Wednesday, January 10, 2024

An Email From a Unity Hack

Commentary on this email is at the link below: 

Dear Committee Members,


Here’s to a happy new year for all! I want to again thank you for your interest & input regarding our retirees’ health care, and for participating in our committee. Your feedback has been important to preserve and protect the quality premium-free health care that we all seek.


Several of you have written to me over the past holiday season and weeks and I have been otherwise engaged. Between family events and the hospice experience of a very dear friend, the emails didn’t get the attention that I should have provided. But I spent some time putting this together. And I hope that you find it engaging as we continue to wait for outcomes in courts beyond our control.


When the healthcare committee was established, our task was a review of the EMBLEM/ALLIANCE plan that was being considered by the City and MLC, a consumer response to what the insurers offered. President Mulgrew deemed it vitally important that members’ voices be heard in the process – our ideas, concerns and so on. And when the insurers of the original plan dropped out and the AETNA plan was presented, a similar review by the committee ensued.


The UFT RTC Health Care Committee has been an effective vehicle of representation of the retiree membership during this process. While we have not been a party to whatever negotiations existed for our current health plans, we have provided our own leadership with many helpful suggestions, objections, and ideas to improve the benefits of the plans that have come forward. And those suggestions, objections, and edits have been taken seriously, addressed and in many instances implemented. I can’t stress enough how effectively and honorably the committee has served our members in the union’s fight to improve the benefits now being offered. Your work has had a meaningful impact.


But – and there’s always a BUT - I continue to find the discussions and commentary swirling about health care plans to miss a very important point. None of us can afford to ignore the one piece that President Mulgrew constantly addresses and no one seems to take up…. business and economics.  Healthcare is a business. Your doctors, no matter how wonderful their bedside manners and their concern for you, are a business! The hospital that you regard so highly is a business! We live in a capitalist society and it’s all BUSINESS. They are not looking out for our personal and organizational economic interests, sometimes to the detriment of our health. The health care industry keeps raising their costs on everything in an effort to increase their profits. The seemingly only entity that I see standing in their way and holding them back in defense of our healthcare is our union. It’s a daily battle that we don’t see, and from what we are told, not a pretty one.


A number of members of the committee have expressed adamant opposition to any Advantage plan. They send to me various articles, commentary, and personal objections to Advantage plans and want me to disseminate to the committee what they provide. The reason that people send me the articles is their contention of the inadequacy of Advantage plans. Yes, some Medicare Advantage plans are a ripoff, and we’re all aware there are some bad actors out there. I surmise their intent as well is to build support to kill any Advantage plan that the City wishes to implement. Previously I have regularly ignored such requests because the choice of plans is not in our committee’s purview. That belongs to the City and, by past practice and agreement, in consultation with the MLC.


We have to keep in mind that the premium free Advantage plan that has been proposed includes significant improvements and standards that this committee recommended and that makes it far different than the plans described as ripoffs!


We can also never lose sight of the economic issues about which President Mulgrew constantly addresses vis-a-vis the healthcare plan. The City and MLC want a premium free plan to offer to retirees. And that’s a money issue, no matter how you slice and dice it, because health care costs money – more and more each year. (There is a reason why most City Council members have backed off their original bravado about funding retiree health care plans.)


I always warn my friends to be cautious when they start reading into the disinformation, the misinformation, and the stories made out of whole cloth because they almost always ignore the economic realities of the situation! And I extend that warning to all of us who are invested (no pun intended) in this issue. Our current dilemma regarding healthcare is an economic issue, and that fact must always be reflected in our discussions. Otherwise, I fear that any discussions that ignore the economics will be meaningless.


So, in my own interest, that is, to offset the contention that I am deliberately trying to block discussion of the inadequacies of certain and some Advantage plans, I send out to you some of the exhibits that have been sent to me. Personally, I find most of them incomplete discussions of the specific Advantage plans they address and, to be frank, poor journalism because they ignore some of the realities that NYC faces, not to mention the very real possibility that our quality premium-free health care may be on the line. At this point most of us know more on the topic than do the journalists writing the stories that are cited. There are so many holes in the journalism that a Mack truck can go through them. And the stories do not change the fact that the City in consultation with the MLC makes the final determination of what health plan(s) it offers based upon economics. I actually fear what the outcome of the court challenges may be. I go by the old saw, don’t start a case until you know and address all the potential outcomes.


Some links to negative Advantage articles that committee members have submitted:


'Deny, deny, deny': By rejecting claims, Medicare Advantage plans threaten rural hospitals and patients, say CEOs ---


Hospitals are dropping Medicare Advantage plans left and right –


Also attached for download is a story that fits the category.


