Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Are NYC UFT Members Ready to Pull a Red State Teacher Rebellion? What Would it Take?

There are a group of people in MORE who think the militancy of
UFT negotiating strategy
teachers in the red states can be translated to NYC. Others, knowing the mentality of the people they work with, have their doubts. That doesn't mean MORE should sit on its hands. Not to accept the Unity argument we can't win anything back we lost. Put forth a package of demands that include working conditions for a school system we would be happy to work in instead of the Unity acceptance of the pattern and no more. MORE is in the process of doing that.

A story on Tuesday's Brian Lehrer show included an interview with an Oklahoma 38-year teacher who makes around $44k a year and has about 4 jobs. A teacher from New Jersey called in who makes 90K a year. The OK guy practically swallowed his phone.

Then Brian looked up NYC salaries and said starting salary next year will be over 60k. And top of course is going to be 118K. Taking cost of living into account NYS is 17th in real salary. The red states are near the bottom. Here is the promo:
On Monday, teachers in Kentucky and Oklahoma walked out of school to protest cuts in pay, benefits and school funding. Josh Eidelson, labor reporter at Bloomberg News, and Lawrence Lane, a history teacher from Checotah, Oklahoma, and an OEA member, talk about the strikes, which have grown in force since starting in West Virginia earlier this year.
Have a listen to the 19 minute segment:

The salary issue in the red states is crucial -- they haven't had a raise in a decade since the recession cuts. Here in NYC people may bitch about the retro - but do you think retro pay is even on the table? WV people got a 5% raise. Imagine if they said they wouldn't go back without retro pay.

Now the smart thing coming from the instincts of people in the trenches has been building coalitions outside the teacher circle - gettting parents on their side, but also non-teaching union members who are part of the education landscape -- ie, school bus drivers.

There are other issues in the red states where education has been cut to the bone and teachers are working under horrendous conditions. Their fire is aimed at the governors and state legislatures. While we saw the teachers in Wisconsin slaughtered, this is a new ballgame.

Are teachers here in NYC working under similar horrendous conditions? Reading the blogs you'd think they are. Not being in the schools all I can tell is that Danielson, discipline, large classes, abusive supervisors are some key issues. When I go to MORE meetings or to Delegate Assemblies and Ex Bd meetings people complain but I don't get that there is some flash point that would actually make teachers go out on strike. In fact I don't hear as many complaints from the MORE people about their working conditions as I do on the blogs. Could it be that the MOREs have managed to find reasonably safe schools for themselves and thus don't feel the same pressure teachers working under ogres feel. (See the post from Art and Design HS teachers which is getting a lot of hits - Dear Mr. Mulgrew: The UFT chapter at the High School of Art and Design has been living under distress and oppression for the past two years.

Another factor is that these are wildcat actions - out of the classrooms, not the union leaderships, which are jumping on board. I've been reporting that these relatively weak union leaderships have opened up space for people in the schools to organize. Facebook has been a key organizing tool, thus allowing them to communicate with each other without the filter of the union mechanisms. Some pages grew to 20,000 people in no time. You've got to reach a point of desperation to be willing to lose your job -

There is no sense of desperation here in NYC by massive numbers of teachers. Or of there is they just leave the system.

We have Unity Caucus running the union and their machine with the district reps as middle managers have access to every school and every UFT members and the ability to dampen enthusiasm for job actions while also threatening people with the consequences of an illegal strike - 2 for 1 penalties for every day on strike for the teachers and for the union itself, massive fines.

Can there be wildcat actions here in NYC? Hard to imagine that happening. Imagine if even 10 schools went out en masse, especially since the UFT would tell them "I told you so" and abandon them.

We might see pockets of blue flu stuff where large numbers of people call in sick --  In essence that may be happening without our knowing in schools with horrendous supervisors. I imagine the absentee rate in these schools is higher.

A massive blue flu might keep DOE legal happy. I can see possibly some people starting a facebook page and getting a response but Unity trolls would jump on to disparage it.

So what issues might spur people to greater militancy?

If they try to take shit away.

That was an issue in Kentucky where they are trying to cut pensions. What impressed me about the KY teachers was that they are protesting the attempt to fundamentally eliminate guaranteed pensions for newbies -- the unborn as we used to call it.*

Here in NYC I can see the masses stirring (a bit) if there is an attempt to take away what people have. The major threat seems to be healthcare reductions. Read James Eterno at the ICE Caucus blog:
Make sure to read the comments -- and comment yourself.

