Saturday, May 29, 2010


Updated, Sat. May 29, 8am

Questions have been flying about layoffs and in what order. In 1975 we suffered massive layoffs. People were so upset it was the first time that Albert Shanker lost control of the union - briefly. There was such a demand from the members, even the district reps, who were elected by chapter leaders at the time but were still all Unity Caucus, were for drastic action. The pressure from below forced Shanker to call a strike and we were out for a week. He went to jail and looked like a big hero but we were dubious over whether he would sell us out - the opposition was sure he would. Later, Randi Weingarten used to say that Shanker told her that strike was his biggest mistake.

Shanker leads march across the Brooklyn Bridge shortly after declaring "We won't go back 'till we all go back." Except those 15,000 laid off people of course that he forgot about

I was part of a group called the Coalition of NYC School Workers at the time (some of the same people who helped found ICE in 2004.) We were out in force along with other groups in the opposition calling for the UFT not to give in to 15,000 cuts, a cut of an hour and a half in the school day and the loss of two preps amongst other things which I can't remember. My fairly small elementary school alone had 13 people excessed - down to people who started teaching in 1968. A massive membership meeting filled Madison Square Garden where we handed out thousands of leaflets urging them to vote down the agreement. To no avail, especially with the focus of the cuts being on elementary schools, the least militant division of the union. [The next year in 1976, the secondary schools got chopped in the classic case of divide and conquer.

Naturally, this is not the official union position, so here a link to a recent piece they did.

Ira G on ICE mail talked about 1975 earlier today:

In 1975, when the last round of massive layoffs took place, the districts were the ones that bore the brunt of the process. After excessing was done in each school the district started placing teachers in other schools in the district based on seniority. The remaining teachers were then placed in the citywide excessing pool to be placed in other districts if they had sufficient seniority to bump. One of the ironies of the process was that in districts where people didn't want to leave like District 31 on Staten Island people who were to be excessed out of the district voluntarily took layoffs instead of bumping to another district so that they could protect their right of return to the original district (once people were hired back - in some license areas that took many, many years) which they would have lost by accepting placement elsewhere. The records in those days weren't even computerized they were on index cards at the BOE - the inaccuracies took many years and I am sure many legal battles to eventually straighten out. What will happen now with Bloomberg looking to destroy what little is left of seniority - who knows what they will do?

Ira mentions those index cards. I heard this story at one of my fraternity reunions.

One of my frat brothers who also taught in District 14, Williamsburg (many of us ended up there because a whole bunch of the frat bros grew up in the 'burg) was plugged into the local UFT dominated political machine that controlled the district (and boy are there stories). Through that machine he got a mid-level job at Central HQ at 110 Livingston St.

When the layoff calls were to begin there was panic at 110 Livingston St. because those index cards were dumped all over the place. There was such disorder, figuring out a rational way to lay off and recall people seemed Herculean. On a Friday, he put out a call to the District 14 crew that he needed them for the entire weekend and most everyone in the D. 14 machine turned up to work sorting the cards. At least a hundred people I believe. Some stayed the entire weekend, sleeping over.

By that Monday, the cards had been arranged in the proper order and layoff and recall lists were prepared. he was declared a hero and began a rise that led to his becoming the chief of personnel at the DOE for many years - right up through Klein, who didn't seem to like his wheeler/dealer style. He left to go to Miami with Rudy Crew.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I wonder if we will have the layoffs. At this point I don't think Obama and his best friend Duncan want to look more unpopular laying off teachers. Maybe some money will appears from under the mattress to bail out the teachers. Remember BloomKlein want to save the young crowd.