Saturday, June 17, 2023

Vote NO on the UFT Contract. Here is Why:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 09, 2023

UFT Unity Works for Mayor Eric Adams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, June 04, 2023

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

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

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

2. We want BETTER, not CHEAPER health care.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 02, 2023

Letter to Colleagues


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

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

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

Dear Colleagues,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best wishes,