Friday, January 30, 2009

January 30, 2009 One School's Account of Devastating UFT Failure

Jamaica HS Chapter Leader (and fellow ICE'er) James Eterno interrupted his report on the Delegate Assembly to chronicle the devastating impact of the failure of the UFT to protect its members. I extracted it and am re-publishing this powerful statement on the predicament strong union people like James face in the light of major budget cuts to come. You might also want to check out my friend Vera's sharp criticism of the UFT on where they were all these years when the city was flush with money, Responding to Randi.

Since Randi is a regular reader of the blogs, I have a question and I will send this directly to her and some of the Unity hierarchy. How am I going to convince my members to attend a UFT rally at City Hall on March 5 when they feel abandoned by the Central UFT?

Back in 2007, the secretaries at Jamaica filed a group grievance saying that school aides were doing their jobs. In 2008, their Chapter Leader, Jackie Ervolina, came to Jamaica and urged us to support the UFT's citywide grievance on this issue. We agreed. Last spring the UFT told us they won the citywide case. To date, nothing has improved at Jamaica.

Part of this situation at my school goes back as far as 2006 and before. A secretary who had been doing evening school for many years was replaced by a school aide for most of her hours in 2006. She has been waiting almost three years for arbitration. In addition, two secretaries filed workload disputes. The disputes died at the Superintendent's level. One was supposed to be reconvened in February 2008 and never was.

Our secretaries stood together as a group and were told by the UFT to stand tall and fight. They are a shining example of trade unionism. What has the UFT done in return? When we email their Chapter Leader, or talk to our District Representative, we are told to wait and wait and wait and wait and then wait some more. Do you think I am going to be able to get these courageous UFT members out to a rally? They feel they have been abandoned by the UFT as three have since been excessed. Two of these are ATR's and the other is out of Jamaica.

Furthermore, how do I convince a teacher who can't get an answer from the DOE on her Family and Medical Leave Act request that she applied for in December, to come to a rally? A few days ago this person was told by the UFT that we have to be patient because the DOE is slow. Federal law gives the employer five business days to respond to a FMLA request; the UFT tells us to wait, and wait and wait some more.

How am I going to persuade the many teachers who lost parking permits to come to the rally? Jamaica lost many of our legal parking spaces, not just permits, under the new procedure implemented in the fall. We complained in September and haven't heard from the UFT in months on this issue?

How do I tell the Absent Teacher Reserves in my school that they should come to a rally when some aren't put back on our school's budget even when they are teaching full programs (planning, teaching, and assessing)? We've been working with Michael Mendel on this all year and the Principal basically refuses to move unless the situation is obvious and even then it takes a long time for action.

Administration improperly excessed a UFT Delegate and it took us two months, a great deal of effort and a grievance to get her back. Both the delegate and I thanked Mendel personally for helping us in this arduous fight but the central UFT has allowed conditions to exist in the schools where Principals can try to illegally excess a union activist with impunity.

In addition, a teaching fellow was teaching a full time math program all fall but the school would not put him on our Table of Organization. The UFT was informed. Once again, patience was preached. This young teacher ended up finding a job at another school rather than risk getting fired on February 3. Subsequently, that full time math position was left vacant (filled with coverages) for the last two months of the semester. The UFT has told us nothing. Another math teacher who was excessed and is at another school, applied to return to Jamaica and grieved. How do I convince these people that the Union cares about them?

A colleague and I have emailed Randi several times on how the Principal habitually violated our Contract. There are plenty of other examples I could cite but let me just sum up by saying that if I had a dime for each time a UFT member came to me and said that they trust me but the UFT is full of you know what, I would have the salary of a UFT officer. OK that's a little exaggeration but you get the point.

If this is the situation at Jamaica High School where we are not afraid to stand up to the DOE as we rallied at a Panel for Educational Policy meeting last year and wrote to the state twice this school year demanding equity for our school, I can only imagine what is occurring at other Chapters.

To Randi and Unity readers: I'll be there on March 5 and I'll urge people to join me, but could you please give me some tips on what I can say to get my members to have some faith in a Union that is great for "lip service" but has let us down on so many occasions.


  1. In the 60's the Merry Pranksters would create farcical disruptions to expose political hippocracy. It is time to begin a relentless, ongoing campaign to change the UFT. March 25th you say?

    There will be a meeting @ the Georgia Diner @ 1pm on Sunday, Feb. 1st. All are welcome.

  2. The Union does not do anything for the members. ATR and RRteachers have been waiting for justice for so many years -- and what does RW do for them? Nothing. We wait, and wait for justice. On March 5 RW can wait alone or with a few teachers at the Rally. Many teachers will not go.

  3. MOST teachers will not go.

    Randi: Why not pay them to go, if you think it's so important. I'd rather pay 50,000 members to go to a rally to support education funding than send all your Unity people en masse to the AFT conventions.

  4. Have some chants and / or signs for the rally.

    For the overwhelming majority:

    We are poor little lambs who have lost our way Bah, Bah, Bah.
    No matter who we look to we‘ll get eaten by wolves, Mike, Joel, Randi...

    For the rest:

    Hey Hey Ho Ho Mike AND Randi have to go.

    Governor Paterson: What ARE your priorities? Willing to cut 15,000 teachers, but Unwilling to raise taxes on the rich. Shame!

    Prez Obama: You’ve let us all downa!
    Our children’s education is gettin’ cut AND Duncan-ed.

    Merry Pranksters belong at such events; too bad they seem to want to get there 20 days late. But then they could get their own permit I suppose... They’ll probably get more attention with their antics. I bet even the Unity Patronage Machine will be laughing in front of their HDTV sets in the privacy of their own homes. But at the next meetings will be appropriately outraged on Mulgrew‘s & Mandel‘s cues.


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