(PERSONAL NOTE:  Thanks to the Committee’s input, our representatives attacked the denial issue directly during negotiations, and not only got AETNA to agree to drop the vast majority of pre-authorizations, but also secured transparency measures and performance guarantees that would lead to heavy fines if AETNA didn’t act in good faith – just another of the many reasons why the proposed plan is steps above any current existing MA plan.)


In addition, to satisfy my own perspective that I mentioned earlier, the economic factors that go ignored as the basic issue determinative of the City trying to provide a premium free plan, I add a few articles from recent NY Times editions that might give us some perspectives.


Reading the following article I was struck by the similarity to some things that have been written regarding the healthcare issues that we have been confronting. One such routine comment and accusation is the attack on eliminating CityMD Urgent care as an emergency care provider covered by our health plans. CityMD Urgent care charges exorbitant fees for its services, far more than other emergency care providers. As consumers, we exercise our right to engage with providers to limit excessive charges. If they refuse to negotiate, we refuse to use and subsidize them.

This article about the Carrefour supermarket chain in France works on the same premise. It is instructive on several levels but most importantly the fact that the consumer must assert some leverage to contain costs, just as we do!


Major French Retailer Drops PepsiCo Products Over High Prices


Carrefour, a supermarket chain, said the maker of Pepsi, Lay’s and 7-Up was keeping its food “unacceptably” expensive despite falling inflation.


This next article talks about efforts to reduce healthcare costs, something that the Biden administration has worked to accomplish. Ironic in the current political environment that it describes a Florida application based on the Biden initiative!


F.D.A. Issues First Approval for Mass Drug Imports to States From Canada


The agency authorized Florida to purchase medicines directly from wholesalers in Canada, where prices are far cheaper. Pharmaceutical companies oppose the plan.


Enough of me, I think. Thanks for your attention. Again, happy new year.



Saturday, June 17, 2023

Vote NO on the UFT Contract. Here is Why:

The best reason to vote no on this contract is this: UFT Unity lied to us in 2018. They misrepresented that contract. It was predicated on deals we were not fully informed about. It is leading to our health insurance being significantly downgraded. We simply cannot trust them, and if you aren't sure why, read on.

There are a few obvious reasons, but they aren't the main issue. We know, for example, the compensation increases do not even approach cost of living, pegged at 8.7% by Social Security. MLC, evidently, can organize to demean our health care, but NOT to protect our income.The bonuses are non-pensionable. There is no contractual language about class sizes, and as Mayor Swagger cuts budgets and fails to hire new teachers, it's likely he will evade new regulations. Many alleged improvements are relatively minor, e.g. those stuck in the crap that is after school teacher torture are more or less still there. 

Let's set all that aside. There is one good reason to vote no, and again--UFT Unity fooled us once. In 2018, there was something in Appendix B that enabled them to really do a number on our health care. Here's how Michael Mulgrew described it at the UFT Delegate Assembly on October 12, 2018

Health care negotiated with all unions. Done six months ago. MLC thought something bad could happen with health care because of DC. We wanted to lock in a deal. No additional copays, but made a change for all unions. We tried to get plan in better place. Was proactive approach. Has been out for six months. Was smart thing to lock down our health care with no significant cost ships to union membership. Others pay 3200 out of pocket.

First, he says, "no additional copays". I don't know about you, but I took that to mean copays would not increase. A Unity member told me it meant there were no new copays, but that's a ridiculous assertion. Everything we do with doctors, aside from certain vaccines, already carries a copay. Since Mulgrew said that, urgent care visits have jumped from 15, to 50, to 100 dollars a visit. Mulgrew told a more recent DA he's have like to make it 400.  (I'd argue passing this contract might finally give him the confidence to do so.)

You'll forgive my fast typing at the DA, I hope. Mulgrew next says, and I'm correcting my typing now, "Was smart thing to lock down our health care with no significant cost shifts to union membership." That's an outrageous whopper that needs unfolding. The increased copays are indeed a significant shift, and far fewer members would have voted up that contract if we'd known about them. 

If you read this blog at all, you know that the deal Mulgrew made was to return 600 million dollars a year forever to the city, and in return they got a 3-year contract at or near cost of living. Mulgrew and his peeps told us then there were no givebacks in that contract. That's not merely another outrageous lie--it's also one of the dumbest deals I've seen in my lifetime. 

You probably know that Mulgrew has worked to dump retirees out of traditional Medicare and into a Medicare Advantage plan administered by Aetna. This means that retirees will have less choice in doctors, and that Aetna, rather than their doctors, will decide whether or not certain procedures are necessary for our most vulnerable members. While there is a deal to have a shorter list of pre-approvals, it will sunset. Doubtless UFT Unity hopes by then we'll have forgotten yet another of their broken promises. 

