Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Public Notice:

My story in Gotham Gazette was number 8 in their top 20 most-read op-eds. 

I'm very happy to know that people are keyed in to our struggle to protect health care for UFT members and other city workers.

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Shirking--Our National Pastime

This is America from top down.  We see it every day. The buck doesn't stop here anymore. It rarely stops anywhere. From Donald Trump saying, "I don't take responsibility at all," to the student telling you she was late for your class because it takes too long to walk down the hall, nothing is anyone's fault anymore. 

Our employer, the DOE, removes the tool most of us use to do grading. While there's good reason to do that, they replace it with a piece of crap, and publicly defend it. They gave our school an attendance system that works most of the time, but is dependent on DOE internet, never a good thing. Of course, defend the program. Why bother actually repairing internet service citywide? That's not why your mother got you this gig sitting around Tweed doing Whatever.

When some administrator screws up some program or other to an embarrassing degree, and you point it out, you get to hear about how unforgivable it is you mustered the temerity to mention it. If the administrator is too chicken-shit to do it personally, you hear from the minions instead. How dare you point out how ineffective this program is! We went to multiple workshops!

There's no reflection, and no introspection. There's not even the echo of a thought that anything could have been done better. This is the way it is, this is the way it's always been, and if you would only clamp down your festering gob, it could be this way forever

I expect this sort of thing from morally bankrupt politicians, the DOE and  imagination-challenged administrators. Lately, though, it's exactly what I get from my union leadership. In 2018, filled with hubris from a 2014 deal, they made a supreme screw-up, one of their very worst. Self-funding a raise is a terrible idea even if it works, as it seemed to in 2014. When it does not, like now, it's far worse. 

Now we're looking at disrupting and downgrading the health care of our most vulnerable members. Perhaps this way, the fools in MLC who made a backroom deal can retain their credibility with the city. Of course, that's not something they should value over credibility with rank and file. This notwithstanding, they couldn't care less, and still manage to boast about their negotiation policies. Leadership assumes, correctly, that much of our rank and file is asleep, unaware, and indifferent. This, however, is nothing to brag about, and is also the fault of leadership.

To have a truly vibrant and effective union, we need to harness the strength of rank and file. Newspapers call us the "powerful" UFT to show their contempt for us. We need to rise up and become at least as powerful as they say we are. It feels like our leadership fears us and desperately hopes we remain dormant. That's really the only way we can tolerate this spectacular blunder. (It certainly appears they made their best effort to sweep it under the carpet at the last retiree meeting.)

I make mistakes too. However, if you persuade me I'm actually wrong, I admit to them and correct them. That way, I can move forward. We really need our leaders to wake up and admit to this screwup. Otherwise, it's just going to get worse. 

We cannot afford to change the code. We cannot afford to move backward. And we just can't take any more of this. 

UFT leadership needs to wake the hell up, now, and remember just who they work for.

Monday, December 19, 2022

No Blog Today...

...but I'm on NY1 talking about the stunningly crappy DOE grading system

Saturday, December 17, 2022

Who Spreads Misinformation to UFT?

UFT's Unity Caucus says dissidents are spreading misinformation. I guess I'm a dissident, now that I've decided retiree benefits should not be cut. Leadership's decision to encourage cuts by pitting in-service members against retirees goes against everything a union should stand for.

Leadership now cries anyone who doesn't follow the party line is a liar. This, of course, is their standard MO. And make no mistake, it's argumentum ad hominem, the practice of insulting your opponent rather than engaging in honest discourse. It's logical fallacy. That's what you go to when you do not, in fact, have an actual argument. 

Retirees have been thrust into the battle of their lives, trying to retain the health care they've earned and enjoyed for decades. Michael Mulgrew and the MLC want to replace it with a Medicare Advantage plan to save the city money. 

It's an odd position, because the city is supposed to be our adversary when we negotiate. Mulgrew sides with the city. He and his small army of UFT employees and would-be employees, the Unity Caucus, are now making us, the membership, his adversaries. They call us names. They ridicule us. They demand we stop fighting to preserve our rights. 

This is not what union is for. (If you're curious about what union is for, and what one can do, read this book.)

They claim they are fighting for choice. However, the choice they propose retirees face, as they get by on defined pensions, is the choice of paying 5K per couple, per year if they wish to retain the care the city has offered for decades. Otherwise, they will be saddled with inferior care that will cost them, at the very least, time receiving procedures that CVS/ Aetna doesn't feel like paying for. They will not have access to nearly the number of doctors that take standard Medicare, and if they live anywhere but NY or Florida, they will not be served well at all.

But let's talk about who really spreads misinformation. This comes from my notes on the UFT Delegate Assembly October 12, 2018:

Mulgrew—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. We are only workers who can get plans with no premiums attached. If UFT members get cancer they can go to Memorial Sloan Kettering—this is with HIP, also Hospital of Special Surgery. Go read it before you tie it to this contract. 

Let's examine that. UFT President Michael Mulgrew told us there were no additional copays. Shortly thereafter, it cost us $150 to go to an ER, up from 50. It cost us $50 to go to an Urgent Care. I don't recall what is was before, but that's a hike. We just learned that Pro Health Urgent Care will run $100. And if you want to go for an MRI anywhere but RadNet, it will cost you $100. 

Aren't those additional copays?

And pardon me, but isn't 5K a year to retain the health care you need in your most vulnerable years a significant cost? Isn't it particularly significant to members who retired with lower salaries, like UFT paraprofessionals and DC37 workers? 

Who is really spreading misinformation? Here's what Unity Caucus tweeted:


We know now that actual misinformation originated from Mulgrew, the number one Big Kahoona of the Unity Caucus. Let's look at their other accusation--spreading fear. The fact is UFT President Michael Mulgrew sent us an email stating that if we did not concede to the mayor's demand to demean health care for retirees, he would impose a premium on health care for in-service employees. Let's set aside the fact that the mayor does not have the right to do this unilaterally, and is bound to negotiate. Mulgrew's threat is a classic appeal to fear, more logical fallacy.

It appears Mulgrew's Unity Caucus, aside from indulging in various and sundry logical fallacies, wishes to project its own shortcomings on those of us who fight to protect member rights.

As for the "order," Jonathan has clear evidence, in Scheinman's own words, on why it is not, in fact, any such thing. 

It's absolutely disgraceful that the President of our Union fights tooth and nail to diminish our health care. And the fact is, by attempting to slap a 5K penalty on any retiree couple who wishes to retain standard Medicare, he is in fact imposing a very substantial premium. He's reducing our compensation, one way or another, via health care fees, just like Scott Walker and every other tinhorn anti-union politician did. 

The UFT needs leadership that will fight for us, not the mayor, not the NYC treasury, and certainly not CVS/Aetna.

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

A Letter from the Deputy Chancellor


Dear Colleagues:

Aside from withholding as much money as we possibly can from funding schools, the safety of our students and staff is our absolute top priority. 

As such, we are advising you that the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) has issued a universal indoor masking recommendation for all indoor settings, including schools and daycare centers, due to the current high rates of flu and other respiratory conditions. 

