Friday, February 18, 2011

Mr. Mulgrew, Tear Down This Wall

Last update, Friday, Feb. 18, 11:45AM

"Who would ever think you guys could make such a big deal out of one stinkin' dinner? It's beyond belief."- UFT lead lobbyist Paul Egan in NY Daily News

If the union refers to the PEP Bloomies as "puppets" are Unity Caucus Clones any different?

By now, most readers will have heard of the Paul Egan Albany restaurant caper. If you didn't, you can catch up on my post the other day, which I have updated with the latest links: Everyday Math: How Many Quail Does it Take to Fill a Union Leader?

I know I had a little fun at Paul's expense but before I begin, let me say that I like Paul Egan. From what I hear he is one of the more capable Unity Caucus people. When he was Bronx District 11 rep I only heard good things. He put up a great web site with a number of resources that people say was the gold standard for providing information. He has charm and charisma and that Irish brogue doesn't hurt. I'm sure he does good work as the UFT's chief lobbyist. And the unfair attacks on him for a supposed cheating scandal are extremely unfair. For the Daily News and NY Post ((DN, Post) to connect a 10 year old cheating scandal is shameless. Especially when they ignore the official and unofficial rampant cheating going on every day, cheating winked at by Tweed and the State Ed Dept. (The Dirty Secret of Regents Cheating ...).

Egan was the guy who got up to oppose endorsing Bill Thompson for mayor, saying that at most a union effort on Thompson's behalf could move the needle no more than 2 or 3 points.

See below the fold for a  defense of Paul from retired UFT Bronx District rep Lynne Winderbaum.
Now, Lynne is one of the most respected people in the union, even by the opposition. I've never heard one bad thing said about her.

But both she and Paul just don't get it.

Paul may be right about making a bid deal about a stinkin' dinner. But this is not about a stinkin' dinner. It is about 24 people going out and using COPE money contributed by the members to spend $1800. The fact that Egan makes around $150,000 a year must also be noted. As one commenter said:
Teachers who attend the UFT dog and pony show called “Lobby Day” get up at 5 A.M, travel to Albany on a bus, get a box lunch and a bag of pretzels and come back the same night. Unlike the Mul-Dew flunkies, they don’t get to spend two nights in Albany, eat three or four meals a day and put their Egan-sized bar bill on their UFT padded expense sheets
This is about the arrogance and feelings of self-entitlement of power. That is what you get when you have a one party system running the union with no checks and balances with a rubber stamp Executive Board and Delegate Assembly.

For 3 years, from 2004-2007 when ICE/TJC had 6 members of the EB, there as actually a voice of the members even though they were only 6 out of 89. But when New Action and Unity teamed up to push them out, Lynne Winderbaum was one of the Unity people who replaced them. I wasn't there all that often, but did she step up and play a public role to check the excesses of power or challenge one disastrous policy after another that has led us to this abyss? Of course she couldn't because she would have been removed from Unity.

In 2005 there was a major battle over the contract that opened the door to the massive assault on seniority (ATRs were born in that contract). Unity send out hordes of people to steamroller people into voting for that contract and stifle debate within the union, even going so far as to stop us from getting literature into teachers mailboxes so they could hear the other side. Many of us were stopped at the door, not by principals but by Unity chapter leaders. I maintain that the DOE has to end seniority rules before they could start closing schools en masse, a first step before going after LIFO 5 years later. (Remember how when ATRs complained about being forced to be subs while first year teachers had jobs and the UFT told them to be happy they still have a job?) What did Egan and Winderbaum do during that battle?

Democracy is not an abstract concept. The lack of it is why the UFT and the AFT will never be a force opposing the ed deform movement because the membership has so little voice. If the members could vote do you think the UFT would have two charter schools invading public schools? Would they have gone along with UFT policy that led to us sitting by while one school after another was closed? Signing an agreement with the State Ed Dept. on test data being used to evaluate teachers?

Until the UFT begins to function in a democratic manner, some of the most eloquent and passionate voices in the UFT will oppose Unity Caucus no matter what words they say that makes them look militant. So I say:
Mr.  Mulgrew, tear down this wall.
But that will never happen and the UFT power and influence will continue to shrink. But the leadership's prime directive is to maintain power.

