Saturday, August 8, 2009

UFT Contract Questionnaire and UFT Cast of Thousands Contract Committee

The cone of silence descends on the UFT negotiating committee.

Here is a follow-up to our post on the UFT Survey on Thursday (The UFT Survey Says (Gag, Gag).....) which included an analysis by TJC and an opportunity to get a copy of Marian Swerdlow's point by point comparison titled

2006 vs. 2009: A Section-by-Section Guide to What Can We Learn from Comparing Two Questionnaires

Marian said it was ok to include some quotes. Here is a sample of this insightful analysis:
I. Negotiating Priorities
Twenty out of twenty-two of these questions are identical to the 2006 survey. Mostly, this is because we did not get any of the "priorities" we were asked about three years ago. (Examples: "an enforceable process to identify and reduce excessive workload," "less restricted use of sick days," "stronger contract language requiring supervisors to honor program preferences.") The changes are instructive. Gone is a question about "improved medical benefits." This omission, and other changes I'll describe below, make it clear to me that there is a de-emphasis on our medical benefits. My guess is that this is because we are about to make concessions on our medical benefits. Also omitted is "maintaining current pension benefits." As of June 22, that patient died.

She does this for every section. Email me for a copy at

ICE's Vera Pavone also did some analysis:

A couple of points to add to the discussion on the Contract Questionnaire and the Contract Committee. Maybe they were made and I missed them:

1. The contract questionnaire has been distributed to all working members including nurses. Pages 1 through 7 are to be answered by everyone, and then subsequent pages are for different job titles. The questions for every member include items on: class size; adequate equipment and supplies; the 37 ½ minutes; improved working conditions in after-school and summer activities; relief from involuntary coverages; safety and discipline; training and materials for mandated programs; money for instructional materials; hours spent outside school for calling parents, preparing lessons, grading papers. Why should nurses be weighing in on these questions?

2. The issue of class size is posed in the usual divisive manner that we have come to expect from the Unity leadership: We are asked to rate in terms of importance:

“5. lower class size as a part of the contract, but not if it takes money from salary” and

“6. lower class size as a part of the contract, even if it takes money from salary”

Why were questions on class size coupled with salary? Why not all other questions that involve costs—improved facilities, salary supplements, adequate equipment and supplies, improved working conditions in after-school and summer activities, reducing excessive workload?

Of course for almost 40 years the Unity Caucus leaders have consistently posed lower class size against salary as a way of confusing and dividing teachers from one another.

3. The only item on the 37-1/2 minutes is “address concerns regarding use of 37 ½ minutes”. What about the choice of calling for the elimination of the 37 ½ minutes?

4. “School-wide bonus programs should be expanded.” (p. 10) So the choice is between expansion and leaving as is. Shouldn’t teachers have a chance to weigh in on “School-wide bonuses should be eliminated.” Or “School-wide bonuses should not be tied to student test scores.”

4. Student Assessments and Tests (p. 11):

What about the elimination of the high-stakes aspects of tests?

Questions on the Negotiation Committee: How are people chosen to be on this committee? Of the 350 committee members how many are in Unity Caucus? Does secrecy mean that Unity Caucus members don’t discuss the issues brought up for discussion among themselves? Are we to believe that the only discussion that takes place among Unity Caucus members is in the committee room?

Good questions Vera. Ahhh, the negotiating committee and the cone of silence or gag order. I didn't cover some of the aspects of the undemocratic nature of the 350 (it might as well be 3000) negotiating committee. I got this email from someone on the committee:

Each member (secret cult) had to sign a contract that swears them to secrecy. They may have to leave work (school) and if they are requested to do so, they will be paid. Members have to promise to attend all meetings. The issue of discussing what goes on at the meetings is strictly prohibited. That part was in the contract several times.

I'll do more on this farce in the future but here is another interesting email I received:

I have a newbie teacher friend. Very, very new to the UFT and not aware of half the things we have struggled with forever. Anyway, was invited to participate on the UFT Negotiation Committee. What's the story on that?? How are they "choosing" random teachers to work on the new contract? Not to mention brand new people who know nothing about the contract and how members have been sold out over the years. I think this is crazy!



  1. It is very easy to criticize but more difficult to be constructive. So, take the easy route.

    I grew up in a family of members of the communist party. My folks were put on trial. The golden rule, don't destroy your union, help build.