In-service members are not sufficiently aware that they too will be moved from non-profit Emblem GHI into a program that is 10% cheaper. That will be a big change for working members, but UFT Unity doesn't dare make it happen before this contract is passed. Let's keep them on their best behavior by voting down this contract. Sure, Unity claims health care on the cheap will be as good or better, but we know they're serial liars. Let's not trust them, and make them work for those expense accounts and double pensions.

Now I grant it's possible that the new contract does not contain any new poison pills. It's also possible that UFT Unity has not made any further shady deals with Mayor Eric Adams in exchange for this essentially crappy contract. But we know they have their leader stand up at our Delegate Assembly and tell us outrageous lies. We know not a single member has publicly said a word to correct them.

We know they lied to us to get the last contract passed. We know, therefore, that they'd have no issue lying to pass this one either. It's time to tell them we've had enough deceit. It's time to send them back to the bargaining table to work for us instead of Mayor Eric Adams. It's time to tell them enough is enough. Our first step is to tell them exactly what they can do with this agreement. 

Vote NO because the people who present this contract have lied to us before. Vote NO because the people who present this contract work to save money for Eric Adams, as opposed to rank and file. Vote NO to let them know we will not be fooled again. Let's find out exactly what they plan for rank and file before we consider any more of their deals.

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Contract Announcement coming very soon.--It's here.

Mayor Swagger will probably talk about it around noon. Mulgrew has ordered the contract committee in at 2 PM and it will probably be voted on at DA today. 

Expect compensation increases that fail to keep up with inflation and an absolute refusal to discuss the coming degradation of in-service health care. Social security pegged cost of living in 2022 as 5.9% 2023 at 8.7%. Expect 3% per year, an effective pay cut.

"The new deal is expected to follow the pattern set by a deal previously hammered out by the Adams administration and DC 37, the largest municipal workers union in the city."

Friday, June 09, 2023

UFT Unity Works for Mayor Eric Adams

NYC Mayor Eric Adams has a great ally in the UFT Unity Caucus. For one thing, they both share the same slogan. They "get stuff done." They've screwed us once again on health care (and I'll get  back to that shortly).

UFT Unity was crowing about how they got yesterday, a day of frigging meetings, to be remote. Fine, but it would've been a lot smarter to do that Wednesday, when it was a surreal hellscape outdoors. 

I don't know whether they're taking credit for making today remote, but I will say that remote teaching is just abysmal. It doesn't compare to what we can do face to face. I hate it, and it's the very first thing that made me consider retirement.

Back to the main topic--yesterday Controller Brad Lander declined to register the AETNA contract. That felt like a good thing. I thought it would delay the crappy Advantage plan that UFT Unity and Mayor Swagger were foisting upon us. Alas, today I have it on good authority that the mayor will simply sign it anyway. Probably we'll all get an email signed by Mulgrew on the Great Victory he achieved. Now, Eric Adams can save 600 million dollars a year forever, and all it cost us, so far, was Medicare. Retirees on limited means must have been sick to death of having no copays, and will just love handing them over to increase profit for Aetna.

It's very, very hard for me to imagine this is a good deal. First of all, we are promoting privatization. This enables the parasitical Aetna to take money that ought to be devoted to our health care. How exactly that saves money eludes me utterly. It further means that Aetna will get a veto over what procedures we need. The fact is they have an eye on their bottom line, not our health. While there is an agreement for fewer pre-approvals for a few years, that will sunset. Then UFT Unity will likely find another great opportunity to save Eric Adams even more money. 

It's beyond remarkable that UFT Unity is working in the interests of Eric Adams, our contractual adversary. They failed to organize the MLC to enact a minimum raise. They enabled a raise that's one third of inflation. Then, they organized demonstrations in which they exhorted us to get out there and  demand sub-inflation raises. We all know they're coming after in-service health care next. Mulgrew gets up at the DA and says we need a plan that's 10% cheaper. Sorry, but working teachers need a plan that better, not cheaper.

Privatization hurts education. That's why UFT Unity, finally, after years of enabling charter schools, and even starting their own, has come around to oppose corporate charters. In their zeal to save money for Eric Adams, they seem to have lost sight of the fact that privatization of health care is not only essentially similar to privatization of education, but also a cancer--one that literally kills Americans who haven't got sufficient access to health care. I've known two such Americans personally.

