Wednesday, April 14, 2021

UFT Delegates REJECT Endorsements, including Johnson for Comptroller, by 55% - Is there a crack in Unity?

I have been involved in UFT Delegate Assemblies since 1994. I never recall the Delegates rejecting a leadership recommended endorsement until today... James Eterno at ICE/UFT blog:
LIVE BLOGGING FROM THE APRIL DA (Delegates Vote Down UFT Leadership Recommended Endorsements for Comptroller and Other Positions)

The factions represent various constituencies within the union: The Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE-UFT) is a social justice caucus that advocates for racial justice. New Action focuses on social justice as well as economic working conditions and benefits. UFT Solidarity focuses on issues that affect members’ working conditions.--- Politico

Hmmm, I'm getting a kick over the description of the different caucuses. The reporter should have talked to ICE/UFT too since that blog gets quite a lot of traffic.

And I bet certain UFT officials have egg on their faces.

It is important to note that voting at these remote meetings is anonymous so Unity Caucus member votes can't be tracked. Knowing the size of the Unity block, which can include up to 300 retirees, there is not doubt that a number of Unity people had to vote NO. I bet Mulgrew can't wait to get these people back in person, 3 feet apart.

It is also important to note that one of the points of objection was about the process - lumping all the candidates together - and that Unity retiree and often pain in the butt Dave Pecoraro who tried to get the endorsements separated but a motion is out of order at remote meetings so he spoke against the motion and also the endorsement of Corey Johnson and in favor of David Weprin. Pecoraro is a delegate because he runs on the UFT retiree slate as one of The Three Hundred - and if you read my last post, Retiree Advocate is challenging that Unity slate in the chapter elections. I wonder if Unity will keep Dave on the slate for fucking up their endorsement process. Here is James' report from the DA.

Special Orders of Business

Brooklyn borough rep Elizabeth Perez spoke in favor UFT endorsement for various candidates for city offices. Corey Johnson for Comptroller and others. A speaker endorsed Alvin Bragg for Manhattan DA. David Pecoraro (Unity Caucus retiree) tried to amend to separate the Comptroller from the others but Mulgrew said amendments are not permitted. David then spoke out against the Johnson endorsement because David Weprin is giving up his assembly seat and he is well qualified and he actually wants the position. He added we need a fiscal expert and Johnson is not one. Another Delegate spoke against saying doing multiple candidates at one time is wrong. 

55% No and 45% Yes.

The 5 candidate endorsements the Delegates voted against were:

-Corey Johnson: Comptroller

-Alvin Bragg: Manhattan DA

-JoAnne Simon: Brooklyn Borough President

-Selvina Brooks-Powers: City Council D31

-Dweinie Esther Paul Dorsainvil: Judge Brooklyn

None of the above were endorsed today - the leadership oligarchy may find a way to bring them back for individual endorsement in what I assume will be some emergency DA for a mayoral endorsement because the next DA in May will be pretty late. I mean how much effort to do these one by one, which we always used to do? Some people are getting pretty lazy in how they are running this union.

I assumed the favorite in the Comptroller race was the too liberal for the UFT Brad Lander but Corey threw a monkey wrench into that and I hope he loses. This may help that happen, though an actual UFT endorsement often helps the opposition.

Arthur includes this in his DA report 

Political endorsements--Elizabeth Perez--Great honor and pleasure to present this reso. Political teams worked diligently to select best candidates. Can't say enough of hard work political teams have put in. Asking this body to join me in endorsing these people. 

Carmen Romero--Would like to endorse Alvin Bragg for Manhattan DA. Got overwhelming support of UFT for accountability and transparency. 

Mulgrew--Thank you. Not just about him.

David Pecoraro--Wants to divide Comptroller endorsement from remainer.

Mulgrew--Can't do that.

Pecoraro--Then speaking against resolution. Cannot support speaker Johnson. Favors David Weprin.

Thomas McDonough--Also speaking against motion. Endorsing seven at a time is rushing things,. Should vote individually.  Disagree with several endorsements.

55% no. Fails.

I'm going to do a separate report on the mayoral endorsement process but here are two Politico pieces worth checking out. First,

THE CITY’S TEACHERS UNION is leaning toward Scott Stringer as its preferred mayoral candidate, multiple union members have said, but rank-and-file teachers already dissatisfied with the union’s politics have criticized the endorsement process as opaque and unreflective of their values. The union’s finalists — Stringer, Maya Wiley, Eric Adams and Andrew Yang — recently participated in its final town hall after a series of candidate screenings held behind closed doors. The United Federation of Teachers’ 3,200-member union-wide Delegate Assembly — chapter leaders and delegates — votes on the candidates. And their final decision could come this week. But some members tell POLITICO the system for endorsing in the nearly 200,000-person union, governed by president Michael Mulgrew, does not capture the genuine sentiment of members. POLITICO’s Madina Touré

For the second piece Madina Toure spoke to opposition people for her article and they all slammed the process as undemocratic. But with former Cuomo operative Cassie Prugh running the UFT political machine why expect democracy?

Here is one highlight from Madina's report:

political factions within the union have bucked under Mulgrew — though the well-known president won his own re-election in 2019 with 38,591 votes, or 86 percent of the votes cast.--- 

Jeez. Only 86% just two years ago. I bet it ain't 86% today but who's to say the opposition won't screw it up again in next year's election, though with unhappiness with Mulgrew growing throughout the union maybe Randi will kick him upstairs --- how about NYSUT - maybe Mulgew should start looking for an apartment in Albany - except Unity doesn't have a deep bench to replace him. Here's the entire Politico article.

As teachers union readies endorsement, members complain about process

The city’s teachers union is leaning toward Scott Stringer as its preferred mayoral candidate, multiple union members have said, but rank-and-file teachers already dissatisfied with the union’s politics have criticized the endorsement process as opaque and unreflective of their values.