If the union refers to the PEP Bloomies as "puppets" are Unity Caucus Clones any different?

Below is Lynne Winderbaum's comments to the Daily News. I just wonder where she and other decent Unity people were when Unity did a vicious red-baiting attack on ICE/TJC presidential candidate Kit Wainer in the 2007 elections.

(See Breaking News: March 29, 2007 "Randi then gave Unity head Jeff Zahler the floor to engage in another round of red-baiting, saying he was proud to have sent that out and reading excerpts in an attack on Kit Wainer. He said accusations of mccarthyism are not true ...")

They all sat on their hands at that DA.

Also see: NYC Educator
What Your COPE Dollars Buy
  Winderbaum response online to the Daily News editorial and the recent articles in the News and the Post:

In all fairness, I am rather disturbed by the innuendo in the reporting on Paul Egan and the incident in Albany. I believe that every news outlet has the vital right to assemble information from reporters and informants on the scene and file a report based on that information. But when these news outlets extend their stories to include discredited allegations to assassinate character, they have exceeded the bounds of ethics.

I was not at the Albany restaurant and do not know what occurred there. But I do know that the allegations of cheating on tests for all the teachers involved were found to be the result of a flawed investigation by Stancik’s office years ago. Each article regarding Mr. Egan mentions the word “accused” repeatedly because the writers are aware, although they apparently seek emphasize the inference, that there was never a finding of guilt.

An independent investigation conducted by Thacher Associates, headed by a former inspector general at the Board of Education, did an audit of the investigation that included the accusation against Mr. Egan.

It found: “the report was so incomplete, so unfairly conducted, and so unprofessional that the evidence it produced could not have supported reliable or credible findings. In addition, we found that the errors of the investigation were compounded by writing and releasing an unfair and inaccurate report that distorted some evidence, ignored other evidence that did not support its position, and in the process unjustly destroyed reputations and discredited numerous educators and the entire New York City public school system. Because of the tainted evidence gathering process and the fatally flawed report, the Special Commissioner’s findings, both as to individual educators and the system as a whole must be rejected as unsound.” As a result, the Department of Education agreed to immediately place all the affected teachers back in the classroom in return for a simple, although undeserved, reprimand.

There is a responsibility in news reporting that is to inform the public.

When facts are presented side by side with false allegations, the intent is to do more damage to the individual than is justified.
Check out Norms Notes for a variety of articles of interest: And make sure to check out the side panel on right for news bits.


  1. The UE (United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers) has a provision in its by-laws saying that no union offficer or staffer shall earn more than the highest- paid member. Perhaps it's time to have that conversation in the UFT/AFT.

    One argument against this is that officers and staffers often work longer and more irregular hours than the members. While true, it's not sufficient: representing and fighting for union members is a privilege, and officers who earn no more than the members have an additional incentive to fight harder for them.

    In my (limited) dealings with Paul Egan, he has indeed come off as a competent and hardworking staffer, but that's not the point. Union officers and staffers having an income and lifestyle much higher than the members is unseemly, and leads to preceisely the kind of disconnect that currently exists between the leadership and the rank and file.

    While there are many dedicated, hardworking and talented people in Unity Caucus, excessive incomes (to say nothing of double pensions)combined with a one-party state inevitably lead to the sclerosis we now see with the union, which finds itself unable to effectvely fight back against the aggressive attacks being waged against it on so many fronts.

    Then again, when looking at the actions of Randi Weingarten, you have to wonder if there even is a desire to fight back.

  2. I have a slightly different view of Egan. He did speak well at delegate assemblies and I thought he was just a normal teacher at first. So I guess he was awed by the power he held or perceived to have held. Woe unto those that did not carry the little Delegate Assembly card. I wouldn't wear it because I stopped wearing cards on my shirt in kindergarten after I learned my home address.

    I do agree with you about the indictment about COPE dollars being used to feed a bunch of folks rather than the purpose that the money was meant for. Everyone is struggling to make ends meet, and the money we send to COPE is for political action, not for gastronomic activities and lodging. $1800 for a meal? It would easily pay for my mortgage, heat, and utilities for a month!

    re: Lynne W.'s. lack of standing up for what would generally be accepted as right.

