Thursday, November 18, 2010

UFT Delegate Assembly Craps out on Black Waiver, Unity Frays at the Edges

Just back from taking my wide out to a fancy brunch - at Costco. We must have hit the clam dip booth 10 times. If I can break through the heartburn I have a report from yesterday's UFT Delegate Assembly.

It was nice to see a bunch of Jim Callaghan supporters out in front of 52 Broadway yesterday with signs and a leaflet. I hope people took note.

You really have to sit through a UFT Delegate Assembly and listen carefully to get an insight to the thinking that goes on at the top levels of the union. Over the past few years I have never had the patience to put up with it and focused more on socializing and organizing. But this time I went upstairs to watch on the TV monitors in the hallway - they no longer allow visitors to even set foot in the hall and if they could get away with stopping me they would keep me off the 2nd floor too - but I just tell them to call the cops to have me removed and they shut up.

You know I'm not a hater but I get closest when dealing with Unity hacks because my dues pays these fuckers. I can do a post or two on some recent encounters but there are more important issues. Like how will the leadership figure out a way to try to make it look like they don't like the Black appointment while in fact doing nothing to make it look to the ed deformers, who they really care about, that they're OK with it - wink, wink.

So there was a reso we handed out calling on the UFT to oppose the Black waiver. This reso was based on Black's involvement with Coca Cola and anti-labor practices which have been condemned and I urge you to read it: Resolution for UFT DA: Reject Waiver and Black.

But it never got to the floor. The UFT had its own reso, which when I read it I smacked myself in the head so hard I had temporary amnesia with side effects- like, while Mulgarten was talking on the TV screen he morphed into Randi, who in another deja view moment showed up as the mystery guest at the Gotham School fundraiser a few hours later. They were hoping for Cathie Black but ended up with Randi.

Mulgrew tolds us how he met Black. "She has nice shoes." Hmmm, Mulgrew have a foot fetish? Well, not to worry, he will end up licking her boots at some point. Wait 'till we see 10,000 less teachers and 52 Broadway becomes the incredible shrinking building.

The Whereases start out saying all sorts of good stuff. Like the Chancellor "should have a full and thorough understanding of teaching and learning" blah, blah, blah. Then they shift into the usual obfuscation/waffling tone about NY State Law on chancellor qualifications and the waiver law and the role of the State Ed Commissioner. Then it goes on to talk about the secretive process that Bloomberg engaged in as he tried to thwart the intent of the mayoral control law - which by the way we all told them when they supported the renewal last year he would do anyway. Ho, hum. Then comes the part about State Ed Comm chairman David Steiner, who Mulgrew seems to have a man crush on, "has announced the formation of an independent panel, including educators (my bold), to evaluate the request for a waiver...."

So you see, kiddies, they have actual educators so not to worry. So here comes the kicker:

be it RESOLVED, that the UFT support the process established by [Steiner] as a credible and fair procedure for deciding on the request for a waiver from qualifications for chancellor...promulgated in state education law.

But, but, but - after all you said you are also saying you would go along with Black if they so decide. You could hear the sound of teeth grinding all over the place.

So, there was no real debate as the Unity leadership decided to amend their own reso with Leo Ugh! Casey leading the charge. This 3 part piece of crap calls for, among other things, changing the law in the future to include a nationwide search for a chancellor - sort of like looking for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

So then it gets interesting. Dave Pecoraro, a long-time Unity parrot at DA's is also chapter leader at the soon to close Beach Channel HS in Rockaway. Dave may be a Unity parrot but he is not a hack. He is a passionate chapter leader and fighter against the school closing and he and ICE's James Eterno built somewhat of an alliance last year as leaders of the 2 large Queens high schools targeted for closing. And the 2 schools the UFT sold out by making a deal with the DOE to allow new schools to open and help kill the incoming freshman classes. Dave was in action at Monday night's meeting with the Queens HS Supt which I taped. A lot of people in the opposition and even in Unity don't like Dave but he's grown on me.

So, he gets up and does something Unity people never do. He adds to their reso: The UFT will oppose the waiver for Black if she does not personally visit every single school on the DOE's list of schools targeted for possible closing. He argues that since she is new to the scene she should these schools first hand. Not radical but interesting. Of course they vote this down.

So far there has not been a person who spoke up and opposed the reso and low and behold a Unity guy gets up and says he is against. Why? Well, he says with some degree of passion, they have closed over 100 schools and what's the point of the whole thing if you turn down Dave's amendment? This is Unity and a sign the waffles and obfuscations on school closings and charter school invasions are wearing the Unity rank and file at the edges.

