Thursday, March 31, 2022

Mayor Eric Adams Announces Swagger Is Best Protection from Airborne Virus

BREAKING--From NYC Educator News Desk--

Mayor Eric Adams, at an impromptu press conference, announced that masks would no longer be required on subway trains or planes coming in or out of NYC. When questioned about the fact that federal regulations required masking on these forms of transport, Mayor Adams had this to say:

"A lot of people working in the federal government are not credible. I mean, honestly, which of them has swagger? Does anyone seriously think that Joe Biden has swagger? Of course I support the President, because I happen to have run and been elected as a Democrat. And as long as it's easier for me to win that way, I will continue to be a Democrat."

Several reporters asked what swagger had to do with viruses. Mayor Adams replied that it was well-established that viruses did not, in fact, have swagger, and would absolutely not know what to do with New Yorkers who did. He then stated it was not masks that gave the most effective protection against virus, but rather swagger.

When asked whether that meant he would drop the regulation stating that city employees needed to be vaccinated in order to continue working, the mayor categorically stated that would not happen. One reporter pointed to the fact that he'd dropped the requirement for athletes and asked whether that was a double standard. The mayor grew visibly angry.

"Are you going to sit there and act like professional athletes don't have swagger? Do you have any idea the amount of swagger it takes to make it in a crowded field like that? You probably don't even know any professional athletes, while I see them at cocktail parties and gala luncheons all the time. I'm telling you, they are bursting with swagger"

Mayor Adams went on to explain that teachers, police, firefighters, and clerks and secretaries were low skill workers who wouldn't be in corner offices any time soon. That's why, he said, that he was now offering zero percent raises to all city workers. He said if they wanted any stinking raises, they'd happily agree to productivity increases.

"If teachers really cared about my children," opined the mayor, "they'd work 200 hours a week and stop carping over every little detail. When I was a cop," he continued, "I made it a point to work at least 300 hours a week. However, as far as the teachers are concerned, we can come to a compromise. If they would only agree to teach classes of 3-400 online, perhaps only 100 hours a week, I could see perhaps a one-percent raise. Maybe two. I'm basically a magnanimous guy, despite my swagger." 

Mayor Adams continued to say that the state legislature did not, in fact, have any swagger. Otherwise, he asked, why would they have failed to include mayoral control or his desired tax cuts in their budget proposals?

When questioned about whether or not his swagger was working for him, Mayor Adams simply said, "He who swaggers last, swaggers best."

The mayor then left the podium. He did not take any questions. 

Monday, March 28, 2022

UFT Executive Board March 28, 2022--Election Complaint Resolution

LeRoy Barr--Welcomes us.


Barr--Negotiating committee Wednesday 4:30. DA April 13, May 25. 

Reports from Districts--Rashad Brown--Legal plan workshop 1 had 500 members.

Janella Hinds--April 5th Academic HS meeting online, Friday, April 8,Academic HS Awards, celebrating members and schools. 

Manhattan Borough Office, First Books event, very well received.

Michael Mulgrew--State, Working toward starting Tier 6 reform. April 4 final budget day. Will work through. Congratulates nursing dept. settling with Northwell. Congratulations to all. All private sector nursing contracts in place. April 14 we will have event for education leaders, policy experts in city and state. CL hub live Friday. Field testing first. Heading into that time of year, still waiting for calendar. Frustrating because we need to plan now. DOE seems to be taking time on superintendent process. Thanks everyone going to rep UFT and NYSUT RA. Nonstop for two days repping our local. Thanks everyone for going to CL training. Many great new CLs. 

Leaves for meeting with state.

Rich Mantel--April 9 in person middle school conference. Will be various classes. Hope to see you there.

Mary Vaccaro--CTLE workshops added, anyone on waitlist will be notified first, especially for Apple workshops. ELL credits assiciated. April 6, Golde Hawn foundation presenting on SEL. 

Karen Alford--Thanks everyone for attending early childhood conference. Was great to be back in building. Also had elementary Town Hall with 500 people. 

Tom Murphy--RTE meeting April 11. Will send out regular letters for members without email addresses.

Note--I missed a lot of detail below. Did my best, but there are big holes. 

Election complaints--Alleges misuse of union resources--objections were justified, will remedy some aspects, others were not justified. Will recommend those be dismissed, Under supervision of committee, UFT elects delegates to conventions. Accordingly elections are being held. 2022 election committee composed of two caucuses. Complaint submitted regarding misuse of social media and resources. Following meeting, complaint amended with details and suggestions. 

With regard to UFT official social media accounts, suggest members reminded of regulations. reccommend Unity pay reasonable market rate for headshots for appearances. Alleged UFT employees used FB accounts for political events. Many activities not electioneering. Members should answer questions and assist members online. Allegation without merit. Union employees do not forefeit their right to campaign in non-UFT forum. 

UFT social media accounts used for electioneering, FB and Twitter accounts sharing Unity. Official accounts should not be used for electioneering. Should cease immediately. 

UFT video used on Unity social media. Alleged that it place Unity Logo on video and placed it on Instagram. All candidates have equal access. LMRDA prohibits use of union funds for electioneering, but exception when all have equal access. Video posted on various sites, could be downloaded by anyone, any caucus or candidate. Could have been used to contradict. Not prohibited. Same true of photo from archives. Complaining member also had access.

Use of head shots. Says Unity Caucus used headshots from UFT website. Ruled that campaigns photographs not union property. However, to disspell any perception, Unity should pay reasonable market rate.

Mulgrew's letter in support of Deborah Penney. Alleged violation asking CLs to get signatures. Three members serve overlapping turns. This year Penney's turn. UFT admin committee and DA overwhelmingly voted in support. Only after that did Mulgrew send letter. DOL says this is permissable during officer election season. Did not suggest candidacy for treasurer. 

