Monday, March 8, 2010


An ongoing series on how the UFT works

UFT election fever is rising as ballots go out on March 12. If you notice Unity Caucus (the UFT leadership) material in your mail boxes and no one in your school put it in, it is a pretty good bet your UFT District Rep did the deed - probably on union time.

Most people do not realize these elections are secondary in terms of controlling the UFT at the school level than the elections for chapter leaders last year. The Unity machine relies on controlling an overwhelming majority of schools and using the CLs to push their positions.

The Dist. Rep is the key person in Unity control of the schools, which goes a long way to explaining why the leadership ended the practice of having chapter leaders elect district reps even though every single one of them except for one or two were Unity. Not all were the kind of Unity Caucus the leadership wants - someone who has total loyalty to the leadership instead of the chapter leaders they are supposed to serve.

The DR is the person who checks out chapter leaders for recruitment into Unity and also tries to get someone in schools to run against any opposition candidates.

I started working on this quite a while ago but events have been moving too fast. Now seems as good a time as any.

The original impetus for this post came from an anonymous email to ICE-mail from someone who is probably a chapter leader who wrote:

I need a crash course: Can someone tell me about District Reps?

Here is my initial response:

District reps in many ways are the most important positions in the union for the leadership - the keys to Unity Caucus' control and domination. They are the overseers of the chapter leaders in their districts. They push the leadership position and treat chapter leaders as if they are union employees. Every single one of them is in Unity Caucus. I know some great non-Unity chapter leaders, not understanding the real role of district reps is to keep chapter leaders from straying and keeping tabs on critical voices at the school level, innocently applied for the job not understanding that servicing the members is not their primary duty.

The district rep structure still basically follows the old NYCBOE structure that existed under decentralization from 1969 on, which is when Shanker created the DR position, which by the way has no mention in the UFT constitution. (More on that later.)

Thus there is a DR for the elementary and middle schools in each of the old 32 districts which only dealt with k-8 and another DR for each borough high school district (Charlie Friedman covers Basis- part of Brooklyn and Staten Island). Other DRs have been created for small high schools in various boroughs. And there is a DR for District 75 (SpecEd) and probably a few more - if I left some out let me know.

Until 2002, District Reps were elected by the chapter leaders in the district with a weighted vote based on the number of members in the school. Thus, the DRs had to some extent cater to their constituency, which wasn't the rank and file but the CLs, most of whom were Unity Caucus. Thus every single DR in history was also Unity - save one. But even within Unity there was some competition. Take the Queens HS DR race many years ago where 2nd in command under Feldman and Weingarten, Tom Pappas wanted to install a relative into the position but many Unity CLs didn't think he deserved it. They united with some New Action people to elect Rona Freiser who now heads the Queens office.

I'll digress for a second and talk about that exception to the rule.

Many of use called for direct election of DRs by all the members in the district but even some opposition people were opposed to that, especially New Action when they were an opposition, claiming it made sense for the people who dealt with the DRs

Here is the rest of the email I received. My responses to the questions are in bold.

Mine's new... and apparently unresponsive. I had a supremely inert DR for years and years and I'm, worried that new guy may be cut from the same mold.

But: I don't really understand the fundamentals.


1. Are they paid for their UFT service? If so, how much?

District Reps are DOE employees and paid accordingly - on paper. They supposedly teach one period a day and other than that period the UFT reimburses the DOE for the entire salary. Thus they continue to get salary and pension credit. They get paid extra based on the hours they put in after school ends. Thus, they often get as much as 30,ooo in addition to their DOE salary. And they also get a 2nd pension from the UFT.

2. How does one become a DR? Election, selection, etc

District reps are chosen by the UFT president but they go through a sham of holding interviews. Elections used to be by chapter leaders in the districts by weighted vote depending on the number of members in a school. An individual middle school carried more weight than an elementary school.

3. Do they actually TEACH? FT? PT?

They teach one period a day before 10 AM. Usually these are puff classes or some tutorials.

4. Any way to go over their heads.. so to speak? With whom would I communicate if I feel the DR is not doing an adequate job?

