Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Is Mulgrew Really the One?

No reporter tracks goings on in the UFT like the NY Sun's Elizabeth Green. Friday (July 18) she wrote, "Ms. Weingarten named [Mike] Mulgrew the union's new chief operating officer [COO] in a memo sent to union officers yesterday [July 17] evening." Mulgrew will run the UFT while Randi is out of town, but I do not think he will be the UFT president in the foreseeable future for reasons I have laid out in the past. (See the 2-part "Randi's Succession Obsession" in the sidebar on the right. Also read our June 16th post "Unity Tail Wags the AFT Dog.")

Of course, if Elizabeth had been reading Ed Notes regularly, she would have learned of the staff changes in our July 3 posting, "UFT Staff Changes: Mulgrew is the Boss."

She seems to think highly of Mulgrew as she gave him a premature promotion by titling the article, "An Apparent Heir to Weingarten Emerges at N.Y. Teachers Union."

In the old Shanker days, we used to see the heir apparent of the month.

Randi reorganizes as often as Joel Klein
Just note how many staff directors (one of the most stable pre-Randi positions in the UFT with Feldman and then Tom Pappas occupying the job for decades) the flighty Weingarten has run through in the past 3 years since Pappas retired.

I count 6, including the new tripartite Leroy Barr/Ellie Engler/Gary Sprung arrangement, which we also sprung on our readers in our July 3rd post. Sprung was often despised as Pappas' hit man and will play the role Pappas played for Sandy and Randi.

Sprung has apparently survived the Unity critics carping at his talking and joking with me (I think I was the only one who liked him), but he has wised up and now makes sure to ignore me when passing. But Gary is in my age range and we can't expect him to be there forever, though they could embalm him and leave him standing as a statue to continue to scare the staff.

One interesting aspect has been the down-grading of Michael Mendel (who last year was designated as Randi's 2nd in command) and recently resigned elementary school VP Michelle Bodden who for years was viewed as Randi's logical successor. (Ed Notes also broke this story on June 26 even before many people in the UFT knew.) Michelle will now run the UFT elementary charter school.

That these were two of the most liked and respected people in the union hierarchy should not go unnoticed.

Ed Notes has been predicting all along that Weingarten will be very reluctant to hand over the real power in the UFT/NYSUT/AFT.

Once Randi gives up the UFT presidency, she becomes a head without a sure body of support. Shanker was able to do that after 11 years of doing both jobs because he became such a big player on the national scene. The NY Times column played a major role and Randi is trying to establish the same credentials. But she has along way to go until she reaches that status and her notorious paranoia and micromanaging will be a big factor.

In a recent conversation I had with Green I repeated my thesis that with the real power in the AFT and UFT resting on the control of the UFT's Unity Caucus, Weingarten, like Shanker before her, would not let go easily. If she intended to have Mulgrew run for the presidency in March 2010, she should have moved much faster to declare Mulgrew as the heir. We would have to see her resign from the UFT and appoint Mulgrew within the next 6 months to give him an opportunity to function as UFT President. Both Shanker and Feldman resigned soon after they were elected. So the timetable for a 2010 candidacy for Mulgrew must be executed ASAP.

"But didn't Sandy Feldman turn over power to Randi when she became AFT president," Green asked?

"Yes she did," I replied. "But she groomed Randi for almost a decade. Everyone in the union, in the DOE and in the halls of power in the city treated Randi as the heir apparent, so she didn't just walk into the job after Sandy left. Despite that, there were some conflicts when Randi ignored her advice. Randi also moved quickly to replace some of Feldman's people with her own. That is not lost on Randi and with Mulgrew being an ambitious fellow, what would stop him from doing the same thing?"

You can't compare the relationship between Al and Sandy with that of Randi and Mike. There would be no way the same level of trust. Clear signs will be whether Mulgrew gets to run UFT Executive Board and Delegate Assembly meetings, a role Mendel has filled very effectively.

Green says a few interesting things about Mulgrew:
Mr. Mulgrew is known in the union as a "fighter" who stands out for being bold enough to stand up to Ms. Weingarten when he disagrees with her.

Sure. We've seen what happens to people who disagree with her.
"I think he's extraordinarily talented and the right person," a union vice president, Leo Casey, said.

Now there's a good source of independent thinking, Leo Casey, who could find justification for UFT policy even if it included devouring children for lunch. (Can't you just see, "I think Jeffrey Dahmer is extraordinarily talented and the right person," said Casey.)

Green adds:
Mr. Mulgrew seems already to have won the disdain of the union's internal opposition caucus, the Independent Community of Educators, or ICE. An ICE leader, Jeffrey Kaufman, said Mr. Mulgrew allowed the department to get its way in its overhaul of special education schools.

I don't know enough about Mulgrew and have had limited personal contact to hold him in disdain, but give me a chance (see Randi, like I told you 7 years ago, it's not personal.)

In the meantime, you can read more of Jeff Kaufman's take on Mulgrew at the ICE blog, "What Is a Chief Operating Officer Anyway?"

Jeff, I think a COO is the guy who turns off the lights at night.

Or the chief pigeon.

Follow-up: Mulgrew: Effective leader or typical Unity hack?
We'll explore this question in an upcoming post.


  1. It will not take long before ed notes tags Mulgrew as another Wilson. Clue-famous ballplayer from the 30's.

  2. I guess you do not have to come up through the ranks to be a uft president. MM was not a DR, nor a special rep, just bumped from cl to a prominent position. Fast Tracked, but why? Bet ya former VP Carucci knows..He hit a grand slam in the big game don't you think?????

  3. Breaking News, the Professionial Staff Congress has a new proposed contract sept-20-07 to oct-19-2010. It calls for across the board 10.5% compounded.
    10-06-08=4% Compounded
    10-20-09-3% compounded.
    All following the PBA pattern not the pattern the uft locked into.
    Most Importantly through intense organizing and with almost universal support, the union sent a message that we would not sign a contract that restructured CUNY as an increasing corporate university. All Defeated:
    -elimination of salary steps
    -removal of dept chairs from bargaining unit.
    -undermining Tenure and introduction of performance pay.
    I guess there is no COO in this union..

  4. Is there some bit of unhappiness in the Unity castle from people who paid their chits only to see Mulgrew leap over them?

  5. Unity Castle, more like fairyland, feel bad for Mendel and Bodden. Just a few of Weingarten's casualties. How many to suffer her wrath at the AFT?

  6. Another Unity zinger aimed at Randi - unhappiness in fantasyland. Mulgrew better start the purge ASAP.

  7. More like Never Never land, never diagree with her highness or else you are banished from ever moving up. Ed Notes would be surprised the number of senior folks at 260 and 52 that were cast aside by Weingarten. Staff as well as uft folks who were Peppered. There is an awful amount of Leona Hemsley in Randi. Remember she came from a corporate law firm.

  8. Has Mulgrew been reassigned to a rubber room? Have not heard a peep from the new COO.


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