to the union principles of solidarity, honesty, open democratic discussion, and service to the students of this city. Let our union lead in embracing differences of opinion and mending relationships among our members and the communities we serve. As President of this union, I think you will be supported in that endeavor. I also want to say that we are one UFT;  and what affects our members at Aviation H.S. affects us across the NYC public schools. Amy Arundell was instrumental in helping us with trying to resolve the issue of micromanagement in our school. Unfortunately, she is no longer working with us which has left us members feeling; as if we are being let down by our Union. As a result, I am here to remind the Union leadership that the fight for respect, trust, professionalism, and teacher autonomy is raging on, therefore, it is up to the UFT’s leadership to help the members of the rank and file who are feeling the brunt of the abuse in our school, to get the support their need from the UFT. Over the past few weeks there has been much discussion among UFT members as to how to respond to these events. Therefore we have decided to present the matter to this body . Let me state that this issue goes beyond Amy. There are 3 big issues that need to be addressed. The first is freedom of speech within our union. I have spoken to high school history teachers who have expressed the worry that if minority views are suppressed within the teachers’ union—

Leroy: want to give you the freedom to speech, but this is district reports.

Ibeth Mejia: Can I finish?

LeRoy Barr: Yes, take your time.

There are 3 big issues that need to be addressed. The first is freedom of speech within our union. I have spoken to high school history teachers who have expressed the worry that if minority views are suppressed within the teachers’ union where does the classroom teacher stand when discussing controversial topics. The second is union democracy. Although procedurally, the UFT President may re-assign an appointed official, it shouldn’t happen without consultation of this body, nor without the consultation of the elected chapter leaders with whom the borough president works. The third issue is the changes that we are trying to initiate on the related problems of micromanagement, supervisory intimidation, workload, teacher evaluation and student assessment systems that work for neither teacher nor student. These are not caucus issues. It is something we all have a stake in. At Aviation, we were hoping, with our chapter solidarity, and working with the district rep and the borough president, that on the issue of micromanagement, we could set in motion a process that would improve teaching and learning. We would like to know what happens with that important struggle after this reassignment.

LeRoy Barr: Not gonna talk about all of this. But what I do want to ask you? But who said that we suppressed minority reviews?

Ibeth Mejia: It comes from people not being able to express –

LeRoy Barr: Who said that? Nothing could be further from the truth. No we haven’t spoken out about it. Let the record reflect, minority opinions have never been suppressed, so if you ask people…My challenge to us, not just you, is to question, where did that narrative? No one has made that statement and I am making the exact opposite statement. Even this is not a back and forth, I want this on record. We need diversity, not about caucus, for those in this room not of the same caucus, ask others if that’s not the bedrock that I’ve stood on – that we’ve stood on for years.

Ibeth Mejia: So what was the reason for the reassignment?

LeRoy Barr: Not going to have that back and forth.

Someone yells point of order

LeRoy Barr: don’t want point of order, but I want to correct the record. You may not appreciate or even agree with what I’m saying to you. Let’s be respectful of the 8 or 9 people who have stood in line for that. So it’s imperative that I correct you. Asking you to leave the mic so I can go to the next person.

Nancy Armando: First year my district did a breast cancer awareness t-shirt fundraiser. District raised many funds. Sold about 173 t-shirts.

Adam Shapiro: D21 consultation with superintendent. One of new districts with H and H program. Extensive conversations about professional development, assured me how this is not going to be a situation of a gotcha, so asked if really feel like gotcha, perhaps should not be observed, should not be observed for reading in first window, there was a pause, and superintendent smirked, and said she agreed and told all of the principals and said not to observe members in D21 for those purposes. Timeline of January listed for some schools. Members now excited about this program.

Ariel Arroyo: Recently, a student started to choke and a teacher sprung into action and saved child’s life. (Applause).

Margaret Dalton: Had a welcome back para event with 68 paras new to the system with questions on certification. We had several sign up for COPE.

Dave Walter: Friday myself and two other DRs held a meet and greet at a bar. Fantastic event where members able to meet many staff.

Sevia Silva: Making strides in all 4 boroughs. Thanks many. We have 121,000 dollars, just online, still cash to be counted. Goal was 100,000, blew out of the water.

Pat Crispino: Thank you to the MAP program. School had a 13 year old boy who went to watch teammates, ended up in east river, not found. Think of him, pray, have some thoughts for his family. Work we do every day. Difficult to sit with the 7 UFT members there, with the things that they saw, then to go back with the kids. He chose to go in the river – just horsing around and probably paid dearly as not yet found. Moment of silence.

Karen Alford: Thanks members who went to golf outing, participants who gave money. Mother nature wreaking havoc, so thank you to all those folks. Secondly, we held a workshop on Saturday, with NYSUT, part of mini-threads one fabric series. Sticks and stones.

