Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The UFT Drops Age Discrimination Suit

There's a long story about the supposed UFT age discrimination law suit, which Ed Notes branded as bogus and just a publicity stunt all along. Here's some more background:

It seems I was the first to raise this issue in a public forum at an Executive Board meeting back in the fall of 2004 or 2005 when I and Betsy Combier helped defend a teacher from John Adams HS at a U-rating hearing. The UFT rep assigned was basically helpless and only wanted to address the letters in the teacher's file,not the underlying causes of why the letters were placed there.

When I raised age discrimination, even the hearing officer perked up, saying, "I'm older and that would be terrible." I angrily called the Queens borough office and got a run-around.

So that night I went to the UFT Ex bd meeting, livid at UFT inaction, asking why I, in no way officially connected to the UFT, had to be the one to use age discrimination as a defense. I think Betsy may have been there and she can corroborate the story if she was.

UFT leaders feigned surprise in the Claude Rains Captain Renault tone of "there's gambling here" that such a thing could exist and disingenuously announced at the next Delegate Assembly that teachers suspecting age discrimination should contact the UFT. Randi Weingarten emailed me asking for names and I sent her some. Then the UFT held a press conference with some teachers and announced a suit.

I knew it was bullshit because someone on the inside tipped me off that 25 teachers in Bay Ridge in Brooklyn has filed a suit a year earlier against District 20 Supt Vinnie Grippo, a political ally of the UFT, and their lawyer was not only getting no help from the UFT, but obstruction. The act of making it seem they hadn't heard of such a thing was academy award material.

Chaz writes about it here, Randi & Joel Do It Again - The UFT Secretly Dropped Their Age Discrimination Lawsuit When They Signed The Unenforceable ATR Agreement based on a report from JD2718, a New Action member of the Executive Board. (Since 8 New Action members only got on the Executive Board with Unity Caucus endorsement, you have to read between the lines. I read it as barely suppressed rage. Or at least, that is what I'm hoping, as it would be nice to see New Action, whose existence depends on being propped up by Unity as a bogus opposition, actually take some action.)

I wrote about this story numerous times and if you want to follow the trail, search the blog for "age discrimination suit."

Here is my October 2007 post:

What happened to the Age Discrimination lawsuit?

The UFT has been making the rounds of the Reassignment Centers. UFT Rep Jeff Huart was asked this question:

What happened to the Age Discrimination lawsuit?

Jeff Huart: The UFT is going forward with the lawsuit. People who believe they qualify should get their information in to the union.
Question: But information is out there that the UFT is not going forward with it.
Huart: The UFT is going forward with that one and the one for the people in the Reassignment Centers.
Question: Do teachers know about the general age discrimination lawsuit. Many teachers claim never to have heard about it.
Huart: District reps went to all the schools to tell about it.

How many schools do District Reps reach a week? Might as well use a milk carton and string to deliver the message. Not in the NY Teacher. Not in the UFT Weekly Updates to chapter leaders. Not a flyer handed out at the Delegate Assembly, or even an announcement to have senior teachers contact the union. But whispers from District Reps (those that are competent or awake). That's showing you are serious about age discrimination.

When your union functions as little more than a public relations factory, what can you expect?

15 comments:

  1. I am really confused now.

    I was part of an age discrimination lawsuit the UFT set in motion for me — but the lawyers were NYSUT lawyers, who filed a charge on my behalf with the EEOC against the DoE for discriminating against me on the basis of age. Nowhere in my paperwork is "UFT" mentioned, just NYSUT.

    The last I heard from the NYSUT lawyers (before I withdrew from the lawsuit in November) was July 11. They sent me at that time a copy of their response to the DoE's comments on my original documentation. (July to November is four months of no contact. In those months, the UFT was negotiating and agreeing to the side agreement. I was not aware of any of that.)

    Until now I've been assuming that I was part of that lawsuit the UFT withdrew when they negotiated that side agreement — but maybe not.

    Did the UFT have its own lawsuit for age discrimination different from the one I was involved in?

    And were each of us who went through individual lawsuits with NYSUT lawyers (we didn't all have the same one) actually taking part in a different set of lawsuits — a group of them really, all filed individually?

    Please can someone clarify.

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  2. I think it's the same suit. The UFT just probably passed it onto nysut.

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  3. I believe they were actually two different suits. I too was part of the lawsuit. I was receiving mail from both the UFT lawyers and the NYSUT lawyers. In fact, the UFT mail told me to sit tight so I ignored the NYSUT mail and wound up passing the 90 day limit. When I finally got tired of waiting on the UFT lawyers and contacted them again, I was told that it had been already been passed onto NYSUT. I did not know that, especially since I was receiving mail from the UFT. When I got in touch with the NYSUT lawyers I was told that since I hadn't responded to THEM (although I had of course responded to the UFT mailings), it was now too late. I asked to appeal that decision and went through the motions of an appeal. The appeal was turned down by the NYSUT upper echelon. I was very angry but the NYSUT lawyer did tell me, off the record, that I was unlikely to win anyway since I had already tried to appeal through the grievance process.
    My lawsuit was based on the fact that no teachers from my closing school were picked for the new schools forming in my old building. I couldn't even get an interview at first at one of them and the UFT people on the committee screwed up. So I grieved and the DoE turned my grievance down -- surprise surprise! Anyway, the NYSUT lawyer said that since I had gone through the appeal process it was unlikely that it would be viewed as age discrimination.

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  4. BurntOut, thank you so much.

    THIS IS BEGINNING TO LOOK LIKE MORE OF A BOONDOGGLE THAN I HAD THOUGHT !!!

    PS: You give yourself too little credit. You're only "burnt out" because it's so difficult fighting for kids and union with this BloomKleinGarten triumverate. You need superhuman resources for that, and it's taking its toll on all activist teachers.

