Saturday, June 6, 2015

PROTECTING CHAPTER LEADERS: UFT Gets An “F” -- Ed Notes: Almost 2 decades Figthing to Protect Chapter Leaders -- Ed Notes reprint, Jan. 2002

They will say it is unnecessary. They will say the grievance procedure is adequate. There is a good chance that this person is not in a school every day fighting “The School Wars.”... [Unity response to Ed Notes Protect Chapter Leader resolution, 1998 and 2002]
UFT NOT an 800 lb gorilla as Randi contended
My piece on the chapter leader under assault in a 3020a hearing (Another Chapter Leader Under Assault at a 3020a Hearing) prompted me to check into the Ed Notes archives and reminded me that this battle has been ongoing for almost 2 decades - and the UFT has ignored the issue. Note that I began raising this 5 years before Bloomberg got control. If the Unity leadership had done something when they had the chance before the concerted ed deform assault on UFT members at its root level - the schools.

Below is the entire Jan. 2002 print edition of Ed Notes which was devoted to chronicling the history up to that date of the battle to protect chapter leaders and the UFT/Unity response. Apparently I started raising the issue back in 1998 with a reso at the DA.

The 2002 headline challenged Randi's assertion that the UFT would be an 800 pound gorilla in protecting CLs - more like a rhesus monkey.

Now we know the usual Unity suspects may stop by to contend that this 17-year history is false. Dream on.

Here are jpgs of the original 4 page edition and all the article broken out individually below.

Is the 800 Pound Gorilla Merely A Rhesus Monkey?
When Chapter Leaders are harassed we go after [the harassers] like 800 pound gorillas.”---- Randi Weingarten at UFT Exec. Bd. Meeting, Dec. 18, 2001
Weingarten was responding to a question by New Action Exec. Bd. member James Eterno regarding attacks on Chapter Leader Ron Kaplan by administrators at Franklin K. Lane High School. Eterno, CL of Jamaica HS asked the question in the following context:

SPECIAL EDITION Chapter Leaders are the backbone of our union. In the Queens High Schools they are being picked off one by one. Last year you [Randi] called Ron Kaplan a hero at the Delegate Assembly [see below.] Kaplan received a U-rating last year for a trivial incident. This year he is being threatened again based on trivial incidents that have nothing to do with his job performance. Any- time a Chapter Leader is bounced we are all threatened. What are we doing to protect Ron and Chapter Leaders in general?

Eterno went out of his way to point out that he and other Queens HS DR’s support Queens HS District Rep. Rona Freiser, who was doing what she could, but that more support was needed from UFT leaders.

Weingarten responded with the “800 lb. gorilla statement” (she made a similar statement at the June ‘98 DA--see p. 3.) Siting her “special relation- ship” with Ron, Weingarten said she was not aware of Kaplan’s current situation. She asked HS VP John Soldini for information. He said he knew about last year’s situation “but assumed Ron must have the situation under control as we haven’t heard from him.” He said UFT special rep. Leo Casey was working on the case. 

An Ed. Notes inquiry has revealed that Kaplan went before the Queens HS CL meeting on Dec. 13 and raised the issue of his harassment. He an- nounced that he had sent materials about his case to Staff Director Tom Pappas and John Soldini. Pappas, who was present at the Dec. 18 Ex. Bd. meeting, said nothing. These questions must be asked: What did Tom Pappas know about the Kaplan situation and when did he know it? Did Pappas sit on his hands on Dec. 18 while Weingarten was pro- claiming no knowledge? Why hasn’t she been informed about a situa- tion that has tremendous implications for the union? Has the union’s 800 pound gorilla turned into a tiny rhesus monkey? 

What Does It Take to Get a U-Rating? Not Much
A teacher is charged with corporal punishment. Ron Kaplan, functioning as the Dean, interviews a student who saw the incident. Her statement exonerates the teacher. At the grievance hearing weeks later, Kaplan remembers the statement and uses it in the teacher’s defense, The administration claims Kaplan interviewed the student illegally because he was on his Chapter Leader prep and not on his Dean prep when he talked to her. They charge Kaplan with interfering with an investigation and give him a U-rating in June 2001.

Education Notes Editorial

While our leaders fiddle with politics, the lifeblood of the union drains away. 

