Thursday, October 19, 2006

Education Notes - October 2006

Excerpts from the 1 page print edition handed out at the October 18 Delegate Assembly (with cartoon, a joke and a lovely picture of Randi and Bloomberg about to kiss).

PDF of leaflet available for distribution to your school - email me at

Contract on Life Support
(see cartoon posted on Sept. 30)

With a tattered contract, we must ask:

What level of responsibility for the erosion of the contract and the general deterioration in working conditions in the schools does the UFT leadership bear? Should UFT leaders be held accountable for their support for mayoral control, the willingness to negotiate givebacks and extended time for money, the lessening of contractual protections, and the severe reduction in protections of seniority? Is there a level of collaboration between the DOE and the UFT that is unhealthy for the members? Or should the leadership’s position be accepted that we are victims of the anti-union “climate of the times” and have done very well compared to other unions?

These are fundamental questions. The issue is whether the current leadership has the will or the capability to stand up to the onslaught of the well-organized forces of BloomKlein that have led to more unbridled power in the hands of principals than possibly in the entire history of the UFT. So far they have been found lacking — just check out conditions in your schools. Can Unity caucus, which has controlled the UFT since its inception over 40 years ago, bear no responsibility?

To understand the UFT one must understand Unity – a massive, monolithic machine that requires a loyalty oath to the caucus that puts its interests over that of the members. Many teachers only found out in the last contract struggle that their own chapter leaders, who were ordered to “sell” the contract to their staffs, were in fact members of Unity who get all sorts of perks like after school jobs, double pensions, attendance at conventions, and even some level of intervention on their behalves from top UFT officials when they have troubles with administrators.

One of the key problems is that the UFT has the trappings of democracy but is really what one would call a totalitarian democracy, a system with elected representatives whose members, while granted the right to vote, have little or no participation in the decision-making process. In the UFT all decisions flow from the office of the President with little room for vetting these decisions. A massive public relations operation and control of all the organs of communication within the UFT in the hands of the leadership, enforced by the Unity machine to the extent that materials critical of the leadership distributed to the schools are removed from teacher mailboxes and those who have attempted to distribute are threatened.

One response to this system is to build an effective, democratic alternative to the Unity machine that can force Unity to make the kinds of changes that will lead to a union that will stand up for its members. The key is to call for a package of democratic changes, one of which is a return to the election of district reps, summarily cancelled by Randi Weingarten years ago. A so-called bipartisan committee to examine the issue is just a smokescreen – a band aid for a gunshot would, as the Unified Teachers Party blog calls it (

Democracy does count. It is not a theoretical concept. The lack of it has resulted in bad decision-making on many levels. Fighting for it will lead to a stronger union.

Delegate Assembly Math

If you notice a preponderance of support for the UFT leadership at delegate assemblies that seems way out of proportion to the feelings of the people in your school, there is a reason. The DA has around 3000 members but is held in a room that holds just over 800. Unity Caucus members are expected to show up and many of them are required to be either a delegate or chapter leader.

With at least 1000 or more UC members, that is a serious base to start from.
Add the 89 members of the Executive Board.
Add the 300 Unity members of the retirement chapter.

There are probably 30 activist members of the opposition and maybe another 30 supporters at the DA. The rest are independents, but often actively recruited by Unity, which is always looking to keep people from drifting to the opposition.

So the leadership starts with a big majority, can dominate the discussion and can assure victory on any issue. That is why only 30% of the delegates show up regularly. If you are independent of Unity, we urge you to band together with other independents and begin to make your presence felt at the DA.


The following was posted as a comment to the ICE blog after the DA


The October DA is usually the most crowded because it is the first one of the year. This one in particular was crowded because so many new Chapter Leaders and Delegates who were elected last spring were attending for the first time.

The message from Randi and crew was: DON'T BOTHER COMING BACK

With probably 2800 or more delegates, instead of holding the meeting at the Marriott or in a school that could hold what is usually around 1200 people for these first meetings, they held it at the UFT in a room that legally holds around 850 people. It was reportedly so uncomfortable in there that one CL told me he went wild saying that it was a major fire trap and if the fire dept. has been called they would have shut down the meeting. If they did it wouldn't have made a difference as Randi did the usual filibuster thing.

Many people will not come back. But Unity people will. Exactly what Randi and crew want.

Joke of the Month
During a visit to the mental asylum, a visitor asked the Director what the criterion was which defined whether or not a patient should be institutionalized.

“Well,” said the Director, “we fill up a bathtub, then we offer a teaspoon, a teacup and a bucket to the patient and ask him or her to empty the bathtub.”

“Oh, I understand,” said the visitor. “A normal person would use the bucket because it’s bigger than the spoon or the teacup.”

“No.” said the Director, “A normal person would pull the plug. Do you want a bed near the window?”

An abridged version of the Lipstick on the Pig article posted on Oct. 6 is also part of the print version of Ed Notes. The pdf will be sent to my email list. If you are not on it yet, don't be left out.

For those newcomers to the Delegate Assembly, welcome.

Education Notes presents an independent view on issues affecting the educational community, especially as they relate to the actions and inactions of the UFT. It has been distributed regularly to Chapter Leaders and Delegates at Delegate Assemblies for the past 10 years. Feel free to make copies of any of the material in these bulletins for your staffs.

There have also been 10 tabloid size editions that have been produced for wider distributions to the schools. Copies of future editions (the next one is planned for late November) are available for your staffs.

Editor Norman Scott worked in the NYC school system as an elementary school teacher for 35 years. He retired in 2002 but has maintained an interest in union and educational affairs. In late 2003 he and other independents, unhappy with the direction the UFT was going in, organized the Independent Community of Educators (ICE), a caucus that aims to affect change in the UFT. ICE ran in the 2004 elections and will do so again with Teachers for a Just Contract (TJC) in the upcoming elections in the spring of 2007. See the ICE blog ( and website for details of their program.

Education Notes is independent from ICE and represents solely the point of view (often weird) of the editor.

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