Union emails used for distribution of campaign materials. Says Unity Caucus flyers were delivered by candidates, and emailed. Distribution of caucus materials on UFT paid time not permitted, but was no evidence this was done. Rules will be reiterated. Some details refuted. 

This is recommendation.

Mike Sill--Only members of Exec. Board may enter debate. Christina Gavin, complainent, online. 

Gavin--UFT has been in existence since 1960. DOL had regs since 1959. Our union should uphold laws. Repeated violations by employees who interpret regs improperly. I will appeal. Unity has many members, benefits from inherent power of incumbents, has violated fed. labor law. with email social media, and more. Look forward to hearing what AFT has to say. 

Sill--Will take a motion. 

Recommendation accepted unanimously. 

Barr--Ballots go out April 8. Important we have good turnout. 

Revision--I asked for clarification of what we heard, and received the following:

1. UFT employees used personal Facebook Instagram and Twitter accounts for electioneering - not a violation of LMRDA. They do not forfeit their right to campaign.

2. UFT social media account - UFT has taken the position that such “official” UFT social media accounts, whether created by the UFT or an individual should not be used for electioneering.

3. UFT video taken from UFT Instagram and a photo from labor archives used on UFT social media - other caucuses can do the same and this type of equal access is not prohibited by LMRDA.

4. Use of headshots from UFT website in campaign materials - The Office of Labor Management Standards has diluted that one’s campaign use of photos from the locals website did not violate the law. Unlike the union logo, photos are not union property. There is no violation. However, to dispel any perception of wrongdoing, Unity should pay a reasonable market rate for use of the headshot.

5. Mulgrew sent a letter to chapter leaders in support of Treasurer Debra Penny to be re-elected to the TRS Board - this happens every year for one of the 3 trustees after the DA voted to endorse her. No mention was made of her running for Treasurer of the UFT. The complaint should be dismissed.

 6. Union officials entered school buildings on school time and used union meetings and emails for distribution, they combined union and caucus business
Servia Silva - stated that she entered buildings on union time and distributed union flyers. To distribute union flyers on union time would be improper. There is evidence she entered the building but no evidence she distributed flyers at that time. 

Dana Faciglia - allegations she mention unity caucus in a meeting and Ms. Faciglia refutes that claim.
Winnie Thompson - should not be using UFT email to conduct caucus business. This matter was addressed with her directly.

A statement of election practice rules will be reiterated for all staff.

    1. Dismissed 2. Use of official accounts should cease, but those accounts can like or follow posts unrelated to the election. Doing so is not a violation of LMRDA. 3. Dismissed. 4. Dismissed but Unity will write a check. 5. Dismissed. 6. Details above.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

UFT Delegate Assembly March 23, 2022--Debate Gets Us Nowhere

Delays as more people enter hall. 

President Michael Mulgrew--Welcomes us. Albany last 8 days of budget. Some good, but some things left out. Bail reform becoming an issue. Were feeling positive, but want education things in place. Ukraine, Jackson hearings followed closely by AFT. Thanks Karen Alford for supporting Ukranian refugees with partner group. Poland welcoming them. We support that however we can and through AFT. 

State--Official budget due next Thursday. Was on track, but things went awry. Bail reform makes it complicated. Cuomo has 22 million, running commercials, pushing bail reform. Our mayor hired on platform of cleaning up streets, and being tied to bail reform. We want to ensure CFE funding. Mayor saying schools lost 120K kids. Not just due to pandemic. Was happening during last administration. We need CFE funding. 

City--Community schools big piece of this, parents like them. Colleagues in other locales, small cities, want to emulate them. Want 100 million investment, only to be used for community school work. Teacher centers growing again because people want teacher-directed PDs. Few like when people come in and tell you how to fix schools. More and more schools want PD based on needs of staff and students. Pushing for increase. Had been 40 million, now only 14. Teachers centers help get schools printers and equiptment, promote positive learning. 

We had fights with previous admin over school discipline. Being unable to suspend no matter what, we don't support. With emotional trauma we are seeing more and more incidents. Tough issue. Superintendents were told to make suspension very difficult. We're not for zero tolerance but common sense middle of road. We want positive learning collaborative. Another mayor simply didn't report incidents. Not a political game. Doesn't work for anyone like that. We need positive learning collaborative, results good in over 50 schools that use them. Discipline needs to be in best interest of school system. 

Mayoral Control--Mayor pushed very hard to make it part of budget. Has not happened. Don't believe it will be part of budget. We have complete evidence that mayors have all made mistakes, bad policy decisions, decisions based on politics. Don't want to go back to school boards, but there have to be checks and balances on mayor. PEP panel doesn't have to be in complete control of mayor, only done this way here. 

Mayor announced PEP choices, half were charter advocates. One was stopped for not respecting others' beliefs. Parents of NYC are not 33% charter advocates. Now, they vote as mayor says or are removed. Suggested different options. Did anyone think giving all kindergarten students G and T tests was a good idea? No, but was passed in this system.

Ten years ago, every public sector employee in NYS was put under Tier 6. At that moment, we knew that this was a small but influential group of people who did it with Cuomo. We are at a point where we can start reforming this Tier. Most people start teaching at 21. Tier 6 says you work until 62. That's 42 years of teaching. We have had members who've done it, but we want it an option, not the burden put upon them. We had to fix tiers in the past, but this is not just UFT. We have to work with all public sector employees, or people will use tactics to split us. Doing work through AFL-CIO, has taken us 5-10 years to reform in past. How can this city recruit teachers when they have to work until 62, pay 6% of salary, wait ten years to be vested.

First step is to get a reform, and that's where we're headed right now. We need different entities to give fiscal notes, identify costs. First editorial in Post about how workers want to fleece city. Thank you. There was no fiscal reason to do this, especially in NYC. Comptroller in NYC said this was straight up politics. We can now lobby and push this piece. Will do more work on these issues.