Education Notes has long campaigned against abusive supervisors and has called for more protection for and the strengthening of Chapter Leaders. We believe that any attack on a Chapter Leader, the lifeblood of our union, should be met with a vigorous response. This should include: articles in the NY Teacher, letter writing campaigns to local politicians, and picket lines. Here is a chronology of our efforts: 
Jan. ‘98: A resolution calling for the union to provide more protection for CL is distributed but we can’t get the floor under the new motion period. See page 2

Apr. ‘98: The first of Jack Schirenbeck’s (Jack the Rip- per) exposés of abusive principals appears in the NY Teacher. 

May ‘98: A modified form of the Jan. resolution is pro- posed and we get the floor. Tom Pappas opposes it claim- ing the union already has the machinery in place to pro- tect Chapter Leaders. It is narrowly defeated. See p.2-3  

June ‘98: Ed. Notes follows up with an article and a resolution calling for the support of teachers at MS 88K with a letter writing campaign as a follow-up to the “Prin- cipal From Hell” article. The issue is not discussed. P. 3 

 Mar. ‘99: FIGHTING BACK AGAINST ABUSE (Mar. 99). We follow up with an article on abusive principals after the NY Teacher article titled “Vile” on PS 121Q. We pay particular attention to the situation Chapter Lead- ers face. We make a resolution calling on the broadening of powers for Chapter Leaders, District Reps , and Bor- ough offices to fight against abusive principals. It is defeated. 

June ‘99: We print the same resolution and ask the fol- lowing questions: If the machinery to defend CL is in place, why did conditions at IS 88 and PS 121 go on for so many years? How come so many schools are having these problems? See page 4
It is clear that there was, and is, little interest by the union leadership in addressing the questions raised here. This issue isn’t sexy like endorsing candidates. While our union leaders fiddle with politics, the lifeblood of the union drains away.

Seduced and Abandoned: Kaplan Declared “Hero” at DA, Then Forgotten 

When the Principal of Franklin K. Lane, Paul Pedota, called Ron Kaplan “a piece of shit,” Kaplan filed a grievance. At the Step 2 hearing at the Queens HS district level, Pedota read the definition of “shit” in his defense. It must have been an impassioned reading, for the District hearing officer ruled in Pedota’s favor. It is commendable that our union leaders, when informed, didn’t advise Kaplan to follow the usual UFT protocol: have patience and allow the grievance procedure to run its meandering course. Instead they the took the kind of action many members would like to see more often: they went directly to the Chancellor, who ordered the ruling overturned. The result: the Step 2 ruling against Kaplan was reversed and Pedota was ordered to apologize to Kaplan both in writing and in public. The union proclaimed a great victory as Randi Weingarten called Kaplan up in front of the Delegate Assembly and declared him a hero. Then the union and Weingarten forgot about Kaplan. But the Principal didn’t forget. He may have lost the battle, but he wasn’t going to lose the war. He plotted his revenge and just 6 months after Kaplan was proclaimed a hero, he received a U-Rating. It is incredible that there has been no response from our union. Imagine the reaction if a shop steward at Local 1199 or the Teamsters was treated this way! A strong union puts its highest priority on consistently protecting the people on the front lines, not just when the leaders “are in the mood.” 


Distributed at the Jan. ‘98 DA

Resolution to Protect Chapter Leaders

This resolution is being presented for the next Delegate Assembly [Feb. ‘98] so that we will all have an opportunity to think about the issues presented here and make the kinds of modifications we feel may be necessary. It is not a perfect resolution. Feel free to come back next month with additions, deletions, etc. But please vote YES. An affirmative vote indicates there is a reason for the issues raised in the resolution to be discussed; it is NOT a vote on the substance of the resolution. 

The important question is this: As the pressure on supervi- sors grows to produce results, they in turn will turn up the pressure on teachers and paras as they attempt to shift responsibility onto us. We can expect U-ratings and general forms of harassment to increase. This in turn will put enor- mous strains on chapters and chapter leaders. This resolution is an attempt to deal with what is fast becoming a major problem we as a union are facing.  

[Ed. Note: From the vantage point of 4 years later, this resolution was quite prophetic, but I didn’t get the floor to present a variation of it until May.]

