Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Commentary on the UFT Bogus "It's DOE Mismanagement" Campaign and Tonight's PR PEP Rally

UPDATED (see last paragraphs): 11am.

It ain't over 'till its over could be the theme of tonight's PEP meeting at Brooklyn Tech, which will be covered live by NY1. People pretty much assume that with the mayor controlling the majority of PEP votes and even some borough reps joining in, there is no way to reverse the vote. Thus I find it interesting that the UFT, the enablers of mayoral control, is urging people to go to the meeting to protest (respectfully).

Then what? The UFT will tell people you put up a good fight but there is nothing we can do. And they are right - from their capabilities. But as our rally on Jan. 21 at Bloomberg's house (ignored by the UFT) indicated, there are people who will not give up the fight. And groups like GEM and CAPE are leading the way.

Yesterday, the Bronx UFT held another poorly organized event at the Bronx courthouse. The had less people than we had at Bloomberg's. How pathetic. Tonight there will be a big turnout, not because of the UFT but because teachers, parents and students at 20 closing schools see it as their last chance to effect a change. Maybe the pressure will cause a few Bloomberg PEP members to waver a bit. But I doubt it. They have no interest in children.

The UFT will make hay of the photo-op and claim: "See, we tried" before folding up its tent. Oh, we will see more events for PR purposes. There is an election to get through and they have to make sure no ICE-TJC candidates slip through onto the executive board to raise sticky questions.

In this video of my speech at the Jamaica HS closing school hearing on Jan. 7, I address the issues of privatization and discuss how the UFT claims that the closing schools are a result of mismanagement is bogus. In fact, BloomKlein and the privatizers are very adept at managing the undermining of public education. The true mismanager is the UFT, which has been their handmaiden.

Could tonight's PEP vote to endorse the closing of the schools and to extend the PAVE charter school be pretty much a fait accompli if the UFT had used every ounce of its energy to stop mayoral control in its tracks? I don't only mean the renewal this summer, but the original implementation back in 2002. Could they close schools so easily and dump the teachers out (the real reason for the closings) if the 2005 contract had not ended the seniority system? Could they undermine the public schools so easily if the UFT had taken a firm stand opposing charters and had not in fact opened its own charters in public school buildings?

I make the point in the speech that this privatization movement is occurring in urban centers all over the nation. Does anyone believe the UFT is not aware of this? Certainly they are. As far back as the day Weingarten came out for mayoral control in May 2001, I put an article by George Schmidt on the Chicago debacle on the table of every single UFT Executive Board member at the meeting that night. Ed Notes from that point on and ICE beginning with its formation in Nov. 2003 and GEM from its formation last year have consistently pointed to this national attack. But the UFT chooses to intentionally keep the membership uninformed and tries to make it look like it is Joel Klein's mismanagement and not part of a national movement by the privatizers.

What can be their motives to intentionally mislead the membership? I have my ideas, but I'll leave it to the readers to come up with your own ideas.


  1. Thanks, Norm, for your clear analysis.

  2. Norm, you were again "on the money"! Need more folks to address this corporate-government scheme to let our public schools spiral farther downward so that city mayors can justify closings, private charters and profiteering. DOE designed school failures create fertile ground for the media's scapegoating of educators and to rally the unsuspecting communities to clamor for that deceitful change, union-busting,charters, privatization.
    We need to better circulate those corporate documents that expose the thinking of billionaires(e.g.Bill Gates, Waltons) who target those 800-900 billion in public dollars spent annually on US students. Gotta stop these Wall St.mobsters and their City Government enablers who aim to convert our children into stock market commodities. It's their pocketbooks first, not the children!

  3. I was at the court house. If that was a demonstration then I am Miss America. They were playing music "tonights going to be a good night" and the news got a bunch of teachers clapping and dancing like it was a huge party. Never again! It was a farce!

  4. It felt like the people who showed up were choreographed to stand behind the speakers. And, yes, party music for a school rally is really in poor taste. The Bloomberg's townhouse rally was livelier, better and more people showed up. I certainly hope there are more like that one. UFT or no UFT.

  5. Norm great post. The schools are closing because Randy W. sold us out with the 2005 contract. And Mulgrew is just following RW directives. Where is the change with the UFT?

  6. Norm you are right on the money about the money. I often wonder why more people don't realize that the charter schools for the most part only enroll students that are already on grade level thereby invalidating any bogus claims of comparable of greater student growth with their public school counterparts.

  7. It's only about the all mighty dollar! Nothing more! People in America are greedy! Let's see how many millions "I" can make by completely destroying our next generations education, yeah sounds good!

  8. Sorry I accidentally posted this to another blog entry...

    In this, the UFT is playing a role somewhat similar to the role the AMA plays in the healthcare debate, stubbornly backing the health insurance companies in their effort to prevent single-payer (public access) to healthcare. The bureaucratic misleadership of both ignores the fact that they're slitting their rank-and-file's throats. I don't want to over-extend the parallel, because the AMA isn't and doesn't pretend to be a union, although at times the UFT DOES present itself as a "professional association," rather than a union. This distinction is key, because we ARE wage workers and our strength IS collective. This gets back to the issue you posed at the end of your essay, Norm. The "why?" First, particularly in the public sector, union leaders are in a close, often revolving-door relationship with their sectors' management (i.e., the government, and more particularly with the Democratic Party machinery). Second, they've bought into the legal'rules of the game' imposed on us (i.e., the Taylor Law, etc.). Third, they enjoy privileges and perks not available to their members. Fourth -- relating to the second point -- their maximum *political* expression is through the Democratic Party, to whose limits of acceptable discourse (to quote Chomsky) and social role they tightly adhere. Finally, they fear an organized, energized, activist, empowered and ant-authoritarian membership more than they fear management. We have the potential to overturn their apple cart, to cost them their privileges and privileged access to power, even to vote them out of office, when it suits us. Hence a response which is narrowly constrained to acceptable channels, timid and luke-warm, and guaranteed to demobilize.