    In 1968 I crossed the picket line. I was a student. To this day, I don't believe my parents forgave me. But I learned a lesson. I joined the young Black Panthers party, a small group of activists in my high school. In this small party we met with the administrators and impacted our school. African American history became a mandatory course (but also a desired course by the majority of the students in our school).

    I learned lessons there...big lessons. You can tear anything apart from the outside...but when you infiltrate and make your voice can make a difference.

    I admire the critiques of these blogs, I respect the opinions and try to incorporate them into my own thoughts...sometimes they make sense, sometimes they don't. Differences are good, they make for good debate.

    Problem is that I don't find this blog to be a debate. I find it to be a thoughtless attack.

    Sorry, just a Sunday kind of thought. Have a good day and keep up the work. Hopefully one day you will "get it"..

  2. I appreciate your comments and attention.

    Ed Notes is not looking for a debate or to be constructive in the sense you speak of.

    It is not out to present a fair and balanced view of the UFT or the DOE. Both have massive PR operations to tell their side.

    We have made a choice about the UFT and where it stands and there is a need for a rank and file movement that can organize teachers. Thus the heavy level of criticism.

    Ed Notes is an organizing tool that has been a factor in organizing ICE one of the leading opposition parties in the UFT. It has also been a tool in organizing GEM - the Grassroots Education Movement.

    I consider those very constructive groups. So yes ed notes is constructive in building forces to oppose the DOE and the UFT, not to work them to find consensus or debate issues.

  3. Opposing positions are always a good thing. Afterall it permits all of our readers, no matter what side they stand with, to think. Thinking is a good thing.

    If Ed Notes is an organizing tool that is instrumental in ICE and GEM, why not join forces and call for a small roundtable with the UFT, a closed door kind of thing...where without bravado and name may be able to get something done.

    Afterall, as a leftist, involved in other kinds of issues, I have always found that an inch of movement goes a long way.

    Why pose yourself at the delegate assembly as "crazies", not my words. As a participant in the da, I watch a fellow named Jonathan always make a well stated, well informed that I generally agree with and vote with.

    Yippies and anarchists are old school (again, my opinion). Stop the ranting and raving, gain some will be surprised about those of us who will listen.

    Understand that the attempt here is to legitimize your views. One quick example, the blog on the exec board was totally mischaracterized. Why do that? I attended to observe the process and then your blog was a ranting untruth.

    Anyway, off to do my work, be well....

  4. ". . . why not join forces and call for a small roundtable with the UFT, a closed door kind of thing . . ."

    Hah, hah, hah, hah, hah ...

    Norm, shelve this in the Unity Hack blog where it belongs.

  5. Dear Julie,

    I am not a Unity Hack and resent that you resort to namecalling. It reinforces your lack of desire to converse in a constructive way. Too bad. I thought I could participate in this discussion but I may have been wrong. So Norm, your choice, am I shelved as a hack or treated with the respect that I would treat you and the opinions of your colleagues?

    Julie, all you can do with serious business is a hah, hah, hah!!! So very sad.

  6. Anon 7:21
    Though I think you are in Unity or New Action, I don't think you are a hack. Hacks wouldn't put up a serious statement like you did.

    I'm willing to debate anything, but I want to warn you. I disagree fundamentally with so much of what you say in such a short space.

    I'll respond in a main line post when I can get to it.

    I do find it interesting that you have to remain anon since if you were in high school in '68 you must be retired or near to it. If you fear your own union, then that says a lot. But so be it.

  7. The point is there is no opportunity provided to have a round table or any input in major decisions made by our union. ( if you speak out against something or have an opinion you are a "crazy" at DA! ) As for the negotiation committee I don't understand why a few leaders( DR's) of the UFT INVITE people to attend the negotiation committee meetings. Why wasn't there a posting somewhere that INVITED any due paying member to participate if they so desired. According to the contract principals are to post all vacancies ( CL's are encouraged to make sure this process is adhered to) yet our union picks and chooses whom they want to sit on the negotiations of our contract. Sounds like they want "yes" people . Also , why should the "talks" be a great big secret? What are they trying to hide?? I don't get it.

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. Thank you for not shelving me! I am not in Unity, I am not in new action!