James reports on the offer to the police - PBA.
The City’s latest purported offer to NYC PBA members is the worst they have seen so far, featuring dramatic increases in out-of-pocket health benefit costs and other givebacks that would effectively wipe out the paltry wage increases they would receive. Among the City’s startling demands:

The health benefits reductions similar to those the de Blasio administration is seeking to obtain from the entire city workforce through the Municipal Labor Committee (MLC), including the imposition of new medical deductibles, as well as a tiered copayment structures intended to drive members to utilize City-run Health + Hospitals Corporation hospitals and their affiliated doctors. For example, members who utilize top-tier hospitals and their affiliated doctors instead of HHC facilities would see their hospital in-patient copayments increase from the current $300 to $3,000 and their primary care doctor and specialist co-payments increase from the current $15 to $40.

A 57% reduction in the City’s contributions to the PBA Health & Welfare Funds, which provide NYC PBA members with prescription drug coverage and other benefits. This move would result in dramatic reductions in or the complete elimination of benefits provided to PBA members.

The elimination of the PBA Annuity Fund for both current members and future hires.

Along with thes draconian givebacks, the de Blasio administration is demanding that NYC PBA members accept below-inflation raises totaling 3.25% over two years, including months of zero raises.
Is this enough to stir the pot in the UFT?

Some of my pals in MORE seem to think they can be the straw that stirs the drink by agitating around the new contract. I'm betting on the Unity machine being able to counter whatever MORE throws up against the wall, hoping it will stick.

Let me repeat. That doesn't mean MORE should sit on its hands. Not to accept the Unity argument we can't win anything back we lost. Put forth a package of demands that include working conditions for a school system we would be happy to work in instead of the Unity acceptance of the pattern and no more. MORE is in the process of doing that.

But look down the road a few years to post-Janus and we may see a different landscape if the Unity patronage machine is weakened and they no longer have the personnel to blanket the schools with their message of caution. If MORE is still around then, who knows?

*Mayor Giulianni tried to do something along those lines against newbies in the 1995 contract -- I remember some kind of fee newbies would have to pay and would get back only if they stayed in the system for a certain amount of years. Believe it or not, that was a key issue in the rejection of  the contract by UFT members for the only time in history. The bigger issue was raising the number of years to reach top salary from 20 to 25 years. Female teachers went nuts, feeling they were hit harder because of the years they took for child care. The reworked contract cut it to 23 years.


  1. New York city teachers are not willing to assert themselves. They are much to sheep-like, unwilling to fight for anything.

  2. The newbies got hosed on pension, and we did nothing. I don’t think we have to have it as bad as WV teachers do before we strike. When you guys went on Strike in 68 and 70, you were Tier I, no? My point is, we can strike to preserve the few good things we have and get back some of what we lost. Though the latter will be exceptionally hard. Which is why we have to fight like hell for no give backs.

    Playing cautiously and being overly concerned with what the public might think garauntees slow erosion of our work environment. We’re like the proverbial frog in boiling water. I think if we strike now, the media would hate us because they are paid to hate us (Brian Lehrer’s show is funded by the Koch brothers for heaven’s sake). But, the public might actually understand. Especially if we are bold. Did the city hate the TWU for shutting down the subways when they went on strike? Nope.

    I think being bold and unapologetic would get us a lot of reapect. This is more wealth in this city than any other on Earth. Our teachers should be leading the pack on working conditions and pay, not languishig in the middle of a poorly paid national core. We need to ride the politicians hard to make it happen. Make them get some of this city’s wealth into the classroom. If they can’t do it, then we will break them.

  3. Serious leaders rollup their sleeves, sit down and bargain. Serious leaders think of ways not to Strike. Retirees (with great pensions) that blog get to bloviate about striking.

    1. Who is this jackass calling "serious leaders"? Certainly not Mulgrew and his coterie of Unity hacks!

  4. "Serious" leaders rollup their sleeves, lie down and cave to the pattern, get no improvement in working conditions, keep a weak and deteriorating grievance procedure, get no protection for teachers from the assaults of abusive supervisors, certainly no family leave, higher class sizes, and sit by as doe legal runs amuck.

  5. You posted1:42’s comment and not mine? C’mon, Norm.

  6. Divide with ethnic politics, then expect unity in the fight against anti worker policy. Commie Norm strikes again.


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