There is no way to really go over their heads without them knowing since the UFT runs on a chain of command. They will know and be pissed. If you don't care - and I think putting heat on them is a good thing but the next level is the borough head and they are all part of "the team." You could go straight to central at the staff director level - Leroy Barr. But don't expect much. Service is not the UFT priority. They view CLs as their servants and the DR as the overseer.

5. Any other ideas about responsible ways of applying pressure would be appreciated.

They hold monthly district chapter leader meetings and if you are a CL raising it there in a public manner might get a response.

As Willy Loman's wife said: "Attention must be paid."

Public exposure is the way to get attention paid.


  1. Norm:

    Great post and very accurate. I once went over a DR's head and while I did get results. It was made very clear to me by the DR about payback is a bitch.

  2. This is all great stuff but guess what? Most of our members don't read it or know about it! All year long I have been begging ICE to campagin hard! To put most of it's time and efforts into campaging! That's how Bloomberg won, and Thompson lost even though most New Yorkers hate Bloomberg. But Bloomberg is a news man. He understands that if you campagin good and hard you will win even though most people hate your guts!
    I know Thompson does not have the money that Bloomberg has but still Thompson should have campagined harder! ICE is making the same mistake! Hear is an opportunity
    that comes once in a life time! Unity is down! Everbody hates their guts over what has been happening over the last few years.But guess what? Nobody knows about ICE! Nobody knows what ICE stands for or what it is about! All these great articles in Ed note, Ice blog, or the New York Educator are unknown to most of our union's brothers and sisters! I know ICE does not have the money or time unity has or plays dirty like unity, but come on, you guys have to campagin harder! You will lose this election again! I have done my part. I have put flyers in mailbox not just in my school but in other schools!But you know what? Some schools where the Chapter Leader is ICE, nothing has been done! No flyers no nothing! How are we to go forward when we have schools with ICE Chapter Leaders and most people in that school don't know about ICE! I'm sorry guys but we will lose this election bad and it will be all our falt! We will have no one to blame but ourselfs! we should have started campagining a year ago and intensifying as we come to the end of the election! You guys did a great job last year with the ATR protest at Tweed. You also put up a great fight against school closing in the last meeting, and that protest at Bloombergs house! I give you an A+ for that! But as for campagining and letting the rest of us know about ICE I'm sorry you get an F-. Our mailboxes are flooded with unity flyers, while schools with ICE Chapter Leaders and ICE members have nothing! And please don't ask me which schools, find out yourself, I'm not going to sell out my ICE brothers and sisters even though they desever it. It's better to have an kind of ICE chaper leader than to have a untiy one. Anybody but unity should have been our campagin slogan. As for the election with only a few day to go, we lost big time and now we will all pay the price, wait till you see the next contract! Mulgrew is waiting to win the election before he sells us down the river. He might as well start now because the election is as good as won!

  3. Norm, you make it seem as if being a DR is a plush easy job.

    Ever come across one you respected?

  4. Yes I have come across some I respected but I won't mention them - kiss of death.

    Most are hacks with loyalty to Unity over anything else.

    The job may not be easy but I don't see anyone giving it up to go back to teaching. And let's not forget the compensation - you can make 150grand at max salary with 2 pensions. And expenses too.

    So we won't cry too much for how tough that job is.

  5. I went over a CL and DR's head right to Randy Weingarten when my job was in danger as a result of whistleblowing. I Fed Exed a letter to Randi Weingarten and my lawyer called her several times to no avail. I eventually had to go to PERB and file against the union. Their defense was that my many letter to the union officials were time barred. They had no justification. Fortunately the wise PERB judge found one last letter and denied their request of a dismissal. She demanded that a rep be provided for me in writing and signed by her. All this to get the representation I pay for. So tell me again how effective DRs are.

  6. I noticed the new lovely pins unity clan had on today in Albany. Even the Senator I visited blamed the UFT for not fighting Bloomy, and mayoral control. One of the speakers stated "no more endorsements for people who do not support us!" How ironic.


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