Friday, March 1, 2024

RTC Chapter election in the media: In the New York City teachers union, anger over a plan to privatize retiree health care could send a longshot campaign over the edge.

If it’s successful in this year’s election, Retiree Advocate has its sights set on a bigger target: the overall UFT elections next year, when the long-serving president, Michael Mulgrew, and the other leadership members will be up for reelection. “If we won this election, it would give a shot in the arm to the opposition and make people look at next year’s general election as winnable,” said Scott, the Retiree Advocate spokesperson.... NY Focus

People stand in front of a New York City newsstand holding a sign that says "Retiree Advocate/UFT Protecting Retirees Supporting Working Members Fighting for Public Education"

 Retiree Advocate members rally in New York City on February 16. | Norm Scott

This is an excellent article in NY Focus by Sam Mellins, one of the best local reporters. I spoke to him for almost a half hour and he asked all the right and probing questions, sometimes twice.

 

Retired Teachers Seek Union Shakeup to Dodge Medicare Advantage

In the New York City teachers union, anger over a plan to privatize retiree health care could send a longshot campaign over the edge.

Sam Mellins   ·   February 26, 2024

 https://nysfocus.com/2024/02/26/medicare-advantage-uft-retiree-advocate

A group of dissident retired public school teachers is seeking to take over part of the New York City teachers union in an upcoming election — and they hope to galvanize opposition over a proposed change to retirees’ health care and turn it into votes this June.

Retirees fear that the proposed change — a shift from public Medicare to private Medicare Advantage plans — could leave them with higher costs and fewer benefits. It’s been a major source of controversy since New York Focus broke the news of the proposal nearly three years ago. Though the plan has been on ice since last year, when a court sided with retirees who sued to block it, it still looms large as the city pursues an appeal.

With fear and anger running high, a group of retired teachers known as Retiree Advocate hopes those feelings will propel its insurgent slate into leadership positions at the retiree chapter of the United Federation of Teachers. The teacher union is one of the foremost backers of the Medicare Advantage switch.

“Our plan for the campaign is about preserving our Medicare and standing up to the union leadership,” said Bennett Fischer, a Retiree Advocate member who is running for retiree chapter leader.

The union, which represents the city’s public school teachers, has been led by the dominant Unity Caucus since 1962. Though it’s been around for decades, Retiree Advocate has never succeeded in challenging the Unity Caucus.

The group hopes to change that this spring, when the UFT will hold elections for 25 leadership positions in its retiree chapter and the 300 seats reserved for retirees in the union’s delegate assembly, a 3,400-seat body that effectively serves as the union’s legislature. Retiree Advocate is running for all 325 positions. The votes are cast by caucus, not by candidate, and whichever party gets a majority of the votes wins all of the slots.

If successful, Retiree Advocate members plan to advocate against the Medicare Advantage switch and for better pensions and health benefits for working teachers, members told New York Focus. They also want to build energy to challenge UFT leadership in the union’s general election next year.

Though that more ambitious goal might be out of reach, winning the upcoming election could still be a sign, according to Joshua Freeman, labor historian and professor emeritus at CUNY.

“A change of leadership of the retiree chapter might make a difference in the battle over Medicare Advantage, since the UFT and [UFT President] Mike Mulgrew have been among the strongest supporters of moving retirees from traditional Medicare to Medicare Advantage,” he said.

“The opposition is across factions and caucuses.”

—Bennett Fischer, Retiree Advocate candidate

Winning 300 of the 3,400 assembly seats wouldn’t necessarily enable Retiree Advocate to make the whole union change its position on Medicare Advantage. But it could send a signal and provide a bully pulpit for advocacy against the health care switch and on other issues, Retiree Advocate members said.

“You would have the people most affected by the change actually organizing in opposition to it,” said Norm Scott, a spokesperson for Retiree Advocate.

The caucus could recruit additional members to oppose the Medicare Advantage switch and pass resolutions opposing it, Fischer said.

The current leadership, meanwhile, has discouraged dissent from the plan. Tom Murphy, a Unity Caucus member who has served as president of the retired teachers chapter since at least 2011, has supported the health care switch and criticized its opponents.

“As a middle child, having grown up in a family that spoke to one another respectfully, I try to foster positive interactions,” Murphy wrote in a column last spring, chiding members for an “outburst” over the switch at a retirees meeting. As teachers, he wrote, “we were on the front lines of setting the tone of good behavior for students entering society, but it’s still important for us to be guardians of civility.”