COVID--hopefully will be reduced, but is slow. Masks optional preK April 4 by mayor, Will still be access to PPE and rapid tests. We have to constantly monitor and take appropriate actions. We've been told by doctors there will be increase because 25% now BA2. Now from 1.1 to 1.5. First increase, but we want 0.0. Testing continuing. 

Heads up--When we get to spring break, UFT access shut down outside of country due to cyber wars. Doctors have said because BA2 more contagious than Omicron we should know severity before spring break. I see more and more people comfortable unmasked. Strongly recommend you continue to get rapid tests.

DOE restructuring--Superintendents getting nervous. They always say they'll make them reapply, but this time they are being thoroughly vetted. Sometimes this changes behavior for better or worse. We will see both. Speaking with chancellor and team, they say they want evidence people can support and help schools. Not what they were asked to do before. Some schools seeing many observations. Please discuss with principals. We're trying to get through school year. Had to do screenings last year for no reason. Speak to principals and keep us informed.

BCOs ready to end. Borough citywide office. Was good sounding idea, but didn't work. Upset because a lot of members work there. Will work to make sure they don't lose livelihood. May go back to pre-Bloomberg, when superintendents had lot of staff. 

On positive side, trying to enshrine pre-K and 3K. 

On bad side, how can we fix special ed, when DOE believes its job is to rationalize why not to provide service. It's inhumane and we must fix it. We need to remove paperwork so we can do our jobs. We're at end of March. Planning for next school year already behind. DOE not ready to move, but we want to. If people lose complete faith in system it's existential threat. We'll help, but we have to move. 

Point of order--Chair has no right to interrupt speaker with question about minutes. Says cutting off speaker act of anti-woman (something).

Mulgrew--We know it's election season. Our job is to do work of union. Many people online.

(Chant in background, unintelligible to me.)

Mulgrew--I get emails saying we need to do work. Please keep electioneering out of agenda. This part was set by AdCom and Executive Board. That's how work happens. 

Testing--Was on phone, was in DC, explaining why this is major issue. Last time standardized tests given, less than 42% took them. Feds now saying they want tests for 95% of students and want to label schools based on those results. We think results will not be that good. We don't want anyone judging schools based on these test results. Shouldn't be happening. People who hate us always write how it's all teachers' fault. This has to stop. We're pushing, and we won't stop pushing. We won't let it go. We need a waiver. Nothing else helps. With lists for every state, this will severely damage public education. Please explain to members. My school visits this week was about this.

Other locales say NYC has it great. We've been epicenter of pandemic, but in those places they don't have teachers. One district gives students half live instruction, half virtual. When kids come in, classes start at 50 per class. Going on all over the place. Recruitment, retention early. 

Waiting for calendar from DOE. Very early. Again, too many holidays. We can get 180. We can't extend school year before Labor Day or after June 28. Very happy with holidays. When calendar comes out, more than 500 of you will do SBO to combine parent teacher night and day into one. We've shown DOE 500 or 800 did this in elementary. Hoping to make this standard and SBO for other option. Will utilize chapter leader hub. 

Medicare Advantage Plus--Judge said city could go ahead, asked mayor not to. Many things unsettled. Our job is continued fight to make sure we have premium free health care for all members. Nobody asks what hospital charges are, but we're presented with all charges. We have hospitals charging 300 percent above Medicaid. Doctors were 62% of medical costs, a decade later hospitals 63%. 

We're now in a study looking at longterm effects of COVID. That data might give us leeway and flexibility with retirement and pensions. 

Over 400 people on negotiating committee, meeting next Wednesday. No one negotiating with city, our contract still in effect, 80% of unions already out. Will do training at UFT. Have expanded space. Want to make sure all members have access to a survey. Will use company to make sure it's objective. Key here is every chapter talk in general and for own chapters.

CL hub live next Friday. Had started before pandemic. We have many new CLs trying to get info and access. Have focus group on what you need to make job easier.Will modify as needed.

Speaker--Had focus group working on project to create dream site. Existing login will work. Will give grievance status, COPE, member report. Info on current campaigns. Will migrate from current CL section to here. Can contact reps and guests. Resources include CL handbook and training resources. Sample SBOs available. Forms available. Calendar will show upcoming events. Search engine same as that used by call center. Will help give answers to members. CL update available. 

Maggie--Was CL on panel. Shared complaints about site. Wanted all on same page. December we met and things were changed. Tired of huge CL binders that take up a lot of space. Now digitized. 

Mulgrew--As we move forward, we will build on it. You can talk members through APPR, special ed. complaints. We believe this tool will help. Thanks all who worked on it. 

Inquiry--When we're here to deliberate, according to Robert's Rules we need to alternate. What is guiding principal?

Point of Information--Are there rules higher than Robert's here?

Mulgrew--Yes there are. We are allowed to set rules through parliamentary process that supercede Roberts. That's why we end at 6.  Goal for me is to do business at union. If people want to do special considerations, two-thirds vote and up to body, not point of order. If people speak only for something, we ask if people want to speak against. About ability to have respectful conversation.

LeRoy Barr--Ballots going out April 8th, get out the vote, want great turnout. CL training Saturday and Sunday. Special ed. town hall Mar. 29. HS Awards April 8. MS conference April 9. March 13 great turnout for CTE awards. 19 early childhood. We are coming back. March 16 was anniversary of UFT. Happy 62nd anniversary. Union still strong, largest local in country.


Q-- Helpdesk needs help. You call, you have to wait. We have resources here, but sometimes you have to reset password. Frustrating when they don't know what's going on.