  9. 19 schools were slated to be closed last night. The scumbags on the PEP passed the motions. As many speakers pointed out last night, the PEP has no authority to do this. We the workers, students, and teachers have the power to stop this. Last night not one person spoke in favor of a single school closing — not even from the panel which approved 19 of them. There is a unanimous consensus that these cuts are racist, classist attacks and must be stopped.

    Now is the crucial moment. The sham PEP has been fully exposed. We must take matters into our own hands. We must walkout, occupy and strike to stop ALL school closings, layoffs, fare hikes, Metrocard cuts — all attacks on students, workers and the oppressed.

    The UFT leaders must be exposed for their treachery. After weeks of demonstrations called by grassroots coalitions fed up with the UFT rubber stamping Bloomberg’s policies, the UFT leaders were forced to mobilize some rather small portions of their membership for the demonstration and meeting last night. This is not enough. The UFT, together with students and parents, has the power to shut the entire city down. Instead, union leaders share stages with politicians who pay lip service but scramble to keep us from mobilizing. The union leaders try to give us chances to symbolically display our anger without making a real fight or winning real change.

    We cannot accept this intolerable situation. Thousands of teachers are facing layoffs, thousands of Black and Latino students are being displaced from their schools, and 500,000 students with free/reduced-cost Metrocards will lose these by September. Just like the UFT refuses to mobilize its teachers for a strike or actions to stop the closings, TWU100 refuses to mobilize transit workers against the MTA’s attacks on working class students.

    Those of us who see and expose these betrayals must come together in common action. We must fight together so strongly that the union leaders have no choice but to support us or be sidelined entirely.

    Now that the PEP has voted, we must immediately begin preparations for escalated and continued struggle, while realizing that many of our so-called “leaders” will be ready to drop the struggle and accept the PEP’s many-year plan to attack, underfund and close public schools.

    Sending a message is not enough. We must make the change we seek.

    NOW we must immediately fight together on these grounds:






  10. A blogger mentioned the 2005 contract that Randi concocted sideswiped the members because of the dangling salary increase of 15%. Think about it for a minute; was it really Randi? Many of the members will also have to accept blame here.

    Here's a 15% salary increase and all I have to do is give up seniority transfer and not grieve Letters in File. Let's see money or my rights, hmmmm? How many years do I have left in the system? Less than 5 years. Lots of teachers in the same position as me. Hmmmmmm! Get my pension up there with a 15% salary increase, hmmmm. Money or my rights???

    I'll take the money, please. I'll worry about my rights the year before my retirement. See ya!

    Get the picture. Every member should have told Randi, NO, NO, NO, NO to selling out our seniority transfers and rights. NO, NO, NO, NO to mayoral control!

    Of course, we deserve a decent salary and good working conditions, but I will not sell out my rights. In the long run your rights will be so horribly roughshod by these educrats that no salary increase will take away the pain and shame.

  11. Yes, members have some responsibility. But also consider that the UFT sent out a blitz of people all day and through all communications to use scare tactics and misinformation. ICE and TJC led a fight but just didn't have the resources to reach enough places with information. People were still popping out of the woodwork to stop this contract and I was amazed at where people who never got involved before were running to Staples to make copies of leaflets we were putting out.

    The UFT leadeship was shaken. At one school where we held a pre-vote meeting with a bunch of teachers after school - about 10 people in the room, who should walk in but Randi herself, just off a plane from Denver. That level of concern was astounding but she managed to put out the fire in that school and we never heard from them again.

    37% of the teachers to voted NO but even if we had over 50%v we would have lost because of the functional chapters which came in with higher numbers.

  12. Norm,
    The greatest divider that comes between rights and social justice is money. The rank-and-file is mostly made of teachers. However, the functional chapters, non-classroom teachers is also large.

    How do we make sure that functional chapters do not sell out the members (ATRs and RR)for a meager, pittance of a raise? How do tell them to hold off where the members' rights are not jeopardized?

    I know a couple of veteran teachers, over 55 years old with 23/24 years in the system, who rather take the 2% rather than wait. Several young members, 1-3 years of teaching, feel that it's not so bad to get a 2% raise especially since they are attending college, and the cost of getting their masters is hitting them hard.

    It is a hard being in the middle of those young teachers who have not never experienced the labor movement and fight and the veterans, who are fed up with the system and want to leave. I keep telling the members wait, wait, wait. I constantly tell them that we are presently between an economic rock of hard times and a hard place of whether to give up your rights for a mere 2%!

    Economic downturn, the mayor's threats of lay-offs, Klein's relentless push to close schools, the DoE's re-re-reorganization and now changes to the progress report have created a hostile environment where many of the members are going through meltdown!

    This is worse than the Chinese water torture!

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