People stand in front of a New York City newsstand holding a sign that says "Retiree Advocate/UFT Protecting Retirees Supporting Working Members Fighting for Public Education"
Retiree Advocate members rally in New York City on February 16. | Norm Scott

Three years ago, news of the proposed Medicare switch drove Retiree Advocate’s most spirited challenge in years. When the plan became public, just a few weeks before the election for leadership of the retiree caucus, Retiree Advocate started organizing in opposition, stressing what it might mean for retired teachers’ health care.

When the votes were tallied, Unity emerged with a clear victory, but Retiree Advocate won 30 percent of the vote, a high water mark for its recent efforts.

The leaders of Retiree Advocate hope to build on that momentum in the upcoming election. Several signs show that opposition to the potential Medicare change remains a powerful motivating force.

For one, it’s become much easier for Retiree Advocate to recruit candidates. In 2021, Retiree Advocate recruited 130 candidates to run for the chapter’s 300 delegate slots, leaving the rest uncontested.

In the runup to this year’s election, Retiree Advocate got more applications than available slots. According to Michael Shulman, a current Retiree Advocate candidate who has been following the caucus’s activities since the 1980s, that was a new phenomenon.

“We’ve never seen this kind of support for the opposition slate,” he said.

Even in parts of the union where the Unity Caucus dominates, there have been signs of dissent. UFT leadership established a committee of retired members focused on health care issues in 2021. That committee hasn’t met since late 2022, Fischer and Retiree Advocate member Sarah Shapiro told New York Focus, shutting down after intense opposition to the health care switch from a broad array of members.

“The reason we’re not meeting isn’t because me and a couple of other pains in the ass from Retiree Advocate were complaining,” Fischer said. “That committee is shut down because the opposition to this is across factions and caucuses.”

Some dissatisfied Unity caucus members have recently reached out to Retiree Advocate about getting involved with the challenge to union leadership, Shulman said. “I don’t mean tons of them, but we’re getting a good number of people who were once Unity stalwarts,” he said.

Turnout in the retiree chapter elections has generally been fairly low, so boosting participation will prove key to achieving victory. In 2021, only about a third of the 70,000 retired members voted. And Unity Caucus’s control of the UFT’s communications apparatus and email lists gives it a significant advantage for driving turnout.

Though Retiree Advocate has collected several thousand emails through its organizing effort, “we don’t control the mailing list,” Fischer said. “We’re not going to get access to it.”

Retiree Advocate has received support and assistance from other retirees opposed to the switch. They include the New York City Organization of Public Service Retirees, which formed in opposition to the change and has spearheaded the so-far successful legal strategy to block it.

“Retirees have to support retirees, because it seems like nobody else does,” said Marianne Pizzitola, the organization’s president. Her group has helped Retiree Advocate put out communications and broadcast its events, including contacting retired teachers to make them aware of the election.

“I applaud Retiree Advocate for putting up candidates and getting 300-plus people to try to take back their retiree chapter,” Pizzitola said.

If it’s successful in this year’s election, Retiree Advocate has its sights set on a bigger target: the overall UFT elections next year, when the long-serving president, Michael Mulgrew, and the other leadership members will be up for reelection.

“If we won this election, it would give a shot in the arm to the opposition and make people look at next year’s general election as winnable,” said Scott, the Retiree Advocate spokesperson.

Sam Mellins is senior reporter at New York Focus, which he has been a part of since launch day. His reporting has also appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle, The Intercept, THE CITY, and The Nation. 
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Thursday, February 29, 2024

PROTECT YOUR PENSION-UPCOMING TRS ELECTION - Ben Morgenroth For Teacher-Member Trustee of NYC TRS Board

Ben is the most qualified candidate for trustee on the NYC Teacher Retirement System pension board. Help him get on the ballot. Vote for him on Wed, May 8, 2024.

Thursday, February 29 - and happy birthday to all you youngsters.

I have a post ready to go explaining the background of how this election has come to be with current TRS board member David Kazansky being replaced/or leaving willingly for a position with the AFT willingly -- choose your poison. Unity endorsed his replacement at the Feb. 5 EB and Feb. 7 DA.

Elections are held in the schools on May 8 and are run by the DOE - with principals in charge. Only working members may vote (no retirees). There will be a major effort to make sure they are properly held. The last time over 1/3 of the schools didn't even hold an election.