The union’s finalists — Stringer, Maya Wiley, Eric Adams and Andrew Yang — recently participated in its final town hall after a series of candidate screenings held behind closed doors. The United Federation of Teachers’ 3,200-member union-wide Delegate Assembly — chapter leaders and delegates — votes on the candidates. And their final decision could come this week.

But some members tell POLITICO the system for endorsing in the nearly 200,000-person union, governed by president Michael Mulgrew, does not capture the genuine sentiment of members.

“[It] just seems that it’s been a series of backroom deals and backroom occurrences without much membership input ‘cause a lot of times honestly under Mulgrew, a lot of things have been secretive, and it’s the faction that gets the information and spreads it out, and once the race is spreading like wildfire, then we get a communication from the union,” said Ramdat Singh, a teacher at Riverdale Kingsbridge Academy in the Bronx.

The union’s pick for mayor will be its most significant political endorsement since 2013 when it backed Bill Thompson, who ended up getting trounced in the Democratic primary. Mulgrew has enjoyed a much better relationship with Mayor Bill de Blasio than former Mayor Mike Bloomberg, though they’ve had a handful of public disputes — most notably during the last year as the Covid-19 pandemic threw the city’s education system into chaos.

And political factions within the union have bucked under Mulgrew — though the well-known president won his own re-election in 2019 with 38,591 votes, or 86 percent of the votes cast.

The factions represent various constituencies within the union: The Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE-UFT) is a social justice caucus that advocates for racial justice. New Action focuses on social justice as well as economic working conditions and benefits. UFT Solidarity focuses on issues that affect members’ working conditions.

Lydia Howrilka, a founding member of UFT Solidarity, said the process “was very closed off.”

"Any mayor that has promised teachers anything has often gone back on their promises,” she said. “We've seen it with Bill de Blasio in particular, and the candidate that the rank and file would support is the candidate that would eliminate mayoral control of schools.”

Mulgrew defended the effort saying it was thorough and transparent, adding 10,000 people participated in the process before the final forum and pointed to “hundreds if not thousands” of new volunteers working in the union. He said some amount of dissatisfaction was more or less standard in a union of the UFT's size and diversity.

“Every single endorsement has come from a committee of volunteers who did the questioning and vetting process on their own and nobody has changed their recommendations,” he said. “Every one of their recommendations has come through. I don't know what else to do. How about no matter what we do, there's gonna be a problem."

Among the criteria for the union nod were a candidate’s fundraising, polling, voter engagement, endorsements, the candidates allies, policy and campaign proposals on education and labor, their Covid-19 response, equity issues, homelessness, job loss and affordable housing.

The union said the process entails members submitting comments before, during and after the town halls to the political action teams in each borough and filling out post-town hall surveys. More than 10,000 UFT members participated in the first four town halls held between February and April and the screeners asking candidates questions were UFT volunteers.

For the Delegate Assembly vote, the union creates a list of all of its delegates who use their phones to vote, which are tallied by a third party vendor.

Most members told POLITICO Stringer will emerge as the victor, but some said Wiley has a shot— both are candidates with union-friendly campaigns.

Michael Shulman, chair of New Action — the union’s oldest opposition caucus — said he would support Stringer or Wiley. His litmus test, he said, is the relationship of the various candidates to charter schools and vouchers.

“I think pretty much I would say they would eliminate Yang, and I think Eric Adams seems close to the charter movement, so I think there'd be a real problem there,” Shulman said.

Mulgrew wouldn’t confirm who the union was leaning toward.

"If we're looking at policy, knowledge on educational policy or policy for the city labor relations, economic policies and the big issues that we always bring up, I'm assuming you can figure out who…,” Mulgrew said, not finishing the sentence.

Critics within the union have raised concerns over the decision to include Yang in the final four — who does not seem likely to win the nod based on criticisms of the union’s role in school re-openings and his pro-charter statements — and the decision to not include Dianne Morales, who is among the most progressive candidates in the race and a former teacher.

“[Mulgrew] did say that Andrew Yang, he’s just another Bloomberg and that was last Wednesday… it’s sad because it tells you this guy is talking out of his mouth,” said Dermott Myrie, a UFT chapter leader and part of the MORE-UFT caucus. “There’s a disconnect between leadership and whoever is on these political teams.”

He added he doesn’t know why Morales “was discriminated against by the UFT and excluded,” Myrie said. “This is straight up marginalization… [a] Latinx woman of Afro descent is ignored, and this is not new.”

[Ed Note: No surprise here that Myrie focuses on Morales' identity instead of her fairly progressive policies - though I would still want to know more about her time working for Joel Klein. As for why the UFT didn't include Morales, we know that too left is not right for the UFT leadership and hasn't been for, oh, 60 years.]

Mulgrew said electability and fundraising had to be considered in the union’s choice. Someone who hits all the right notes but can’t win would be a bad move for a union who hasn’t picked a winning candidate since former mayor David Dinkins in 1989.

He admitted the inclusion of Yang and Adams in the final four was, in part at least, to give the union a chance to grill the candidates on their stances.

“I think it's important for people to hear us saying to him, 'You said this and you are wrong.' Now how do you respond to that?” he said.”

But plenty of members said the union’s process was thorough and inclusive, given the dynamics of the race and the challenges of the pandemic

Shulman said the process was “done fairly well” given a “very complicated and mixed race,” calling the Zoom meetings “terrible.”

[Ed Note: It's nice she gave Shulman some serious attention - I've been working with him on the reinvigorated Retiree Advocate.]

“You don't have that [interaction], what do you really have by the way of a democratic process?” he said. “So that's my frustration with it… I'm not necessarily faulting the union leadership for this. I think that's just the way it is."

Ife Damon, an English teacher at Curtis High School on Staten Island, argued the process has been inclusive.

“I personally appreciated the approach because it allowed me to find out about them all in one place,” Damon said.

 Ed Note: I smell Unity shill.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

The United Front: Retiree Advocate/UFT brings friends and former opponents together for Retiree Chapter election

Retiree Advocate slate includes many UFT Presidential candidates vs Unity going back to the 1970s. Gloria Brandman leads slate as chapter leader candidate against Unity Caucus.