As always, we sort of follow the guidance of our health experts.  We're not gonna go crazy and buy air purifiers with actual HEPA filters, but you know. I mean, they say you should do this, and we they may just be right. At the very least, we don't want to take any responsibility if they're right and we aren't. Therefore, based on the recommendation of our partners at DOHMH, we are encouraging every student and staff member to mask up as we head into the winter season.

Of course, we’re not requiring it. so hey, if you feel like coming unmasked, go right ahead. Hey, if you want to spread COVID, RSV, or just the good old flu, go right ahead. Typhoid, tuberculosis, bubonic plague, or whatever, go right ahead. We’re good with that. After all, we encouraged masks. 


Doubtless if you’re a teacher you’ll understand. Perhaps one day you encourage your students do the homework, rather than requiring it. Sounds good, right?. If you’re highly effective, you’ll get 100% compliance. If you don't, we'll give you a crap rating, and good luck fighting that. And I know this well, because I’m the frigging First Deputy Chancellor, and I've already made up my mind you're guilty. And no, I never taught a day in my life. 

Wanna make something of it? Feeling lucky, punks? 

I didn’t think so. 

So don’t come bitching to us if you get sick. We encouraged everyone to not come unmasked, and we are not responsible if you come in and get sick from someone who was unmasked either. 

All schools and offices are equipped with masks. Not medical masks. Not masks that actually protect you. More like the kind of masks you get on Ebay three bucks for a hundred. Of course, in a special deal with one of the mayor’s close relatives or girlfriends (Who can keep track?), we managed to negotiate a special deal of a hundred bucks for three. And for those of you who wonder why we can’t fund schools, it’s important we make deals like this. Otherwise, how would we get gigs like mine where you go to gala luncheons and write staff emails three times a year, if that? Beats the hell out of working. 

As a reminder, masks should cover the nose and the mouth, resting snugly above the nose, below the mouth, and on the sides of the face. But if they aren’t, we don’t care. It’s only a recommendation.

To further encourage everyone to stay masked, we’ve decided to restrict your use of Teacher’s Choice to buy them. This is part of our comprehensive program to serve you better by serving you less.

We also continue to encourage everyone to stay up-to-date with all vaccinations, including flu and COVID. But if you don’t, who cares? No skin off my apple. 

Principals: A family-facing update about masking recommendations is being prepared to backpack home and will be shared soon. We'll recommend that the students wear masks, and if they don't, we'll rate you ineffective, just like those teachers. Also, you'd better not push the students too hard to wear masks, or we'll bring you up on charges. If convicted, you'll have to leave your positions, go to Tweed every day, and do Whatever It Is We Do There for the rest of your professional career.

If you have questions, please keep them to yourselves. It's holiday season, and we have super-spreader parties to plan. There's no way we're gonna tamp down our big fun by wearing masks. Still, we recommend you do.

Thank you for helping us keep everyone safe and healthy as we enter 2023! Lord knows we aren’t gonna do it!
Dan Weisberg
First Deputy Chancellor

Monday, December 12, 2022

UFT Leadership--We Are Superheroes. You Are a Contrary Galoot.

Not in those words, of course.  But they like to portray the UFT President as an infallible super hero, kind of like the one on the left. He's facing down impossible odds while you and I are whining on the sidelines. I can't sit through the Town Hall presentations any more, but James Eterno did, and kindly took notes:

We don't wait for something to happen.

They certainly don't. They made a deal, six months ahead of the 2018 contract, for enormous health savings (for the city, not us). That's why they wanted to dump all city retirees into an Advantage plan. They basically agreed to fund our own raise, a counterintuitive, stupid precedent that will cost us dearly in contract negotiations.

Other people just say no. That doesn't sit well with us. People will yell and scream and do other things. 

This is the stereotype they trot out any time any member dares disagree with them. You "just say no" for no particular reason. Actually, I've agreed with a lot of things leadership did. I loved parental leave. It's still a great improvement over the nothing we had previously. I supported the 2018 contract (with no idea the health savings they agreed to were so reckless and hurtful). 

Here's the difference between me and UFT leadership--when I make a mistake I tend to say, "Sorry, I made a mistake." Back when we had an online grading system, students would come up to me and ask, "How come I got a 10 instead of a 100?" I would say, "I type too fast," and fix it. Were I UFT leadership, I'd say to my students, "You are a whiner, always yelling and screaming and saying no." Then I'd fail the kid for no reason. 

If I acted like that, I'd be unfit. 

In fact, as someone who may retire soon, I was also open to the change in retiree health care. But once they failed to even examine the city code, and lost the provider, I didn't feel these people were capable of negotiating something worthwhile. Well, I was wrong to support the health care change, and I was wrong to support the 2018 contract. Color my eyes wide open, and call me a nattering nabob of negativity. I've been blogging since 2005, teaching since 1984, and I've heard way worse. 

We want to create the best retiree plan in the USA. We will not sign unless we believe the plan is better.

Leadership now distances itself from Medicare Advantage. Who can blame them, given their spectacular and very public failure? The fact is, though, there is no alternative for them that will pump millions of dollars into the city like Advantage will. The other is, NOT all doctors accept it. And however they do it, it's likely to be picked up by local doctors, just as GHI/ Emblem is. If you're planning to move anywhere but Florida, good luck. 

Want transparency. Want record of prior authorizations. Want to be able to go to an expert if there is a disagreement and someone is denied.

We want a lot of things. The fact is, though, that the only reason Advantage gets money from the feds is that it saves them money. And it does so by denying procedures. And the people who do so are always expert. Perhaps they're expert in saving money for the company, but they're expert nonetheless. 

Only one option if we don't change Municipal Code.

And that's because you are unwilling to fight for what's right. Evidently, you're unwilling even to negotiate. That's what happens when you insist you're right no matter what. That's what happens when you give up and refuse to fight.

There will be in-service vs retiree.

You already told us that, in an email.  UFT President Michael Mulgrew wrote us saying that if we didn't screw the retirees, we'd screw in-service teachers. That's the classic zero-sum game, the same thing that's kept America from universal health care and a continuing robust middle class. It's among the very worst messages a union leader could broadcast. If you don't help us screw them, we're gonna screw you. This is a classic appeal to fear.

But it's too late for that. You screwed us all when you agreed to that health care deal in 2018. Your job is to fix your mistake, not blame or threaten us.

Disrespect toward people giving information is unacceptable. People attacking chapter leaders and district reps not acceptble. 

In other words, sit down, shut up, and don't dare disagree with us, ever. This is not how you build activism or union. We build activism and union via collective action, not by blindly agreeing with those who've failed us over and over, and certainly not by issuing them a blank check to do it again. 

UFT leadership sees themselves as Captain Marvel, but on this astral plane, they don't even measure up to Captain Underpants.

Friday, December 09, 2022

How Far We Haven't Come

The tech is different, but not much else has changed since Up the Down Staircase. It was a series of absurd situations, with one pronounced tragedy. There was a teacher who lacked the sensitivity of a number 2 pencil. In the current system, that guy would likely be superintendent by now.