There's a so-called election every year for one of the rotating members of TRS -all Unity) and I and others have talked about one day running someone against the Unity candidate to break their monopoly on the position. Or at the very least to be able to raise questions about the role they play or should be playing.

If Kazansky was still running there would likely not have been an alt. candidate- there hasn't been an election in decades. Kazansky was pretty well respected as being responsive and knowledgeable. In fact a good friend who recently suffered a death in the family of a UFT member had some questions and I gave him David's email and he responded with satisfactory answers just last week. 

Some people seemed pissed off at what seemed to be yet another power move by the UFT leadership.

Did Unity, under the leadership of Michael Mulgrew, once again shoot itself in the foot. (See Amy-Gate)?

A question asked on the ICE-mail listserv:

How does the election of this single (sole, one) candidate change things for all TRS members, active and retired? Will this candidate be running things going forward or will he just be one in a group? Please explain the drastic difference electing this single candidate will make.

Responses:

An interesting question. This is one of three teacher members. Then there is the comptroller- Brad Landers and an appointee from the mayors office. Having a person on the board as qualified as Ben would benefit every member. They oversee the investments and allocations of billions dollars in funds. He can ask the right questions, make inquiries and convince the other board members to vote one or another. We want someone with a financial and academic  background that  Ben has to oversee the consultants working for TRS, he’s a classroom teacher who will have our best interests at heart.

My reply: To me the most important thing is Ben is not controlled by Unity and slave to decisions by the leadership. Can he change things? Probably not much but he can reveal things that are going on that Unity keeps under cover.

First, Ben needs 1000 signatures to get on the ballot and Unity went into quick panic mode to get theirs. So if you are in a school, follow the instructions below and get Ben some signatures.

My own experience with Ben goes back a few years when he approached me outside the DA when we held a healthcare rally and he began to attend Ex bd meetings with us. He has become an expert on the sad state of Tier 6 people and their pension systems and having a strong advocate like Ben in an official position would be benefit the 54% of current UFT working members who are shockingly in Tier 6.

Ben Morgenroth For Teacher-Member Trustee of NYC TRS Board

Ben is the most qualified candidate for trustee on the NYC Teacher Retirement System pension board. Help him get on the ballot. Vote for him on Wed, May 8, 2024.

https://thewire.educators.nyc/p/ben-morgenroth-for-teacher-member

Let’s get Ben on the ballot

Help get fellow NYC public schools teacher, Ben Morgenroth, on the ballot for the May NYC TRS board election as part of the three teacher trustees who oversee the more than $100 billion in our pension fund.

This trustee position is the second to change hands in two years. We need qualified trustees with a solid financial background, like Ben’s, to keep our pensions safe, secure and stable.

We need to put the best qualified candidate on the ballot and Ben is the most qualified candidate.

Ben teaches AP Calculus and Algebra II at Brooklyn Technical High School and has served as a passionate teacher in the New York City public schools for the past decade. He also serves as an adjunct lecturer in Mathematics at Hunter College, City University of New York. He is a life-long New Yorker and a graduate of New York City public schools. He comes from a family of educators; he and three members of his immediate family are all TRS members.

Ben holds a BA in Applied Math-Economics from Brown University and a MA in Applied Mathematics from Hunter College.

Prior to teaching, Ben served as a business technology consultant and hedge fund risk analyst, helping to manage $3 billion in client investments.

He is the only candidate with a strong investment background who can be trusted to keep our pension stable, solvent, and ensure that it continues to grow.

Ben is an independent-thinking, union-proud, classroom educator who will serve the best interests of all NYC educators. He will fight to fix Tier 6 so all members have a fair pension and have the option to retire at 55 with the same contributions that Tier 4 members have.

He needs 1,000 signatures to get on the ballot. Please help by circulating his nomination petition (link and QR code below). Any active in-service TRS member may sign the petition, including teachers, counselors, school staff, administrators and active CUNY employees who are members of TRS.

Please circulate this petition in your school to all NYC TRS members.

Please return signed petitions as quickly as possible. We are hoping to collect all signatures in the next 15 school days.

Download & Print Ballot Petition

If you have questions, concerns or comments, contact the Committee to Elect Benjamin Morgenroth at ben4trs@gmail.com


Vote For Ben - Election Day, Wed May 8, 2024

When asking people to sign the petition ballot, please remind and urge them to vote for Ben Morgenroth on May 8, 2024 - Election Day.

We will share more details about these NYC DOE run elections in the coming days and weeks.