United Front: (Broad Definition): alliance of groups against common foes.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021: Submitted by Norm Scott 

Recently, a group of UFT retirees, active for decades in the union as working teachers and current retirees, often in opposition to the ruling Unity Caucus, met in a backyard in Bay Ridge to sign petitions for the Retiree Advocate/UFT slate opposing Unity Caucus in the upcoming UFT retiree chapter election (70,000 ballots go out in May). It was the first time they had not met on Zoom in over a year. It was a lovely spring day and so good to see everyone in person.

Retiree Advocate began decades ago as an offshoot of New Action Caucus after some of their key people retired and wanted to remain active in the UFT without being subsumed by the retiree chapter controlled by Unity Caucus which dominates retiree functions. About ten years ago some retirees from ICE began to work with the RA and that led to the group becoming unattached to any one caucus and welcoming to all. A group of about ten make up an informal organizing committee of RA and have reached out far and wide to help organize for the chapter election. Over 125 retirees have signed up to run.

Over the decades those of us on the current RA organizing committee had fought together and  had fought against each other. (Until the past 5 years I had avoided talking to some of them for decades.) That we were all together in one space and working well together over the past few years is remarkable - a lesson to never burn bridges.

The RA slate has come together from different histories and caucuses: New Action/UFT, ICE/UFT, former members of MORE/UFT, Solidarity Caucus and a current member of MORE Caucus. This election is truly a united front.

UFT history has shown that splintering the opposition only makes Unity Caucus stronger, while united fronts have been able to create at least some challenge to the total control of Unity. 

A test question: Compare and contrast the outcomes of the general 2016 and 2019 UFT elections.

2016 saw a united front of MORE and New Action - vs Unity - two caucus choices on the ballot* and they garnered almost 11,000 votes, winning the 7 high school Ex Bd seats - the first time non-Unity endorsed candidates won those eats since 2004. 
*Solidarity did not have the required number of candidates to get on the ballot and ran as independents with the presidential candidate getting 1300 votes.

In 2019, MORE fractured the alliance with New Action and refused to work with a third caucus, Solidarity, thus leading to a ballot with three caucuses opposing Unity. The results were a disaster with vote totals for the opposition dropping drastically (MORE finished third and got less votes than Solidarity).

If I were a rank and file voter and saw 3 opposition caucuses vs Unity I would say "WTF. You want us to vote for one of you when you can't manage to even work together in an election?"

I think back to my involvement with UFT elections back to the 1970s and have always felt the only reason to run in a UFT election was in a united front - one group opposing Unity - otherwise there was no point in running.** Thus we saw united fronts from the late 70s through the 2004 election when New Action decided to run with Unity and the ICE/UFT Caucus was formed and worked with another caucus, TJC, new to elections to challenge them and won the high schools.

In fact, the creation of the UFT itself emerged from a united front between the Teachers Guild and the High School Teachers Association in the late 60s. Eventually, that United Front led to a merger into one organization, the UFT.

New Action itself emerged from over 15 years of United Fronts for elections in the UFT when two caucuses, TAC and New Directions, around since the 70s, merged in 1995. 

ICE had come out of independents working together in the early oughts. ICE worked in a united front for elections with the TJC Caucus for years.

MORE/UFT emerged out of an alliance between TJC - which dissolved and ICE which did not and continues today as a sort of non-caucus caucus..

So the Retiree Advocate organizing committee has been extremely excited to put together a wide-ranging group that includes many historical figures in UFT opposition history, with almost every UFT presidential candidate who ran against Unity since the late 1970s: Michael Shulman (New Action), Marc Pessin (New Directions, PAC), Marilyn Beckford, (ICE), Kit Wainer(TJC/MORE), James Eterno (ICE). 

Plus other UFT activists from the distant past like Bruce Markens (Manhattan HS District Rep 1990-2000), Lois Weiner, my first mentor Lew Friedman, my latter day mentor Angel Gonzalez, an old 70s pal and major activist Matt Gulden, Jose Alfaro, the legendary Ellen Fox, my closest compadres for almost 50 years, Vera Pavone and Ira Goldfine -  and so many more.

We have chosen Gloria Brandman to be the RA standard bearer as chapter leader vs Unity's Tom Murphy. I've worked closely with Gloria for 15 years in ICE, GEM, MORE and now Retiree Advocate and Gloria as often the glue that keeps everyone working together. (When MORE lost her they lost a GEM.)

The UFT RTC chapter is structured with 10 Officers and a 15 member Ex Bd. Also on the ballot are 300 delegate assembly candidates, all are elected in an undemocratic winner take all system which has given Unity Caucus control over every elected position since the inception of the UFT and has helped them keep a tight grip on the UFT Delegate Assembly.

I wrote a previous blog about the election: All- Star Cast Joins Retiree Advocate/UFT Slate to Challenge Unity Caucus in Chapter Election - 70,000 eligible to vote


Here is a list of some key RA candidates.

RTC Officers

Chapter Chair Gloria Brandman

Vice Chair           Douglas Haynes

Vice Chair           Prudence Hill

Vice Chair           Lisa North

Vice Chair           Michael Shulman

Secretary            Gregory DiStefano

Asst. Sec’y          Norman Scott

Corres. Sec’y     Bennett Fischer

Treasurer          Robert Greenberg

Asst. Treas         Ellen Fox

RTC Exec Bd

Jose Alfaro, Angelo D’Angelo, Patricia Dobosz, James Eterno, Claudia Giordano,

Angel Gonzalez, Bruce Markens, Gustavo Medina, Paul Millstein, Vera Pavone, Robert Provenza, Dacio Quintana, Roque Ristorucci, Anita Romm, Thomas Siracuse

All together we have about 130 candidates running. The rest  are running for RTC Delegate Assembly position of which there are 300 with winner take all - which would give Unity all of them, thus disenfranchising  the 20-25% of retirees expected to vote for Retiree Advocate.