In the novel, teachers would say to one another, "Let it be your challenge," or something whenever they were faced with absurd situations. Then they'd go their merry way and hope for the best.

These days, admin  still issues those challenges, telling you they're serious but not impossible. The actual challenge is managing to view them as impossible but not serious. You can do that sometimes. It takes practice, and no supervisor can show you how. Many don't know, and are supervisors simply because they couldn't handle your incredibly stressful job.

Last week we had to submit report card grades. Because Skedula is out, and because the DOE imposed a system that does not actually work, I held off a long time from giving grades. I finally started using Google Classroom to record grades. Controlled by our administration, it has its drawbacks. For example, a new section of my class opened up and ten students were transferred. As soon as that happened, all their previous grades disappeared into the ether. One student was transferred from one section to another, and his grades have disappeared to. Hope his parents don't come in and ask me about them today, our PT conference.

I did my grading last Sunday. We were sent an Excel sheet. I filled in everything and sent it back. On Monday, there was an announcement. Some grades were missing, and could we please fill them in online? ALL my grades were missing. I had to scramble to replace them.  I finished Tuesday morning, but by that time report cards had already been printed. So I did redundant paperwork for no reason whatsoever.

Then, of course, I had to lose class time while my students came up and asked why their grades were blank. I had to find their names on the Excel sheet (which thankfully I'd saved), handwrite grades (entering them a third time) and sign them one at a time. Of course, failing students were less inclined to ask. They got to go home and blame me for not giving them grades. I forwarded admin the email I originally sent with my grades, asking that they be posted for the next report.  Of course, they are Very Busy with Important Stuff and couldn't respond. 

We have a restorative justice program in our school. I got two letters after MP2, asking about how these kids can make up assignments and possibly pass MP3. Here's how I responded to one of them:

I have seen this student exactly two days this year. The only other time I heard from him was when he wrote, "Fuck this shitty class," on my Google Classroom wall. I deleted that message and muted him, and have not heard from him since.
I reported this action to admin, who did nothing about it. Or perhaps they placed him in Restorative Circle. Who really knows about these things?
Thank you for your inquiry.
Very truly yours,

Arthur Goldstein


I'm glad I don't have to write teachers asking them how students who cut entire semesters can pass classes.   

Then there are the PDs we must sit through. Highly paid DOE people come and tell you that all your ELLs, even the ones who don't speak English at all, MUST pass the English Regents exam. They don't care how you do it, as long as you do it now

There was one in which a principal told us to tell kids they must NOT be LATE. FAIL them if they are late! He then segued into what we could do to pass everyone no matter what. Ideas included sanctioned cheat sheets. One teacher said he let his students correct the tests after they were handed out, but only gave half credit for corrected answers. So a 50 becomes a 75. He's now an assistant principal.

There was one where a monolingual teacher lectured the language department on how to be sensitive to multiculturalism. Evidently, the secret is to give them a math project. Who knew? Like every other teacher in the room, I'd lived and worked in foreign countries, studied multiple languages, and acquired state certification in at least one. Why had I frittered away my time like that when I could have simply assigned a math project? Who knew?

Without all that assistance, I have no idea how I'd manage to teach students, 34 at a time, with no background in English, how to use it. The secret is to force them to pass the English Regents, fail them for coming late, allow them to cheat on tests, and give them a math project. 

Then we get flowery emails from various chancellors. They fight tooth and nail against reasonable class sizes, force you to come in when there's a deadly pandemic, and withhold desperately needed funds from your school. Then they write absurd missives from their air-conditioned offices and speak as though they're your colleagues.

It takes a special sort of person to do this job, and a more special one to keep it. Lots of people do it for one year, give up, and then write books as though they are authorities. Actually, these people are authorities on failure. Yet they pretend to have a magic secret to cure all the ills of a system that hasn't fundamentally changed in half a century.

You have to be crazy to do this job. You have to be crazier to keep it. I've been at it for 38 years. The thing that sustains you is the kids. They also don't change. You have to weed out the noise. The thing is, the new tech kind of turns the noise volume up. 

I don't have any magic secrets. But it wouldn't be all that hard to improve on the current system. In Spanish, they say that common sense is the least common of all the senses.

It's almost altogether lacking in the DOE.

Wednesday, December 07, 2022

My Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Yesterday morning I was out walking with my dog when I saw a truck with lights flashing all over the place. I thought, oh my gosh, someone is really sick and getting taken away in an ambulance. I've been taken away in ambulances once or twice, and I recall it being no fun at all. As I approached, I noticed it was not an ambulance, but rather a flatbed truck, and as I got closer I saw they were taking away someone's Lexus. 

This, I thought, is really bad. Someone who couldn't afford to do so went out and bought a Lexus. Obviously, this person was concerned about appearances. I guess you look well-to-do if you have a Lexus, and I guess once you park it in your driveway, all your neighbors will say, "Hey look. They have a Lexus."

But then you miss a few payments, and they come and haul your Lexus away. They have lights flashing everywhere, and all the neighbors see. They say, "Hey, did you see them hauling that Lexus away?" Then all the neighbors, who you'd worked so hard to impress, find out that you couldn't afford a Lexus after all. You lose the down payment, you probably owe money, and you have to borrow your sister's 1990 Corolla just to get to work. The neighbors either gloat or politely pretend they didn't notice

I felt bad about that, but on the brighter side it was Tuesday. This was good, because I wouldn't have to pack anything to eat after first period. We have this cafe at our school, and they sell breakfast burritos in the AM after 7:45 Tuesday through Thursday. This is an offshoot of our culinary program. Our principal went out and bought furniture that makes it look like a cafe. This was pretty impressive, as most school cafeterias are pretty much indistinguishable from a typical prison mess.

So it was a good place to hang out. You could sit in a booth with a buddy, and you were pretty much socially distanced from most everyone else. At first I wasn't really impressed with the culinary aspect, because all they had were Pop-tarts, all sorts of other sugar-laden garbage, and bagels, not precisely the sort of empty calories I want before I start teaching. 

However, they won me over with their coffee. I really don't expect coffee to be good anywhere. When I'm on the road, I buy hazelnut coffee. I don't really like it, but it always tastes like hazelnut. For my money, hazelnut is better than crap. Anyway, the coffee at our school is actually very good. That's remarkable, because I distinctly recall getting the worst coffee on God's green earth from our traditional cafeteria. Being desperate for caffeine back then, I'd hold my nose, swallow it quickly, and hope for the best. 

But at 8:50 yesterday, they had only bagels and Pop-tarts. That meant I had to walk out in the rain to the grease truck near the school, where they would actually put things like eggs and cheese on a wrap, if you'd only pay them money. I trudged back to the cafe and bought coffee, but I'm not gonna chance coming in without my own food anymore. There's enough stress in this job without wondering what it is you actually ate from the grease truck. 

Toward the afternoon, I was pretty concerned because I had to run to a dentist appointment. That never puts me in a good mood. But then, there was an announcement, All teachers should check their email for missing report card grades. I did, and all my grades were missing. This was odd, because I'd submitted them all on Sunday. 