Editor’s note:

Only someone with a strong investment background can be trusted to keep our pension stable, solvent and can skillfully manage it so that it continues to grow. Ben’s classroom and financial experience and expertise makes him inarguably the best qualified candidate for teacher trustee of TRS.

Mulgrew’s establishment Unity caucus candidate for this election has served as a pension specialist/union staffer, but is far removed from being in the classroom full-time.

And while this staffer may be helpful in a one-on-one consultation about your service record and your future payouts, managing a multi-billion dollar pension fund is not remotely the same responsibility or job description. In the same way that an oil change/car service specialist by no means makes one uniquely qualified to be an auto engineer, or to serve on the board of Ford or Tesla.

Mulgrew’s trustee candidates are selectively chosen to be merely rubber-stamps for his agenda and often are years removed from our classroom perspectives and issues.

We also know that Mulgrew’s track record has only proven to bring about the erosion of our pension and health benefits. Under his watch, we have been burdened by state’s establishment of Tier 6 and his plan to “fix it” lacks specifics, vision and strength.

Ben’s top priorities for managing our pension plan:

  1. Ensure financial stability and fund solvency to secure financial futures for retirees.

  2. Aggressively and judiciously pursue investments that maximize returns while minimizing risk.

  3. Hold webinars and workshops in schools to ensure members understand our pension, including benefits, investment, and retirement options.

  4. Improve pension and disability benefits for members of all tiers.

  5. Restore the 8.25% TDA rate (received by everyone except UFT members).

  6. Restore retirement age to 55 for Tier 6 members.

  7. Reduce pension contributions for all tiers and end pension contributions after 10 years of service.

  8. Improve pension flexibility for members who change careers or relocate, including pension credit for teachers entering from other school systems.

  9. Improve Final Average Salary calculation for pension benefits that better reflect real earnings.

  10. Update COLA law for benefit increases that keep pace with inflation.

  11. Offer swifter movement of funds between TDA investment options (reduce time lag to one day from the present one to four months).

 
ONLY ACTIVE TRS MEMBERS MAY SIGN
INCLUDING ADMIN/CSA

Help get fellow NYC teacher, Ben Morgenroth, on the ballot for the May election for one of the three  teacher trustees who oversee the more than $100 billion in our pension fund. This trustee position is the second to change hands in two years. 

We need qualified trustees with a solid financial background like Ben’s to keep our pensions safe and stable. We need to put the best qualified candidate on the ballot and Ben is the most qualified candidate.


Ben needs 1,000 signatures to get on the ballot. Please help by circulating his nomination petition (link and QR code below). Any in-service TRS member may sign the petition, including teachers, counselors, school staff, administrators and active CUNY employees who are members of TRS.


Ben is an AP Calculus teacher at Brooklyn Tech. He holds a BA in Applied Math-Economics from Brown University, a MA in Applied Mathematics from Hunter College, and has private sector hedge fund experience. He is the only candidate with a strong investment background who can be trusted to keep our pension stable, solvent, and ensure that it continues to grow.


Ben is an independent-thinking, union-proud, classroom educator who will serve the best interests of NYC educators. He will fight to fix Tier 6 so all members have a fair pension and have the option to retire at 55 with the same contributions that Tier 4 members have.


Please circulate this petition in your school to all TRS members.


Please return signed petitions as quickly as possible. We are hoping to collect all signatures in the next 10 days.


When asking people to sign, please remind them that we hope we can count on their vote for Morgenroth on May 8, 2024 - Election Day


www.tinyurl.com/ben4trs



Tuesday, February 27, 2024

ICE Met, ICE Talked, ICE Ate - And Other News

Feb. 27, 2024

Last Wednesday, ICE had another in-person meeting, the second this year: ICE Gathers  - James Eterno Legacy, Retiree and TRS Election - is Tom Murphy Toast?, Whither COPE

Sixteen people showed up, some original ICErs from its founding over 20 years ago, and some newcomers. 

We met for 3 hours and everyone got a chance to talk about the retiree election, the TRS election, a PhD student talked about his thesis on the UFT, Chicago and LA. I have always learned new things at ICE meetings and the congeniality is affirming. We will meet next in person during spring break on April 24  - Bring your own Matzoh. 