Daniel Rodriguez: two awesome events, college affair in Bronx, Lehman. Thousands of kids. Westchester, even outside the state. Went to school where some might even go, Lehman College. Thanks everyone involved. Also another great event at 52 Broadway, Future in Focus, spearheaded by Janella Hinds office, all these different union reps came here to meet with high school students of all 5 boroughs.

Priscilla Castro: Past weekend, had SRP conference, about 25 paras who attended, great workshop. End of conference, mudslide in Albany. Paras got together. Appreciated hearing from NYSUT and the many locals.

Andrea P.: Went to NYSUT conference, glad to be there, moderated discussion on fixing tier 6. Secretaries helped me and such a great opportunity.

Lamar Hughes: One announcement from political action front, remember about 6 or 7 years ago canvassed for Sam Berger, and here we are and it’s still raining. Going out and supporting our candidate, doing it again the following weekend.

Legislative Report

Wednesday, NYSUT and UFT stood together. Hochul here again, keeps showing up, and Latisha James, presented two pieces of legislation, which is to stop exploitation of kids, and an act about social media platforms selling data from kids to sell for advertisement. So please go to NYSUT to sign petition. Hopefully will help pressure. Some voting announcements (timeline). Flip the ballot. On prop 1, we are standing with solidarity with NYSUT for small cities. UFT recognizing a yes vote that would increase debt limit from 5 to 10 percent in small cities, which is already permitted for suburban and rural schools. Equal footing with others. Prop 2 say do as you will – extend the authority of towns, etc, to exclude from constitutional debt limits for construction of sewage disposal. So please flip the ballot and do as they so will. We recommend yes, Nov. 7 or in early voting.

Special Order of Business:

4 vacancies.

Tom Murphy: Thanks everybody, RTC.

Donal N?: Retired from Martin Van Buren. CL for much of that time. Continued to work for health and safety. Did everything from phone banking to lobbying. Still goes out of state for us for the UFT. Does demonstrations, goes to Albany. One incident for him, he was point person for a discussion on race, talked about coming up the ranks, chair of veteran’s committee.

Vinny Gaglione: Doreen Finnegan: A CL who became involved in the union very quickly. After I was gone, she was still at the school, and when finished 17 years, had served several years as the delegate and 5 years as the CL. For her own personal reasons, transferred to another school where she worked for 16 years, I think 5 as delegate and 10 as CL. Retired a few years ago but has worked in Brooklyn UFT office on political side. Right now she still serves the in-service members of this union at the two investigative units when members are accused of unseemly behavior. Kind of person we need on this board.

Liz Perez: Recommend former CL, worked in grievance department as PM staffer, when conducted interviews, much have had 9 cls present, interviewed. Previous DR and hard act to follow. Charles came in, committee were critical, when started talking and interviewing. One had nerve to bring him up SCI charges and we beat it. With honor and pride – Charles DiBenedetto.

Jennifer Rogers: Rise to nominate Carmen Romero. I as CL at IS 289 to work with Carmen to work there. She came into being a CL in Feb of 2020. Someone I could depend on through uncertain times. Has since moved to Yorkville East. Serves on committees, remains politically active.

Nomination period closed, so all 4 are congratulated.

LeRoy Barr Resolution to promote humanitarianism in the middle east. They say that the Chinese symbol for crisis is a combination of two different symbols, danger and opportunity. Not an exact translation, because opportunity means change point. I start that way because the world, sometimes this union, is in a crisis. It’s a dangerous time. Also a time for opportunity or change point. I think of all the conversations I’ve had with diverse caucus members here. Diversity has always been our strength. Diversity of race, religion, all those things make us what we are. When the high schools came together with the union at that time, there was a lot they didn’t agree about, but they took an opportunity to look for the middle ground. Remember early lessons, because important today. Under union tent, in this hall. It won’t be last time that we’re at a precipice moment – we’ll be here again. Remember lessons of how got here, it’s my belief that we can get through this moment – and we can get through other moments like this. We believe in a great solid education for children that we love. We believe in good patient care. We believe in family, safety, a lot of good things that bring us to the middle. Like a ven diagram. Should focus on these things – holds us together. When we have to move we have to look to what we agree on. So this resolution is brought in that spirit, so we highlight that as well – we believe hostages should be returned, that utilities should be turned back on, that war should be de-escalated, that we can find a peaceful resolution to this conflict. We love the children, family here, we love them there too. No difference. Don’t care what side you’re on. It’s the human side, it’s humanity, it’s what’s right. Asking about what brings us together. I hope and pray that the people are under the sound of my voice tonight take that message out. We all love this union. I’ve said this Mike, Norm, Daniel, don’t care where you sit on this issue, we love diversity. Anyone who says I don’t – I challenge you, because when you bring it all in and have those discussions, the final product is battle tested. This conversation tonight is bigger than this reso – it’s about where we’re going as a union – we’re we are going as a union, a family, and I ask that you support this 100%.