A--DOE helpdesk--People call us when they give up on them. Then we have to call them. Parents have to call too. Doesn't build confidence in school system. It's a shame system is so bad. They spent a lot of money on it. FAQ for us is optical, because we increased benefit. We use our call center to drive info members want. DOE desk is embarrassment.

Q--Former CL asked when school quality surveys would carry weight. We have issues at PS 211, many of us left. We were in DN next Sunday. Principal still there. We need support. Thanks DR. 

A--We want retention at school level to count. Churn big issue, and usually fault of leadership. Should be number one indicator. When you have 30-40% leaving every year, you have big problem. Surveys are meaningless. Part of CBA with principals' union. Now that we are hopefully through pandemic, we have to focus on bad leadership that makes school improvement impossible. People hear a lot about these places where parents are unhappy. We need to deliver people ready to be school leaders.

Q--Heard Banks speak. Said kids don't need four years of HS. Why not incentivize early graduation? Why make them come 5 days a week, why not virtual? Opinion?

A--2.5 years problematic. Not his decision, but NYSED's. Five day a week schooling seems to work okay. If someone has creative idea we will listen, but need to understand what they will do. Some schools have four-day instruction and innovate day five. Some schools do six weeks on two off. More virtual? We learned a lot about it. A small percentage of kids did well. What are we going to do with two years of students who didn't graduate and now are working? Maybe we can create virtual school for D79 and try something, Must maintain class sizes. Must be tech infrastructure. We are not tech experts. 

Q--Last year did SBO votes virtually. Can we continue?

A--Yes. CLs like Election Buddy. 

Q--I was very sick, had negative CAR. Didn't get vacation days. Update?

A--Had to go back into arbitration. Few thousand people in that position. Arbitrator has jurisdiction. DOE "interpreted" that it meant if you had negative CAR days were not entitled to additional days. DOE asked how it would look if they had vacation days but owed days? We said deal with it at retirement. They didn't want to do any work. Ruling said vacation day not equivalent to CAR day. We say this violates ruling. Waiting for decision. 

Q--Paraprofessionals--This week we had PCMs in classroom. Will that continue? Will we have path to teacher?

A--Big question. Have negotiated where paras who qualify as subs can take charge of classrooms. We will have to go into negotiations. Many paras qualify to be teachers. Some don't want to do teacher paperwork. 

Q---OTs want to know what's going on with money we're not being paid, or being paid incorrectly.

A--We need to know, but will file union-initiated. DOE moving to get people paid, but it shouldn't happen. We proved they didn't pay. Shouldn't have to do this. Was no one in Tweed. We got movement. They are rushing it, and we have to keep process moving. Sometimes when we file grievance they stop paying. Should have never been in this position. Please send in all info so we can get payment done. 


Thomas Conavoy--This month--Resolved-- UFT will advocate DOE be respectful of Diwali, promote multiculturalism. 


Meredith Soladis--Next month--Resolution on UFT expectations for new admin and chancellor. Resolved loss will not be remedied by spending more on bureaucracy, want fed money in public schools, student expectations reflect what students will know, smaller class sizes, Banks and Adams listen to teachers. 

Peter Lamphere--Moves to extend motion period ten minutes.  

Mulgrew--Out of order. We have elected delegates who have a meeting at 6 PM here. Will rep. UFT at NYSUT. Will make sure our agenda is protected. They have to do same work at national convention. We are debating motion on floor.

Point of Order--Nick Bacon--Invite says 6:30. 

Mulgrew--Was informed to clear room at 6.

Lamphere--Appeals chair's ruling.

Point of order--Can we debate motion on floor?

Mulgrew--We have to debate his point, that he feels he can make a motion while someone else's is on floor. ?

Point of order--Can we just get on with our business?

 Lamphere--Debatable motion.

Mulgrew--We have automatic adjournment in minute and a half. People tried to use Robert's Rules to hijack the work of the union. 

Chant of "UFT."

Mulgrew--You heard my report. You heard all the issues we are trying to deal with, We all have many real challenges with union as whole. Please try to be respectful of each other. Vote on challenge to chair.We have automatic adjournment. Room has to be cleared and set up for next meeting. Thank you all for coming today. Sorry we didn't get to do the work we came to do.

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Off Today...

 ...but watch Francis Lewis HS Chapter Leader Samia Wattoo and me talking COVID-related teacher burnout on Channel 5 News.

Monday, March 21, 2022

Don't Forget to Vote for Unity

I'm running for reelection to the HS Executive Board. I'm running with and supporting the Unity Caucus. Every significant accomplishment I've been able to achieve for my colleagues at Francis Lewis High School and elsewhere has been via working with Unity.

We've just been through the most traumatic chapter of my teaching career, and likely everyone's. I don't know how long you've been doing this, but I've been at it since 1984. There were a lot of things that could've been done better, particularly when the apocalypse commenced, but the fact is we caught up quickly, and we soon went remote. I personally hated remote, but like a whole lot of people, I'd have hated dying of COVID even more. We got out too late for some, and that was awful.

Meanwhile, a whole lot of our colleagues in nearby districts didn't get out at all, ever. Accommodations? Forget it. You came to work, wore a mask if you could get one, and taught whatever of your students actually showed up. Those who didn't were watching your classes via the cameras in your classroom. I got an email from a teacher a bit upstate from us whose vulnerable wife got an accommodation that entailed a classroom with some extra windows.

The following year, we demanded safer working conditions and threatened a strike if we didn't get them. Accommodations were freely available to virtually all who needed them. I was among those who took advantage, and I was able to help others get them too. A lot of of things could've been done better, but the fact is we navigated this crisis better than a whole lot of Americans, and better than a whole lot of our colleagues in neighboring districts and states.