For the recored, we asked for a minimum of 5 delegates out of the 300 to at least give the minority view a voice at the DA. We were turned down.

**At a MORE meeting where I argued this point a long time activist disputed me and pointed to the 5 caucuses that ran in the Chicago 2010 election where CORE defeated the incumbent - leaving out a few caveats: That the ruling caucus had split in two and more importantly, Chicago has run-offs if you don't get a najority of votes and CORE finished second in round 1 with 32% of the vote but the other caucuses backed them in round 2. When I attempted to correct comparing apples to oranges I was ruled out of order because I had already spoken - I just gave up when it was clear people didn't want to know the truth.

#The medical issues have arisen over the past few weeks and James and I will monitor them carefully.

Monday, April 5, 2021

UPDATED: UFT Mayoral Election Update: Wiley/Stringer vs Yang/Adams With a Twist

Monday, APRIL 5, 2021 - 

Friday night I posted an early version of this story about the UFT final four mayoral forum this Wednesday, April 7. I reposted earlier today and then even more info came in - so this is a 4th rewrite.

 ---- Norm Scott

UFT Media Advisory: UFT Invites "Final Four" Candidates to Forum, Sets Stage for Endorsement in Democratic Mayoral Primary:  Four candidates for the June Democratic primary -- Eric Adams, Scott Stringer, Maya Wiley and Andrew Yang -- have been invited to take part in the final mayoral forum sponsored by the United Federation of Teachers... The forum, chaired by UFT President Michael Mulgrew, will be held on Wednesday, April 7, at 4 p.m. at UFT headquarters at 52 Broadway.  Mulgrew and the candidates are expected to appear in person (socially distanced), along with a small audience of UFT members.  All others, including the press, will be able to watch online. --- UFT Media
There are a lot of knots in recent events surrounding the UFT process for endorsing a candidate for mayor, something they haven't gotten right since Dinkins 30 years ago. Bloomberg called a UFT endorsement the kiss of death. Maybe they should sit this one out.

And what exactly is the process for endorsing candidates? Three guys and gals in a room? I mean how exactly was the final four chosen? 

Watch the name Cassie Prugh, UFT's high level political operative who comes straight from the Cuomo administration. She fits perfectly with the Machiavellian operation at Unity Caucus. What did she know and when did she know it when she worked for Cuomo?  She's a major player in UFT political decisions.

The REAL final four - forget basketball - will be April 7

Did Yang have to make a three point shot at the buzzer to make the final four?
Mulgrew announced the candidates who made the cut last Friday - Given the UFT history of failure in these endorsements these candidates might not be celebrating.

People were shocked at the inclusion of Yang, who had attacked the UFT and blamed the union for keeping schools closed, clearly wrongheaded and mistaken since it has been the rank and file resistance that would never have opened schools in the first place and has been critical of the leadership for even considering to work with de Blasio to open schools partially.

Mulgrew had recently referred to Yang as "Bloomberg Reincarnated."  But he's under consideration? But in Arthur's notes Mulgrew said: To not have Yang would be crazy because he's frontrunner in every poll. Would be irresponsible not to have him answer. Not just about policy, but viability.

No less an eminence than Diane Ravitch, upon hearing the news asked:  

Why is Andrew Yang in the final four when he supports public  money for religious schools and more charters?

I would ask the same question, though our own glorious national leader also supports public money for religious schools. [Outrage at Randi Grows -- Schumer and a Teachers’ Union Leader Secure Billions for Private Schools, NYT]

And of course Adams is also pro-charter - so two out of the four finalists seem willing to turn more of our public schools over to anti-union charters. A giant WTF.

My first thought was that the UFT can't really endorse Yang - maybe Adams - but they are the front runners so the UFT plays the "who can possibly win" game even of they would screw the membership. 

Rank choice voting gives the UFT a few options.

Friday, April 2, 2021

All- Star Cast Joins Retiree Advocate/UFT Slate to Challenge Unity Caucus in Chapter Election - 70,000 eligible to vote

For months I've worked with Retiree Advocate to help put together a slate and a program to challenge Unity in the upcoming chapter elections. Unity Caucus elects 300 delegates to the Delegate Assembly out of the retiree chapter that help them flood the Delegate Assembly.

Winner Take All

Since we usually get 20% of the vote, in a democratic system we would get about one fifth of the delegates -- roughly 60 -- but in the winner take all autocracy Unity get them all and the thousands who vote for us get no voice at the DA. 
We asked for a measly 5 delegates just so there would be some representation of those thousands of retirees who will vote for us. We got none. Truly, as I often say, Putin is jealous of Unity.

Gathering together
This election cycle for the first time we decided to gather retirees who had been active in the UFT as a sort of celebration of the work many have or had done over the years. We have an all-star cast, including every single presidential candidate that ran against Unity (except one) since the late 70s.
UFT Retirees are invited to join us (you must still be a union member)
We have a few more days left and I thought that if there any retirees left reading this blog I'd invite you to join us. Email me with name, address, phone, file # or last four of social and email if interested to or see below.

Retiree Advocate/UFT is running in the UFT Retired Teachers Chapter Election (Ballots go out in mid-May).
Petitions must be submitted by April 5th
We hope to get as many retirees as we can. Unity Caucus occupies the DA with 300 elected members. The more people we run,  the better able we are to challenge them!  We are asking you to run with us as a Delegate to the UFT Delegate Assembly. The logistics for participation are not complicated; we will take care of getting all necessary signatures on the nominating forms.  All we need you to do is agree to run on the Retiree Advocate/UFT slate.

Why run with us?
Retiree Advocate/UFT is committed to improving our benefits, supporting our working members, fighting for social justice, and increasing rank and file democracy in our union.See our platform below

What happens if we win? Chances are slim since we’ve received about 18 -20% of the vote in the past. But by running as full a slate as possible, we will be sending a message to UFT/Unity leadership - we do not accept the status quo and changes are necessary moving forward.

