Tuesday, February 26, 2008

UFT Undermining Rubber Room Suit, Teachers Charge

UPDATE: Thurs. Feb. 28 from Boubakar Fofana:

You make grave statements without naming your source. Who told you that "NYSUT lawyers withdraw from active 3020a hearings of plaintiffs" ?
"Teachers4action being criticized by some for putting people in jeopardy."
By "some" ? Again, what is your source ? Teachers4action put people in jeopardy by suing the DOE and the UFT ? How ?
This is absurd because the plaintiffs are the Teachers4action and Teachers4action is the collective name for the plaintiffs.
The UFT has a fiduciary obligation to protect its members and provide them with legal representation in the 3020a proceedings.You certainly know that.

I have news for you : I am a plaintiff and the following correspondence is proof of the fallacy of the piece you call breaking news. I do hope that you will make a correction on your blog :
"Boubakar Fofana" <bsfofana1@yahoo.com> 2/21/2008
Mr. Cavallaro,
It is not easy for me to walk away from someone I am comfortable with, and whose professionalism is quite remarkable. Given the circumstances we discussed yesterday, I believe my interests will be better served if a private attorney represents me in the 3020a proceedings, although I don't understand the rationale for the NYSUT making the choice for me.
Boubakar Fofana

Thu, 21 Feb 2008 15:52:15 -0500
"Antonio Cavallaro" <acavalla@nysutmail.org>
"Boubakar Fofana" <bsfofana1@yahoo.com>
"Claude Hersh" <chersh@nysutmail.org>,
"James Sandner" <jsandner@nysutmail.org>
Re: Private Attorney
Mr. Fofana,
Thank you for your compliments. I appreciate that this was not an easy decision for you to make and that there is nothing personal in your decision. As I mentioned to you yesterday, our policy is that if we pay for the representation provided we must choose the attorney that provides that representation in order to ensure that the quality of representation meets our very exacting standards. Once that attorney is secured by this office, we have no right to oversee or direct the representation in any fashion, despite the fact that we will be paying that attorney's fees. However, we still have the responsibility, to ensure that the representation is ethically and competently provided. The only way we can meet our responsibilities under those circumstances, is to choose the attorney who will provide that representation ourselves. As I mentioned to you when we discussed this issue yesterday, if you wish for NYSUT to cover the costs of the representation, that is an absolute pre-requisite. I am sorry if you do not understand this requirement, but it is not negotiable. If you wish to secure your own attorney to represent you in this matter you will have to pay the attorney and all associated costs yourself. Alternatively, as I also explained yesterday, you may choose to continue with me as your attorney, so long as you are willing to sign a legal document which clearly indicates your knowledge of the possibility of a conflict of interest and waiving any objection to that possible conflict. In any event, I will immediately inform my managers of the choice you have made in this instance.
Thank You
Antonio Cavallaro
Associate Senior Counsel, NYSUT

UPDATE: Wed. Feb 27 9am

Breaking News: (If you have added info, email me or add it to the comments section).

UFT sued by Teachers4Action – Weingarten and SWAT Team member Betsy Combier named as defendants amongst others.

NYSUT Lawyers withdraw from active 3020a hearings of plaintiffs, claiming potential conflict of interest; will go to federal court to ask for ruling; teachers told they would have to pay for their own lawyer if NYSUT lawyers stay away; arbitrators informing teachers if they turn up without a lawyer they will be charged for the day of cancelled hearings; some teachers claim withdrawal of NYSUT lawyers part of pressure tactics to force plaintiffs to drop out of case.

On Jan. 31 I posted about how we broke into the Queens rubber room where the group "Teachers4Action" has been organizing to file a lawsuit against the DOE and possibly the UFT. Almost 50 teachers gathered in a church to meet. Think this is a threat to the UFT, which they claim has been working to undermine the suit? Weingarten even wrote letters to elected officials as part of this campaign. The candlelight vigil in November, originally planned as a protest by RR people who would have made the point about the UFT selling them out, was one such undercutting action.

But she doesn't have to do the heavy lifting. When she created the SWAT team (named "The Three Stooges" by Jeff Kaufman on the ICE blog) back in the fall to supposedly assist the RR people, some viewed them as spies who would work to divide and defuse any militancy that might arise.

Now Teachers4Action are claiming they are under assault by the UFT, as evidenced by this email:

[A UFT rep] is attempting to intimidate teachers involved [in our lawsuit] and peel them off one by one in order to dilute our effectiveness. Word is spreading fast among the rooms that the UFT has declared war against the sacrificial lambs.

I wrote back in September when the SWAT team was announced, "If I were in the RR I wouldn't make plans to be back at my job real soon." Here are excepts:

In a post the other day I wrote "the screams of the people are beginning to be heard and with the potential national impact of blogs calling Randi a sellout, she is trying to make it look like they will do something-- she has assigned [a team of 3] to visit the rubber rooms and come up with suggestions. So she is trying to let the air out of the balloon."

It will be the usual "We hear you, we feel your pain." People will feel good like the union is paying attention and will stop organizing. A year later when nothing much has changed they will get the message: Talk loudly, carry a tiny stick.
Here's a link to the full Sept. 28 post.


  1. I believe that NYSUIT will have to hire new lawyers for the plaintiffs. While I am in total support of them. I disagree with their suing of Betsy Combier.

    My experience is that she is pro teacher, unlike many in the union.

  2. Union has obstructed review of results of Teachers who use the union lawyer vs. Teachers who use their own attorney.
    Any basis in the contract...for compelling the union to pay for a lawyer of the Teachers choosing???

  3. Not sure why they would obstruct. They don't really care if you use your own. Saves them lots of money and resources and if you lose they don't have to face any blame.


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