Being on the Executive Board has enabled me to work directly with leadership, particularly during the last round of contract negotiations. I was close to former VP Evelyn de Jesus, and pushed her to reduce observations from four to two. Evelyn was persuaded this was the right thing to do, and made it a priority. Shortly thereafter, I was bounced from the observation committee to the class size committee, and replaced by Michael Mulgrew, who sat in front of the DOE bigshots and demanded two observations rather than four. We won that. Observations still suck, but now only half as much as before.

My colleague Mike Schirtzer pushed for parental leave. He brought thoughtful and eloquent Emily James to Executive Board. Emily had written a petition and remarkably, collected almost 90,000 signatures in support. We were able to bring this to leadership, and Mulgrew was able to negotiate a parental leave agreement for the first time in our history. I've read people saying it should be longer, it should be this, and it should be that. They're right, of course, but this is a whole lot better than the nothing (!) it replaced.  When I adopted a 2-year-old girl from Colombia, I had to travel twice to South America and deplete most of my CAR days.

I'd argue the fight needs to be making this a national mandate as it is in so many other countries. Until that happens, working UFT members won't need to halt their families after one child simply because they're afraid of losing CAR days. I know multiple women who've had to do that. Some opposition members argued against this because it didn't meet their exacting standards. All I can say is I wish I'd have had six paid weeks off when I needed it. My sister-in-law in Canada got one year, with pay and full health coverage, for each of her two sons. If you want to know why that's not happening here, read this book and we'll talk.

The class size battle lingers, but there have been improvements. The recent agreement with the DOE means, while class sizes have yet to be reduced, at least current class sizes are enforced. There is far less ridiculous nonsense like one day a week off of your C6 assignment for teaching a class of 50, and there are far fewer oversized classes. My last year of chapter leader was the first year I didn't have to go to class size grievance hearings. It turns out principals do not want to explain to their superintendents why they can't manage to do their jobs. UFT's position is we ought not to fund class sizes by taking less money. If the city gave a golly gosh darn about quality education it would abandon nonsensical slogans like, "Children First, Always," and do what has to be done to actually help children. 

As a longtime chapter leader, I appreciate the new operational complaints. I was able to resolve several tough situations in our building with these. They are far quicker than traditional grievances. You don't have to waste time going to Step Two decisions where loyal DOE reps rule in favor of principals no matter what outrages they may have perpetrated. You also circumvent the very real danger of being at the whim of overpaid arbitrators either unwilling or unable to comprehend basic English.

I stepped down as chapter leader last year, anticipating retirement. I thought there would be an incentive. When there wasn't, I decided screw them all, I'll go back to work. That will teach them. I'm really glad I did. I'm pretty happy teaching five classes. After having been CL of a school with 4500 students and 300 members for 12 years, being a teacher again is a new life for me. I'm still writing op-eds about education, and TV stations call me to comment on stories. I'm really happy to represent when I can.

Of course we could have better working conditions, and despite what you may read in brain-dead newspaper editorials, even in the so called liberal papers, helping us helps students as well. We live in a city that's ready to roll out the red carpet for Jeff Bezos, build him a heliport or whatever he needs to get his gold-plated ass to Long Island City, but won't create adequate space for our kids to learn. That said, I worked with Unity members to negotiate a long-needed extension for our school. It's slated to open next year. No more trailers for us. I hope we have a big old barbecue and sit in lawn chairs watching the day they're finally demolished. 

Here's a thing I did when I was elected to Executive Board--I started posting notes of everything that happened there, available for all to read. Thousands of members read these reports. For reasons that elude me, no one had ever done that before. I'll continue to do that.

There's still a lot of work to do and I want to do it. I tried working with opposition for years and it's a dead end.  This year they're making nice, but next year they'll devolve into the same incomprehensible ideological battles on which they thrive. It's a longstanding pattern. Unity is not perfect, but Unity is what will move us into the future. 

I'm ready to make real progress and move forward. I'm voting for the entire Unity slate and I urge you to do the same.

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Another Day Off...

..but you can hear me on this podcast talking about our upcoming contract. My segment begins about about 23:10 on the audio.

Monday, March 14, 2022

UFT Executive Board March 14, 2022--We resolve to defend LGBT + against discrimination, and declare solidarity with Ukraine and Minneapolis striking teachers

Secretary LeRoy Barr--Introduces minutes.


Barr--Functional CL weekend went well. Early childhood conference Saturday. Please come out and support--hybrid meeting.  March 26 CL weekend 4. 

Reports from Districts--

Mary Vacarro--Had Golde Hawn come for training. Partnering with foundation. Will give training and one year subscriptions to anyone who participates.

Tom Murphy--4500 at general meeting for RTC. Mulgrew explained that new Medicare Adv. has been suspended. No need to opt out. 

Akeel Williams--March 10 Marina Del Rey Bronx, had retirement party for 36 year teacher. Thanks to all who attended. 

Special order of business--Resolution to support Ukraine--Reads resolution very fast--UFT stands with teachers, students, families in Ukraine and Ukranians in NYC schools, and will direct relief funds to them. 


Resolution to defend LGBT plus against attacks--Mike Sill--We have to continue to fight for gains. People want to marginalize students we teach because of their identity. We have to be vigilant in defense of our students and profession. Cannot weaponize schools. We serve students in all their diversity. Must defend out colleagues and students no matter where they are.

Rashad Brown--Stands in favor. Representation matters. Students need to see representation in literature in their classrooms. Must choose own identity, in schools they're in. As for Florida, we want to make sure teachers are not disciplined for those conversations. Some students attempt suicide. We want to make sure these students are not overlooked 

Pat Crispino- I have outed myself many times over the years. I didn't know what gay was when I was young, but I knew I was different. Many things have changed  over the years that have helped keep kids alive.  People like Ellen coming out and many other famous people. That has helped kids not feel different and be ok who they are.  Please support this resolution any anything else you can do. We have to stop this maniac in Florida.