    I remain anonymous for special reasons, perhaps growing up in a home with tremendous paranoia from the McCarthy era.

    I am not near retirement because this is a third career. My first was at a University (the PhD was easy enough, the publishing about irrelevant issues was over the top). Second career was working with activist groups...never made enough to survive on...third career in education. Enough about me, this isn't about me.

    This is about a group of activists with a voice who should be heard loud and clear. I don't believe any caucus has the answer. I do believe that agreeing to disagree on issues and moving on to protect the members and the kids is the motivation that we all have. Sounds liberal, but that is a "dirty" word in my vocabulary.

    Administering a huge union is a daunting task...I could only imagine. All of us have been part of the leadership of groups where the dissidents have lots of criticism but never any ideas to bring to the table. I am sure that you know exactly what I mean.

    A Monday wish, before I run, is that there could be a serious dialogue with serious and constructive criticisms.

    By the way, I was not chosen for the committee on negotiations, I asked to be included and I was included. It was explained to me that there was an attempt to balance the committee. Maybe true, maybe not...but I am on it and intend to have my minority opinion heard.

    Have a productive day....

  10. Anon- you should make up initials.

    I'm going to bring this debate onto a new thread soom as you raise some interesting issues about how we view unions and the UFT in particular.

    I did want to address some points you made in your comments.

    "crazies?" I know leaders of New Action have referred to people in ICE that way. Why not give examples of crazy stuff at DAs by ICE people. Fiorillo's critique of mayoral control? Or charters? Our calls for democratic functionning? Our positon on class size? High stakes testing? Defense of teacher rights? Show me crazy.

    "I find it to be a thoughtless attack."

    "One quick example, the blog on the exec board was totally mischaracterized. Why do that? I attended to observe the process and then your blog was a ranting untruth."

    I reread that piece and I'd like to see where it was untrue. Is it fair and balanced? Of course not. Ed Notes expresses my subjective view of that meeting. You saw one thing and i another. Neither view was untrue. Read it again and show me the untruths. Perhaps you didn't know the behind the scenes events.

    And by the way, if you were there, you noticed that one UFT ex pres seems to read these thoughtless comments quite often.

    As to the use of the words "thoughtless attack." Attack yes. But thoughtless? I think this blog does make connections on a broad base. Remember, ed notes is only a blog for 3 years but is an extension of the pub ed notes which has been around since 1996. Thoughtless? When we spoke about the impact of high stakes testing or mayoral control before anyone else spoke out. We talked about charter schools as far back as 1998.

    There is a thread running through many of the themes and attacks here. Do you also object to the attacks on BloomKlein or is it selective to the UFT?

    More in the future on how you view the UFT that can worked from within while after 40 years I view it as ruled that a leadership that must be undermined and removed, no matter how impossible that may seem at this time.

  11. Subs finally got represented on the Contract Questionnaire on pg. 14. Last time we were not even listed.
    Let us see what actuially gets written into the new sub teacher contract. Not one word was ever mentioned to any member when in 2005 the DOE implemented that million dollar debacle called "Sub Central" that is being used to eliminate our employment AND our unemployment.I will be watching this very closely.

  12. Thanks for the advice on initials. I will do so when I have had my third cope of coffee.

    I in no means that that "crazies" is a term that characterizes the opposition. The points are well thought out and forward thinking. I agree with almost everyone of them.

    I know that there was a conversation prior to the nomination of Mulgrew, there did not "appear" to be a request to speak though. That is what I was told when I inquired. Maybe I was not told the truth. But to say you were gagged, is not exactly the truth either.

    I did get a copy of the constitution and read the very short document and it appears...from my reading that nominations can only come from the exec board. My recollection is that it is not what was in the blog. Again, I may be wrong.

    In any event, I find the dialogue useful and will continue, with initials...after my third copy of copy. take care.

  13. Sorry to be so jaded and cynical, but why is everyone debating the survey, the composition of the negotiating committee, etc?


    Do you really think Randi took dives on mayoral control (although, yes, she does have an ideological affinity for it) and term limits, and has publicly groveled before the mayor over his management/dictatorship of the schools, without receiving something in return?

    She left when she did so that this fall, in exchange for the above and for letting Bill Thompson twist in the wind, Michael Mulgrew could be made to appear to negotiate a contract, thus setting him up for an electoral "triumph" in the spring of 2010.