It's not good enough for us to say, "We have ours, and screw everyone else." That's precisely the message Micheal Mulgrew delivers when he opposes the NY Health Act. He says we negotiated this, we negotiated that, and we're not giving it up. Personally, when I look at NYHA, I can't see how we'd lose anything except the catastrophic medical emergencies that lead so many of us to bankruptcy. 

Sponsors of NYHA have reached out to unions and offered to address whatever objections they may have. I haven't heard a peep about the UFT responding. Why not? I suspect they're interested in preserving all those sweet patronage gigs at the Welfare Fund. After all, we could've saved Eric Adams a ton of cash by consolidating all the city welfare funds. MLC, including UFT Unity, decided not to do so. They'd rather throw the members to the dogs than give up those patronage gigs that so neatly tie members to their caucus. 

Privatized health care, just like Aetna, has its roots in institutionalized racism. Aetna used to insure slaveowners in case they lost their "property." And health insurance in the USA has gone disproportionately to the people who got the good jobs, not the ones who got doors slammed in their faces. It's a discriminatory practice that hurts Americans. We, labor unions, are enabling and promoting it rather than addressing it. 

And even if you choose to reject the argument that shutting people out of health insurance is discriminatory, you can't refute the fact that our union leaders, including UFT Unity, are working day and night to make our health care worse. That is not what union is for. Union is supposed to raise standards for everyone.

UFT Unity is a disgrace, and needs to be voted out. Retirees will soon send them that message, and rank and file, once screwed with inferior health care, will follow. Leadership is supposed to represent us, not Eric Adams. To survive as a union, we need leadership that understands this. 

It's not good enough to "get stuff done." The "stuff" needs to benefit us (and ideally others as well).

Sunday, June 04, 2023

UFT Unity: Give Up on Money. Give Up on Health Care. FIGHT for 150 Minutes of Weekly Teacher Torture

Let me begin by telling UFT Unity leadership that there are things we actually CARE ABOUT. No one whose employment depends on towing the line will tell you what they are, but I will. Pardon my profligate use of all caps, but the older I get, the less tolerance I have for all things stupid.

1. We want a RAISE that meets or beats inflation.

2. We want BETTER, not CHEAPER health care.

3. We are GROWNUPS. We can better decide how to use our time than either the DOE or our spectacularly out-of-touch leaders.

I won't even bother to elaborate on points one or two. They're simple. If leadership cared about number one, they'd have organized MLC to demand a minimum raise, rather than diminished health care. If leadership cared about number two, they would NEVER agree to health on the cheap, and would ideally support the NY Health Act. As unionists, we should help EVERYONE, not only ourselves (and certainly not only those with patronage jobs).

I'm truly gobstruck at what our leadership will and will not stand for. Our UFT Unity leadership has drawn a line in the sand. What we need to fight for is 150 minutes of PD, parental contact, or if you're lucky, self-directed OPW (other professional work). 

One of the things that really drives people from this job is the micromanagement. You MUST write the aim on the board. It MUST be in the form of a statement. No, it MUST be in the form of a question. You MUST have a DO NOW assignment on the board. It MUST be five minutes. If it's six minutes, you are ineffective. Since no one can agree on what the hell good teaching is, we NEED a frigging checklist. You must do 22 things. Or 7 things. Or whatever.

If you have a reasonable supervisor, there is flexibility. If not, Danielson is a deity, and the checklist is the Ten Commandments. If you have a REALLY unreasonable supervisor, the checklist is filled in by the voices in his head rather than what actually happens. I once helped a member grieve an observation for which we had video contradicting many of the things the supervisor said. How many other delusional observations had this supervisor conducted? (Me? I'd guess all or most, except for those of the attractive young women he tended to favor.)

Is UFT Unity helping with issues like those? No. They are, rather, mired in the minutia of what we do with these 150 minutes. The DOE, perhaps, wants a return to the good old days of 37.5 minutes daily tutoring, (Yes, they NEED that half a minute.) or small group instruction, or whatever. This, to them, is somehow a win. To me, it's ridiculous. In our perpetually multi-session school, we simply stretched out instructional periods. That was not so bad.

Then we worked out a nine-period day giving teachers more prep time. That was a good thing, but I'm pretty sure we're going back to longer periods. I feel sorry for people in schools where they're stuck doing PD. I'm sorry, but the fact is almost all PD I've been to has been a waste of time. A lot of big shots, like Carmen Farina and Michael Mulgrew, seem to think we're in need of direction and orientation. Since they haven't been in classrooms in years, they haven't got a clue.

The best example of this in my experience occurred when we went to remote for the first time. I had never used Google Classroom and hadn't even heard of Zoom. I sat through lectures on what it was for hours on the two days we were instructed to return, despite COVID raging everywhere. I listened, but it didn't really help.