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  5. I was also part of the UFT agediscrimination lawsuit. Which was a gimmick from the start. It seems that this lawsuit did not go anywhere. It just went to the EEOC and the EEOC determined that:

    "...there was no direct evidence that age was a factor in the Department's failure to offer you an interview or a position despite your numerous applications through the Open Market."
    I bet that the EEOC got this result without investigating at all. I couldn't believe that the NYSUT lawyers couldn't present a good case with all the evidence I gave it to them. The whole thing is a circle of corruption. UFT + DOE + NYSUT = CIRCLE OF CORRUPTION.

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  6. What is EEOC? UFT + DOE+ NYSUT is a circle of corruption is an understatement!

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  7. I just saw our powerful union leader Randi Weingarten on tv today. Was she defending her union members? Was she meeting about the next contract?
    Oh no! She was standing next to Bloomberg at a Gay Marriage Law initiation. Randi is all about Randi and the teachers' union is just a stepping stone in her power grab. I know she is panting to be a state senator and maybe first woman president someday. Teachers are the least of her priorities. We are just things for her to use and discard. After she destroys the UFT she will go happily on to Washington to further a political career.

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  8. The information in your post regarding the age discrimination lawsuit for ATRs was incomplete and misleading. It is important to remember that the age discrimination lawsuit was filed because the system of funding the Department of Education put in place created system-wide disincentives for hiring senior teachers in the ATR pool. The ATR agreement reversed this situation when it created financial incentives to hire ATR’s. In this regard, it is worth recalling that under this agreement, a school could hire for next year two experienced, senior teachers and be charged only the salary of one novice teacher.

    The issue with the data, as stated in the post, was that the information collected was all prior to the ATR agreement. Ultimately, our goal was to remove the disincentive to hire senior members from the ATR pool.

    This in no way diminishes the validity of the individual cases NYSUT has filed at the UFT’s request and will continue to file on behalf of our members. I’m glad to see that you posted that we would continue to pursue individual cases of age discrimination that occur. Members are encouraged to contact their District Representative when they believe age discrimination exists. Additionally, a member can also file a grievance under Article 2 in the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

    LeRoy Barr
    Director of Staff, UFT

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  9. To Leroy Barr:

    Misleading? How's this for misleading.

    When you say the "ATR agreement reversed this situation when it created financial incentives to hire ATR’s" — obviously it did no such thing. 16 ATRs were hired under it, so they say, out of 1700 displaced educators. (And I'm not counting all the High School teachers put into "virtual" excess this past January. Since they can't be officially excessed mid-year, they're referred to as "teachers without programs." But it's the same thing: these people have been pushed out of their jobs and it's not at all sure that they'll ever be placed into real positions again.)

    Misleading?
    The ATR side agreement was only designed for CENTRALLY funded ATRs, not those who remain on their school's budget. It has been extraordinarily convenient for RW and now you to lead people to believe it was made for all ATRs. That side agreement, weak and ineffective as it was, was never more than a selective one at best.

    Misleading?
    With all your supposed clarification, I'm not still not sure which lawsuit is which. For ex., the one I was a part of was individual: me against the DoE. But, as I mentioned above, the UFT was never mentioned in it by name, only NYSUT. Does that mean mine was a "UFT" lawsuit? Or was it, along with all of the other ATRs who went through that process, a third type of lawsuit — not the UFT's at all, but NYSUT's?

    If you want to clarify, now's the time.

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  10. 16 out of 1700, and the UFT is convinced that everything is fine?

    It's pretty clear they've been snookered yet again, and that Tweed is going to continue to use them for cynical PR purposes.

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  11. Leroy,
    You must be kidding when you mention "Members are encouraged to contact their District Representative when they believe age discrimination exists." Most Dist. Reps. do not do their job filing age discrimination for the teachers when schools are reorganized. They go with the DOE. I would like to know how many lawsuists were filed from the 1700 excessed teachers? What did the Union do to help these teachers?

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  12. As one of those 1700 ATRs (and a former mentor highly trained by Klein's Santa Cruz Mentor program) --- two short footnotes.

    1) I have NEVER heard from any reps about my tenuous position as an ATR (I returned to the school I was in 3 years ago) except in a kind of 'aww, that's too bad' head shaking, like when someone tells you have an incurable disease and they're sorry. Certainly NEVER anything about 'age' discrimination and I'm thinking I certainly qualify.

    2) I have repeatedly asked Mr. Mendel to explain how exactly the process for reinstating an ATR within a school works, and have never had a reply (other than a query re my file number and license).

    If Mr. Mendel doesn't know -- who does? And if he does, what's the big secret?

    3) When I recently asked my school rep, she gave me one of those shrugs along with 'the principal knows, if she really wanted to, she would.'

    Hmm, after 20 years of 'S' ratings & paying lots of union dues, I think we can do better for veteran members - don't you?

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  13. When my school was phased out two UFT members named Pat Bonadona and Maria Atia pretended to help us. But it was just a game. These UFT ladies did not do anything for us.

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  14. Why, why all the talk? The UFT under its present leadership- including all the reps who DO NOTHING but collect their dual paychecks- this farce of a union must be decertified. They are in violation of the duty of fair representation and this is what we should be talking about. They are knowingly negligent. KNOWINGLY NEGLIGENT.

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  15. Lets not forget that the UFT leadership refused to fight back when the DOE changed the way they fund schools. Lets not forget that they also gave away senority transfer rights. They cancelled the May 9 rally last year because they "made a deal" with the mayor. They refused to fight his bid for a third term (and to change the laws preventing a 3rd term). It refused to fight mayoral control. Etc.

    I'm a teacher. Not a UFT staffer. UFT's back-door deals and contract give-aways is making my life miserable.

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