And it was doubly inconvenient because we don't have a grading program. I was pressed for time, and rather than go from my saved Excel file, checking 150 times back and forth, I looked up my grades on Google classroom and recalculated. Before I could finish, I had to run to the dentist. My dentist is in Jackson Heights, so before I get a huge needle inserted somewhere in my mouth, I get to go up and down the streets and see a fire hydrant or driveway where every space should be.

This morning I was giving a test, so I had very little prep to do. I was able to print out my Excel sheet, I checked most of my grades against it. They seemed okay. But then I found that report cards had already been printed, so I ran around like a chicken without a head for no reason whatsoever.

However, I'd brought my own food, so no Pop-tarts or grease trucks for me. 

And Warnock won in Georgia. 

I feel better times coming.

Saturday, December 03, 2022

UFT Leadership Establishes New Negotiating Policy

I'm increasingly impressed with what UFT caucus Retiree Advocate did. They got together with other city union members and supported the lawsuit that put a halt to the "savings" program so revered by our union leadership. 

Retiree Advocate did precisely what union does. Union organizes. Union fights. Union demands better working conditions. Union sets examples to improve its lot, and thus pull up other working people as well.

Our leadership, on the other hand, berates Retiree Advocate, calls them troublemakers, says they screwed up everything, and follows up by demanding absolute fealty.  Rather than organize against the city, the union demands we get on board with the "savings" program.

We now know said savings are entirely for the city, entirely at our expense, to the tune of 600 million a year (so far, until our brilliant leadership makes yet another deal). The way the city chose to save this money was by dumping all retirees into a Medicare Advantage plan OR charging $191 a month to keep the program they had. 

Of course, the city got a lot of help from the Municipal Labor Committee, a group of various union leaders, including ours. These leaders decided to mortgage our futures in exchange for modest salary gains, at or near cost of living. Somehow, they muster the audacity to call that a good deal.

These people are the worst negotiators I've ever encountered.  How do you trade something of such great value for salary increases that are just okay, but no big deal? While I'm sure these negotiators are highly compensated and can afford better drugs than say, working teachers, they ought not to take them while on the job.

I might retire soon. I was at first open to trying this plan. It sounded okay. All doctors who accepted Medicare would take it. And Emblem Health, my provider for decades, would run it. However, all of the above turned out to be untrue. Not all doctors would take it. And Emblem, viewing the gross ineptitude we see more of each and every day, dropped out.

Like many, I was left with even less faith in the people negotiating this program. 

The other day I had an MRI. Emblem Health approved it pretty quickly. I made it a point to select a RadNet facility, because I'd gotten an email stating the copay there would be $50. It was $100 everywhere else, due to the "savings" program. However, the RadNet facility charged me $100.

I contacted friends in UFT, who put me in touch with someone from the Welfare Fund. I may get my 50 bucks back. Regardless, this further underlines the incompetence of the people asking for our trust. They should have made sure RadNet knew about and acted on this deal, if indeed there was one (just like they should have made sure all doctors accepted that Advantage plan).

The thing that irrevocably pushed me over the edge was the email from Mulgrew stating we needed to support changing the code setting minimum health care costs for city workers. If we didn't allow that, he said, in-service members would be charged $1500 a year for health care. Let's set aside the fact that health care needs to be negotiated, and Eric Adams cannot unilaterally impose charges. The fact is, that email pitted one faction of our union against another. That's absolutely unacceptable. That's not what union is or does. 

Union leaders ought not to be threatening their members. They ought to be threatening our employers. Instead of that, they're acting as shills for our employers and demanding we tow the line. They're lecturing us, saying we ought not to protest. They warn us of the consequences of disobedience, as though we're recalcitrant children.  In fact, we're organized labor. Protest should be in our DNA.

There are a number of things that can happen here. Absolutely none of them are good for membership. We're looking at diminished health care for the most vulnerable among us, those who can least afford having fewer options. We're looking at exploding copays and possibly premiums for Emblem/ GHI. Every possible solution will be loathed by some, if not all, of membership.

It is disgraceful that our leadership, faced with the consequences of a poorly conceived health deal they ought never to have made, would determine to simply sell out any faction of membership, let alone those who can least afford it. The fact is, even if they succeed, we have no guarantee they won't sell out some other faction in the very near future. Again, I marvel that anyone could negotiate so poorly.

Of course, UFT leadership cannot conceive, ever, that they may have done something wrong. That's why they ridicule those who dare suggest they're wrong. That's why they know better than Retiree Advocate. What, ORGANIZE? Why would anyone do that when you could simply CAPITULATE?

And we, the membership, are forced into the position of having to negotiate against leadership, rather than management. What we desperately need is leadership that will fight for us, rather than Eric Adams. Leadership does not, will not, cannot see that. As a result, its long unchallenged Unity Caucus may finally have issued itself a mortal wound.

They just don't see it. They can't and won't see anything. That, evidently, would violate policy.

Thursday, December 01, 2022

The Morning Class

I had a morning class earlier this year. There were 8 students in it. I really liked teaching it. However, the school killed it and redistributed the kids in other classes. I'm happy to tell you they're all doing well, albeit with far less attention from me. 

For a while, I had four classes. My beginning classes were, and are, difficult. I have to devote quite a bit of time toward discipline, or it will be chaos. I'm at school before 7 AM, and once it's past 7, I'm making calls. 

This week, the school reinstituted my morning class. this time as a beginner class. I previously had two beginner classes, one with 34, and one with 33. They have been keeping me hopping. I have a lot of students I suspect to be SIFE, or lacking in formal education. It's been quite difficult keeping them engaged. For a while, I taught the way I usually teach beginners, but I was losing over half the class. 

I started doing far more basic work with them. I have a picture dictionary and we're doing very rudimentary vocabulary and sentence construction, very slowly. I think that way I was up to 75% passing. But I still had some hard cases. 

It's very natural for people to want to speak their first language. If I were in China, I'd long to speak English. So kids who have a negative attitude about the US, English, or both will do all in their power not to hear the new language. If you move them away from their paisanos, they're likely as not to tune out out and fold into virtual cocoons.     

The first morning of my new class, yesterday, only one kid showed up. After that, I went to a helpful secretary who printed out the schedules of the other students, and I distributed them myself. This morning, eight of the ten students scheduled came in. 

And a miracle occurred. There is a boy I've thought of as an impossible case, a boy who's never paid attention or listened, who's never lifted a finger to learn English. Once, he stood up in class and announced, "No es me culpa si no se ingles." It's not my fault if I don't know English.

That made me very upset, and I did something I usually would not. I answered him in Spanish, in front of the whole class. I said, no, it's not your fault if you don't know English. But it's your fault if you don't try. It's your fault if you don't listen. It's your fault if you don't do the work. He remained unimpressed.

At 7 the following morning, I called his house. He never made another such announcement again. But he sat sullen and angry every day, and never lifted a finger to do better. 

When he arrived to the new class, late, he saw there was one small circle of students and pulled up a seat. We were talking about colors. I said, "I'm wearing gray and red." Then I got some students to say what they were wearing. I wrote my statement on the board.