Then I sat for five minutes with a tech-savvy first year teacher. He showed me how to use Google Classroom, and he showed me how to use Zoom. We set up my meetings together. I tested Zoom with another first-year teacher and it worked well. I was ready when I had to meet my classes.

Rather than trust us, they herd us into teacher teams and force us to look at tests and analyze scores. They give us frameworks on what we must do. They demand reports addressing points A, B and C. 

The fact is we real live teachers talk ALL THE TIME. We discuss what happens in our classrooms. We exchange ideas. We DON"T NEED a schedule. We DON'T NEED supervision. But this is what the Unity Caucus battles for, alongside the clueless DOE. The only thing they disagree about is HOW to direct our time. 

The DOE assumes we will spend no time helping our students unless they force us. This is also ridiculous. Again, we are grownups. If we really didn't care about our students, giving an extra 37.5 minutes with them would be a total waste of time. In fact, we discuss issues with students among ourselves, counselors, paras, social workers, and anyone else who crosses our paths. The first year teacher might know tech better than I do, but I'm likely to have good suggestions for actual classroom issues. We support one another, and thus support our students.

So I have news for UFT Unity. I have the same news for the DOE. Teachers don't need your help to plan our time. The DOE, in fact, is our adversary in negotiations. UFT Unity, rather than fighting them over things we CARE ABOUT, is bending over backwards trying to save money for Eric Adams.

Short term, Michael Mulgrew needs to listen to someone other than the fawning sycophants jockeying for position. Long term, he needs to go, and his caucus needs to be voted out. And for the record, it's not just Mulgrew. UFT Unity would gleefully cut off his head and let another grow in its place. 

We need new leadership. And Unity can no longer count on retirees. I'm retiring from my job, but as a retiree, I'll work to get new leadership. 

New leadership will help teachers long-term, and that will help our students as well. A happy teacher inspires young people much more effectively than an overworked drudge mired in the endless nonsense Unity leadership and the DOE cook up, whether together or separately.

Friday, June 02, 2023

Letter to Colleagues


After 38 years teaching here in Fun City, I plan to retire in July.  I sent the following to my UFT chapter. If I get a chance, I will vote no on the next contract. There are a number of reasons. Primarily, though, it's because I don't trust leadership to tell me what's actually in the contract. 

I supported the last contract. To me, it appeared to be a plain contract that gave raises around cost of living. I was good with that. I was not good with discovering that UFT Unity, behind our backs, had schemed to save money for Eric Adams rather than us. I was not good with tossing all city retirees into an Advantage Care scam, as opposed to what we've been promised since we began. 

I like the demands at left. The ones that stick with me most, right now at least, are getting a raise that meets cost of living, and retaining our health care. UFT Unity has failed on both counts, and they have to go. Don't forget to vote.

Dear Colleagues,

First, I want to thank you all for the support you gave me as your chapter leader. It was my great honor to represent you for 12 years. I expect to retire on July 1st (and I believe this time I will follow through).

In parting, I’d like to caution you about UFT leadership. Leadership, along with the Municipal Labor Committee (MLC), a group of city unions dominated by UFT and DC37, has diminished health care for retirees. Retirees will now be placed in a Medicare “Advantage” plan run by Aetna. This means our retirees will need the approval of Aetna for certain procedures, and also have fewer available doctors.

And we are next.  Leadership now has an RFP, or request for proposals to replace Emblem GHI with a plan that’s 10% cheaper for the city. It’s hard for me to conceive of a company replacing non-profit Emblem at that price without significant concessions from us. Note that the copay for an urgent care has gone from 15, to 50, to 100 dollars in a few short years. A new plan could make this even worse.

Leadership, along with the MLC, agreed in 2018 to save the city 600 million dollars a year, forever, in exchange for a 3-year contract around cost of living. Leadership voted this up without our consent, and concealed it from us when the contract was introduced.

Now, they want us to go out and demand a “fair contract.” However, the pattern set by DC37 is about 3% a year for the next five years. Social Security pegged inflation in 2022 at 5.9%, and 8.7% in 2023. This is an effective pay cut.

This will likely pass because many of our members, like those of DC37, are desperate for a raise. Alas, desperation is not how we help ourselves long-term. If this contract comes up this month, as I expect, I will vote NO. I urge you to do the same.

There was only one time we voted down a contract, and that was in 1995. That contract contained a clause that we’d reach max pay in 25 years. When it came back, the clause said we’d reach max in 22 years. So don’t let leadership frighten you. They have failed us and we need to send a clear message that’s unacceptable.