Of course there was sadness over the death of core ICEer James Eterno, whose funeral was the day before. Many of us saw each other at the wake. So there was some communal feeling.We talked about a possible memorial for James. Maybe even see if UFT was willing to take part. But the key was the decision to keep ICE going as a tribute to the efforts James put into ICE. This reso was presented and there was agreement on going forward. Over the years, James maintained the blog and I did the listserve and handled meetings. The blog is a key and we are hoping people will step up and contribute. Send me something if you have something to say. Once things settle down in the Eterno household. we hope Camille will take on some role.

Resolution for the Independent Community of Educators to Continue the Work of James Eterno


Whereas the late James Eterno was a co-founder of the Independent Community  of Educators (ICE-UFT), was a UFT Presidential candidate in 2010, was part of the committee that formulated the extensive 2010 ICE-UFT platform 

(http://uftelections2010.blogspot.com/), a long time Chapter Leader, a 12-year member of the UFT Executive Board and fierce advocate of labor unions,


Whereas James was determined to keep ICE  as a vibrant group that meets regularly and continues to contribute its experience in organizing in the UFT and fighting for a better, militant, democratic UFT,


Whereas  James  was a key organizer in the United  for Change coalition in the 2022 UFT election, ran as an Executive Board candidate in UFT elections over 25 years for UFC, MORE, ICE/TJC and New Action as a strident supporter of opposition groups within the UFT, while being a fervent advocate for union, 


Resolved that ICE will continue to meet on a regular basis, maintain its email list serve and the ICE blog in order to continue the work James did,


Resolved  that ICE will continue to be open to all UFT members, regardless of caucus affiliation, political persuasion or otherwise


Resolved that ICE will continue to serve as venue for civil, open discussions, where union members can respectfully disagree, yet still find common cause in fighting for strong unions and good public schools for all,


Resolved that ICE will continue to demand and advocate for a UFT that embraces a variety of viewpoints, open debates on collective strategies, militant unionism, responsive union leadership and engages an active membership,


Br it further resolved that ICE will continue to support and participate in union elections as members of coalitions and caucuses that fight for; responsive leadership, engaged membership, and rank and file militant union.

 

------

Here is some other important news with links to what is going on - so much I would have to spend the day working on it but it's beautiful out, so here's all I got.

  

Statement on ASFCME Trusteeship of the Retirees Association of DC 37 

 

 https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/conversations-with-bennett-fischer-and/id1490313171?i=1000646815704

 

Hey, union family:

I’m inviting to join me for a very special broadcast of Talk Out of School on WBAI 99.5 FM.

I speak to retired educator and union activist, Bennett Fischer.

Bennett, along with over 300 retirees, is running on the Retiree Advocate slate to lead the Retired Teachers Chapter within the United Federation of Teachers.

Retiree Advocate (RA) is political caucus in the Retired Teachers Chapter (RTC) of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT).

They will challenge Michael Mulgrew’s deeply entrenched Unity caucus with a full slate of three-hundred retired educators — teachers, paraprofessionals, therapists, counselors, nurses, secretaries and other UFT titles - in the triennial chapter elections this spring.

For nearly three years, Retiree Advocate/UFT and our allies from across the spectrum of NYC municipal unions, have been fighting to preserve our traditional Medicare benefits, as they face attacks from the mayor's office, the Municipal Labor Committee, and Mulgrew, the architect behind the city’s privatized Medicare Advantage plan (MAP).

Health care decisions should be between us and our doctors. Big private insurance corporations should not profit at the expense of our health. Thankfully, RA and NYC retirees are fighting to preserve and strengthen NYC laws that protect our benefits.

This upcoming spring retiree chapter election may have a big impact on our union leadership in regards to the fight to stave off attempts by the city to force all Medicare eligible city retirees into the highly litigated and much maligned MAP.

Learn more about RA

In the second segment, I speak to Marianne Pizzitola, president of the New York City Organization of Public Service Retirees. Her organization, comprised of NYC retirees from our city’s unions, has been leading the fight against the city and the top establishment union bosses who are partnering in cost savings healthcare givebacks that endanger the healthcare benefits of retired and active city workers.

She will share updates on the fight the NYC retirees are waging to preserve their hard earned benefits. We also have an very interesting conversation about the upcoming RTC election and the history behind the misuse of the Healthcare Stabilization Fund.

Learn more about NYC Retirees

You don’t want to miss tonight’s broadcast! You can listen to the livestream on your computer or mobile device at wbai.org

The show will be available to download as a podcast on Apple, Spotify, and here, at The Wire.

Listen live

The Wire: Powered by Educators of NYC is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support our work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.