Mulgrew: There's only one name I don't want to hear. I didn't say it. She doesn't need a waiver.
At least it's not Rhee -  and Unity people go around repeating it

But not to worry. You've been hearing the Unity Klones whispering the R word, while shaking. We could get Rheeeee if Black fails. Oooooooh! We scared. Mulgrew goes all cute. "There are some people who don't even need a waiver. I won't mention her name." The whole place goes weak at the knees at the thought of Rhee, who was just run out of DC on a rail, one of the key reasons being that the Black community was outraged at Rhee's slights, some even bringing up the race issue - some historical antagonisms between Koreans and Blacks - remember the Brooklyn Korean grocery incident when Dinkins was mayor. Maybe that's why he endorsed Black - fear of Rhee. But the idea of Rhee coming in here as the big bad wolf is unlikely. But also the fact that the UFT leadership fears her so is a sign of their weakness.

Can't you just see people all over using the coming of Rhee as a threat to get what they want? Take a cut in salary of Rhee is coming.

Mulgrew on Value-added
"If we lose the case and the scores are publicized, we have to be out there to support them."

At this point I was sorry I didn't bring a nail gun to shoot myself through the ear.

Then it was off to the Gotham School party with Eva, hubbie Eric and loads of charter school slugs. And Randi too. Report coming - once I extract that nail.


Anonymous said...

Unbeliable how the UFT acts. Does Mulgrew know the difference between his elbow and his...... It seems that he is always outfoxed by the mayor and the DOE.

Anonymous said...


I don't think anyone can truly understand what happens at the DA's unless they have been there for a string of them. I missed last night's DA because I decided to help students plan for a big event in Coney Island for June 2011.

The situation is so dire and sad. In the past, I have always held a glimmer of hope (I know pretty pathetic) that in certain circumstances the leadership would do the right thing. Tuesday night it hit me like a ton of bricks that the UFT would handle this exactly the way you report here.

They defend themselves with the rhetoric of "real leadership" and "pragmatism" but often it is quite simply cowardice. They are afraid of transparency. They are afraid of democracy. They are afraid of critical dialogues. They are afraid of having power wrested from them. The are our "aristocratic" wine and cheese leaders who behave exactly like the Democratic party.

It is criminal that they could not come out and denounce Cathie Black. Ironically, if the UFT began to grow a backbone and truly organized communities around education and economic concerns, they would not have to lean on the Dems as much as they do. How will the UFT defend themselves to parents in the future if Black does come in or someone equally unqualified comes in? Watch Mulgrew on the NY1 news interview. He is so uncomfortable because he can not speak what his heart knows well. It is painful to watch. It was easier for Micheal to have tough words about the mayor's choice at a non-televised event this past weekend. But even then he was careful to pin it all on Bloomberg instead of calling the both of them out. I know Unity will say that that would be "unleader" like and could hurt our membership in the future. Bullshit.

We are in trouble. Did you hear Bloomberg's speech today. 6,000 teachers cut! Can anyone say ATR? Can anyone say get rid of "last hired first fired?" Kill the senior teachers and save the young teachers. This is going to be a brutal battle.

They want to destroy us and our leadership can't speak the truth about Cathie Black. Even Shanker is rolling in his grave.

John Powers

Anonymous said...

The UFT has NEVER been an advocate for children or their members -- not 40 years ago and not today! Spineless is a nice word for these guys.
Think for a moment how the PBA would react. They FIGHT wildly for their membership. The UFT? How high to jump, bosses?

Anonymous said...

The best way to understand the attitude of the Unity leadership of the United Federation of Teachers is that they are the "labor lieutenants of the capitalist class". They are organically tied to the Democratic Party which is one of the two main parties of the bosses in the U.S. Therefore, the Unity caucus leadership is on opposite camp to the rank-and-file, grassroots members of the UFT. They cannot oppose much less defeat the bosses' demands. Teachers must start organizing themselves and build leadership capacity at the base to open up a way out of this mess.
Tony Da Fighter

Anonymous said...

John& Tony you are completely right.
At this point it seems that the UFT, the DOE and the mayor are a big circle of corruption.

Anonymous said...

I have never ever been so disgusted with , I hate to say it, my uft union. Oh God spare us from these wimps and bunch of fools.
Norm, we need a new union. How do we do that? The UFT has to go. The UFT has to go. We need a union that fights for our kids, our schools, our communities.

ed notes online said...