Whereas, there are schools where administrators engage in persistent harassment of staff.
Whereas, there are schools where chapter leaders are incapable of fighting back against arbitrary actions or outright violations of the contact and cannot meet the formidable challenge presented by manipulative and abusive supervisors. And there are schools where the relationship between the Chapter Leader & the administration can lead to outright cooperation with administrators, thus preventing a Chapter Leader from properly representing a chapter. 

Whereas, there are schools where staff members, especially recent, non-tenured & non-appointed ones feel helpless and frightened by a pervasive climate of intimidation.
Whereas, these situations leads to a deterioration in our most important working conditions.
Whereas, filing grievances by individual teachers and paras under these conditions can lead to serious repercussions against these teachers and paras.
Whereas, in addition to grievances, the union has at times used publicity and pressure to confront supervisors who have been arbitrary, capricious, and who use intimidation as a standard tactic against our members.
Whereas, tenure is one of the most important rights teachers have to protect themselves against the aforemen- tioned attacks by administrators
Whereas, the UFT has already begun a public campaign against the vicious attacks by Senator D’Amato against teacher tenure.

Be it Resolved: The UFT will set up a mechanism by which the district & borough reps identify schools where administrations are engaging in destructive activities and where the chapter leaders are put in positions where they cannot respond appropriately.
Be it Resolved that UFT use the NY Teacher to establish a regular column that exposes the actions of abusive administrators.
Be it Resolved that the UFT uses paid advertisements (commercials, NY Times column, etc.) to educate the public as to the kinds of situations in schools that impede our ability to educate the children effectively and demonstrate, by these examples, the continuing need for teacher tenure. Be it resolved that UFT will seek an understanding with the Board of Education that would allow district &/or chapter leaders to have the right to file grievances in areas of essential working conditions so administrators cannot intimidate individuals from filing grievances or take reprisals against them if they do file such grievances. 


Distributed and presented at the May ‘98 DA
The Jan. ‘98 resolution was modified by the time it was presented in May ‘98. It was defeated, as UFT Staff Director Tom Pappas spoke against it, arguing that the machinery was already in place to protect CL. Ask Ron Kaplan about this “machinery.” 

Motion to Protect Chapter Leaders
(Since we already have a motion on today’s agenda to get Chapter Leaders more time off, why not give them a real present and protect them from the actions of supervisors?) 
WHEREAS Chapter Leaders are the front line of defense in enforcing basic contractual rights for their chapters and their chapter members;
WHEREAS Chapter Leaders who attempt to enforce basic union policies in schools are often subjected to harassment from supervisors; WHEREAS supervisors often “go after” Chapter Leaders, especially those who are strong teachers, by attempting to attack or eliminate the educational program of the Chapter Leader, irregardless of the nega tive effects on children and the school community as a whole; WHEREAS the threats of attacks on Chapter Leaders by supervisors have weakened the ability of many Chapter Leaders to carry out their duties and has resulted in discouraging many of our members from ever considering taking on the job of Chapter Leader;

WHEREAS the functions of a Chapter can be compromised by the actions of capricious supervisors;
WHEREAS a Chapter that doesn’t function effectively weakens the union at its most basic level;
WHEREAS supervisors have learned to use “subtle” methods that make it difficult to trigger a grievance under Article 23 (Special Complaints against supervisors for acts of harassment) of our contract, therefore

BE IT RESOLVED that the UFT will seek to establish joint union/Board district level committees, and any other special procedures deemed necessary, to protect and defend Chapter Leaders from the negative actions of supervisors. 

You’ve read the article in the New York Teacher about The Princi- pal From Hell. There are so many principals in this category, we could have a regular column. But not all principals engage in such open hostility. Many of them have learned to use a more “subtle” approach and they use every opportunity to undermine Chapter Leaders. Attacks on the Chapter Leader’s supporters and friends, the spreading of lies, behind the scenes interference in chapter affairs, buying off members and encouraging them to be company spies, etc. are used so regularly, we have to assume they are techniques taught in courses for supervisors.

I’d like to focus on the third
WHEREAS, which deals with the insidious attempts on the part of principals to retaliate against chapter leaders by undermining their ability to teach effectively. The fact that these attempts also harm the children and the educational community as a whole is irrelevant to these supervi- sors. Because principals are in the position of “educational leader” (and I say this loosely), they phrase these attacks in the guise of “educational improvements”. Thus, these specific kinds of attacks chapter leaders can be subjected to make it especially difficult to prove a harassment case, which is covered under Art. 23 of the contract. 