Thank you for reading The Wire: Powered by Educators of NYC. This post is public so feel free to share it.

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DC37 Retirees Robbed of Voice

Union bosses prevent them from fighting for Medicare.

https://arthurgoldstein.substack.com/p/dc37-retirees-robbed-of-voice?utm_source=post-email-title&publication_id=1752095&post_id=142008068&utm_campaign=email-post-title&isFreemail=true&r=3qu3t&open=false&utm_medium=email

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

ICE Gathers Today - James Eterno Legacy, Retiree and TRS Election - is Tom Murphy Toast?, Whither COPE

The past 2 weeks has been wrenching for the many James Eterno fans since he passed on Feb. 6. The past 2 days with the viewing and funeral have brought out hundreds of people. Monday night was very touching seeing so many people who have bonded over the years in union struggles. Watching the coffin be lowered yesterday was beyond sad.

In the months before his stroke in May, James was bugging me to start calling ICE meetings again and we were about to begin but I felt paralyzed without his counsel.

Today's pre-planned ICE meeting seems so fitting. Jews have healing shiver after funerals. We will talk about James' legacy and how hard he worked to keep ICE going after we started working with MORE, especially after ICE left MORE. Given his efforts, we have no choice but to continue ICE in some form. We will have a rice pudding ICE meeting to help us heal. I hope we can talk about the possibility of a memorial for him to celebrate his work.

There's lots to talk about regarding the RTC and TRS election (we may have a candidate at the meeting).

The RTC election is looming and how well Retiree Advocate does can be a game changer in the UFT -- I will expand on this in my next post. Our super successful press conference last Friday where we announced we have a full 300 member slate to run and also introduced some of the 10 officer candidates is a good sign. We had heard that Mulgrew is so insecure he wanted to keep Murphy who he knows will be unfailingly loyal and would not trust someone else.

Arthur posted this tweet:  

We're hearing that @UFT RTC boss Tom Murphy will be replaced with another Mulgrew lackey, who will continue the fight to decimate our health care. Her working motto is, "I'm not Tom Murphy." Appealing though that may be, protect your rights and vote for @RetireeAdvocUFT.

There are some rumors former UFT Spec Ed VP Carmen Alvarez may be the candidate. We remember her shameful testimony at the City Council hearings begging them to change the law so she could have the choice of opting out of the very plan the union was pushing. As a UFT staffer since 1990 she could afford to pay for opting out. 

If Carmen is campaigning inside Unity for the position does that make Mulgrew feel condideent if he does prefer Murphy? Or has Murphy outlived his usefulness and the RA threat is so real they feel they have to make a change? Will Mulgrew run again in '25 or will be fazed out as it seems Tom Murphy may be as RTC head?

We will share ideas for the election campaigns at the ICE  meeting. And lots more.

A PhD candidate doing a thesis on the UFT compared to other unions will be at the meeting.

And if there is time, we will talk about the concept of COPE and should people withdraw in protest or call for some level of more democracy.

James was one of 20 or so founders of ICE 20 years ago in late 2003 when I called a bunch of key people together to discuss the deal New Action was making with Unity for the 2004 election. James, Camille, Ellen Fox and Lisa North left New Action to become part of the future ICE core.

ICE ran in the 2004, '07, '10 UFT elections before merging with TJC and others into MORE.  James was the 2010 presidential candidate against Mulgrew who was running for the first time and Camille was the UFC candidate vs Mulgrew in the '22 election. James got the most VP high school votes in the 2016 election but due to UFT election manipulation rules the VP position are voted on by all UFT members.

ICE was different, with no official membership - just show up at a meeting - no steering committee, few if any limits on what could be discussed - open meetings to all, even from other caucuses. 

One thing that James was so much part of was the sense of family people connected to ICE felt about the group and each other, a feeling I never felt on other groups I was involved in where they were run like a business. ICE has been as much a social group as a union political group. A space where you felt safe enough to bring up issues that would be uncomfortable talking about in other groups. Where you could disagree with the prevailing winds and not get cancelled.

We set up a zoom this past November and an in-person during the Xmas vacation. And that was so great even if only a dozen. We talked about issues for almost 3 hours. And everyone seemed to leave happy. We propose an every two month schedule on the Wednesday during school vacations so in-service people can attend. The meeting today meets that schedule. The next one would be April 24.