Seriously consider participating in this election.  We need the following information:    YOUR NAME, ADDRESS, PHONE, EMAIL, and LAST FOUR DIGITS OF YOUR SOCIAL SEC. NO.
Email the info to us at:,

Thanks for your consideration! We hope to hear back from you by April 5th.

Retiree Advocate/UFT Election Committee

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Annals of the UFT - On Democracy in the Current and Past UFT Delegate Assembly - Norm Scott

More than 2,000 elected school reps joined the January meeting by phone, a 40-percent increase over participation last spring that undoubtedly reflects a craving for information in circumstances that remain so fluid. However, the UFT delegate assembly was meant to be more than an information session. .... --- Solidarity Caucus Letter of complaint in letter to The Chief, posted on ICE Blog:
March 31, 2021 -- 

My next to last pre-pandemic day in the city before heading back to Rockaway was March 11, 2020 when I attended the last in person UFT Delegate Assembly. Outside the meeting a chapter leader of one of the largest schools in the city told me his school had more cases than the DOE or UFT was admitting to and his complaints to the union were landing on deaf ears and he was thinking of going to the press. (I think he did and those articles put pressure on the DOE and UFT). Earlier that day my wife and I had attended almost empty classes for retirees at 52 Broadway that were cancelled for the rest of the year, it was clear things were going bad. The night before, March 10, we went to a crowded Broadway play - Broadway shut down 3 days later. Schools were shut shortly after though teachers were required to come in the next week without children for "training." Over 70 ended up dying. And the Delegate Assembly has only met remotely since then.

OK, that's some background but the intention here is to open a discussion on democracy at the UFT Delegate Assembly, currently and in the near and distant past. John Lawhead, one of the authors of the Solidarity letter, has been running a UFT history study group which has been fascinating and I've gotten a good handle on how a very democratic institution was turned into what it is today. Look for follow-up posts.

What is the Delegate Assembly?
It consists of the elected chapter leaders and delegates from the schools and functional chapters, where there is a 60-1 ratio, meaning a school with 300 UFT non-functional/classroom chapter members, gets 5 delegates. Large functional chapters get a load, like retirees with 70,000 members, get 300 members of the DA. 
Retiree Advocate running a slate vs Unity in chapter election
I'm working with Retiree Advocate to run a slate against Unity in the upcoming chapter election - if you are a retiree and want to run let me know - we won't win and Unity will claim winner take all despite us getting around 20% of the vote - which in a democratic institution would give us 60 delegates - we actually asked Unity for a measly 5 seats to at least represent that 20% and they said NO.

How many delegates?
Do the math and you can see there are probably over 4000 people who can attend a DA but in person the room only holds a max of 850, with a few breakout rooms.

But the reality is that there are often less than 600 in person - for from a quorum which makes meetings technically illegal, but who's counting? And Unity caucus people naturally dominate the crowd, especially when you add in retirees even if only 100 attend.

A key feature of the DAs, especially since Randi Weingarten took over have been long filibuster president reports that often take up to an hour and eat up time.

So by its very nature, DAs are undemocratic in practice. The pandemic has changed things and the union has had to adapt. 

The current situation is that many more people are attending the DA - I think I saw some 2000 at the January DA. Imagine zoom meetings with thousands and electronic voting which they have no way of controlling.

How do you do democracy in that environment? Most importantly, the number of eyes on the DA is itself more democratic and that has made the union leadership very nervous, even though they can easily shut people they don't want to hear from out. But I think the transparency is a bigger threat to them and I bet they are dying to get back to normal smaller DAs. But they have figured out a way to restrict democracy even further.

Monday, March 29, 2021

Take me home, West Virginia - How will Red for Ed respond as Extreme Voucher Law passed to decimate Public Ed?

I see some of my colleagues salivating over the state teacher strike in West Virginia. Don't hold you breath here in NY. Maybe when the conditions of teachers ... Ed Notes, 2018 -

March 29, 2021 by Norm Scott

There was much hope here in Mudville about a trigger of militancy in NYC -  but I pointed out teachers in West Virginia were eating pet food - don't forget  - it's the economy, stupid, not the ideology.

[ See Diane Ravitch comment:West Virginia Passes Sweeping Voucher Bill].

One of my fave warriors against ed deform, Jennifer Berkshire with her writing

partner Jack Schneider, authors of Wolf at the Schoolhouse Door were interviewed today with one of my fave podcasters, Sam Seder, on Majority Report - listen to the wide ranging discussion of how ed deform got into the door and where it intends to take us to the end of public ed  - ( But let me focus on just one aspect of the interview.

Jennifer (also check out their podcast - Have you Heard) pointed out that West Virginia legislature passed the most oppressive voucher law you can imagine which fundamentally can kill the entire WV public school system and turn the state into what happened in New Orleans. I've been worried since the pandemic began that this will be an opportunity to tie a noose around public school systems - and watch all the people who are screaming about how important it is for kids to be in school jump ship to virtual learning when it becomes convenient. Jennifer pointed out how fundamentally this is all about saving money and since labor is the major cost of education, de-unionizing and de-skilling teachers is the goal. Since teacher unions are one of the major bulwarks of the Dem Party, I see the threat of killing our unions as greater than the voter suppression movements by Republicans.

The West Virginia story also got mentioned in the libertatian anti-union publication of Mike Antonucci - with maybe a bit of glee with the snarky Remember West Virginia?  But you know I still like Mike's coverage because it takes me out of the bubble and also feeds my own libertarian and cynical streak.

I get the snark since the left made such a major deal about the Red for Ed movement that began in WV and spread to other red states - Oklahoma, Kentucky and Arizona. The teacher unions in these right to work states are fairly weak and without a grassroots movement spanning left and right, the ability to resist Republican moves to destroy the movement will be weak if there is an resistance.