Again, I thank you for the honor of leading you for 12 years. I’d probably not have stepped down if it weren’t for the COVID apocalypse. But I’m still active. You can read my blog at if you’re so inclined, and I’m pretty active on Twitter, if that’s your thing, @TeacherArthurG.

Best wishes,


Thursday, May 25, 2023

We Demand a Sub-Inflationary Raise and Inferior Health Care

The UFT was out demonstrating yesterday, for a "fair contract." I want a fair contract, but it's hard for me to see exactly how we get there from here. The city pattern is 3% a year. However, inflation was pegged by Social Security at 5.9% for 2022 and 8.7% for 2023. So personally, I'm not taking time out from my busy schedule to demand what is effectively a pay cut.

Now sure, Michael Mulgrew is out there talking about paperwork, and I like paperwork as much as the next person. But if Michael Mulgrew doesn't know that money is the first concern of every working person in most contract negotiations, he's even more out of touch than I thought. Now sure, you can say that DC37 set the pattern. And you can further say that pattern bargaining is tantamount to the Ten Commandments in city bargaining.

You may well be right. It is highly unlikely that we will beat the pattern. I'm not counting on it at all. But our union is weakened by demonstrations that are essentially just for show. There are times to stand up, and when those times come along, we're either asleep or being stabbed in the back by the Municipal Labor Committee, including our esteemed leadership. More likely, we're asleep and being stabbed in the back by leadership.

It's nice to get out and do something spirited. I'm sure every Unity Caucus member, most of whom have or aspire to union gigs, were out there. I'm sure they dragged everyone they could. I also know a lot of opposition members who went. Good for them, I suppose. Personally, I could not muster the spirit to spend my time doing something so patently ridiculous. Paperwork sucks, but it's not what members complain to me about. 

Now I don't know precisely what paperwork complaints we're talking about here. Everything the big negotiating committee discusses is Top Secret, so I'm not privy. The fact is we've made some good progress on redundant paperwork complaints. Debbie Poulos initiated a complaint process for chapter leaders that's faster and more efficient than multi-stage grievances that take forever. As chapter leader, I filed a grievance that sat around for several years. When UFT finally got around to discussing step two with me, I was no longer chapter leader and the point was moot. Maybe fixing our grievance procedure is something we should be looking at. This notwithstanding, there are vital concerns that go well beyond paperwork.

UFT Unity leadership, along with their BFFs at the MLC, just tossed the retirees to the dogs, replacing standard Medicare with a corporate Advantage plan. Soon, they'll replace the popular Emblem GHI plan with something 10% cheaper, saving money for Eric Adams. In case you haven't noticed, Adams is supposed to be our adversary in contract negotiatons.

It's fine that UFT is out there. But the fact is, the overwhelming majority are not. The overwhelming majority of us are essentially asleep. That's been a feature of our union for decades. You can tell when people speak about it. People say terrible things about the UFT, not realizing they're describing themselves. Sadly, pathetically even, a lot of us feel no responsibility for anything whatsoever regarding our union. For many of us, the union is somehow the people sitting in offices. 

That's one reason I'm wary of people talking strike. Here's one of those people:

It's great to imagine that we won't accept the crap pattern increase, but it's sheer fantasy. Mulgrew may not be proactive. He may not bother trying to organize the MLC to demand a reasonable pattern. But has a lot of time to sit around reading blogs. I know this because after I wrote something particularly critical, he had his lawyers (technically our lawyers) threaten me with civil and criminal penalties for parodying him on this blog. 

Frankly, I don't believe the UFT, constituted as now, could carry out a strike. I think we have a whole lot of outreach to do before membership could be activated to that point. Most of us don't know what union is. That's why I, as chapter leader, saw multiple members indicate they wouldn't strike, even for safety. I was shocked when one member casually mentioned it, expecting me to smile and accept it. But this member is representative of a whole lot of us. Leadership is as aware of this as I am. They do nothing about it because they're good with it. They could never survive an activist membership. But we would all benefit. 

So here is what Mulgrew and the Unity Caucus will do. They will cave completely to the pattern, and then blame the 500-member negotiating committee. In the video he pretends they make all the decisions. However, I was on the committee during the 2018 negotiation, and I had no idea we were approving draconian cuts to health care. Our leadership deceived us.

This is the prime reason I will vote no on the contract. I believe it's coming soon, and I believe the Unity Caucus will claim these rallies had something to do with it. I believe the rallies are entirely for show. If we had real demands, we'd take real actions.  It's nice that Mulgrew pays lip service to strike, but the fact is we haven't heard him say much about it until he was put on the spot.