Then, they boy said, "I'm wearing black and white."

It was the first time I ever heard him breathe a word of English. It was a small sentence, but worlds over the expectation I held yesterday. And it happened because he was in a small class. With 34 kids, I have to move some around away from others, and move myself like a whirlwind so as to preclude chaos. I don't need to do that in a small group. I can get everyone to participate. I can do a better job. 

Danielson doesn't account for things like this, but every teacher knows. It's criminal to place 34 kids who know virtually no English in a classroom for 40 minutes a day and hope for the best. It doesn't have to be under ten. But it just cannot work with 34.

We can do better and we all know how. 

Sunday, November 27, 2022

UFT Leadership Says Letting City Pay Less=Improved Health Care

You can turn on Tucker Carlson, if you have a strong enough stomach, and see people comment on the Club Q shooting. If only we'd end this evil agenda of gender-affirming care, they say, this would stop happening. 

So we need to stop protecting these people, and then they won't be attacked anymore. Sure. That makes sense.

Using similar logic, UFT leadership tells us we need to revise the city code to allow the city to pay less money for our health care. It's a good thing, they say, that the city doesn't have to pay so much for the health care we expect and work for. You see, if we only let them spend less, our health care will be better

Sorry, but if they pay less, doesn't it stand to reason that we will pay more? Didn't leadership just go to the mattresses for a program that would have cost retired couples thousands extra?

That is heresy, they say. If you dare question this logic, you're ruining things for everyone. When this thing blows up, it will be all your fault.  After all UFT leadership tried to warn you the only way to get better health care was to permit the city to pay less to support it.

On Facebook, a highly compensated UFT official tells thoroughly uncompensated HS Executive Board member Nick Bacon that, if we don't allow the city to pay less toward our health care, the city will impose a premium on all in-service members. Also, they will dump all retirees into a lone Advantage plan. Here's a sample of how he speaks to Nick, who wants to preserve the health care retirees have earned and enjoyed for decades:

Your malcontent nature will never allow you to see the positive and beneficial. You could be given a bar of gold and would be upset you weren't given two. It's fruitless to engage a person like that.

(Shouldn't it be like you?) Let's forget about this guy's failure to maintain a simple subject. Let's even forget the fact that this guy, despite saying it's not worth it, is engaging anyway. (Passive-aggressive much?) This same union employee, along with many others, was very recently jumping up and down declaring an Advantage plan would be the bestest thing ever. But that was then and this is now. Why can't we be good soldiers and forget already?

You'd think leadership assumed we all just fell off the tomato truck from Jersey. They change their tune and improvise a new one on the fly. Then they demand we all dance to it or there will be consequences

This is not the sort of treatment we deserve from union leadership. We pay their salaries and they work for us. In fact, this is the sort of treatment I expect from abusive supervisors. Still, I have extensive experience being verbally abused by union employees. In 2005, we passed the worst contract I'd ever seen, giving up rights to grieve letters to file, and agreeing to work longer hours for more money while pretending it was a raise. (A raise is when you work the same time for more money.) There were other lowlights I no longer recall, but I remember personal insults galore. 

Ad hominem is the logical fallacy of personal attack. That's what you do when you have no argument and/ or little imagination. You attack your opponent. You mischaracterize arguments, more logical fallacy. You tell people they're dangerous. You issue appeals to fear (as the UFT official did here) to frighten your opponents into line. 

Only it doesn't work. Retirees are horrified that their health care is in jeopardy. The fact is the Advantage plan, despite explicit assurances otherwise by the UFT President, was not accepted by all doctors that accepted Medicare. Also, it was largely not useful to members who'd moved outside of NY or Florida. There would have been an almost $5,000 annual fee to keep the health care they expected. This is a significant expense for people living on a fixed income. Imagine how that would've impacted paraprofessionals and lower-paid DC37 employees.

As a prospective retiree, I have a very specific suggestion about what this union official can do with this "bar of gold."

I'll refrain from posting that here. I'll just say the only thing that actually protects us from exorbitant fees, whether we are in service or retired, is Administrative Code 12-126. It's time for leadership to get off their high horse and admit the 2018 health care deal, the one they made with no input whatsoever from us, was a spectacular blunder. Then, they need to start working for us for a change. 

Make no mistake--that's their job.

Monday, November 21, 2022

MLC Takes Us for Carnival Rubes

After looking at the proposal that we pay $191 to keep Medicare and our version of Medigap (a program to cover the 20% of medical expenses that Medicare does not), I thought Medigap programs must be very expensive. After all, if our union was proposing to charge us almost 200 bucks a month for reasonable coverage, it must be a lot more for someone who didn't spend thirty years serving the city of New York.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I saw this NY Times article comparing traditional Medicare to Advantage plans. I'd figured Medigap programs must be prohibitively expensive. Otherwise, why would all those members be queuing to pay 191 bucks a month? How much was it? 500 bucks? A thousand? Here's what the NY Times says on that:

Medigap policies are not inexpensive; a Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that they average $150 to $200 a month.

So not only were we not being offered a particularly good deal, but the price we were being charged was on the high end. I'm in my 38th year of working for the city, and I've been told to expect better than that, pretty much since the day I started. My father told me I wouldn't get rich being a teacher, but we had great retirement benefits and health care. 

He was right, to an extent. I'm very happy to be in a position where I can retire without taking a job unloading trucks at Best Buy or greeting Walmart shoppers. But I absolutely expected to be fully covered by Medicare, you know, the real one that doctors accept all across the nation. I will have that option, I suppose, even if I have to pay. 

But I did not expect that. Retirees already pay for prescription coverage, though I don't recall how much. It seems pretty unfair to tack on the unexpected costs to avoid being dumped into an Advantage plan. Thus far, it appears the only advantage there is saving money for a city rolling in unspent billions from the federal government.  

I've been pretty happy with the health care my family and I have received since I became a teacher. Sure, copays are inconvenient, but they beat the hell our of being uninsured. The thing is, though, that GHI is good in NY and Florida, but not so great elsewhere. When Mulgrew rolled back his promise that all doctors that accepted Medicare would take the Advantage plan, he modified it to say that all doctors taking our current plan would accept it. 

That's not bad, but not great either. In my meeting with UFT employees, one who now lived in New Jersey told me that it was very tough finding GHI coverage out there. Now me, I try not to go to Jersey unless someone pays me, so that won't be an issue. Still, there are a whole lot of states other than Jersey, Florida and NY. I know someone moving to PA who's concerned about health care, and who will have to pay if that's what it takes to keep standard Medicare. Why can't we keep standard Medicare with Medigap for city employees, and allow them to live where they wish without penalizing them?

I was originally open to the Advantage plan. Before all the various clarifications and screwups, I thought it might be what it was presented as. The biggest argument against that assumption was the approval issue. I had cancer once, and I recall being approved for various procedures. It was no fun, but GHI was good to me. These days, insurance companies are not altogether altruistic, and the Times piece has a sharp message about Advantage:

Advantage participants who are denied care can appeal, and those who do so see the denials reversed 75 percent of the time, according to a 2018 report by the Department of Health and Human Services’s Office of Inspector General. But only about 1 percent of beneficiaries or providers file appeals, “which means there’s a lot of necessary care that enrollees are going without,” Mr. Lipschutz said.