My thoughts went back to how a red state which gave Trump his biggest per centage victory despite a long pro-labor history had a wildcat teacher strike that closed every school in the state. There are no charters in WV and at the time I thought the powers that be will never allow teachers to wield such power again. And the recent voucher law was retribution.  

The question is what will be the response and if there isn't one does that mean red for ed is wounded or dead?

The West Virginia teacher strike action three years ago (see wiki) and the New Yorker take) led to all kinds of speculation and inspired entire books, even from the Unity caucus resident leftist Leo Casey has a book  - and an interview with Randi - The Teacher Insurgency: A Conversation with Leo Casey and Randi Weingarten. but even more so from groups to the left of Leo - Labor Notes, Jacobin - see links at the bottom.

I covered the strike as did James on the ICE blog and started searching links on Ed Notes and google but there is so much out there I realized why I don't blog so much anymore - providing full context takes work. Do a full seach for West Virginia in the search box on top of the side panel and you will get loads of stuff but here a few quick hits:

West Virginia: Do-It-Yourself Class Struggle - Jacobin. One lesson from the West Virginia teachers' strike is clear: nobody is coming to save us. We'll have to do it ...

West Virginia Mountain mamma, take me home ... - Ed Notes Online

And I wrote: I see some of my colleagues salivating over the state teacher strike in West Virginia. Don't hold you breath here in NY. Maybe when the conditions of teachers ... [fill in the blank  along the lines of SUCK AS BAD.

Given that many teachers in WV were probably Trump supporters, the strike made for some interesting analysis and we did hear that socialists and DSA played a role in the organizing efforts. Also interesting was the role the state and national unions from the AFT and NEA played both in the level of cooperation and cmpetition. I talked to some teachers at the time who told me some school had members of each and they do compete for members. But as usual, they were tailing behind the rank and file - both right and left and center wing in militancy, often urging caution. 

One of the outcomes of the strike was the formation of a statewide rank and file caucus - WV United Caucus - along the lines of other left DSA type caucuses like in Chicago, Los Angelos and MORE in the UFT. (I had intended to write about them when I first heard of them). They seem to have been somewhat quiet and we would expect some reaction to the voucher law.

Mike Antoucci also covered the red for ed strikes from the libertatian-right and here is his take today where he mentions that the caucus didn't win any positions in the state union elections but I imagine those elections are not very democratic. 

Here is his full piece today - with a bit of the usual cynicism.

Remember West Virginia?

We haven’t heard much from West Virginia since teachers there launched the 2018 strike that inspired the #RedforEd movement. It looks as though when the shouting stopped, there wasn’t anything to write about.

Most of the educators who ran for office in 2018 lost, and those that won were mostly incumbents. The group that organized the strike didn’t fare any better in internal union elections. The WV United Caucus has been silent for months.

The press moved on to other pastures, leaving Jayme Metzgar of The Federalist alone to report this:

Last week, with very little noise or fanfare, the West Virginia legislature passed the most expansive Education Savings Account program in America. While ESAs in most states are only open to a small percentage of children, the new West Virginia Hope Scholarship will be available to 90 percent of schoolchildren in the state. Every child currently enrolled in public school is eligible, plus those newly aging in.

“The unions don’t like the bill, but our phones aren’t ringing. We aren’t getting emails. It’s nothing like last time,” said the chair of the Senate Education Committee.

There has been little follow-up to the changes, or lack thereof, in the #RedforEd states. Is no news good news?

 And some links from the left:

Apr 26, 2019 — Review of Red State Revolt, by Eric Blanc (Verso, 2019). There has been a tendency to mythologize West Virginia's nine-day education strike.
Mar 9, 2018 — By: Eric Blanc. West Virginia's historic wildcat strike has the potential to change everything. West Virginia teachers, students, and supporters hold signs on a Morgantown street as they continue their strike on March 2, 2018 in ...
Feb 20, 2019 — By: Eric Blanc. Within hours of going on strike, West Virginia educators defeated a dangerous education privatization bill. They've again ...
May 15, 2019 — In his new book Red State Revolt: The Teachers' Strike Wave and ... writer and former teacher Eric Blanc details the history of these teachers strikes while ... As rank-and-file West Virginia strike leader Emily Comer told Blanc, ...

The DSA's dishonest and self-serving account of the US ... › articles › 2019/08/08 › reds-a08
Aug 8, 2019 — A new book by Democratic Socialists of America member Eric Blanc reviewing the role of the DSA during the teacher strikes in West Virginia, ...

Red State Revolt: The Teachers' Strike Wave and Working ... › Red-State-Revolt-Teachers-Politics
55 Strong: Inside the West Virginia Teachers' Strike by Elizabeth Catte Paperback $19.18 ... “Eric Blanc's compelling new book, Red State Revolt, is a thoroughly ...

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

The scams of private equity firms revealed (buried in NYT piece) in article on the Märklin model train company in Germany

The company started producing windup model trains in 1891, and continued to be owned by different branches of the family until 2006, when it was sold to Kingsbridge Capital, an investment firm. But the company was losing money and had to lay off many hundreds of employees, and in 2009 it filed for bankruptcy protection. Then, in 2013, the Simba Dickie group, a privately owned German toymaker, bought the company, trying to salvage what it saw as an important brand.  .....‘A Perfect World’ Around Every Miniature Bend - NYT

The above reveal is buried in this article in the business section of the Monday (March 22, 2021) Times caught my eye with this subheading

The pandemic has helped Märklin, a 162-year-old company that makes model trains, discover a new audience.

So I couldn't resist reading the article and came across the above paragraph - imagine a 162 year old company - actually 147 in 2006 when it was bought taken down in three years. But no surprise as it happens very often and has happened since the Reagan years. [See the 1991 Danny DeVito movie "Other People's Money" where he plays Larry the Liquidator --].