    Randi thinks many steps ahead, and is a master manipulator. Give the devil his/her due.

  14. So jaded and cynical that you believe that there is a handshake or a signed deal on a contract? Randi is very smart and perhaps a manipulator beyond belief, but word has it that she is not the president any longer. Any deal she may have secured would be irrelevant.

    I am reaching out to Mulgrew to see if he will be inclusive about other points of views....points a bit more progressive than the party line. Miraculously I am meeting with him to discuss inclusion....time will tell.

    But remember the demographics of the union....getting younger, not so "liberal"...and their voice either needs to be heard. The unique alternative is to dialogue about education reform, reform of unions, voices from the field.

    Ok...sorry...only two cups down.

  15. How would a deal Randi negotiated be irrelevant? And so what if she is no longer the official leader of the UFT: do you really think she has handed off control of the tail that wags the AFT dog?

    Indeed, as I stated in my first response, a previously negotiated deal - whether explicit or a nod-and-a wink affair - would have the very real political benefit for Mr. Mulgrew of making him the man who brought home the bacon to the membership, and would provide cover for the UFT's passive support for Bloomberg's re-election.

    You don't really think the UFT is going to actively oppose him, do you?

    And in fact, it is the Unity leadership, not this longtime observer of the union, which is jaded and cynical. I'm merely pointing out their behavior, as opposed to their rhetoric.

    Good luck in your reaching out to Mr. Mulgrew. I'm sure that he's a good conversationalist.

    Perhaps you will prove me wrong, but when it comes to UFT policy, my wager is that they will continue to predictably take the most opportunistic path, one that undermines teachers and public education. In my twelve years as a member and many years as an observer, they have rarely followed the road less traveled.

  16. I would have to agree with Michael on those salient points. If it were not a done deal contract, why are the members filling out a survey so late in the year. The last contract was negotiated one year before the end of the contract, yet this contract is supposed to be negotiated with a survey that was distributed with 60% of the members on vacation and 4 months before the expiration date. I am NOT jaded but I am disappointed on how the contract negotiation process is being handled. Why shouldn't some of the members be leary about the survey, the contract negotiation, and the wink-wink we've fooled the members again? You start to wonder who's truly deceptive the mayor, the chancellor, or the union.

  17. To anon Aug 11 & 12

    First this point:
    "I know that there was a conversation prior to the nomination of Mulgrew, there did not "appear" to be a request to speak though. That is what I was told when I inquired. Maybe I was not told the truth. But to say you were gagged, is not exactly the truth either.

    I called in asking for speaking time during the 10 minutes at the beginning of the meetings as is the procedure. My intention was to raise James Eterno as a candidate for consideration though as you mention only EB members can actually nominate.

    My point was that this narrow restriction is undemocratic - holding a coronation. Especially when the EB is stacked with 100% people endorsed by Unity caucus.

    When I quietly pointed out to Mendel he told me that there is no 10 minute speakign time at these kind of meetings. I guess they make up new rules as they go along.

    "My recollection is that it is not what was in the blog. Again, I may be wrong."

    You are right in that I didn't give the technical details on the blog other than I asked to speak at per procedure and was turned down. I call that gagging but you may have another definition.

    On this point:
    "But remember the demographics of the union....getting younger, not so "liberal"...and their voice either needs to be heard. The unique alternative is to dialogue about education reform, reform of unions, voices from the field."

    I disagree that the younger teachers are less liberal. Also that holding dialogues with the people running the union who have enabled BloomKlein is what is important. What is important is organizing the rank and file to oppose these people.

    As to your meeting with Mulgrew, Randi met with everone. She and I had years of dialogue before I "got it" - the leadership plays people along to deflect them from organizing against them and has little interest in change. Mulgrew may well give you a voice but ask him to change the basic undemocratic nature of the union - like the constitution so that 100% of the exec bd is not Unity endorsed or the way they pack the DA with UNity and retirees - should there be 300 retiree members of the DA?

    Do you think there is some percentage of working members in classrooms who do not support Unity? Where is their voice at the top levels of the union?

    How about district rep elections and other reforms? I can give you a list.

  18. Everything is very open and very clear explanation of issues.
    Employment Questionnaire


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