Sunday, June 30, 2013

Newark Teacher Union Election News UPDATED

Unfortunately, President Del Grosso was not in attendance [at the swearing in] , so the date could not be set. ... NEW Caucus report
....the Newark contract deal was celebrated by Republican Governor Chris Christie and by American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, who called the deal “a system of the future” and an example “that collective bargaining really works.” In contrast, Rippey [Del Grosso's opponent] told The Nation that the deal “basically is a complete capitulation to the corporate agenda.” ... The Nation
Shamelessly currying favor with Cory Booker and Chris Christie, Weingarten used the national union's resources to push Newark teachers and kids under the bus. In this election of officers, NTU members pushed back. But don't be surprised if Weingarten sees the handwriting on the wall and tries to make nice with New Visions.... Quite an accomplishment for a caucus that really began to pick up steam only after AFT President Randi Weingarten used the national union's organizers to push acceptance of contract that strips Newark education workers of their most basic rights as professionals and workers......Lois Wiener, New Politics
Let's watch this one play out with a president who won by only 9 votes (with 40 going to a 3rd party candidate) while New Visions controls the Exec Bd. Keep in mind that Newark is one of the only New Jersey AFT affiliated locals, which given Randi's work in negotiating the contract might lead to some interesting national repercussions.

The Nation has a piece on this belle weather teacher union election :

Newark Union Head Barely Wins Re-Election After Zuckerberg-Donation-Funded Reform Plan | The Nation

And Ed Notes has been reporting over the last week:
Lois Weiner at New Politics has a piece:


From NEW Caucus:

On Friday new Executive Board members (also known as Vice-Presidents) were sworn in at the NTU hall!


THANKS to all who came out to see this important moment and show support for the newly elected VP's.  It was a great show of solidarity and positivity within the Newark Teachers Union!  


2 major pieces of information about what happened at the meeting:

1)  For the first time in at least 16 years, there are Vice-Presidents who are not members of Joe Del Grosso's SAC slate.  17 (of 18 elected) NEW Vision slate candidates were sworn in.  It was a great moment for democracy in the Newark Teachers Union.  

2)  Newly sworn in NEW Vision slate members requested the date for the  July Executive Board meeting.  The NTU By-Laws require that the Executive- Board meet monthly at the call of the President. Unfortunately, President Del Grosso was not in attendance, so the date could not be set.  We were assured by Eugene Liss, the NTU attorney, that the secretary would pass the request on to the President so that he can set a date for the meeting in late July.

     NEW Caucus will send out the date the moment we know it.  

     BUT, even more significant, and despite the fact that this was officially a full membership meeting, the quorum of Executive Board members in attendance proposed and voted on two motions that may begin the process of democratizing the Executive Board and encouraging membership interest in the workings of the Board.  

     Below are the two motions, BOTH OF WHICH WERE APPROVED UNANIMOUSLY by the quorum of Vice-Presidents in attendance.  Both were read proposed by VP Al Moussab.  


     I move that the President create a calendar of monthly Executive Board meetings and quarterly general membership meetings for the 2013-2014 school year that will be emailed to all NTU members as well as uploaded on the NTU website and placed on all NTU bulletin boards in every school by the first day of school.  

     I move that all Executive Board meeting minutes as well as general membership meeting
minutes are emailed to all NTU members as well as uploaded on the NTU website for all 
members to access within 2 days after the meeting.  


It now remains for President Del Grosso to thoroughly implement these 2 motions.  The newly elected Vice-Presidents will work hard throughout the summer to ensure the July meeting takes place, and that these 2 motions are implemented completely.


In Solidarity,
Newark Education Workers Caucus
(NEW Caucus)
Facebook.com/NEWCaucus

Google Calendar: NewarkEducationWorkersCaucus@gmail.com

Positive winds of change in Newark NJ public schools


Lois Weiner June 30, 2013
A reform caucus in the Newark Teachers Union (NTU)  made remarkable gains in the union election that ended on Friday.  Out of about 3000 members eligible to vote, 1200 NTU members cast their ballots.  (Sadly, that proportion is about par for US unions.) The New Visions candidate for President lost by only 9 votes to the long-time chief, Joe Del Grosso, who will now serve his 10th two-year term.  New Visions won 18 of 29 slots on the Executive Board, giving this vibrant, multi-racial slate of reformers a majority. Quite an accomplishment for a caucus that really began to pick up steam only after AFT President Randi Weingarten used the national union's organizers to push acceptance of contract that strips Newark education workers of their most basic rights as professionals and workers.  Shamelessly currying favor with Cory Booker and Chris Christie, Weingarten used the national union's resources to push Newark teachers and kids under the bus. In this election of officers, NTU members pushed back. But don't be surprised if Weingarten sees the handwriting on the wall and tries to make nice with New Visions. Still, I'm confident New Visions won't be snookered. This savvy group of activists are building the union at the school site, working with parents and students, democratizing the union to "give Newark students schools they deserve." New Visions understands that the future of their union - and public education - requires a different kind of teacher unionism - and union leadership.  And they're poised to provide it.