That's far from encouraging. Given Mulgrew's walkback of the contention that all doctors who took Medicare would take the Advantage plan, we know the advice he gets and relays to us is less than reliable. As far as I know, those same people are still sitting around, getting paid by our dues money, and giving him the same awful advice. There is no way I want to be at the mercy of some company whose profits are more important than my health.

Again, we've been promised standard Medicare plus our entire careers. But hey, if we're gonna have to pay to keep what we've been promised our entire careers, you could at least offer us a good deal. It's disgraceful that MLC (with the explicit encouragement of our elected leadership) seeks to treat NYC employees, who they ostensibly serve, like marks at some cut-rate traveling carnival.

Friday, November 18, 2022

I Meet With UFT to Discuss Healthcare

Yesterday I was called into a Microsoft Teams meeting with at least five people who work for UFT. We were only disconnected once, so for my money, MS Teams is improving. 

I got a little bit of flack for my Gotham Gazette piece. There were many arguments put forth. Some were more understandable than others. While they had a lot to say, I did not get a strong sense my responses were valued.

They told me the proposed Advantage plan, which does not actually exist anymore, were it to be replaced, would do everything the current standard Medicare plan does. It's absolutely necessary to change the code, they said, or the city will place everyone in some Advantage plan or another. Some disagree. Personally, I remain unpersuaded that changing the code is necessary, and I am not eager to enable the Eric Adams administration. 

I am also very much aware that multiple city unions, including uniformed unions who often score better contracts than we do, oppose this. I recall, years ago, going to an Urgent Care and being told there was a new $50 copay, unless we were NYPD, They managed to get themselves excluded from that particular copay raise. 

Why can't we do things like that? Why can't we all do things like that?

One argument they presented was that, despite asserting otherwise, I knew about health changes. They said I wrote about them somewhere here. I didn't suppose they would say that if it weren't true, and it turns out it was, so my apologies for not making those connections previously.

With the expert help of Jonathan Halabi, I found some links. There are various quotes of things Mulgrew said. Bottom line is I wrote of, and was thus aware of a side agreement on healthcare. I took notes at the DA on a pretty regular basis, including here, and I will quote two passages. These notes come from the question period on October 12, 2018, the day the DA voted to present the contract to membership.

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. We are only workers who can get plans with no premiums attached. If UFT members get cancer they can go to Memorial Sloan Kettering—this is with HIP, also Hospital of Special Surgery. Go read it before you tie it to this contract. 

I confess that I did not go read it, nor do I know where I would have done so. In fact, I don't know where I would do that now either. That said, I disagree that we "locked down" anything. In fact, despite the assertion otherwise, there are now additional copays. These copays appear to be a result of this agreement, and appeared only weeks ago. I would also disagree, with the health care coverage city retirees have earned and enjoyed for decades now imperiled, that there is "no significant cost to union membership."

Here's another assertion:

Health care has nothing to do with this agreement. We are only saying this should go to membership. They will have plenty of time to read. We rushed MOA out for that reason.

The fact is, the health care agreement was in the contract, in Appendix B, and we were not shown Appendix B. 

From the meeting, I conclude UFT leadership is very concerned about this issue, and that's a good thing. If I were in charge of UFT, I would do all I could to repair the damage this health care agreement has done. This is an issue that will not just go away. Were I running the Unity Caucus, or even part of it, I'd worry a lot about the significant loss of support in the last union election. I'd advocate to do whatever I could to turn that around. The fact that they reached out to me to discuss this may be a good sign.  

Not good enough to give up the fight though. Our retirees deserve what they have, as do we. I can accept that the health care deal was negotiated outside of the contract, but it was included in that appendix, and it is a mess. I remain highly unimpressed with whoever it is that negotiates for us. The ever-evolving explanations are frustrating. 

They said we were never lied to. I pointed out that we were told any doctor who accepted Medicare would accept the proposed Advantage plan. They told me that's what the people told Mulgrew. I don't believe he gets up and lies to us. I believe he gets bad advice and repeats it. But if that's the case, whoever fed him that information should be fired and replaced with someone competent. I've heard nothing about any changes in our negotiating teams. 

This is not easy for us as membership, and I'm sure it's not easy for leadership either. I'd say, for an acceptable solution, we all have to be involved. That, for my money, is what union is all about.

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Tuesday, November 08, 2022

Why Fall Sports Are the Best

I don't like to brag, but I have a sports star in my class. 

Sure, I don't see him all that often, but his name is on my ledger and he does stop by once or twice a week. He sometimes, on leaving, reaches out to do a fist bump, you know, because we're good buddies. 

Except we really aren't. I'm a teacher, and he's a student. I kind of have different expectations, so I don't respond to that anymore. I used to, but it didn't help. I do other things, but they don't much work either. He was in my class last year, and failed because he showed up 40% of the time, if that. 

I have a bunch of students from China who are really tall and were trained, perhaps from birth, to be basketball stars. Some can't be on our team, though, because they're failing all their subjects. Perhaps in China, if you're a basketball star, that's what you are, The whole academic thing thing may not be a large issue. 

When I first started teaching, I had a basketball star in one of my classes. I recall being called into a assistant principal's office. She explained to me, that although the student had never actually shown up to my music class (I've taught many things.), that he had to pass. He was, you know, a basketball star. I was young and knew nothing, but everyone told me that was how it was done.

Things have changed, of course. I've changed, the system has changed, and I can't imagine an AP even attempting to deliver a message like that. But I wondered why my basketball stars were benched, and this guy was not. I've visited various APs around the building making inquiries. 

First, I asked why this student, who failed everything last year, was allowed to be on the team at all. Evidently, he attended a summer program where everything was translated into his first language. That makes things easier, of course, especially when one of the courses you need to pass is English. Once your English class is no longer in English, it becomes much easier to pass. Of course, the student didn't learn any English at all. But he passed something or other, somehow or other.

This next one is my fault. I didn't give grades for some time, since we didn't have a grading system. We still don't, though we're hopeful. When the student started cutting class, I went to another supervisor. "What are his grades?" asked the supervisor. "He hasn't got any yet." "Then he's not failing." I couldn't argue with that. 

When the student got his report card, I noticed he was failing five classes. I thought that might make a difference. Yet another supervisor told me that the athletic association that runs the teams does not consider letter grades, you know, the five "U" grades, to be failing. So the kid failed five classes, and there is no consequence. Clearly, this kid is smarter than I am.

I finally spoke with one more AP. I told him the whole story, and he was surprised. He pointed out that you could get away with murder in the fall sports, but you couldn't do it during any other season. That didn't seem fair to him. It doesn't seem fair to me either. 

But hey, if you're a failing student, take some summer program, learn nothing, go back and join a fall sports team. If you're a good player, everyone will protect you and no one will give a golly gosh darn that you are learning nothing whatsoever.