Attacks against Chapter Leaders are attacks against all our mem- bers and threaten the very fabric of our union.This resolution seeks to provide special protections for all our members. Specifically, a district level committee is suggested. But any other ideas are welcomed.
Someone will oppose this motion 

[Ed. Note: but who could have predicted it would be Tom Pappas?] They [Unity response] will say it is unnecessary. They will say the grievance procedure is adequate. There is a good chance that this person is not in a school every day fighting “The School Wars.”


CAN WE DO? (Distributed at June ‘98 DA)

Neither Members or chapter leaders should be harassed and we are out there like an 800 pound gorilla to stop it!
--Randi Weingarten at Executive Board meeting, 6/15/98 

In response to a question from a New Action Ex. Bd, member critical of the union’s reliance on PERB, Randi issued a challenge to come up with additional ways to protect our members from abusive principals.
Unfortunately, a motion presented at the May Delegate Assembly (for discussion at the June Delegate Assembly) calling on the union to provide more protection for chapter leaders from the capricious acts of principals was narrowly defeated. The essence of the argument presented against this motion was that we already have procedures in place to protect chap- ter leaders (Article 23: Special Complaints)
The resolution, which called for the establishment of district commit- tees to investigate abusive principals, was presented as a way to open discussion on this important issue. If we would have voted to place the item on the June DA, the Executive Board would have had a chance to discuss and even modify the motion and the DA would have discussed and voted on the issue at this meeting. Instead, the question of finding ways to protect chapter leaders has been buried.
Do we think the harassment of chapter leaders and other union activists is not an issue worthy of discussion in our union? When the very lifeblood of our union is under attack by people our top union officials describe as “even below the bottom of the barrel,” it is time for us to take a strong stand. 
It is gratifying to see that we are making more use of the New York Teacher to expose Principals From Hell. The upcoming article called The Queen of Mean will hope- fully make out of control principals take notice. But it should be pointed out that Eugene Weiss has been doing his thing at MS88 or many years. A number of grievances and trans- fers certainly alerted the union to a problem. Yet, the staff has had to suffer, and continues to suffer, at this time. It is time to take stronger actions than using PERB and the grievance procedure. Let’s call rallies and put up picket lines in front of the school and the district office. How about a post card writing campaign to local politians and school board members?
If we believe that sending thousands of cards and calling politicians is effective, then why aren’t we using these techniques to end the reign of abusive principals? Statewide fights against D’Amato and Pataki may seem sexy compared to local struggles against Principals From Hell. Ask the people who work at such schools which fight is more is more important to them.
RESOLVED: The UFT will support the staff of MS 88 with a letter writing campaign to local politicians and school board members. 

Tthe resolution in this article was presented at the Mar. ‘99 DA for discussion at the Apr. ‘99 DA. It was defeated. 


“Vile” is the title of an article in the New York Teacher (Feb. 24) about the Principal of PS 121Q who is clearly---well for lack of a better word----vile. One of the interesting, and disturbing, parts of the article was the mention of an anonymous letter by former PS 121 staff members charging that the principal had “exhibited unprofessional, cruel and irrational behavior” and was responsible for a “police-state feeling...” The letter was written in 1989.

Incredible!! The staff of PS 121 has been subjected to the actions of this principal for at least 10 years. This is not an isolated case. Many schools have been in similar positions over the years. Prin- cipals are protected by the districts through their political connections. District reps and the central union become limited in what support they can give until the teachers reach a point where they can’t take it anymore. The Chapter, the basic unit of our union, is severely under- mined when its members are left to the mercy of these kinds of supervisors.

The pressures of teaching are so great and a war with the principal is so distracting and threatening, that people can’t be blamed for being reluctant warriors. When conditions become intolerable, people get activated. But must they wait for conditions to reach that state before help arrives? And what about schools where a state of absolute desperation is never quite reached? Principals who wield power effectively know how to control opponents by dividing people, doing small favors for some while meting out punishments, etc. 
What About the Chapter Leader? Chapter Leaders have 3 choices: 1) Use the job for their personal benefit (the best assignments, extra free time, etc.) by actively colluding with the administra- tion and by undermining the chapter and those voices within the chapter that try to stand up for member’s rights. 2) Try to do the right thing, but walk a tightrope so as not to offend the administration. Their cau- tion leads to a slow erosion of people’s rights as the administrators squeeze the boundaries of the contract. These Chapter Leaders try to be “fair”, which can lead to apathy or fear of the members. 3) Try to fight and strongly represent the members. They face constant attacks from the administration and those chapter members who line up with the administrators---the ones with the cushy jobs and special favors. They usually have to run in an election against an agent of the admin- istration. 