Michael Freedman--Another example of right wing people attacking "the other." We've been fighting this for centuries and must continue.

Passes unanimously.

President Michael Mulgrew-- Thanks everyone part of last weekend's training. People are starting to really like being out there. Tomorrow biggest event in two years at UFT with CTE. Will see how that goes. 

Week of lobbying--Budget process. Governor puts out proposal. Senate and Assembly put out proposals. We fight to get what we want on the table. Lobbied whole week. We were able to make significant progress. Both assembly and Senate put in 100 million for public schools. Teacher centers did very well. 26-28 million. Will probably have best funding in 20 years. Funded aid for 9th grade CTE students. Child care providers--get 69% of market rate--Assembly said make it 90%. Trying to get these things in. 3 billion for child care funding. Mayoral control not in either house bill. 

Chair of education committee says if mayoral control is redone will be changed. Week of lobbying really paid off. Never had these in one house budgets before. Will see where it goes. Will finish in 17 days. Then will be city budget. Mayor says city is broke. All mayors say that, but our advice at all times is use federal funding on infrastructure. DOE needs new computer system, is 45 years old. These are big ticket items we need now.

Judge ruled Medicare Advantage could go forward, but both plans would be premium free. We need to stop process, we told mayor. He agreed. City is appealing. Will see what happens when things are settled.

April 14 is when we will meet about Regents. Our members will be on stage speaking to politicians. Tired of answering same questions. 

This weekend early childhood conference. 


Q--PS 211 in Bronx was in Daily News yesterday. Are these kind of cases you can bring to chancellor so we can encourage better relationships with principals?

A--Relationship on those issues has never been good. DOE always rationalizes this, like special ed. shortcomings. I will ask if this is what they believe they want in their schools. Do they want their employees treated that way? Supervisor union always blames us. When schools have constant churn that's significant evidence there is a real problem. Easily demonstrated. Carmen Farina agreed, but those with biggest churn rate were her friends and she turned away. Often these people are removed but hired by DOE. We hope to work things out better. I was CL in a school like this, dreading walking into the school. Will say that DOE superintendents applying seems to be serious process. They seem to be looking at everything, wanting people who can get things done. Clear that Superintendents will get more staff and BCOs will be downsized. Reason you're reading these stories is because of our work.

Q--At RTC meeting LeRoy gave shoutout to birthday of union.


Thanks us. Halfway through March. Will have break April 14.

Resolution in Solidarity with striking Minneapolis teachers--Janella Hinds--Speaks in favor. We work hard to protect class size here. Part of contract. Many places don't have those protections, or competitive pay. Retention and recruitment difficult. Standing in solidarity for them, who seek the protections we already have. We need teachers treated with respect and dignity they deserve. 


Barr--March 16, 1960 was birth of union. If it were five or ten years ago, you'd see many founders sitting here. 62 years ago a bunch of groups combined to form the UFT. George, before pandemic, was always in halls, with a bit of history. I always listened. We need to respect and build upon our foundation. Please reflect upon and teach someone else the importance of union.

George Altamari--Thanks everyone here. We have a long history and a short history. Why wasn't there a union earlier, or collective bargaining, or negotiations? Why did we have to grovel at supervisors? We were not in unity, together in solidarity. HS teachers used to say they wanted more money than elementary. Elementary said they did more work. There were about 50,000 teachers, many of whom in Teacher's Guild. We cut through and merged into a union to earn collective bargaining. 

Certain moments will never be redone. March 16, we voted to join together for sole purpose of solidarity. They were the founders. I'm the last remaining of founders. January 10 officers of UFT were allowed into 110 Livington St. Bosses had big conference table. We had never been in there. After winning collective bargaining election we had first negotiating meeting. I was there as HS VP and strike chairman. 

We walked in, saw long oak table, previously reserved for bosses only, and proclaimed we wanted collective bargaining. Power was not given to us. We took it because of Unity and Solidarity. Sings Solidarity Forever. 

Adjourned 6:46

Wednesday, March 09, 2022

Touchy Subjects

I have a couple in my class, or at least that's how it appeared to me. I was alerted to this when I saw a boy put his arms around a girl about a month ago. 

I was not particularly happy about this. I took the boy out into the hall and told him the next time he touched the girl in my classroom would be the last time he sat with her. 

I ignored him one day when he did it before the class actually began. Evidently he was testing me, because the next day I saw him hugging the girl again. I assigned him a new seat, and he asked why. I said I told him why a long time ago. 

I was going to give the guy another chance, but my supervisor told me not to. This actually made a lot of sense to me. I always tell teachers to keep their promises and go ahead with whatever it is they say they're going to do. Otherwise your word isn't worth that much. I pulled the girl out of her class and explained why I moved her friend. I told her it wasn't my  business what she does on her own time, but I can't have that in my classroom. She didn't look like she cared at all.

Today we had a test, and the girl actually took a seat in front of the class, which surprised me. She's usually in the back. As far as I can tell, she's not  even a little upset. Maybe she's relieved. She's doing great work in my class. The boy didn't show up. Perhaps he's teaching me a lesson. 

My actual lesson today, in the next class, didn't go precisely as well as I'd hoped. We were discussing the difference between "like" and "would like" in conversation. One of the cues I gave the kids was "I don't like." A boy said, "I don't like to wake up."

I said, "You don't like to wake up? Do you know what it means if you don't wake up?"

"You are dead," answered one of my astute beginners.

The class was very amused by my poor student being dead. However, he defended himself.

"I don't like to wake up early," he said.

I played a video of Hawaii. It showed beaches and palm trees, not to mention much nicer weather than the muck we're getting today.

"I'd like to go to Hawaii," I said. "Would you like to go to Hawaii?"


"No, I wouldn't," I corrected. But the students were just as irritated by my correction as you'd be.

"What would you like to do?" I asked.