Friday, November 04, 2022

Beware The Zero-Sum Game

When Michael Mulgrew writes to say we have to make retirees pay more, or in-service members will pay more, he's engaging in a zero-sum game. 

Make no mistake--this is a desperate move. He's pitting us against other union members to try and dig himself out of the quicksand he secretly inserted in the 2018 contract. We were never notified of the health saving promised in that contract, and it's unconscionable that it was buried somewhere in there as we voted for what appeared a plain vanilla contract.

I wasn't actually sure what a zero-sum game was until I read The Sum of Us by Heather McGhee. In a zero-sum game, every time one person gains something, another loses. The illustration at left shows only one person gets ice cream, when of course there could be more, or it could be shared. 

In the United States, zero-sum games cost us a lot more than an ice-cream cone. Whenever things like civil rights are promoted, opponents suggest if those people get rights, you will lose yours. And somehow, people buy it. 

This is why you get absurd movements like "defense of marriage." In fact, no one's marriage is threatened if we allow people to marry who they choose. If a man marries another man, that won't end Marjorie Taylor Greene's marriage. It turned out her adultery had a lot more to do with that than two guys somewhere who chose to share their lives together. 

On a more basic level, we're the only industrialized country on earth that doesn't offer health care for all. You'll read all sorts of nonsense, calling it "socialized medicine," but I've seen people die as a result of our miserable health care system. My father fought in the Battle of the Bulge, and toward the end of his life he was scrambling to unload everything he ever worked for. He could not afford appropriate elder care, and needed to qualify for Medicaid so his wife wouldn't lose their home once he passed. 

Job-related health care was a great benefit to people who could get decent jobs. Who do you suppose got better jobs after WWII? Here's a clue--my dad was able to buy a home due to the GI Bill. But people of color were largely denied this benefit.  In fact, people of color were denied standard mortgages and were largely cut out of the middle class boom that followed the war. Read The Sum of Us for chapter and verse. 

Remember when Obamacare started, and they vilified him for saying he lied when he said you'd get to keep your health care? It turned out the program set minimum standards for health care, and those companies that didn't meet them didn't make it. People would have to sign into Obamacare and get better policies. No one really lost, but you wouldn't know that from watching Fox News. The GOP tried very hard to kill it.

Of course Obama didn't get to offer a public option. That would've been dangerous. There would be no corporate profits to worry about and such an option would prove more than competitive. Perish forbid some rich guy sitting around in his mansion were deprived of a paycheck. Better people you and I pay more, so the rich guy can construct another chateau in the south of France.

Now, of course, we receive email from the President of the UFT saying if we don't change a law, so the city can pay less for our health care, in-service members would pay more. That makes our health care a zero-sum game. And it's not only Mulgrew doing this.

She's right about that. Still, I don't much love the implication that our salaries are the problem here. She's also been quoted as saying,  “The unions shouldn’t be taking this out on current retirees. Their changes should be effectuated on active employees or future retirees."

Zero-sum games hold us back and need to stop. Neither retirees nor in-service members should be penalized for wanting to be as healthy as possible. We need to hold together and draw a line in the sand here. 

Full disclosure--I supported the 2018 contract, and it's the only one I voted for in my living memory. It looked fairly innocuous, with raises that were at or near cost of living. Like most, I had no idea that UFT leadership had agreed to massive health care savings and kept it from us. As far as I'm concerned, none of us voted for this. Along with the overwhelming majority of UFT members, I was duped.

Unless I see the fine print, I will never vote yes on another contract. I'm sorely disappointed to see my trust broken. I won't let it happen again, and you shouldn't either. 

Contact your city council member and urge a NO vote on any changes to Administrative Code 12-126.

Tuesday, November 01, 2022

UFT Leadership's Contract Plan

The odd message we got from the UFT President the other day has me thinking about contract negotiations. After urging the membership to cave in the face of a threat by the mayor, to throw the the retirees under the bus right now so rank and file won't get thrown under later, how do we take a principled stand on the contract?

I mean sure, there is a committee of 500 members working to craft demands, but I'm not persuaded that will make much of a difference. In the end, it will be UFT and DOE leadership making the deal, and given that committee members are sworn to secrecy, how will we gauge how much, or how little difference they actually made?

Everyone, myself included, would like to make more money, especially in a year of rampant inflation. Yet we're tied to pattern bargaining and you can bet Mayor Swagger is slithering about looking for the first lowball offer he can muster. Salary is, in fact, the prime consideration for most members, and pattern bargaining places it almost certainly beyond the purview of the committee,

Also, what does it matter if 500 members want something, or indeed if the entire rank and file want the same thing? Eric Adams now knows he can make threats and they'll likely as not be amplified by emails signed by the UFT President, along with mass tweets made at his urging. Imagine this:

Mayor Adams says if we don't agree to a 10% cut in salary, he will cut our salaries by 25%. Of course this is unacceptable to us. That's why I want you to write the city council and tell them to pass a bill to cut all municipal salaries by 5%. See the pre-written tweets below and share them.

Could that be an ask? Probably not, but there's now precedent for it. And how much will Adams offer, knowing that we actually went to battle for second-rate health care, trying to force our retirees to pay 5K a year per couple to keep benefits they've worked for and enjoyed for decades? If I were him, I'd feel like I was dealing with, essentially, nobody. I'd swagger here, I'd swagger there, and I wouldn't offer one thin dime in raises, let alone improving working conditions. Adams is sitting on unspent billions and pleading poverty. Our quest to cave to his demands has done nothing to help that.

Now sure, you say, but there are those 500 people on the committee. UFT is the largest local. How can we be ignored? Let me ask you this: Is there a single retiree in this city, not on a union payroll, who wants to give up Medicare for a half-baked Advantage plan that's never been tested anywhere? Probably not. In fact, given that this plan was bungled at every turn, I wouldn't be surprised if even people on union payroll were also wondering about it, albeit more quietly.

Can you even believe we're battling to change a law so NYC can charge premiums? If Mulgrew and Adams succeed in making retired couples pay 5K a year for the health care they were promised for free their entire careers, who's to say it will stop there? If Adams doesn't get to charge in-service members $1500 a year for GHI now, who can say he won't charge them 2500 next year? After all, in service members might be able to afford it better than retired members. Can't you imagine Adams making that argument? Can you imagine us supporting it?

This, of course, is all administered by the MLC. We're the largest union in the city, and the largest voice in the MLC. Meanwhile, the DOE sees us actively campaigning for worse conditions. 

It's very hard for me to imagine this administration feeling gratitude and offering us a fair contract. After all, we endorsed Adams in the general and he has yet to show gratitude for that. He's worried about vegan menus, because he's vegan, sometimes. He's worried about training in dyslexia, because he has dyslexia. He doesn't give a golly gosh darn about class sizes, because he's not attending a class. 

Mostly, the only person Eric Adams cares about is Eric Adams. Sure, he'll give the chancellor's girlfriend a gig if the chancellor will give his girlfriend one. But the fact that he'll create a scandal just to impress his girlfriend is just another testament to his monumental self-absorption. He now sees us as pushovers, and perceives that walking all over us may increase his swagger ratio.