Marjorie Stamberg sent out this analysis:
The UFT Delegate Assembly. was an outrage, if predictable. A slick motion from Unity to head off the growing anger of teachers and parents, talking only about "process" (the need for a formal search process) and avoiding taking a position against Cathleen Black-- a corporate privatizer whose only "real" qualifications are her experience laying off workers at Hearst subsidiaries and sitting on the board of Coca Cola which is responsible for the death squad murders of trade unionists in Columbia!

I am not sure about the "Unity fraying" analysis. Much as Dave Pecoraro has been very dedicated involved in fighting the school closings, his "amendment" allowed Mulgrew to say they could only consider two amendments (Casey's and Pecoraro's), thus keep any motions from the opposition off the floor.

Dave's motion, though passionate, was still "conditional." ("We won't support her until...") Unity was determined to keep off the floor any motion that said the UFT would not support Black under any conditions whatsoever.

The motion on Black and Coca Cola was non-conditional and certainly made the point that she is a representative of the worst blood-thirsty form of capitalism, as well as dealing with the DOE's hypocrisy on this.

For my part, I wanted to make a motion saying the UFT would not support her because her nomination was an insult to the people of New York City and to all the students, families and teachers who are the ones to suffer from these privatizers and union-busters who are wrecking public education in this city.

But there was no way these motions were going to be allowed on the floor and no real discussion --only a charade punctuated by the filibustering and maneuvering we expect.

If Mulgrew wants to talk about changing laws, how about starting with the law on mayoral control, which the union supported -- then they're surprised when it turns out to me a one man dictatorship! Like duh. Ditto for the "value added" fiasco. The union (under Randi) agreed to a secret pilot project, then is surprised when Klein renegs on the deal!

Thus Unity continues its course of weakening our union in the face of unprecedented attacks on the teachers unions across the country.

ed notes online said...

There is no new union without your active participation and about a thousand more. By active I mean in your school and linking up with other activists. UNity dominates probably 75% of the schools and they know full well the maint of their power lies in that, not in the Del Ass or the union elections. The chapter leader elections next school year - 2012 - are more important than the regular elections a year later.
Until that ratio changes, nothing will change.

Anonymous said...

Hey Norm,

In a sense it is far worse than the 75% because there are many many schools that have CLs (especially elementary schools) who are totally ignorant about the union/Unity. The elementary schools are some of the toughest and most frightening places to teach because the environment is more regimented than the middle and high schools. I know first hand about schools where CLs do not hold meetings (our constitution says there should be at least six per year...can you say "impeach") and where teachers are scared to say something about it. Unity does nothing to help ensure that all their member schools have CLs who actively engage their colleagues in Q and A and dialogues.

I send out the weekly Cl newsletter to my staff directly and to teachers in various parts of the city who do not have CLs who tell them anything.

Unity is a grand failure on many important fronts no matter how much they "front" that they are not.

John Powers

ed notes online said...

I full well know, having taught in elem school and I worked with so many elem CLs.

We can only deal with the schools where we have active people and hopefully recruit more of them. WE can't look at the whole chunk of the union. If we had 10% that would be 150 schools. I mean if there was an organization that had 150 people organized as a body to act together, not scattered groups that would have some impact even at the DA. We need to expand that base of activists and organizers.

Anonymous said...

Yep, you're right.


Anonymous said...

Norm and JP,
Another problem with the members who are apathetic or uninvolved is at the small high schools.

There are too many TFAs and TFs in small HSs and they don't care or they don't want to get involved. Many have aspiration of opening their own school or taking classes in political science and education policy eventually becoming political pitbulls, biting and gnawing at the public schools system.

I'm chapter leader in a small high school and it is just impossible for me to get the members involved. Mind you, I have over 6 meetings a year, provide weekly update emails, and encourage them to attend at least one rally or protest. If I get 25% of the members in my chapter to be involved, I celebrate. Unfortunagely, many are TFs and untenured and very, very afraid to show solidarity in my school for fearing of retribution.

Sad but true.

Sincerely, your ally and greatest supporter of your blog and effort.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anon,

I teach at a small transfer high school in Coney Island called, Liberation Diploma Plus HS. Please contact me at

I would love to help you. I was also recently elected to the executive board of the Coney Island Coalition Against Violence. I am currently involved with student/parent/community projects as well helping empower our coalition to make great political strides within the community.

John Powers
UFT Chapter Leader

It is only through organizing ourselves, our schools and the communities in which we serve that we will be able to transform our union.