The Nation article:


Eight months after negotiating “performance bonuses” funded by a Facebook fortune, Newark Teachers Union President Joseph Del Grosso was re-elected Tuesday by a margin of nine votes. A challenger slate that’s drawn inspiration from the Chicago Teachers Union captured seventeen of the twenty-nine seats on the NTU’s executive board, while barely falling short in its bid to oust Del Grosso. The new and old union officers will be sworn in together this afternoon, setting the stage for further conflict over the union’s orientation towards a nationally ascendant education reform agenda.
“There was no overwhelming mandate for either slate,” Del Grosso told The Nation Thursday. He charged that his opponents “gave out a lot of bad erroneous information to the members” during the campaign, and said that having captured a majority of the board, “they’ll learn about unionism from the inside. So sometimes it’s nice to have people who like throwing rocks at people that are on the inside, actually be inside” themselves. Teacher Branden Rippey, a leader of the competing NEW Caucus who was Del Grosso’s opponent in Tuesday’s election, countered, “I think he and other union leaders like him feed right into the corporate reform agenda, if they have not collaborated with it.”

As I reported for In These Times in October, the Newark contract deal was celebrated by Republican Governor Chris Christie and by American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, who called the deal “a system of the future” and an example “that collective bargaining really works.” In contrast, Rippey told The Nation that the deal “basically is a complete capitulation to the corporate agenda.”

Under the agreement, management agreed to have a portion of teachers’ evaluations be based on “peer review” by other teachers; the union agreed to have a portion of teachers’ compensation come in the form of bonuses distributed based on their evaluations. The bonuses will be paid for from a $100 million fund donated by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in 2010, a high-profile example of the influence a wealthy philanthropist can wield with donations to a cash-strapped school system.

Del Grosso and Weingarten have both rejected the term “merit pay” to describe the new system, noting that the bonuses will compose only part of teachers’ compensation and will be based only in part on test scores. Del Grosso called the new system “performance pay”; Weingarten last fall called it “a full compensation system where the work you do and the compensation you have are tied in together.” While “in the beginning some people see it as not a good thing,” Del Grosso told The Nation, he considers winning peer review “one of the hallmarks” of his eighteen years at the union’s helm. “It’s the thing that’s going to allow teachers to take control of their profession,” he said, “and become free professionals like doctors and lawyers and engineers.”

Under a 2012 law signed by Christie and supported by NTU, Newark schools will be required to include testing in evaluations. NEW Caucus’s Rippey described a requirement that student test scores make up 35 percent of evaluations next year as “brutal,” and “like suicide for teachers in an urban district with 32 percent child poverty.” Del Grosso told The Nation that he was hopeful that the state education board would scale back the role of testing in evaluations. He said last fall that he agreed to support the law—which also makes it easier to fire teachers who receive poor evaluations—on the condition that it offer the option for union contracts to implement peer review.

NEW Caucus members have noted that the Newark schools superintendent retains ultimate authority over evaluation decisions; they warned last fall that the new system was merit pay by another name, and would divide workers and undermine experience-based or across-the-board raises in the future. The NEW Caucus mounted an unsuccessful effort in October to convince a majority of their co-workers to vote down the proposed deal; it passed with 62 percent support. (NEW stands for Newark Education Workers; the word “workers” is an intentional contrast to national unions’ emphasis on teachers as “professionals.”)
Rippey slammed “turnaround” and “renew” schools provisions in the October deal, which allow the superintendant to designate a set number of schools for mass layoffs; Del Grosso countered that those provisions would “prevent charter schools.” Rippey also charged that the deal shortchanged teachers on annual “step increase” raises they could have won during the two years they were working without a contract. Del Grosso countered that the critics have “an erroneous view of how contracts are negotiated in New Jersey…you begin bargaining from a standpoint of zero.” He added that Republicans “tell me that Newark raped the state and the taxpayers because we got too much money.”
Tuesday’s NTU election follows April’s leadership election in the AFT’s largest local, New York’s United Federation of Teachers. In both cases, incumbents survived challenges from caucuses demanding more aggressive opposition to the mainstream “education reform” agenda backed by billionaires like Zuckerberg. Both Newark’s NEW Caucus and New York’s MORE Caucus have taken inspiration from the Congress of Rank and File Educators, a caucus that seized control of the Chicago Teachers Union in a 2010 election and then mounted last summer’s week-long strike.
Like Chicago’s CORE Caucus, Rippey said NEW plans to use its foothold on the executive board to push for greater democracy in the union, to re-engage members and to build deeper ties to the broader community in Newark. “We’re not trying to just be a bread-and-butter union,” said Rippey. “We’re trying to make society better for everyone.” Rippey said that he sees “little bubbles” of such teacher unionism “starting to bubble up in different parts of the country.” But “I think we’re only about 5 percent of the way to building a movement.”
Asked about the NEW Caucus’s invocations of the Chicago strike, Del Grosso said, “The people in the Caucus have the right to apply for jobs there. Strikes are legal in Chicago. They’re not legal in New Jersey.”
Asked in March whether she hoped to see NEW and MORE oust incumbents in Newark and New York, CORE activist and current Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis stopped short of offering an endorsement: “I think every local has to decide what works for them…. If you’re teaching, you know that every kid isn’t at the same place, you know, so you have to differentiate your instruction. So some people are more ready to be accepting of a different way of looking at ‘union.’ ”

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