Given that, the only way we can get Adams to offer UFT a fair contract is to make sure his pay depends on it. 

That's not happening any time soon. We're all in the same boat, we've painstakingly carved out a hole in it, and we're sinking fast. 

Leadership had better wake up some time before we hit bottom.

Saturday, October 29, 2022

UFT--If We Don't Surrender, We Will Lose

I was pretty shocked to get an email from Michael Mulgrew suggesting I needed to tweet out support for the City Council to change the law. 

The law in question says the city can't charge us for health care. That's why a lawsuit demanding the end of a charge to remain in Medicare with GHI prevailed. No matter how much swagger Adams has, he can't change the law. (To unilaterally change a law in NYC, you have to be Mike Bloomberg and buy everyone off.)

The email contained a passage that surprised me.

The city’s Office of Labor Relations sent a letter to the head of the Municipal Labor Committee giving the unions notice of its intent to enroll all Medicare‑eligible city retirees in a NYC Medicare Advantage plan and eliminate all other retiree health plans, including GHI SeniorCare. If the unions don’t go along with it, the city has threatened annual health care premiums of roughly $1,500 for all in‑service municipal employees.

So let's see if I've got this straight.  If we don't agree that retirees must pay $5,000 a year per couple to retain the care they've had forever, in-service members will have to pay $1500 a year. It's kind of hard to see the union in that. In fact, it appears we're pitting one section of the union against another. 

I just read Beaten Down, Worked Up by Steven Greenhouse.  It's a wonderful book detailing the history of union in the United States. Nowhere in the book was there an inspiring tale of a union that gave up and lost rights. Nowhere was there a touching story of a union that pitted retired members against in-service members to prop up a privatized version of health care.

There were stories of inspired leadership facing bosses, sometimes with strikes, and sometimes with other creative actions that precluded them. Personally, I don't remember the last significant boots on the ground UFT action. Maybe someone can remind me. On Facebook, I see small protests that may include some UFT employees, but I don't see rank and file as a whole out doing anything anymore. 

I'm not sure most UFT members even know what a union is. When I was chapter leader and we were facing a strike, a member came up to me and said, "I'm going to be a scab." I reacted angrily, and the member was surprised. This member clearly expected me to laugh it off and say "Okay good buddy, go ahead and cross our picket line."

The MLC is moving us backward. If we are to fight, we must fight for improvements, not inferior health care. And again, it's unconscionable that one faction of our union is being pitted against another. This is not how we create solidarity. This is not how we inspire activism. This is not how we move forward. 

I've been writing for some time about this Medicare Advantage thing. At first I was willing to try it, but the consistent ineptitude of leadership has turned me off to it utterly. First they failed to recruit doctors for the plan. Then they failed to check applicable law and lost in court. Now they send us an email that feels like a gun to our heads--if you don't support a poorly conceived plan that has failed at every juncture for retirees, active members will have to pay.

That's not a particularly persuasive argument. We deserve better from our leadership. No, President Mulgrew, I will not be sending tweets demanding that city council degrade health care for retirees. We should be fighting to improve it. And once again, it's unconscionable that we oppose the NY Health Act

This is a quagmire. There is no victory in that email. It's the job of leadership to better our lot, not march us off a cliff.

MLC and UFT leadership need to work toward a better solution, or stand down for someone who will.

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

UFT Health Care--Time to Abandon the Hamster Wheel

A few days ago, I had a column in the NY Daily News expressing support for the NY Health Act. I suggested this as a way to deal with rising health costs not only for the UFT, but for the entire state. New York State is as large as England, and if England can provide health care for all, so can we. Since I wrote that, Emblem/ GHI has raised copays

The UFT's line in the sand has been premium-free health care. I assume that line is shared by our fellow unions, or at least a bunch of them in MLC. While MLC ostensibly represents all city unions, some seem less affected than others. I know NYPD did not love the idea of $50 co-pays at Urgent Care, and was exempted from them. I also know if you choose Pro-Health Urgent Care, it will cost you a hundred bucks these days.

Premium-free is important, because once you get into that, you can never get out. Some municipalities offer raises, but then offer premium raises that render pay raises into nothing. Sometimes the premium raises are more than the pay raises and people end up making less. That said, there are other ways to attack your pocketbook, and increased copays are certainly one of them. 

We are in a mess, and we need more than hopeful words from our leadership. MLC committed to health savings, and these health savings have proved much more elusive than it seems to have imagined. While I was not overly preoccupied with having Emblem/ GHI manage an Advantage program, they're out of the picture, and I don't trust anyone else. In fact, I now have no confidence in MLC's planning ability, and given they couldn't even be bothered recruiting doctors before announcing this program, I don't think they could do it adequately with any company.

In fact, the sponsors of NY Health Act said that they would meet the same health coverage we have. The issues, despite what UFT leadership says, seem to be petty at best and disingenuous at worst:

Labor leaders say that they're hesitant to give up collectively bargained health benefits, even if single payer's architects vow that their healthcare coverage would be just as good under the new law; and they also fear that healthcare for all could reduce the appeal of union membership, since comprehensive health coverage has long been one of the sweetest perks of a union job.

This is absolutely not what we've been hearing from leadership. Furthermore, it's a poor talking point. Those who drop out of union still get health benefits from the city. It behooves us to drop this nonsense and figure out how to get off this hamster wheel. The fees go up, the "premium-free" health care costs more and more, and we desperately seek more and more extreme ways of sidestepping the premium while paying some other way. 

A whole lot of us barely even know what union is anymore. At its core, union is something to better the lives of citizens. We join together so as not to be exploited. We take stands. We don't sit and wait and hope. Every UFT member should read Beaten Down, Worked Up by Steven Greenhouse. Those of us working in schools haven't begun to even contemplate what our union could be and do. Fixing health care for us (and for our brothers and sisters in NY State) would be a monumental accomplishment, and we're not even trying.

As to our immediate issue, there is a whole lot of talk about hospitals raising prices. If the state were to take over, prices would be much simpler. And personally, I wouldn't feel bad at all about losing those parasitic insurance companies. There would certainly be savings by cutting corporate profits to zero. There would be savings for medical offices that didn't need to maneuver between 500 different insurance companies. 

And hey, if you feel like going to some doctor that charges top dollar and doesn't accept NY Health Care, there's always New Jersey. 

You're welcome to it.

Monday, October 24, 2022

The No-Consequence Life

You'll have to click on the screenshot to see this. Look under the black box below, third from top, to see the charming comment a student left on my Google Classroom.

I sent the screenshot to several administrators. First they did nothing. Then I heard, third-hand, that nothing could be done unless I wrote it up. So I did, and it turns out the student is already suspended. So admin says there's nothing they can do. Supposedly, the kid should be disciplined from the suspension center. What are they going to do? Have the kid serve concurrent suspensions?

So I guess it's okay to post stuff like this where all my students can see it. 

And now, this kid will know there are no consequences for this action.  Can't wait to have the student return to my class, knowing that.

Of course, I can always reach out for help 😆.