Chapter Leaders are in a very vulnerable position since the administration must cut them down to avoid a more active chapter. Chapter Leaders, especially in elementary schools, often receive an out of classroom or a cluster position because the extra preps can be disruptive to a class. These positions are important to some Chapter Leaders because the amount of work involved in being both a CL and a classroom teacher is extensive. They (particular younger CL’s with- out seniority) become beholden to the principal for that position. Smart principals know how to harass a chapter leader without leaving foot- prints: changing rooms, placing problem children in their classes, con- stant observations, eliminating their programs, etc. are all non-grievable forms of harassment and erode the power and the will of the CL. 

(Let us not forget. Chapter Leaders are not union employees. Yet, they are being asked to do a lot of work for the union and a lot of work for the individuals in their chapters. It takes some pretty extraordinary people to take on this role. There certainly is a shortage of 
people who are willing to take on the Chapter Leadrship and function in the role as described in 2 and 3 above, as the over- whelming majority of people in our union don’t want to be in the position of constantly defending their members. 

Exactly what can a chapter under attack expect the union to do to help?
The District Rep:
District Reps occupy a crucial position in our union, as they are the liaisons between individual mem- bers, chapters, and the Borough and Central union. DR’s are elected by Chapter Leaders in the districts, but are union em- ployees. Clearly, DR’s who are aware of what’s going on in chapters and take an active role can be very supportive. We should look to strengthen the role of the DR in supporting chap- ters. One way would be to broaden their right to file grievances on behalf of chapters, individuals, and the district. 

 Beyond the district
Ask union officials and they will tell you they can’t act until people in the school are willing to overcome their fears and stand up to the principal. When that doesn’t happen, the union has been limited in the ways they can provide support.
There’s more we can do. We should develop specially trained teams at the central level to identify schools where our members are under attack by administrators where the chapter needs outside help to get organized and fight back. These teams should have the right to file class action grievances for the chap- ter, much the way class size grievances are now being filed.
In schools like PS 121Q, the toll on staff and children and the entire educational community is catastrophic. Can we ever expect School Leadership Teams to be successful and work in consensus without degenerating into total warfare in schools like this? Working under conditions described in the article is a violation of our most basic working conditions. No member of our union should be forced to endure it for one day, let alone 10 years. Our union can no longer afford to allow our members to continue to suffer these indignities.

Here is a resolution that might be useful:

RESOLVED: The UFT will form specially trained teams based at central headquarters. These teams will go out to schools where administrators are constantly harassing union members and are attempting to destroy an organized union presence. These teams will work in concert with the District Rep, who will identify these schools.
RESOLVED: The UFT will make it a priority in the next con- tract to broaden the right of Chapter Leaders, District, Borough and Central union reps (including the teams mentioned in the first resolve) to file grievances in schools where the adminis- trators exhibit a pattern of harassment and anti-union action.


We gave the same resolution one more try at the April ‘99 DA. Again, there was little interest.

SUPPORT THIS RESOLUTION!! For today’s agenda (Apr. ‘99)
Last month, a delegate opposed putting this resolution on today’s agenda, claiming the union already has the machinery in place. If machinery is in place, why did conditions at IS 88 and PS 121 go on for so many years? How come so many schools are having these problems? Those of you who are in schools where administrators don’t behave like monsters or come in just under the “vile” line, should not take the situations of our colleagues lightly. In schools like these, even experienced, tenured teachers suffer. With an enormous number of new teachers who are especially vulnerable to harassment coming into the system, your support for this resolution is especially important.

1 comment:

  1. So why isn't the union doing something? If not for the CL at least for its own preservation. People will simply not run for CL positions if they will not be protected. Perhaps this CL's lawyer should call the union in to at least explain her duties and the reason why she may have been targeted by the principal. If it's found that the principal did target this teacher for union activity the principal should go through his/her own 3020a. It's in the DOEs best interest to get these principals out - Farina knows that many of them should not be managing a school.


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