It's hard to describe what ICE is at this point, given James Eterno's illness and the stillness of the ICE blog which he assiduously maintained over the years. Some mistakenly believed it was his personal blog but James always rejected that idea. He wanted ICE to remain a presence.

 

Friday, February 16, 2024

JOIN US TODAY - Retiree Advocate Campaign Kick-off - 1PM at 52 Broadway followed by celebration - And Party Afterward

 
300 retirees sign up to run a full slate in the chapter election - and we had to turn people away. 
 

 
TAKE BACK OUR UNION
 
Retiree Advocate/UFT announces its run in the spring 2024 UFT Retired Teachers Chapter Election

Retiree Advocate/UFT, a caucus of retirees within the United Federation of Teachers, will open its campaign to win control of the 60,000-member UFT Retired Teachers Chapter in the spring chapter elections. Candidates will be introduced at the press event and will greet the public immediately following, at the White Horse Tavern, 25 Bridge Street, New York, NY.

Retiree Advocate/UFT is fighting to preserve the Medicare benefits that UFT President Michael Mulgrew, the Municipal Labor Committee, and the NYC Office of Labor Relations are trying to take away from NYC municipal retirees.

What:       Retiree Advocate/UFT Campaign kick-off event
When:      Friday, February 16, 1pm
Where:    52 Broadway, New York, NY - in front of the UFT


 

From the WIRE:



A group of retired teachers chose to take back their retiree chapter! Let's support them. If you are available to support them in a kick-off event, tomorrow, in front of UFT HQ, join them for a day of celebration to launch their campaign!

Retiree Advocate/UFT, a caucus of retirees within the United Federation of Teachers, will open its campaign to win control of the 70,000+ member UFT Retired Teachers Chapter in the spring chapter elections.

Candidates will be introduced at the press event and will greet the public immediately following, at the White Horse Tavern, 25 Bridge Street, New York, NY.

Retiree Advocate/UFT (RA) is fighting to preserve the Medicare benefits that UFT President Michael Mulgrew, the Municipal Labor Committee, and the NYC Office of Labor Relations are trying to take away from NYC municipal retirees.


What: Retiree Advocate/UFT Campaign kick-off event

When: Friday, February 16, 1pm

Where: 52 Broadway, New York, NY - in front of the UFT


Editor’s note: Clearly, this election for the retiree chapter is a referendum on President Michael Mulgrew. The embattled Mulgrew is the self-proclaimed architect of the unpopular, highly litigated, privatized Medicare Advantage Plan that he, along with the City and MLC, seek to force on all city retirees.

Many UFT members are frustrated with Mulgrew’s handling of the depletion of our benefits, like healthcare and pensions, by acting unilaterally and his stifling of union democracy.

The Retiree Advocate slate of officers and 300 delegates will receive cross-caucus and independent members’ support and endorsements.

The New York City Organization of Public Service Retirees, a labor organization with over 20k retired municipal workers, including retired educators, and led by Marianne Pizzitola, has also signaled support for the Retiree Advocate/UFT member-driven campaign to take back their union.

Visit the RA Facebook page to learn more.

Visit RA Facebook page

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Will Mulgrew Flip Flop on Mayoral Control Like Randi did in 2009?

Randi and Bloomberg do the flip in mayoral control renewal 2009


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Deja vu all over again?

Mulgrew at the Feb. 2024 DA on Mayoral control – 

-----when it sunsets, know what our position is. Want to be a little bit more. Position mayoral control, went through Cleveland’s, Boston’s, New Haven’s – they have mayoral control, the mayor chooses the final decision making panel (i.e. PEP), but the Mayor may only choose from people selected by nominating committee, of which they often have little control. Once put on these boards, they’re on a fixed term, mayor can’t do anything about it. Not saying what want, but have to dispel myth that changing mayoral control from way it is here—with mayor picking majority of PEP—is only version of mayoral control. People here fired for not doing what they’re told – that’s crap. Goal of last week was to tie different things together. Has the mayor supplanted school funding (yes), was there a financial reason (no)... How do you give the mayor any sort of control, who supplants funding, who removes money from funding despite being bound to lower class sizes by NYS law. One thing in that law that allows process to be stopped. Happens in a year in a half. Had all the money we needed and since then 2.5 billion dollars have been taken out of the capital plan, because trying to use financial review period to stop the law. ... Nick Bacon Notes at NAC

 Let me take you back to the 2009 battle over renewal of mayoral control:

Chalkbeat/Gotham Schools: The frustration began with a May 21, 2009 New York Post column, in which Weingarten indicated that she is open to allowing the mayor to continue appointing a majority of members to the citywide school board. A union task force recommended in February that the state legislature reverse that majority as a way to strengthen the board, known as the Panel for Education Policy or PEP.