I don't know about you, but I'm not energized by lies. I'm energized by fighting for real progress.  Our leadership, Mulgrew included, is moving us backward. We should be a vibrant force, the "powerful teachers union" the tabloids are always complaining about. Instead, we're a sleeping giant

Step one in awakening this sleeping giant is tossing the Unity Caucus out of power. We'll begin that process with the retirees. I hope to be one by election time.

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

MLC--What Is It Good For?

The city unions have an umbrella organization called the Municipal Labor Committee, or MLC. I may have mentioned them once or twice on this page. This group acts on its own, It does not seek approval from rank and file.

That, of course, is an issue when they make deals. At some point, to save money for the city, they agreed that all new city employees would be in HIP for the first year. I was not that upset by that. Many employees don't last longer than that. Of course, many disagreed, suggesting it was a slippery slope. 

It turns out they were absolutely correct. 

Emboldened by this agreement, MLC made a new money-saving deal in 2018. So far, this has resulted in retirees being dragged out of Medicare and dumped into an Advantage plan administered by Aetna. It's hard for me to understand how giving Aetna the right to pre-approve our care will make it better. It's hard for me to understand how having fewer available doctors helps city employees. Of course, I'm not on the MLC. 

Now they're looking for providers that will offer health insurance for us at 10% less. It's impossible for me to imagine that we will not pay for that, either with higher copays, fewer providers, or more likely both. The prime directive of MLC, like that of UFT President Michael Mulgrew, appears to be saving money for Mayor Eric Adams. You can't make this stuff up.

I've worked for New York City for the last 38 years. When I started teaching, my salary was around 13K. In fact, I was offered a job driving for FedEx that paid more. Nonetheless, what everyone told me was that while I wasn't making a whole lot of money right now, we had a great retirement plan and health coverage. This didn't matter much to me at the time. I really couldn't picture being retirement age.

And yet, here I am. I'm thinking about retiring July 1st. If I do that, I'll be among the first group of retirees to have diminished health coverage.  Of course many unions disagreed. However, they were voted down by UFT and DC37, who supposedly represented more members. Never mind that not a single one of them was consulted about this. All things considered, I don't love the MLC. Don't ask me to send them a Christmas card.

You'd think, though, that MLC could get together and work in the interests of membership. Specifically they could work to improve our contracts citywide. This year, for example, DC37 agreed to 3% a year for the next five years. However, considering cost of living, we won't catch up to this year's inflation until the contract ends. That's a bargain basement deal for Eric Adams, at our considerable expense. 

Now I'm sure DC37's members need more money. Many of them are paid close to minimum wage. It's tough for them, and a 3K bonus surely sweetens the pot. I understand why they voted overwhelmingly to ratify. I think UFT will vote to ratify as well. This notwithstanding, MLC could do better. It's tough to imagine how they can do worse.

Why can't they put their heads together and decide, for example, on a minimum they will accept for a round of pattern bargaining? And why can't this keep up with inflation, at the very least?

There are some trust issues, I'm sure. For example, in 95 there was this pattern that was total crap, and DC37 voted it up, supposedly. Later, their leaders were convicted of vote-rigging. I think that was the year we voted down the contract and got a letter from then-President Sandy Feldman that we must be "smoking something" if we thought we could improve on it. (But I also distinctly recall hitting max salary at 22 years rather than 25, as the original would have made me wait. I'm glad we voted it down.)

Now I shouldn't just beat up on DC37, because we're not without blame either. We accepted and established a crappy pattern in 2014.  We did this because we were so absolutely desperate to recover the two years of 4% that many of our colleagues had received. It would have made much more sense to have simply gone to arbitration. We'd almost certainly have gotten what everyone else did. And in the highly unlikely event we didn't, we'd have finally put an end to pattern bargaining. 

Our negotiators are awful. They fancy themselves brilliant. Mulgrew frequently gets up on his hind legs at the DA, boasting of how smart they are.

We, along with DC37, dominate the MLC. With great dominance comes great responsibility. And yet, the geniuses over there have not figured out how to come together and face down the pattern. There is absolutely no downside in demanding a compensation increase, for all, that matches cost of living. Perhaps there's a trust deficit in UFT and DC37, and perhaps it needs to be repaired. If that's the case, our leaders need to make that priority one.

What will our leaders say? That's easy. It's never been done that way. It's always been done this way. Someone on Twitter mentioned the other day that doing nothing is not a winning strategy. Yet that appears to be the only strategy MLC has for getting us paid. They're pathetic. All they do is hurt us. 

MLC need to change its MO, or it needs to be replaced with something that serves us, the people who serve the city.

Monday, May 15, 2023

Two Things You May NOT Request in a #FairContractNow!

