Monday, December 1, 2008

Ragging on the Gag Order

Some people think there is a hint of legitimacy in the UFT position - theoretically. That it is in a union's interests to keep certain information from leaking to the bosses or press. In 40 years of attending Delegate Assemblies, Executive Board meetings and countless other UFT functions, there is nary a time that much of anything in this category has come up. (Talking about strikes given Taylor Law penalties is certainly something to keep under cover.)

As Jeff Kaufman points out at ICE, the union always can go into Executive session. Randi has said that numerous times with me in the room and has often publicly has asked me to keep info confidential so she won't have to clear the room. I always complied and will continue to do so. And she full-well knows that, which only makes her demagoguery last Monday ("Norman, put down that camera" as a way to rile up the Unity troops, who were the majority of people in the room) so manipulative. She tries to direct the finger of blame in case something does leak out (often from her- and this actually happened after she once hinted I was leaking to the NY Post and it was clear she did it).

We have a union that is interested in keeping info from flowing to the rank and file. The gag is an attempt to maintain Unity's monopoly on access to the members, similar to their attempt to keep critical info out of teacher mailboxes.
When you are faced with despotism and demagoguery, the appropriate response is to fight fire with fire.

Randi is trying to paint this as protecting rank and filers from having the words and images up on the web that can come back to haunt them. Like ATRs and rubber room people or chapter leaders being critical of their school leadership. I absolutely concur with that point. Rank and filers who speak up at meetings should be protected. And at no time have I ever violated that.

But we are talking about UFT leadership and the positions they take.
Last Monday I caught Randi in an out and out contradiction between what she said at the info meeting at 52 Broadway (this is not the time to make noise, a less than subtle dig at the rally) and what she said an hour later to the demonstrators at Tweed (the noise you made led to the ATR agreement.) Should I suppress the video of District 19 rep Alan Weinstein cursing and threatening me for taping him leaving the meeting? Weinstein probably makes $120,000 or more a year paid from our dues. Any person on the payroll of the UFT is fair game.

Meetings should be taped and made available to the members. I'll tell you what, let Unity Caucus put forth a series of reforms that will establish a democratic union that will allow the free flow of information. That proverbial snowball is already melting.

ICE reports on the UFT attempt to stop the info flow:

Paranoid UFT Leadership Attempts To Silence Opposition By Proposing Inept Gag Order Over Union Meetings

Just like our sweetheart agreements with the DOE, the resolution, unsurprisingly, provides no penalties for violating its provisions.

When a Union becomes nothing more than a self-serving public relations operation, it ceases to care about free speech or other rights of its members. We must protect our precious rights and demonstrate to our misguided, paranoid leadership that they work for us…not the other way around.

Besides, Jeff seems to be saying it violates the Landrum-Griffin Act.

ICE will be discussing the issue at this Friday's meeting. Maybe everyone should come with cameras and create an I am Spartacus moment.


  1. Somebody wrote this words in a comment:
    "when the TRUTH disappears from society...there is NOTHING LEFT"

    It seems that the UFT leadership doesn't want to expose the truth that is in the video taken by Mr. Scott. That is why -- they want to stop people from video taping at the meetings. They are afraid of being exposed with telling lies and not doing their job for the members who pay their dues.

  2. Norm, you should know better! The UFT only wants us to see the videos that show their "good"side. They don't want us to hear the voices of the ATR's crying out for help! Keep up the good work! I am inspired by your work! Let the truth be told! ACCOUNTABILITY IS THE MANTRA I HEAR OVER AND OVER. The union must be accountable to all the members who have worked for years to educate the students of this fine city! We are treated like dirt! Dirt with Masters and PHD's! Not good!

  3. Proofoflife, WELL SAID IT!
    Maybe RW doesn't want to be exposed how she BOYCOTTED the ATR RALLY -- with the wine and cheese, while the other members were freezing outside TWEED.

  4. Mr. Scott:

    Re your remark at the end of
    "Ragging on the Gag Order":

    "Maybe everyone should come with cameras and create an I am Spartacus moment", please allow me to make the following observation.

    Often in life in order for an individual to obtain Justice it comes down to proving who said what to whom and when.

    In the frighteningly bizarre and chillingly Kafkaesque world that has evolved since a morally challenged and Educationally ill prepared phony named Joel Klein managed to have himself appointed schools Chancellor, we have witnessed the savaging of hundreds of dedicated UFT members who were not prepared to march in goose-step fashion to the tune that a delusional Pied Piper played.

    What is so saddening to me, if not altogether puzzling, is how few of those DOE victims thought to do as you suggest, viz. protect themselves from being Railroaded via the use of cameras and tape recorders.

    Because if one cannot prove something happened- then it never happened. Try to prove otherwise.

    Surely if one knows he/she is working in a hostile environment, it seems only prudent to carry a tape recorder and keep a video camera set up in the back of his/her class room.

    Is the above really feasible one might ask?

    The short answer is yes. I know because as a NYC teacher for 37 years I did exactly what I have suggested here.

    Strangely, during my long (and highly decorated) career I was never able to convince a single teacher to take steps to protect themselves from the Education hacks and second rate, ethically challenged minds that seem to crave being addressed and labelled "Administrators".

    That is to say human beings who have the power to destroy another human being's professional career and by extension- whole Life.

    This regrettable state of affairs has often caused me to reflect on Vachel Lindsay's haunting poem:

    The Leaden-Eyed by Vachel Lindsay (US 1879-1931)


    Let not young souls be smothered out before
    They do quaint deeds and fully flaunt their pride.

    It is the world’s one crime its babes grow dull,
    Its poor are oxlike, limp and leaden-eyed.