Weingarten’s Post op/ed dismayed some members of her own union. “I was quite disappointed and angry, actually,” said Lisa North, a teacher who sat on the union’s task force to consider revisions to mayoral control.

North said the task force never seriously considered recommending that the mayor keep his majority of appointments, and so when union delegates ratified the committee’s final recommendations, she expected Weingarten to promote them. “The delegate assembly is supposed to be the highest authority of the union, and it voted for it,” she said.

I wrote this in June, 2009 - Weingarten Didn't Flip on Mayoral Control-- UFT positioning is akin to planes spreading tin foil to try to fool radar.

We opposed the very idea of a phony UFT task force dominated by Unity Caucus that would give cover to Randi's doing what she intended to do anyway over the past 7 years. (I have been a lone voice in ICE urging boycotting these farce task forces.) I spoke to Philissa (Kramer of Gotham) and made the point that Randi's flipping on the constitution of the PEP panel is just flack covering Randi's consistent support for mayoral control. More egregious, I told her, is her modifying the report of the UFT task force that spent a year addressing the issue that was voted upon at a delegate assembly. One of the few good things the report recommended was taking away the mayor's ability to appoint a majority of the PEP. That is where Randi has flipped. The task force was c0-headed by UFT VP Carmen Alvarez, who has been racing around the city representing the UFT on panel discussions and trying to give the impression the UFT supports checks and balances. Tsk, tsk, Carmen.

“I do feel betrayed,” said Michael Fiorillo, another chapter leader who sat on the union’s task force. “I just wish I could say I felt surprised.” He said Weingarten has veered away from members’ consensus on other topics in the past, and so he had early doubts that she would hold firm on the task force’s recommendations. (Fiorillo ultimately voted against the recommendations, saying they weren’t aggressive enough curbs on mayoral control.) “My guess would be the sense of betrayal would be stronger among people outside the union,” Fiorillo said, noting that union members were accustomed to watching Weingarten change her mind.

Weingarten doesn't exactly change her mind. What she does is throw up lots of tin foil like those planes trying to foil radar detection do in manipulating public perception of where the UFT stands. It is necessary to see through the flack and keep one's eye on where the real plane with the bomb is.

Why does the UFT leadership love mayoral control? Because it allows them to negotiate in back rooms with one person instead of opening up the process to democratic scrutiny. Totalitarians behave that way. When Obama was talking in Cairo today about bringing the light of democracy to places of darkness he might has well been talking about mayoral control and the UFT.

As I said then I do support the UFT current position of opposing the mayor choosing a majority of members on the PEP but will they stick to that position? Mulgrew still claims to be for mayoral control. If the mayor can't appoint a majority is it really mayoral control? Yes in the world of UFT machinations.

 

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Viewing and Funeral Service for James Eterno: Feb. 19, Feb. 20

The family and the many friends and fans of James Eterno have been through a ten-month wrenching experience. James' political family in ICE has had a meeting scheduled for Feb. 21 before we learned of James' passing. That will be a very appropriate way to remember him just a day after the funeral. There will be sadness but there will also be laughter.


Viewing and Funeral Service for James Eterno

On Monday, February 19, 2024, we gather to honor the memory of James Eterno, a remarkable individual who left an indelible mark on the educational landscape and the hearts of those who knew him. James, a retired educator and passionate union activist, dedicated his life to advocating for the rights of teachers and students.

Viewing and Prayer Service

Date: Monday, February 19, 2024
  • Viewing: 4:00 PM to 9:00 PM
  • Prayer Service: 7:00 PM
  • Location: Martin A. Gleason Funeral Home, 149-20 Northern Blvd, Flushing, NY 11354

Funeral Service and Interment

On Tuesday, February 20, 2024, we come together once more to bid farewell to James and lay him to rest.
  • Funeral Service: 12:00 PM
  • Location: St. John’s Cemetery, 80-01 Metropolitan Ave, Middle Village, NY 11379
James Eterno’s impact extended far beyond the classroom. His dedication, resilience, and love for his community will forever resonate. As we gather to honor him, let us reflect on the lessons he taught us and the passion he instilled in our hearts.

May his memory be a blessing and may his legacy live on.