Hi it's me, your esteemed UFT President, Mike Mulgrew. First, don't mess with me or I'll sue your worthless ass. Getting down to business, we're negotiating a contract, and it's very important that you all join me in a fight for a #FairContractNow!. 

That's one of those hashtag thingies they use on Twitter. And hey, everyone should be on Twitter. Except me. I don't like it because people might say nasty things to me and hurt my feelings. But you do it. What's the worst that could happen? (Look at the bright side--it won't be happening to me.)

The other reason I'm not on Twitter because I have Very Important Stuff to do here on the 14th floor at 52 Broadway. But that's where you duespayers come in. So get out there, and we'll let you know when and what to tweet. Until then, just keep demanding that #FairContractNow! I want you to know we are laser-focused on getting some kind of paperwork thingie done for you, so feel free to demand paperwork stuff. I can't tell you exactly what paperwork stuff because everyone on the negotiating team has signed an NDA. But you get out there and demand whatever it is anyway. That's what we call union activism.

By the way. I'd just like to mention a few things you may not demand in our #FairContractNow! One of them is money. Money comes and goes, but it doesn't look like much of it is coming to you. As you know, DC37 got three percent a year. Now that may not sound so good when you consider that social security rated the cost of living at 5.9% for 2022 and 8.7% for 2023, but hey, does social security give those folks a bonus? Of course they don't. But DC37 got a three thousand buck bonus along with the three percent. So there you go. That's maybe enough to buy the sort of used car I see a lot of you out there driving.

Don't you want a new used car? Don't listen to those frigging fearmongers in the other caucuses, the ones telling you that getting a 3% raise when there's 8.7% inflation is a 5.7% cut in pay. First of all, are you going to be persuaded by mere arithmetic? Arithmetic is for first graders, and you are all college-educated. Let's grow up here, shall we? I am the President of the United Federation of Teachers, and as far as you know, I didn't get here by behaving like a first grader. Let me tell you, there were all kinds of maneuvers I had to make to get here. 

And look, it's not like this doesn't pay off. I make three times your salary, I still get paid as a full-time teacher though I don't teach at all, and I have these jobs at NYSUT and AFT too. Also, when I retire I will collect not only one pension from the DOE, but also another from UFT. So are you gonna sit there and whine about getting a 3% compensation increase, or are you gonna start running for UFT President? Make no mistake, I can't do this job forever, and once I step down everyone in my caucus is gonna pretend I never existed and take no responsibility for either this contract, your health care reductions, or anything else. Never mind that all of them expressed full-throated support, and none lifted a finger to stop me.

Anyhoo, the other thing that you may not ask about in #FairContractNow! is health care. Look, you can't spend all your time worried about your health. After all, this job is a calling, so start getting your mind in the game. Health is all a state of mind. Start thinking about what I think about, which is how I can save money for Eric Adams. How can I satisfy that visionary deal I made in 2018 to save the city 600 million dollars a year forever? Get with the program, folks.

I just dumped all the retirees into some Medicare Advantage plan, and now they'll need preapproval for stuff, and can't see all the doctors they used to see. Don't feel neglected. I'm working on improving your health care as well. The way I'm going to do that is by cutting 10% off of what we pay to insure you. Now sure, that sounds like a lot, but look at it this way. It's gonna save a crapload of money for Eric Adams, and he really needs it, among other things, to pay police double what the city allots for their overtime. 

Now I may ask you to wear blue one day. It could be orange. You never know. But doing stuff like that is important in our quest for a #FairContractNow! So don't forget to do whatever we tell you to do, whenever we tell you to do it. If you don't, you're against union activism! Then we can trash you on Twitter and elsewhere, and stereotype you and all your friends (and your little dog too). 

So get out there, wear blue or green or whatever when we tell you to, and loudly demand the city grant us some unspecified something or other about paperwork. Do not ask about money or health. Remember, this job is a calling, That means you can't be worried about your selfish needs. You just worry about serving those students. I'll focus on making more money for Eric Adams. 

You follow these ground rules, and we'll get along fine. Otherwise I'll sic my lawyers on you. Remember, union activism is you doing whatever I tell you to do, whenever I tell you to. Don't step outside those lines, and we'll get along just fine.

Your Dear Leader,







Michael Mulgrew

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Blogging Is Slow Right Now BUT... can read my new piece in City Limits, giving chapter and verse as to how UFT leadership behaves in a distinctly anti-union fashion. 

“Those of us teaching the children of New York City do the work. Not only are we not getting the support we need, but we have leadership that actively works against our interests. This has to change.”

You can even read their response, which disputes absolutely nothing I wrote, and insinuates those of us critical of their outlandish actions are a bunch of crybabies.