    Not that they starve, but starve so dreamlessly;
    Not that they sow, but that they seldom reap;

    Not that they serve, but have no gods to serve;
    Not that they die, but that they die like sheep.

    In the absence of anyone else to protect them when will teachers wake up and begin to take the steps necessary to protect themselves ?

  5. I agree anon 4:53. I learned that lesson when I was defending a para and put a tape recorder on the table and they went crazy. There is even new technology that enables video taping. We can all have cameras installed in our eye glasses and Randi will have to have their glasses checked at the door.

  6. Sometimes circumstances dictate
    "guerilla" videotaping. I think this was clearly an instance where one could justify the use of recording. What Norm puts out will be shocking, no doubt, and useful. In our reality-tv, video game, internet you-tube world, people more and more need to see images on screens in order to believe and understand something. Print has become problematic.

    However, is ICE saying that UFTers should have the right to
    videotape/record our union's DAs and other meetings? If so, is there a belief behind this that thinks this will keep our leadership "straight?"

    This is foolish. How many UFTers, if polled, would say "sure" when asked: Do you think it is ok for UFTers to randomly tape other UFTers without their permission in union meetings? Not many.

    This resolution on the part of our leadership is an attempt to marginalize us at the DA (maybe not so important)but also at the school level because they are beginning to understand that some UFTers are becoming activated to organize other members. This is a legitimate threat to their power structure. They would much rather we sit in meetings once or twice a month and strategize for DAs.

    Throwing hissy fits about the E-Board resolution is just what they want.

    Here are some ideas: Let's take cameras outside of schools and conduct a series of reports on the shenanigans of the DOE. Think of it as a war correspondant's role in trying to bring to light the insanities of our school system. Could you imagine ed blogs showing videos of the outside of schools that include "voice over" information and stories about pyscho, inexperienced principals? Passing out leaflets to parents at elementary schools that explain what Klein is doing to our system? Conducting interviews with teachers who share their horror stories on camera (disguised if they feel more comfortable)? Distributing leaflets that state what chapter leaders should be doing in their school (especially to elementary school teachers who are the most oppressed and from informal"research" are more likely than not to want to bother with their CLs or attend meetings if meetings are even held)?

    Let's create pressure at the school level to force CLs and delegates to actually attend DA meetings. Let's encourage as many UFTers as possible to come to pack the DA and take ownership over their union meetings by demanding democratic flows of information. Who will take up Marilyn Voight-Downy's challenge to Randi to open things up? To create more time for discussion? Randi said sure. There is a DA campaign worth undertaking.

    The more people who attend the DA, the harder it will be for her to not acquiesce.

    It's time to pay less attention to Randi and Unity and more attention to UFTers all across our city who wait for us to find them.

    Let's take the union right out from under them.

    Here is a question to consider once per week: How many new UFT contacts have I made this week?

    Tired of Whining
    Tired of Complaining
    Tired of Waiting for things to just happen
    Tired of being Tired

  7. "Do you think it is ok for UFTers to randomly tape other UFTers without their permission in union meetings?"

    I don't think we're advocating that but the taping of union officials.

    However, you are right. This is not a major issue for us.

    Your closing is what is important.

    "It's time to pay less attention to Randi and Unity and more attention to UFTers all across our city who wait for us to find them.

    Let's take the union right out from under them.

    Here is a question to consider once per week: How many new UFT contacts have I made this week?"

    Agree wholeheartedly. The union is racing around gathering emails of all the teachers so they can send out their propaganda directly. We need to do the same.

    Get email lists of every single UFT member in your schools and beyond. Start a list and forward info to those lists.

    At some point there will be an organizing effort - like come out to an event at a time and place and wouldn't it be great to use the Obama like technique of a massive contact list?

  8. Yes Norm. Glad you agree.

    Of course, it would be taping of union officials but that is not how Unity would play it.

    Better to not make a stink about this...I make them feel the heat in the aforementioned ways (your comments and previous comments).

  9. No stink. But I reserve the right to tape when I feel it is appopriate. For instance at DA's where we might want to record our own speakers and of course union officials. But the reality is that it is a big pain in the ass to sit there and tape for hours. I just need soem file footage at times for background on commentary I might be doing - B-role stuff.

    Anyway, get get them emails and send the list to me if you want for a master list. OR just forward stuff to your list. Working on some kind of weekly update for email purposes.

  10. Where is the tape? I'm waiting to see this tape like I waited for the 18 minutes of Nixon tape. C'mon Norm, enough with the hype and out with the tape.

  11. 18 minutes of more of the same... hot air. Give it up Un-Normal.

  12. I don't think you want to see the tape. The way you were drinking the wine .... is enough to show the way you spend the UFT members' dues.

  13. Norm,

    Take your time and craft your tape to make the most powerful point. We can wait.

    I would ask that we have a small party or something when you unveil it.

    I will bring the popcorn if you bring the wine and cheese.

    I will also distribute t-shirts that read:

    "Then let them eat cake."

    It will have an X running through it and underneath it will read:

    "Let us drink wine and eat cheese."

    What do you say Norm?



  14. Would it be wise to attack this from the opposite end. The meetings are taped already by the UFT. The cameras and microphones are already there and being used. Is it possible/legal to ask for those tapes, or to ask that these things not be used. Is there such a thing as FOIA for us within our union.


Comments are welcome. Irrelevant and abusive comments will be deleted, as will all commercial links. Comment moderation is on, so if your comment does not appear it is because I have not been at my computer (I do not do cell phone moderating). Or because your comment is irrelevant or idiotic.