Ilona Nanay: Thank you for your words on diversity of thought. At the same time, if we love children and families, we don’t need a de-escalation, we need a cease fire. I agree with diversity of thought, but there are some things are right, and some are wrong.

Second thing, also based on what labor unionists are asking for, as Palestinians have asked, is that we have unions contracts and ensure that our contracts are not involved in weapons manufacturing. Think that’s how we materially, so we boycott, divest, and sanction, similar to what we did with South Africa. Apartheid can end in the Middle East.

Michael Sill: So would add two resolves.

Michael Friedman: Oppose the amendments. The original resolution is very clean, talks about immediate release of hostages, apparently two more released, humanitarian aid, everyone should be for, de-escalation – yes, and committed to building a better world. We are not the United States State Department – these are complicated. I have my own strong feelings and when I saw on tv and come onto Israel and rape/kill people at a music festival, kill elderly people, I was shocked. I know that Hamas is not Gaza. Visited Israel and West Bank, said to person in West Bank that I wish the politicians would end this. These are complicated issues. This is a diverse issue. We cannot solve these issues. We need a clean resolution, which it is now. The other amendment gets into a point of view that members don’t agree with and should disagree with. So I stand against.

Ronnie Almonte: Can appreciate this resolution and a lot of what was said. This resolution corrects for the lack of acknowledgement for the Palestinian people for statements from the chancellor and AFT, which calls for Israel’s self defense and only token acknowledgement of Palestinians. This reso falls short of granting humanity to Palestinians. We’re not saying enough. Not sure if this resolution would do enough. Support that amendment and will come back and reiterate my resolved when ready.

Seung Lee: Usually a subject I don’t touch with a 10 foot pole, but rising against amendments. I try to avoid telling people what to do and I don’t think the UFT should demand anything of any country. The second resolves that we divest from companies with any human rights violations. We would divesting from the greater majority of basically everything. I’ve been monitoring this closely and the only resolution I’ve seen passed is by us and only one other. I do not want this resolution to be precedent setting where unions are telling countries what to do.

Alex Jallot: Rise in support of amendment, surprise surprise. I truly agree with the spirit of this entire motion. But agree with Ilona, rise in support, companies are hurting the Palestinian people .

Geoff Sorkin: Rise in opposition. There has to be a better way. I want to see more freedom for Palestinian brothers and sisters, but having a crisis, but don’t understand why people can’t admit that a terrorist attack is a terrorist attack and it’s awful. Looking out for both sides in original resolution.

Nancy Armando: Call the question.

Sill: All matters?

Nancy Armando: yes.

Amendment: No.

Resolution: Yes.

Nick Bacon:  Rises to motivate resolution regarding elections and due process for UFT staffers. It used to be that we elected district reps. Wasn’t right decision when a resolution was made to take away that right. There were political reasons for that decision, in my opinion, but I won’t discuss that right now. I will say that recent events have called into question whether that was the right reason for other reasons. Ibeth Mejia and many in the open mic spoke about this. A district representative or borough representative should not be able to be fired, reassigned, suspended – whatever is going on – without the will of the members they work for.

I was a CL for 4 years, where my chapter and I fought and won many battles. We lost some too. For all of it, my district rep (Winnie Thompson) was there. Would take my calls and emails at all times of day. In moments of crisis, I don’t know what I would have done if she or Dwayne Clark were removed.  A DR or BR should not be removed by the president. Chapter leaders work with district reps, they answer to us, not the president. The president or whomever shouldn’t be able to remove them – they’re working for us, not him/them. We should be able to elect our own DR’s and Borough reps, as we did before. And by the way, I think many DRs here would be re-elected.

This resolution also speaks to UFT staffers getting due process rights. We fight for our members due process rights, but the people here who do much of that work don’t have it themselves? Many of you in this room are in these positions – you deserve due process.

One last thing – no matter what happens tonight, I urge you not to table this motion, because there are imminent consequences. We need to debate now.

Mary Vacarro: Tabling, because we had committees for that reso, so while I appreciate this reso, this came from committees.




Resolution for UFT Staff Elections and Due Process

Whereas UFT staffers such as District Representatives and Borough representatives are a critical line of member support;

Whereas, in previous times, UFT members elected their own representatives, giving members and members alone the right to determine whether their representatives stayed their representatives;

Whereas reinstituting an election system for representative titles would protect members from losing access to competent district/borough representatives over internal politics or power grabs;

Whereas those titles other than district/borough representatives for whom elections aren’t practical also need a system in place to protect UFT membership from losing competent staffers.

Be it resolved, the UFT will institute an election system, in which district representatives, borough representatives, and their equivalents, are elected directly by the specific members that they represent.

Be it resolved, the UFT will institute a system of due process similar to that enjoyed by unionized members with tenure before firing/reassigning non-elected UFT staffers.

Signed by:

Ronnie Almonte

Nick Bacon

Ed Calamia

Alex Jallot

Ibeth Mejia

Ilona Nanay

Luli Rodriguez

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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