"I'd like to sleep," said one, then another, and just about every voice in the room.

You know what? I'd like to sleep too. It's a perfect day to stay home and sleep. Who wants to trudge through the rain and snow to go to the airport?

I'll go to Hawaii some other time.

Sunday, March 06, 2022

Medicare and Unintended Consequences

What this country really needs is Medicare for All. Given the state of our government and country, I don't see that on the immediate horizon. Meanwhile, we city workers have our own issues, and the latest one centers around Medicare coverage.

First, I have to applaud Retiree Advocate for taking action to halt fees for standard Medicare. I understand the apprehensions of retired teachers looking at changes to health coverage, and it's far from something to be taken lightly. 

The rollout was awful. The new city program was presented as a fait accompli, a thing of wonder and beauty, and no one in MLC had bothered to anticipate the completely predictable outcry. In fact, they hadn't even bothered to recruit doctors for the program. I knew people who said their doctors wouldn't take it.

We've all seen the Joe Namath commercials and their ilk. At first blush, I took the program as one and the same. It was a natural reaction. After hearing about it at many, many meetings, I started to warm up to it a bit. The fact was it would compensate doctors at the same rate as standard Medicare. It was hard to understand what objection doctors would have toward it, particularly with such a large group of us potentially using it.

I didn't envy proponents. It was very hard to argue this plan would be an improvement, particularly since it did not yet even exist. It was hard to credibly argue it would be terrible for the very same reason. I ultimately didn't believe this would've been a Joe Namath stunt, which is one reason I'd have been willing to try it.  

Unlike others, I was not much troubled by having to get pre-approval for procedures. I had cancer about 15 years ago, and with GHI had to do the same. The company that runs GHI was in charge of this new plan. I can tell you a lot of terrible things about that year, but pre-approval wasn't one of them. Being able to take a restoration of health sabbatical was a great gift that most Americans would not have access to.

I have a friend who works as a school supervisor on Long Island. Right now he's contemplating retirement. He's also contemplating taking a job driving a school bus to cover the 1100 bucks a month it will cost him for health care. I don't much understand my friend, as I'd much prefer teaching five classes to driving a bus, but hey, we're all different. I'm very glad not to be looking at this kind of expense when I retire. I'm very glad we've managed to avoid the premiums many of our brothers and sisters around the state pay.

That said, I'm looking at the judge's decision, and it's not reassuring me that all is good for UFT retirees, or even in-service members. One of the selling points of this plan, according to Mulgrew, was that it would've halted potential premiums for five years. As this program is no longer in effect, neither is that guarantee. 

The judge wrote the following:

First, the respondent and nominal respondent have taken many strides to improve the information available regarding the Plan, and thus, while the steps they have taken may not make things perfect, the Court finds that at this point the implementation of the Medicare Advantage Plan is no longer what thus Court would consider irrational.

The plan is no longer unacceptable to the court, and thus may be implemented. Again, we don't know how good, or how bad the plan would be. Only time would tell that. Now I don't speak for Michael Mulgrew, but if I were him I'd have made damn sure this plan worked well, because if it didn't, the fallout would've made hellfire look like a walk in the park. We may never know. Or we may, but I'll get to that.
Here are some more excerpts from the ruling:

The respondent was well within its right to work with the Municipal Labor Council to change how retirees get their health insurance... as the petitioners freely acknowledge, the New York State Constitution does not guarantee specific health insurance for retirees. 

However, based on this Court’s reading of New York City Administrative Code Section 12-126, so long as the respondent is giving retirees the option of staying in their current program, they may not do so by charging them the $191 the respondent intends to charge. This section states unequivocally that “[t]he City will pay the entire cost of health insurance coverage for city employees, city retirees and their dependents, not to exceed one hundred percent of the full cost of H.I.P.-H.M.O. on a category basis.2” 

So the city may change how retirees get insurance, but may not charge $191 monthly under the current code. Of course, the code could be changed. Or perhaps the city could place all retirees in the Advantage program the unions devised, or indeed some Joe Namath program if it saw fit. I don't anticipate the latter, but I'm not certain about the former. Mayor Swagger went from objecting to this plan to endorsing it, likely because it saved the city money. (Since he's taken office, the only thing I've found consistent about him is how wonderful he believes himself to be.)

There is another issue, of course. That is that this plan was designed to save money somehow. If that money isn't saved here, will it be saved some other way? Will the city swallow the cost? If not, will NYC employees rise up en masse in protest? I know some of my former friends in MORE were borderline orgasmic over the prospect of strike. Most teachers I know, while willing to walk for safety last year, do not share that enthusiasm. Some wouldn't even have done that.

I recall that one I was friendly with said flat out to me, "I will be a scab." This person was shocked at my reaction, evidently expecting me to laugh it off or something. A big flaw in our union is that a lot of people do not understand very well what union even is. And while opposition will jump all over that, blaming Unity, I don't believe the fanaticism some of them hold is very appealing to most. (And no, I'm not knocking anyone for being socialist. I'm a huge fan of Bernie Sanders. There's something else there, and everyone in opposition who's worked with this faction knows it.) It certainly didn't appeal to me when they falsely wrote I was a "right-winger," for reasons that continue to elude me.

Furthermore, we have very real right-wingers in our union. The ones I know were happy to have me as chapter leader, but would not have supported me for, say, US Senator. That was fine with me. I was happy to enforce the contract for everyone regardless of political persuasion. I was not happy with the one willing to cross our picket line, though, and he represents a not inconsiderable portion of our union.

Of course we need to educate our brothers and sisters. Trump supporters benefit from union as much as anyone. Spreading the word will be a big job. This is the fault of not only ourselves, but also our school system. I don't like to brag, but I'm a high school graduate, and aside from hearing a Woody Guthrie song here and there, I didn't learn much about union until I joined one. I learned even more when I became an activist, and a whole lot more when I became a chapter leader. 