I've been fascinated by trains since I was a kid when I always made my parents sit in the first car so I could look out the front window. I still do  - or did- it until recently when I could even though the way subway cars are designed now with double glass make it weird looking. But how about rising out of the underground as the train gets into Yankee Stadium territory? What a thrill seeing the ball park come into view - at one time you could stand on the station and watch the game. And how about that train system in Europe - I once did a section of the Orient Express. And riding the bullet train in Japan a few years ago was fabulous. 

But I also love model trains since I saw my cousins' set when I was about 7 - yet have never had a set of my own. My good friend recently used his grandkids as an excuse to set one up with all kinds of doodads - he even bought one of those old train engineer hats. And every year I go to the transit store in Grand Central to watch the model trains for the Xmas setup.

But I've strayed from my purpose, which is to point to the lead item about the Märklin company founded in 1859 and run by the family until it was bought by an investment firm in 2006 and it took only three years to drive the company into debt, lay off numbers of people -- read the article and find out how talented the employees were -- and send it into bankruptcy.

The factory building is more than a century old, and touring the facility is a trip back in time: a factory floor with skilled manual laborers toiling over workbenches. Ms. Huta and her colleagues often use a microscope to attach tiny details like bells or handrails. The company employs about 1,170 full-time employees in its two locations in Göppingen and Gyor, Hungary.

This is the outrage of private equity - they buy firms, load them with debt which they use for whatever their needs, lay off and liquidate and send them into bankruptcy and often oblivion - see Sears and Toys R Us. 

There ought to be a law - these firms are evil. Luckily they were bought and save in 2013 by a toymaker, people who know the business rather than the vultures of private equity. Check the full article out with great pix. 

By the way, ultimately I believe charter chains like Success Academy have real estate on their minds as they take over entire public school buildings. 


Sunday, March 21, 2021

New CDC Guidelines to Reopen Schools, Based on Outdated, Cherry-Picked, and Misinterpreted Data, Put Students, Teachers, and Communities at Risk

I haven't been a hard liner on keeping schools closed and am trying to listen to science. If we were still at the original COVID I'd say let's go with the low rates for kids and teacher vax but variants are still a wild card and children seem to be susceptible. But consider the article and comments below including long-term lung scarring from even people with mild cases. Every single person I know who had it even a year ago complains of some shortness of breath or being more tired. I may never leave my house again. 

As usual the UFT and AFT are waffling. Do we think the CDC is suddenly not politicized under Biden who has promised to get schools open and viola, distances shrink from 6 to 3 feet.

Naked Capitalism - 

 New CDC Guidelines to Reopen Schools, Based on Outdated, Cherry-Picked, and Misinterpreted Data, Put Students, Teachers, and Communities at Risk

Yves here. Biden repeatedly promised to “follow the science” in developing Covid policies. But as has become the norm in American medicine, the science has instead been distorted in the interest of profits and political expedience. This post provides a devastating takedown of the Biden plan to reopen schools with little in the way of additional protections for teachers and students, particularly more ventilation (how about the simple expedient of opening windows?). It explains why Covid cases among children have been severely undercounted and where population-wide surveys were made, children were vastly more likely to introduce Covid into a household than adults. It also shreds the CDC’s astonishing assertion that distancing as little as three feet would be OK.

On the one hand, parents and children are suffering due to the lack of in-person instruction. Keeping schools closed is politically risky for Team Dem, particularly since it is seen as a staunch ally of the (formerly) powerful teachers unions. But simply pretending that schools can implement hand-wave level measures and everything will be hunky-dory is the sort of wishful thinking that is guaranteed to produce problems down the road, just like our insufficient test capacity and unwillingness to enforce quarantines and mask mandates. As a result, how much luck do you think schools and teachers will have in getting children to wear masks properly (particularly not take them off if they start to cough and keep them over their noses), and how much support will they have from parents if they try to discipline the non-compliant?

Lambert almost immediately challenged the CDC’s recommendations on schools for ignoring evidence on aerosol-based transmission. He also found evidence that they relied on a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine report that punted on the question of “indoor air quality of schools” because addressing it might mean spending money! In other words, they refused to consider the issue at all, even low cost mitigations. This article confirms his concerns and adds quite a few others.

Your humble blogger also expressed doubts about Dr. Rochelle Walensky as the new head of the CDC, that she had signed up for Biden Administration priorities (as in she appeared not to have attempted to negotiate the agenda), some of which looked like an impossibly big leap for a weak agency, and others looked unconstitutional. Two particular weaknesses look relevant to this fiasco:

Fighting yesterday’s war

Treating better PR as the solution to way too many problems

There’s much more information in this carefully argued and well documented piece, which I hope you’ll circulate widely. As we’ve been saying from early on, it’s the disease dynamics that are in control. Wanting that not to be true won’t begin to make it so.

By Deepti Gurdasani, Senior Lecturer in Machine Learning, The William Harvey Research Institute, Queen Mary, University of London; Phillip Alvelda, CEO & Chairman, Brainworks Foundry, Inc.; and Thomas Ferguson, Director of Research, Institute for New Economic Thinking and Professor Emeritus, University of Massachusetts, Boston. Originally published at the Institute for New Economic Thinking website

Friday, March 19, 2021

#TheJimmyDoreShow Teachers Union President Caught Screwing Teachers & Public Education

I covered the story of Randi helping Schumer send billions to private schools - Outrage at Randi Grows -- Schumer and a Teachers’ Union Leader Secure Billions for Private Schools, NYT -- Oh, the Optics.

Jimmy Dore is commenting on the same issue, asking why would a teacher union leader do something like this? Jimmy clearly hasn't been following Randi's career.

Are Our health insurance plans a scam to enrich HMOs? New York City Over-Pays for Health Insurance. City Workers Still Get a Bad Deal

Why does the city overpay by $1.2 Billion?  Why shouldn’t the City follow San Francisco’s example concerning our well-heeled non-profit hospitals, and negotiate reduced reimbursement rates in return for the generous property, commercial, and income tax waivers it grants them?

It's time to pay attention to our health care plans. I raise the issue as to why our union and other unions refuse to back Medicare for all/Single payer plans which would put an end to these schemes. I do wonder if the industry has some "partnerships" with the unions.