    If a person doesn't stand up when it is difficult, it matters little that they stood up when it was easy. In other words either you have integrity or you don't - there is no such thing as 50% integrity.

    When one sees how the money we have all contributed to COPE is misused, re-purposed, and wasted, I get angry. Is it fraudulent?

    Does it rise to the level of criminality? You would have to ask a lawyer. But I feel it is deceptive to use COPE dollars in this manner. On the union's own website they describe COPE as follows: "It funds lobbying of federal, state and city officials and helps elect candidates who support the union’s goals". Restaurant bills? Bar bills? No mention of it at all.

    It is past time for all of us to join together for a COPE strike. COPE is voluntary.

    That would send the strongest message to both the leadership of the union and the membership at large, that the days of not listening to the constituents are over.

    But then again, I have been saying this for many many years.

    Chapter Leader

  3. I loved Egan's website and cried when it was taken down. No kidding.

    But, I also cried when he vocalized the Unity position at the DA not to endorse Thompson. In fact, most of the members were actually pretty ready to endorse Bill. Anybody BUT Bloomberg would have done.

    We had more tears during the many 2007-9 protests, when Paul and his Unity cohorts used to stand on the the sidelines (the word bystanders comes to mind) and let activist members and parents do all the speeches, sign-carrying and yelling against school closings and DoE attacks on teachers.

    It's great to have competent staffers: there certainly aren't enough of them in the UFT. But, we don't want them hugging the periphery and letting the rank-and-file do the hardcore activism.

  4. I agree with Brooklyn Chapter Leader. As a chapter leader I have had the opportunity of peering into the Unity world. At the Princeton Marriot, for chapter leader training, every single Unity person that I have had dealings with in the past 14 or so years was there. They all stayed in suites for two nights, whereas the new chapter leaders were there for just one night in a regular room, sometimes doubled up.

    If the UFT wants to survive in this climate and get the members to feel they have a valid reason to pay union dues, they need to get off the high horse, take cuts in salary, cut the expense accounts, luxury jaunts, and get back to the definition of a union. Unity is too far removed from the average member and the work that we do in the classroom.

    Our dues are almost double those of Westchester County, yet the salaries in Westchester can reach as much as $125,000.

  5. It is important that we not focus so intensely on the secondary issue of Egan's ripping off COPE with big restaurant bills. COPE has been a bogus operation from day 1. For 40 years we have been told by unity and the NY Times about how powerful the UFT presence is politically. Yet during those 40 years we have seen bill after bill passed by Albany eroding the rights and benefits and pensions of school workers while at the same time the UFT has boasted about how 99% of their supported candidates win in each election cycle. When it came down to casting the important votes such as the Marchi bill which took away the right to strike in essence because of its draconian measures - COPE/UNITY backed candidates were always on the wrong side of the issue just as they have been on charters, class size, school closings and any other issue of importance to teachers and other workers.

    The Egan mess is just a symbol of what happens when leaders become so detached from their rank and file. UNITY's 40 year history of dishonest leadership has led to a leadership cadre so devoid of any working class sensibility that they morph into human beings so greedy that they are more then willing to do the bidding of our enemies because they have become so blind to their origins.


  6. Egan was not my focus. Rather, he just happened to be there and part of the story. I cant agree with you about it being bogus for all the years. It did have value in the early 70's. Some politicians were elected that were helpful to the rank and file. It has morphed into what it is now by virtue of an over-riding concern by those in power to stay in power. The present day boasts, of how the candidates they support win, should be looked at through the same lens and with the same gravitas as the improvement in standardized test scores we have seen for the last 9 years.

    The union supports safe bets. That way the percentage stays high. I am convinced that had the union supported Thompson, it could have been the deciding factor in the election. Was it fear of losing or fear of annoying the emperor that caused the union, after vilifying this mayor for 8 years to take a pass on an election of great import.

    So no, Egan is not my focus. He was not elected to that position. At least not elected by the membership. The president was elected by the members. We expect him to use his judgment in appointments. The last thing that is needed in this anti-union environment is to have a lightning rod for negative attacks. Surely the president of the union understands this. He and he alone bears the responsibility for this.

    Had this incident happened to a classroom teacher instead of Egan, how quickly would an investigation be initiated by the Board? Would "conduct unbecoming to a teacher" cause his license to be taken?


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