I frankly don't expect this to go away for good. Opposition can promise the sun and the stars. We will get back all the givebacks from 2005, we'll beat the pattern, and we'll get 10% raises every year, unless we want more. Okay, great. That said, I've had opposition members scheme behind my back, outraged that I'd introduce a class size resolution without their explicit approval. I read the opposition blogs sometimes, and have very recently seen myself blatantly misrepresented in more than one of them. Now I know myself fairly well, better, in fact, than any other blogger.. A few weeks ago, I spoke to one blogger about a correction, and was told no, that wasn't gonna happen. Okay, fine. Keep making promises.

But no matter how loud opposition screams, even if I get up and scream with them, this can come back to bite us. It doesn't matter whether or not we're retired. I absolutely hope I'm wrong. I absolutely hope we continue to receive premium-free health care. 

That's not gonna be a walk in the park, whatever anyone else may tell you.

Tuesday, March 01, 2022

All Americans Should Have Jobs Like Ours

First, I want to apologize for not running the Executive Board minutes last night. Our gas burner dropped dead on Sunday, and I spent yesterday scrambling for someone to fix it. It was complicated, but we got it fixed, only to have it stop working last night. So that saga continues, as does our continued story as educators.

Honestly, there are a lot of things to complain about in this job. I've been complaining about all of them in this space since 2005, so I'm pretty well-qualified to go into that. I also served as chapter leader of the most overcrowded school in the city for 12 years. I'm as familiar with administrative abuse and insanity as many or most. Of course, bad leadership is not unique to our profession. You'll hear from your relatives and civilian friends about how rough they have it compared to us. 

On one level, they're absolutely wrong. Our job demands constant attention to detail, fast thinking, and a willingness and ability to deal with multiple crises both simultaneously and concurrently. I can think of a lot of jobs that don't require that sustained attention and care. We don't have the luxury of taking breaks or even visiting that bathroom whenever it suits us. Almost everyone seems to underestimate what our jobs entail. Newspapers malign us semi-religiously. Politicians want to police us so we don't tell the truth about the massive bigotry that infects us. When COVID hit, we were heroes for a minute, and then we were depriving Americans of their God-given right to go unmasked, no matter who was put at risk.

Here's a brighter side. We have regular hours. We don't get called in to work Saturdays and Sundays, like those poor people in Office Space. We don't generally get phone calls when we're upstate with our families asking us about non-weekend stuff. We don't go home with school-provided cell phones to answer questions on off-hours, like some charter teachers do (and we'll have to work not only to keep things that way, but also to improve things for charter teachers, ideally via union).

We have a whole lot of holidays. Generally, when our kids are off from school, we are too. Most Americans don't have this. We just had an entire President's week, while a whole lot of Americans didn't even have a President's Day. Unlike a whole lot of people in our state, we didn't have to scramble to find day care for our kids. We didn't have to take days off either.

When we do take days off, though, we are generally paid for them. This is not an option for a whole lot of Americans who are paid hourly or daily. Sick? Too bad for you. Sick too much? You're fired. I once had a job at an appliance store. I remember clearing a night where I had a job playing music somewhere with my manager. However, he subsequently arranged a hot date for himself that night and told me I'd have to work. I told him forget it and was fired. I was fortunate, at that young age, that losing a job was not really something that would much change the direction of my life. For many Americans, that's not the case.

And hey, if you want to be a musician, an artist, or pursue whatever passion strikes your fancy, with this job you may have time to pursue it. I have a lot of teacher friends who are working musicians. Often, they're better off than full-time professional musicians I know, even great ones. For one thing, they have health insurance. I can't count the times I've seen benefit concerts held for great musicians who got sick. I've given money to musicians to help pay hospital bills. All Americans should have health insurance. If so many other countries can pull it off, so can we. 

That's not to mention, of course, that a whole lot of artists simply made no money during the height of the pandemic. Unlike other countries, our government gave us a check here and there. They evidently hoped those without work pulled themselves up by their bootstraps. (Personally, I've never even seen a bootstrap, but perhaps they're handy on snowy days.) I hated teaching online, but it beat the hell out of having no income.

You know, you may sit around the Thanksgiving table and listen to your relatives tell you how easy you have it, even though you're working your ass off. That, of course, is because you have summers off. They act like you're getting away with murder. However, if you were in Europe, or Canada, working a non-teaching job, or even in Taco Bell, you'd have vacation time, and not just a week a year.

We've also finally gotten parental leave. I've read blogs trashing our version of parental leave, though none of them gave any reasons I found compelling. It's a whole lot better than the nothing it replaced. I was involved in a foreign adoption, and lost 40 CAR days pursuing it. I know women who stopped at one kid because they were worried about the days. Hey, if you don't like the program, don't use it. Of course it can be improved, and I hope it will, but a whole lot of Americans lack this, unlike, oh, Europe. In Canada my sister-in-law got a year off with pay.

We also have a fixed retirement, something of a rarity in America today. There's not much of a substitute for that. Beats the hell out of a 401K, hoping for the best, or expecting to get by on Social Security.

Of course little or none of this could have been accomplished without union. It's because I'm union that I can write this and be published elsewhere. If someone tried to fire me for speaking out, I'd speak out more, and as publicly as possible. I'd make it very inconvenient for anyone going after me for no reason. Of course, if I were in a non-unionized Starbucks, I might not be able to speak out at all.

All Americans should have what we have. No one should be working three dead-end, no-benefit jobs just to make ends meet. No one should be declaring bankruptcy due to catastrophic medical emergency. No one should have to divest themselves of all they own just to qualify for half-decent end-of-life care.

We need not only to appreciate what we've got, but also to fight for our communities, all of whom need exactly what we have, and more.