New York City Over-Pays for Health Insurance. City Workers Still Get a Bad Deal. By Barbara Caress

Who is the biggest buyer of private health insurance in the Big Apple? New York City government: Its insurance plans cover some 1.25 million people – roughly a quarter of privately insured New Yorkers – at an estimated cost of almost $9.5 billion in the current fiscal year.

Despite being such a major health insurance customer, however, the City does a poor job of leveraging its market power for the benefit of its workers. The result: It makes excess payments of almost $1.2 billion a year to insurers.

The principal beneficiaries: two insurers that cover 95 percent of City workers and retirees. They are EmblemHealth, a non-profit providing out-patient coverage, which was created from a 2006 merger of two longtime City employee insurers, HIP and GHI; and Empire Blue Cross, which shed its formerly non-profit status 25 years ago, and which covers hospital care for some one million City workers.

The city’s large non-profit hospital networks also indirectly but handsomely benefit from this system.

There are two elements of health insurance costs: premiums paid to an insurance company; and out-of-pockets costs (such as deductibles and co-pays) paid by participants. The City’s employee health benefits plan costs too much in both respects.

The City currently spends $8.1 billion annually for core medical and hospital care for active and under-65 retired City employees. It also contributes some $1.34 billion a year to provide dental, vision, prescription drug, and other coverage to welfare funds maintained by municipal employee unions (and a similar fund for management employees).

This total of almost $9.5 billion compares very poorly with the cost of other multi-employer health plans covering private sector unionized workers in the city. In fact, the two largest such plans (for members of Locals 1199 and 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union) spend roughly $2,600 per covered employee less than the City does for a comparable basket of benefits. That amounts to an excess annual cost of $1.18 billion in City spending.

Municipal unions have long fought to maintain health benefits that don’t require employee premium contributions – a significant benefit for EmblemHealth and Blue Cross enrollees. However, it comes at the price of higher co-pays and reduced benefits for health plan members. Many City employees face resulting out-of-pocket expenses substantially larger than they’d bear if they were covered by either of the two multi-employer plans mentioned above, or by the roughly comparable Empire Plan covering New York State workers, which requires monthly premium co-pays of $90 for individuals and $190 for families.

The table below, drawn from the “Summary of Benefits and Coverage” Federal law requires every health plan to publish, compares expected 2021 out-of-pocket payments for three common health spending scenarios – having a baby, managing type 2 diabetes, and treatment for a simple fracture – and shows how much more New York City employees wind up paying.


Sunday, March 14, 2021

Outrage at Randi Grows -- Schumer and a Teachers’ Union Leader Secure Billions for Private Schools, NYT -- Oh, the Optics

"This one is too much - good old Randi and Chuck" - Email from retired teacher

The pandemic relief bill includes $2.75 billion for private schools. How it got there is an unlikely political tale, involving Orthodox Jewish lobbying, the Senate majority leader and a teachers’ union president... NYT

Last year, Ms. Weingarten led calls to reject orders from Ms. DeVos to force public school districts to increase the amount of federal relief funding they share with private schools, beyond what the law required to help them recover.

Randi talking out of five sides of her mouth? I'm shocked there's gambling.

“We never anticipated Senate Democrats would proactively choose to push us down the slippery slope of funding private schools directly,” said Sasha Pudelski, the advocacy director at AASA, the School Superintendents Association, one of the groups that wrote letters to Congress protesting the carve-out. “The floodgates are open and now with bipartisan support, why would private schools not ask for more federal money?”

Among the Democrats who were displeased with Mr. Schumer’s reversal was Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California,

Randi Weingarten, who leads one of the nation’s most powerful teachers’ unions, acknowledged that the federal government had an obligation to help all schools recover from the pandemic. 

Oy vay, Randi. You mean those Orthodox communities with some of the highest COVID numbers in the city?  Let's reward them. 

[I know I will be called antisemitic or a self-hating Jew - one day I will talk about working in a school district where a religious community had enormous control and literally swiped millions of dollars out of the hands of public school kids.]

[And on a day where we heard this: Success Academy Charter School Network Ordered to Pay Over $2.4 Million in a Disability Discrimination Case Brought by Families of Five Former Students]

Imagine how those billions could be used so desperately for public schools! The NEA was upset enough to contact the White House:

Mr. Schumer’s move caught his Democratic colleagues off guard, according to several people familiar with deliberations, and spurred aggressive efforts on the part of advocacy groups to reverse it. 
The National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers’ union and a powerful ally of the Biden administration, raised its objections with the White House, according to several people familiar with the organization’s efforts.

Contrast the NEA to Randi misusing her position as AFT President to do self-lobbying, emphasizing how our undemocratic union allows the top level people to abuse their positions without repercussions.

Integral to swaying Democrats to go along, particularly Ms. Pelosi, was Ms. Weingarten, several people said. Ms. Weingarten reiterated to the speaker’s office what she expressed to Mr. Schumer’s when he made his decision: Not only would she not fight the provision, but it was also the right thing to do.

Even the Senator from Microsoft was upset:

Senator Patty Murray, the chairwoman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, was said to have been so unhappy that she fought to secure last-minute language that stipulated the money be used for “nonpublic schools that enroll a significant percentage of low‐​income students and are most impacted by the qualifying emergency.  I’m proud of what the American Rescue Plan will deliver to our students and schools and in this case specifically, I’m glad Democrats better targeted these resources toward students the pandemic has hurt the most,” Ms. Murray said in a statement.

It's an ugly story as Chuck sprung this last minute addition on other Dems and some were pretty pissed off. Do a close reading of this one and you see why Dems have so many problems and our own beloved Randi is right in the middle of it. They pulled a dirty deal that has alienated many even on their so-called side. Remember the history of Randi/AFT/UFT with our unions placed squarely on the side of the non-progressive Dems.

NYT headline: Schumer and a Teachers’ Union Leader Secure Billions for Private